Fellowship is generally confused with social interactions with other people or even with God, on a personal level, whereby we are all considered equal and /or just having a social relationship with others. However in the Bible, fellowship is really a technical concept and deals with our privilege of approaching as well as interacting with God, and residing within a sphere wherein God will commune with us, bless us and protect us.
I use the term of ‘fellowship’ throughout this Bible study as the concept to describe that sphere we enter into when we are in fellowship with God. The first thing to understand is simply that fellowship is not an emotional experience. You cannot sense it in any way when you are either in fellowship or out of fellowship with God. You cannot feel anything, nor hear anything (no voices), you cannot taste, see, or smell anything. This is a spiritual event which God creates for our benefit and which God causes to occur or not to occur depending on your volition at any given moment in time. So there are no seizures you will experience. No throwing the head back and the making of gargling sounds like you just became possessed. No rolling on the floor or any other nonsense actions that you might see in a good Hollywood movie. If you see this kind of stuff – it is all phony and a deception.
Fellowship is a sphere into which we enter when we are clean. We have two states in our life – clean and unclean and these two relate to the sin we have in our daily lives. When we commit a sin we are unclean or sometimes this can be known as a state of unrighteousness. Mankind is filthy, made of the dust of the earth as Adam was created from dust, and in sin we are unrighteous before God. That is we are tainted with sin or filth.
Since God is absolute perfection and therefore perfect righteousness and free of sin, we cannot interact with Him until we are cleaned up, washed as it were. Think of it as God being in His throne room and we request permission to approach Him. If we are dirty, He will not receive us. If we are clean then He will gladly receive us. This then is the beginning of understanding fellowship, which is really the process we go through of cleansing ourselves and gaining permission to approach God and being with God.
The principle of fellowship is included in the Levitical fellowship offering. The mechanics of fellowship is described in 1 John 1:9. That is where we need to begin. 1 Jn. 1:9, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and restore us from all unrighteousness.’
Confess is ‘homolegeo’, which means to name in a list, like a grocery list. Confession is a prayer, a fellowship prayer, which we offer to God the Father (all prayers are directed to the Father, no one else). In it we simply name our sins since our last confession. ‘Father I lied, I stole, I lusted after that person, I was arrogant, I was afraid, I worry, I was angry, … In Christ’s name I pray Amen.’
There, that is an example of a confession prayer. Very simple. It is private and the business of you and God the Father only. It is no one else’s business, not your spouse, not family, not the priest, no one. We do not confess to anyone except God the Father. In doing so, we acknowledge our sins in our own life. We do this by examining ourselves, objectively, and lay the details out before God with all honesty. In effect we judge ourselves. ‘If we judge ourselves, we will not be judged.’ In so doing God is ‘faithful and just’ to forgive and to restore.
This means God places us back inside a sphere of righteousness, which we call fellowship, or being in fellowship. God restores us from unrighteousness or the state of sin which we were in prior to our confession.
Several things occur at this time. We are placed under the control of the Holy Spirit. We are entered into the palace of God. We are received before His throne. We reside in His fortress and therefore are under His protection. This is the place where we should live our lives, spiritually. This is also the classroom where we learn Bible doctrine – very important. Bible study is a spiritual event, not merely an academic event like one you would have in a school class room.
Bible study is in effect communicated by the Holy Spirit to our human spirit and then transferred to our soul in the spiritual learning process. See the chart on the Index page on Bible study the web site. When we are in fellowship this process is functional. When we are out of fellowship, then this process is shut off. You may be able to learn things academically like you learn your a, b, c’s, but the spiritual value is not gained. So being in fellowship is extremely important. You can go through your entire life attending church, reading the Bible, etc., and if your have been out of fellowship all those years, your spiritual growth is zero.
Throughout the centuries in the Old Testament, the Israelites, being unbelievers and even those who had believed in the savior, did not follow the fellowship rules laid out by God. They were out of fellowship. Every Sabbath, every feast celebration, they would read from the scriptures, and they would learn nothing. They distorted the meaning of the scriptures and were in effect self righteous peoples. They did not even recognize Christ when He was born at the first advent some 2000 years ago.
Being in fellowship, gives you all the advantages of the spiritual life, it is in effect – spiritual life. From within this sphere, you are protected by God, advanced in your spiritual growth by God, blessed by God. This is the place of your inner happiness and peace which only increases as you advance in your spiritual life toward spiritual maturity.
Note also, that this only applies to believers in Jesus Christ. Those people who have not believed in Christ do not have this opportunity until they first believe in Christ and then receive a regenerated human spirit.
There is more on this subject in the study of the Holy Spirit. Note also, that having ones soul under the control of the Holy Spirit is not the same as being indwelled by the Holy Spirit. For every believer is indwelled by the Holy Spirit from the moment they first believed in Jesus Christ. In fact you are indwelled by all three members of the trinity, but you do not sense them in any way. You cannot feel them nor see them etc. You know they indwell you because the Bible tells us they do. Likewise, you are placed into fellowship by God and come under the control of the Holy Spirit when you confess your sins to God the Father. You do not feel or see that either, but it happens just the same.
Many a person has said that Bible doctrine does not work. This is because their spiritual life is short circuited by their not functioning inside that fellowship sphere just described. And it is really a simple concept to understand.
Throughout this Bible study I refer to the jungle environment and the palace environment, and this is really a comparison of the status you live in when out of fellowship verses being in fellowship. When out of fellowship, you live in the jungle. In that jungle there is no protection. You are open to attack. You survive if you are tough. You fall if you are weak. Sooner or later everyone grows old, and in the jungle everyone has enemies, predators. Your destiny in the jungle is misery and death.
However, if you live your life in fellowship, then you are living inside Gods palace, His fortress. Here life cannot touch you. God protects you and you have all the benefits of living inside the palace of God – prosperity, blessing, etc. Certainly you still have to get up every morning and go to work, you have to live in this world, you’ll still have problems, but God provides all the solutions. Out in the jungle you are on your own. At least in the palace the battle is the Lords. He will fight for you this day.
If Bible doctrine does not work for you, then first look to yourself and correct whatever it is that is keeping you out of fellowship. Confess those sins, then forget them. Repeat! Forget them. They are now history and you never look back, only forward. Continue in your daily Bible study and learn and grow up spiritually. As you advance in your spiritual life, your life will change dramatically – not over night but over the course of your life. One day you will look back and be amazed at the things God has done for you.