Relationship and Fellowship

Relationship and Fellowship
Distinct (yet overlapping) aspects of the new life in Jesus Christ

by John Woodward

Relationship describes the believer’s new birth into God’s family (John 3:3; 1 John 5:1).
Fellowship describes the quality of the believer’s growth, attitudes and actions in this grace-based relationship with God (1 John 5:2-4).

The example of the early church, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, demonstrated in wonderful harmony both relationship (true salvation) and fellowship with God and one another:

Relationship: ”Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”
Fellowship: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers… Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.”
Both: “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:41,42,44-47).

A person can be a child of God (relationship), yet with minimal personal communion with Him (fellowship), but fellowship with God is not possible apart from a saving relationship with Him. These aspects overlap (1 John 5:1,5).

Consider the similarities and contrasts.

Additional aspects and examples could be given concerning the distinction between relationship and fellowship. However, this not to imply that these two categories are separate or disconnected. Relationship with God is the root; fellowship is the fruit.

Overlap

The “overlap” between relationship and fellowship means that, even when a child of God is temporarily in a carnal condition (1 Cor. 3: 1,3), he /she still has the invitation to intimacy with God (2 Cor. 6:17,18). “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). Fellowship may be hindered, but the call back to communion is continual (Rev. 3:20). Since true salvation is secure (John 6:37,39), the believer’s relationship with God as a son or doughtier is unchanging. This should motivate unhindered fellowship with God. It’s because He has promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you” that His child should turn from covetousness (Heb. 13:5).

For those of us who accept the spirit, soul, and body model of man (trichotomy, 1 Thess 5:23), relationship with God begins with regeneration of the believer’s human spirit; fellowship involves the soul and body cooperating with the Holy Spirit in the believer’s spirit (Rom. 8:6,11,16).

Importance of these distinctions

In considering this parallel list, many have been attempting to establish a relationship with God through fellowship activities. But apart from the Gospel of grace, religious duties are dead works (Heb. 6:1). This was the case of many self-righteous Jewish leaders in the first century A.D. Paul (who had been one himself) testified, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:2-4).

On the other hand, some advocates of grace discipleship implicitly or explicitly blur the distinction between relationship and fellowship. In this case, the blessings of one’s identity in Christ and standing in grace are celebrated, but responsibilities for protecting and cultivating fellowship with our Holy God are ignored. Such inaccurate and imbalanced discipleship is what the apostle Paul characterized as “wood, hay, and straw” (1 Cor. 3:12).

Andrew Murray (one of the most respected advocates of new covenant living) wrote “The Christian who thinks that his salvation consists merely in safety and not in holiness will find himself deceived. Young Christian, listen to the Word of God, ‘You shall be holy’ [1 Pet. 1:16]. And why must I be holy? Because He who called you is holy and summons you to fellowship [intimacy] and conformity with Himself” (The New Life, ch. 14).

Here is a concluding example of how relationship is the root of spiritual fellowship with God and others:

Relationship: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Fellowship: “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:8-11).
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By John Woodward
jbwoodward@icloud.com
GraceNotebook.com
2020

PDF copy of this article: Relationship_and_Fellowship

McRay, J.R. “Fellowship.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Ed. Walter Elwell. Baker Book House, 2001.

Miller, Russell Benjamin. “Communion; Fellowship.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Editor: James Orr. Eerdmans, 1939.

Toon, Peter. “Fellowship.” Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Ed. Walter Elwell. Baker, 1997.

Word study “Kiononia” [Fellowship]. See http://www.Blueletterbible.org / 1 John 1:3/ tools/ interlinear Greek Testament, Lexicon definition and 20 occurrences in the N.T.

Biblical quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (copyright by Thomas Nelson).

