Summary: This sermon attempts to answer the question of why fellowship is essential for every Christian.
Title: “Why is Fellowship Essential for the Christian?” Scripture: Philemon vv.4-7
Type: Series Where: GNBC 7-14-02/revised 9/14/08
Intro: In 1773, the young pastor of a poor church in Wainsgate, England, was called to a large and influential church in London. John Fawcett was a powerful preacher and writer, and these skills had brought him this opportunity. But as the wagons were being loaded with the Fawcetts’ few belongings, their people came for a tearful farewell. During the good-byes, Mary Fawcett cried, “John, I cannot bear to leave!” “Nor can I,” he replied. “We shall remain here with our people.” The wagons were unloaded, and John Fawcett spent his entire fifty-four-year ministry in Wainsgate. Out of that experience, Fawcett wrote the beautiful hymn, “Blest Be the Tie that Binds.” (Today in the Word, August, 1996, p. 6)
Prop: Examining Philemon 4-7 we’ll see 3 reasons why fellowship is essential for the believer.
BG: 1. Interesting letter that was written when Onesimus, a slave, runs from Philemon, owner, while hiding out in Rome, meets up and is converted under Paul! Paul appeals to the owner to receive back his slave as a one would a brother.
2. Lasting principle about Christian fellowship – takes people of various stations/cultures/classes, and makes them equal as brothers and sisters in Christ.
3. There is a mutual interdependence associated with fellowship.
Prop: Exam. this passage we will see three vital areas Christian fellowship addresses.
I. Fellowship Speaks of Our Common Inheritance as Christians. Vv. 4-5
A. At its Root or Most Basic Level, Fellowship relates to What we have in Common.
1. As Christians we are to have much in common with one another.
a. In original language: “koinos” is root word – means “common”, nouns = koinonia – fellowship, or koinonos – partner (Peter/Andrew, James/John were koinonos in the fishing industry in Galilee), or as a verb – koinoneo – to share. (Didn’t state that to bore you, but rather to demonstrate to you that most intregal element of Christian Fellowship carries w. idea of a common or shared element.
b. Illust- If you have ever owned stock in a company or mutual fund, you are a koinonoi- someone who holds property in common, partners, or shareholders of a common concern. I know many of us have had it engrained in minds that all partnerships are bad. For the sake of this, need to get beyond that to see how as Christians we are to be partners with our brothers and sisters. Too many lone-wolf individual entrepeneurs in Christianity that miss out on responsibility to one another.
2. Paul, Speaking to Philemon, comments on their common Spiritual Inheritance.
a. vv. 4-5 – Paul stated that he had seen and known of the faith which Philemon had in the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints.” Love and faith, Paul saw these twin towers of Christian virtue in Philemon and remarked about them. Love and faith should be evident in all believers.
b. Illust: Our faith in Jesus Christ pulls people together who otherwise would have had little to do with one another. I saw this in first church, asst. pastor. Archie and Jean were inseparable friends. Archie was a retired white Army staff sergeant from Philadelphia, MS (not a city of brotherly love in days of civil rights movement), and Jean was a young woman lawyer, one of a nearly a dozen children from a black SC sharecropping family. A generation earlier would not have even been culturally proper to talk to one another. Yet, due to the work of Christ in both of their hearts very close friends along with Archie’s wife, Maetrude.
B. Fellowship Must be Demonstrated in the Local Church.
1. The World Needs and is Looking for the fellowship that is found in the church.
a. Illust- M.E. MacDonald has written that: “The real menace to life in the world today is not the hydrogen or atomic bomb…but the fact of proximity without community.”
b. Bruce Larson sees this need in even more comprehensible terms as he illustrates: “The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His Church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is an accepting and inclusive fellowship. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.”
2. Christians Need to be able to express themselves in the fellowship of believers.
a. In Psalm 133:1 we read “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer. Illust – Paul referred to Timothy as his “dearly beloved son in the faith”, Paul remembered the congregation in Thessalonica, saying that he prayed “night and day exceedingly that he might see their face” (IThes. 3:10). The aged Apostle John knew that his “joy wouldn’t be full until came to own people to speak face to face” (IIJn. 12)