Having considered the biblical pattern of church government in the previous three weeks, we now turn our attention to a major part of the church’s ministry – the fellowship groups.

The term “fellowship” is frequently misunderstood and misconstrued in the Christian circle. This term is often used to refer to social gatherings or activities, sometimes over some form of drinks or “makan”. Thus, many “Christian” fellowship gatherings are no different from that of the world, resembling a community club activity or a secular party. The need for a biblical understanding of fellowship is ever so acute in the church today.

The word for “fellowship” comes from the Greek term koinonia. This word is also rendered as “communion”, “communication”, or “contribution” in the King James Version of the Bible. It thus conveys a sense of close partnership and common participation due to a close relationship with another party.

The Bible tells us whom we are to have fellowship in 1 John 1:3-7. Firstly, we have fellowship with the triune God (v.3b, 6). We have fellowship with God because of our covenantal relationship with Him. This divine partnership is what makes Christian fellowship superior to any other association in this world.

Secondly, we have fellowship with all the saints. The basis of this fellowship is our relationship and unity in Christ and His Word. This fellowship transcends all social and racial divides, for we are all part of the heavenly family in Christ. Christian fellowship is thus the extension and expression of the covenantal relation which the saints have in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is like a foretaste of heaven above.

Interestingly, the Scriptures makes no mention of any fellowship with unbelievers. Why? Because they are not in Christ! This does not mean we cannot have any interactions with them from day to day. Neither does it mean that we should not extend love and compassion to our neighbours. However, from the Bible’s perspective, true fellowship can only occur in Christ Jesus. No Christ, no fellowship!

The Bible adds that all Christian fellowship must be in the “light”. This means that any fellowship we have with one another must always be rooted in Christ and His Word. Our fellowship gatherings must not promote sin, false doctrine and worldliness. On the other hand, there truth, holiness and righteousness must be magnified. We study God’s Word together. We participate together in prayer and in the partaking of the sacraments. We strive together to promote biblical doctrine and to cooperate in the Lord’s work. This is yet another dimension of how Christian fellowship is different from that of the world.

One important purpose of fellowship gatherings is found in Hebrews 10:24-25. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 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.” We gather for a purpose — to guard and encourage one another in the Lord. We care for one another’s spiritual welfare in the love of Christ. Our fellowship groups must have the spiritual aim of edifying one another to strengthen the body of Christ. Once this focus is lost, our fellowship groups will be no different from any worldly meeting.

The fellowship groups of the church serve an important role in educating and keeping members in the light of the truth. If done rightly, fellowship groups are a means of grace to promote spiritual growth in the church. However, if we are not careful, they could also end up promoting falsehood, worldliness and division. Thus, good spiritual oversight is imperative for all fellowship groups in the church.

The responsibility of the oversight of the fellowship groups falls on the Board of Elders assisted by the Session, with the pastor as the ex-officio member of all the ministries (See Articles 13.6; 17 of Constitution). Thus, we have a Session member sitting in every fellowship group to ensure that the spiritual needs and health of the groups are addressed.

However, the Session members cannot do the work alone. This is where the fellowship group leaders come in. They are given the responsibility to plan the programmes and to oversee the running of the groups. They must thus be spiritually mature and godly men who will be able to serve as examples to others of what it means to follow Christ. They must not be hastily and carelessly placed, for they set the spiritual tone of the entire fellowship group. On the other hand, responsible fellowship group leaders can be a blessing to all who attend, and can serve as God’s instruments to point others to the Saviour. It is thus the responsibility of the Session to exercise utmost care in appointing these leaders, that God’s people may be rightly cared for.

We are also thankful that we have fellowship groups which address diverse sectors in the congregation. We pray though that they will not be so contained within themselves but to see themselves as fulfilling a vital role in the body of Christ. The aged men should care for the younger men and vice versa. Likewise, the aged and younger women must minister to each other (See Titus 2:1-8). “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Pet. 1:22-23)

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew

Tabernacle Ladies’ Bible Retreat Messages 2020
Message 1 Summary: “A Call to Spiritual Conflict” Jude 1-4

The epistle of Jude is an epistle that shows the reality and danger of falsehood. It is a biblical description of apostasy and apostates, and how one should deal with apostates in the church.

1. The Call
Verses 1 and 2 speak of those who are sanctified by God. These have been set apart and preserved in Jesus Christ. There are 3 things which Jude brings our attention to:

(i) Expansiveness (verse 1): Those who are called refers to the call of salvation and to those who are born again. All Christians are called to the conflict. No Christian can sit out of this nor to sit on the sideline, because this is a spiritual conflict that involves the Christian.

(ii) Emphasis (verse 1): One’s salvation, sanctification and preservation are descriptions God’s work in us. Therefore, salvation is something which we do not boast of. When God has worked in us, it is not an excuse for us to be idle nor complacent. However, we have the duty and responsibility to work out what God has worked and that is to live that separated and consecrated life. Jude is writing to those who are called by God to salvation and to service, and one is to be faithful, to rise up and to do what God has called us to do. We are in this conflict because God has worked in us and we are not to be indifferent when the truth comes under attack.

(iii) Encouragement (verse 2): God’s mercy is mentioned in verse 2. It is given to us though we do not deserve it Thus, we are to yield ourselves to God, and to defend His truth. God gives us His peace that we may know that
He is sovereign even amidst spiritual conflicts. When we do the work of God faithfully, victory is secure because He is in control. Lastly, God’s love is spoken of and it reminds us that we are in this spiritual conflict because we love God and His truth. It is an encouragement to rise up and to answer this call.

2. The Conflict (verse 3-4)
Jude saw the need of the hour and it was that Christians should be exhorted to defend and contend for the faith.
As Christians, we must care for the truth of God’s Word. It is an objective standard on which we base our lives. The truth is life. Defending God’s Word is not correcting it but proclaiming it, as it has been delivered and given to us.

The truth is given to us as a sacred duty by the Lord. May God grant us the zeal that we may care for the truth of God, to rise up and to defend it.