Overcoming Debilitating Fear: Resources for the Coronavirus Pandemic

These months of constant COVID-19 news, dangers, and economic downturn make Christ-centered counseling solutions even more crucial. Various ministries have assembled resource bundles, including:

We see the need to go beyond care to cure –body, soul and spirit, seeking to use the intensified time of stress as an opportunity to guide those who are receptive to abundant life in Christ. Freedom from life controlling problems is available through the Rest of the Gospel. Additional resources we commend include:

Books:

Online:

“That is why I remind you to fan into flame the gracious gift of God, [that inner fire—the special endowment] which is in you through the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination]. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]” 1 Timothy 1:6,7 (Amplified Bible).

JBW

A Spiritual Cure for Depression

Sometimes life can get overwhelming. Even the apostle Paul could feel that way. He testified that in the province of Asia “we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and [d]does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us” (2 Cor. 1:8-10). Sadness about life’s disappointments can eventually sink us into depression.

An estimated 19 million American adults are living with major depression. [1]

The Mayo clinic defines clinical depression as “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living. More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply “snap out” of it…” [2]

Biblical counselor, Dr. Tim Allchin notes that depression is often linked to other emotional struggles such as

•  Anger
•  Fear/Anxiety
•  Stress
•  Guilt and Shame (Real or False)
•  Broken Relationships (Death, Divorce, Dysfunction, Distance, or Damage)

“…We cannot effectively deal with depression without evaluating our responses to the difficult circumstances and emotional stressors of our life.”[3]

In his book, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones observed,

“Spiritual depression or unhappiness in the Christian life is very often due to our failure to realize the greatness of the gospel… Where believers go astray is that they tend to focus on their performance (they are preoccupied with themselves), rather than on their relationship to God (justification). When we come back to the gospel of grace, it is all a matter of belief or unbelief – faith or feeling … Ultimately it all comes down to this – the real cause of “troubled souls” is the failure to realize that we are “one with Christ” – “united with Christ.” We died with Christ . . . we have been buried with Christ . . . we have been raised with Chris t. . . and we are now seated in heavenly places in Christ! (Rom 6:3-11; Eph 2:6). Paul says we are to “reckon these things as being so” (Rom 6:11). If you are looking at your past and your sins and you are depressed, it means that you are listening to the devil. Rejoice in the grace and mercy of God that has blotted out your sins and made you His child. Stop looking at yourself and begin to enjoy Him! By God’s grace you are what you are – it is all “grace!” Become absorbed in the “grace and love of God” and you will forget all about yourself – it will deliver you from self-interest, self-concern, and from depression (which is the result of focusing on self).”[4]

For example, the psalmist declared,
“Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11).

Dr Bill Gillham discerned the root cause and ultimate cure for depression:
“Christ alone must be your primary Source if you are to be liberated from the chains of depression. A practitioner who always treats depression as the problem is missing the mark. Just as fever is but a symptom of the cause, so it is with depression. Depression is a symptom of a deeper cause. Most counselors would agree that less than 5% of depression cases have physically induced depression which does not respond to counseling. PMS, hypoglycemia, diabetes, hormonal imbalance, thyroid or blood sugar problems, etc. are physical factors which can cause depression. Counseling such a Christian with spiritual truth can subject him to even greater despair because although he may see the truth which sets a man free, he can’t appropriate it. However, the remaining 95% of the depressed Christians can experience victory solely through spiritual counsel.”[5]

Cathy Solomon just published a flip booklet about Christ-centered solutions to help the depressed person. It’s online here: https://cld.bz/ShSgcTo

May we move beyond life’s disappointments to confident hope in God’s encouraging and sustaining grace.


John Woodward, Jan. 4, 2020 Grace Fellowship International

[1] https://www.webmd.com/depression/default.htm

[2] https://www.mayoclinic.org/

[3] https://biblicalcounselingcenter.org/what-the-bible-says-about-depression/

[4] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure. Eerdmans Publishing, 1965.

