The Fellowship of the Gospel
Rev. Dr. Ernest Brodie Jr.
Having a good relationship with all believers is important. Sometimes this may not be easy, especially when we encounter “porcupine” believers. Paul rejoiced in his relationship with other believers, and he encourages us to do the same.
Relationship with believers. Philippians 1:3, 5: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day.”
Some believers may be like porcupines. You may not want to hug them! Or perhaps, you have encountered believers who act like Job’s friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar). Instead of building up Job, they accused him of evil while justifying their own authority and wisdom. As believers, we often focus on the negatives of other believers and forget they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They may be the very ones who will uphold us through the dark valleys.
Before coming to Christ, my dad was involved with cars and lived to race them and to win. Cars were more important to him than God or our family. He was good at rebuilding engines and spent much time doing this for himself and other racers. He spent many hours with other racers. This changed after he trusted Christ as his Savior. His old ways and friends faded away (2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”) He soon had a new inner circle of friends that encouraged his spiritual growth and his walk with the Lord. These friends will forever remain special to him.
Jesus had His inner circle of friends: Peter, James, and John. These three were the only ones who witnessed the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37: “And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.”), saw the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2: “And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.”), and were in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus (Mark 14:33: “And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy.”)
The Apostle Paul had an inner circle of friends: Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and Titus. Romans 16:1-16 presents a long list of those who aided Paul and made a difference in his ministry. Think back about those who aided and influenced you in your Christian walk. Can you say with the Paul: “I thank God upon every remembrance of you”? The only basis for this kind of fellowship is our common bond in Christ (verse 5).
Request on behalf of the believers. Philippians 1:4: “Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy.”
The brotherhood of believers leads us to pray for one another because of our relationship in Christ. John Bunyan said, “Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” The early church was known as a praying church (Acts 2:42: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”) Other examples are found in Acts 1:14, 4:31, 6:4, Romans 12:12, Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 4:2, Hebrews 10:25, and Jude 1:20. One of my professors in college would say,“Boys, be ready to preach, pray, or die.” He wanted us to understand the importance of a ready heart in every situation.
A good quote encouraging effectual prayer is: “It is not the arithmetic of our prayers, how many they are; nor the rhetoric of our prayers, how eloquent they may be; nor the geometry of our prayers, how long they be; nor the logic of our prayers, how argumentative they be; nor the method of our prayers, how orderly they may be: it is the fervency of spirit which availeth much!”
Why is it that the prayers of the early church were answered, when ours often are not?
1) We fail to ask in Jesus’ name. (John 14:13-14: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”) This is not the idea of magic, but the idea of accepting His will and bringing glory to God.
2) We fail to have definite requests. (James 4:2: “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.”)
3) We fail to abide in Christ and turn everything over to Him. (John 15:7: “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”)
4) We fail to believe that God will answer. (Mark 11:22-24: “And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”)
5) We fail to ask persistently. (Luke 11:5-10: “And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”)
Results of being believers. Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
We are sanctified or set apart to God. God will complete what He has begun in us. There are three stages of Christian growth: 1) Positional sanctification - past. At the moment of salvation we are separated unto God. 2) Progressive sanctification - present. We are growing as a believer and applying God’s truths to our lives. 3) Final or complete sanctification - future. This occurs when we get to heaven.
Christian growth is a life-long process. We need to take advantage of every opportunity to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word and to fellowship with other believers. (2 Peter 3:18: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” Hebrews 10:25: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”) This sustains us through the trials of life. We can count on God. Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”