[5] https://www.lifetime.org/articles/depression-2

Flip book: https://cld.bz/ShSgcTo

Craig Hill

Craig Hill, founder of Family Foundations International, presents a video blog “Daily Spirit & Truth.” Recently he gave a teaching on Romans 5:10-11: “for if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son much more having been reconciled we shall be saved by His life and not only this but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” He says, “What did Messiah do when He died shed His blood rose from the dead?…The blood of Yeshua actually exchanged and He took 100% of the sin out of your spirit and replaced it with 100% of His righteousness…” View this six minute teaching here:
https://craighill.org/dst-289/
Another video blog is on man as spirit, soul and body.
https://craighill.org/dst-287/
These themes are part of the Message of Exchanged Life Counseling.

Testimonies of Transformational Change

“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:2).

One of the appealing traits of Exchanged Life Counseling is the fruit that the Holy Spirit so often produces. Testimonies of grace-oriented life change validate the truth and glorify the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6).

The discipler/counselor does well to have many examples of testimonies that he/she can learn from and refer to, such as They Found the Secret (V .R. Edman) and Exchanged Lives! (John Best). Books of testimonies by Charles Solomon include From Pastors to Pastors: Testimonies of Revitalized Ministries, Handbook to Happiness (chapter 8), and Discipling the Desperate.

Video testimonies are also making an impact. Here is one by my friend, Aaron Kim, that is reaching many on Youtube. May God use such testimonies to encouraged those in need of hope, and direct them to Christ-centered solutions.

Guaranteed Ability to Cope – His Sufficient Grace

by Joe Fornear

Life can be overwhelmingly hard and the temptation to despair can be great. Happened to me when I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic melanoma in 2003. I was soon after given the prognosis of “days to live.” The cancer and it’s cures were far more than I could personally handle emotionally, physically or spiritually.

I’m so glad, however, that the Lord displayed His amazing grace and powers through human followers, like Job and Paul. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-25, Paul lists among some of his hardships the following experiences, any of which would devastate most of us!

  • Many imprisonments
  • Beaten times without number
  • Five times he received thirty-nine lashes from the Jews.
  • Three times he was beaten with rods
  • Once he was stoned
  • Three times he was shipwrecked, once floating in the ocean for 24 hours

“The 6 rounds of chemo whipped me” doesn’t quite rise to the level of “I was whipped by a leather whip with metal shards in it 195 times” (five times thirty-nine)! Paul desperately sought God to remove these trials, eventually God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

What does “sufficient grace” mean? Here are five elements to the grace He supplies:

1) He gives HIS peace – In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

2) He gives peace that surpasses understanding – Philippians 4:7 – “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

3) The love of God is poured out within our hearts – Romans 5:3-5 – “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

4) Inexpressible Joy – 1 Peter 1:8 – “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”

5) Joy that’s better than the world’s joy – Psalm 4:7 – “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”

Don’t ever fall into the trap of despair, God can handle your battle through you!

In His Grip,
Joe and Terri Fornear

(used with permission)

Stronghold Ministry

About Stronghold Ministry

 

Spirit, Soul and Body

Pastor and international evangelist, Lester Sumrall, originally published this volume in 1984 as The Total Man. He has strong convictions about the importance of the spirit/soul distinction in man:

“In this study, I am going to help you understand yourself and therefore know  how to live. I want to make you aware of the three dimensional nature of the human personality. As long as you treat the human personality as a dualism [body and soul], you will never discover it. A psychologist or psychiatrist might be able to pick you to pieces, but he will not be able to put you back together again… He does not even know that man has a spirit. This is a very sad situation because man’s biggest problems are spiritual” (pp. 15,16).

The author’s pastoral concern is evident in the many practical points he makes about avoiding defeat and living a Spirit-filled, God-designed life. Discipleship Counselors appreciate the relevance of an accurate, biblical model of man since it relates to personal ministry.

As a leader who ministered in over one hundred countries, Sumrall’s diagnosis is worth noting: “In many churches as much as a third of the whole congregation is depressed and sad. They are not living in their spirit; they are [primarily] living in the soulical realm…God’s kingdom, which is in you, is God’s righteousness, peace and joy” (p. 78; see Rom. 14:17).

See John’s full book review: http://biblicalpsychology.net/

The book is available from the publisher here:  https://www.whitakerhouse.com/product/spirit-soul-body/