are called to fellowship with other believers and with God and
Jesus on the basis of shared goals and beliefs. The advantages
and difficulties of fellowship are detailed in the Bible and
we must be willing to work hard to make the most of fellowship.
Some Jewish believers were convinced that circumcision was
still essential for salvation and demanded that Gentile believers
in Antioch be circumcised. Paul and Barnabas sharply disputed
this and were sent to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders
about the matter. The conflicting opinions were openly discussed
before the apostles and elders who (with the guidance of the
Holy Spirit) ruled that circumcision was not necessary. Despite
strong disagreements, fellowship and unity were strengthened
because both sides put truth before personal pride.
1. Why was circumcision important to some believers (v1,5)?
2. Did Paul and Barnabas keep quiet to avoid causing trouble
(v2)? Did their objections help or hinder fellowship?
3. Why were Paul and Barnabas sent to Jerusalem for a ruling
(v2)? Discuss what might have happened to the believers’
fellowship if nothing had been done.
4. Who decided what particular doctrines were to be imposed
on the Gentiles (v28)?
5. What does this example teach us about what is required
in working for fellowship? Is a strong disagreement a good
basis for breaking fellowship?
6. How does fellowship help believers (v31)?
Biblical fellowship is built on a shared calling, shared beliefs,
shared hopes, shared faith, shared suffering, shared participation
in the emblems of Jesus’ body and blood, and a shared
inheritance. Without sharing these things there is no biblical
|Believers have fellowship because of shared:
||1 Thessalonians 2:8;
|• spiritual blessings
||2 Corinthians 1:5,7;
||Ephesians 4:4; Romans 5:2;
||2 Corinthians 1:5,7; 2 Timothy 1:8, 2:3; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:13; Revelation 1:9.
is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called
to one hope when you were called-one Lord, one faith,
one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all
and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
tells us that there is one right way and fellowship comes
from choosing to share in that one way. We are not asked to
define or refine the one shared hope, but to accept it as God
has presented it in the Bible and devote ourselves to it.
John tells us that the gospel and hope were proclaimed
. . . that you also may have fellowship with us. And our
fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus
Christ. (1 John 1:3)
If our fellowship were limited only to people like us, it
would be important enough, but John reminds us that God and
Jesus are included in the fellowship we are invited to share.
John goes on to say that the fellowship of obedient believers
with God and his son Jesus is “walking in the light”.
Disobedience is described as “walking in darkness”
and makes such fellowship impossible.
Fellowship takes effort
After the initial preaching of the apostles, thousands believed
and devoted themselves to fellowship amongst other things.
Acts 2:42 This was necessary because fellowship amongst believers
is not natural-it takes hard honest work. Fellowship would
be easy if everyone agreed in everything, but the conference
in Jerusalem showed that this does not always happen. Real
fellowship comes when believers maintain unity despite
personal disagreements because their aim is to live in peace.
Peter tells us
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be
sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with
blessing, because to this you were called so that you may
inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9)
One body: the advantages of fellowship
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and
though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is
with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)
Since God has made a vast
range of characteristics and skills in different people, the
diverse but united body can work in different ways to successfully
show the glory of God to the world. A body works much less
effectively if parts are missing or damaged. Likewise, our
fellowship is weakened if members are hurt or neglected.
What are the particular skills that you can use for God?
We are all called to be one body with lots of different parts
ready to work, rejoice, weep and grow together-stronger with
diversity than we could ever be without it.
Paul watched fellowship at work in many places and saw that
God gave different gifts to
. . . prepare God’s people
for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built
up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge
of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole
measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12-13)
also warned that believers could tear down the hard-won fellowship:
Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time.
After that, have nothing to do with him. (Titus 3:10)
But fellowship is not . . .
Having considered many things on which fellowship is built,
we must also consider what fellowship is not. Maintaining
fellowship does not mean we should all be apathetic, or “keep
the peace” whatever the cost. Jesus was prepared to
challenge the Pharisees when they distorted the word of God.
e.g. Matthew 23:13 Nor does fellowship mean we should all
try to be the same in under-standing and attitude. Jesus chose
a diverse array of apostles with very different backgrounds
We have one master and he has called us to strive for unity:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons
of God. (Matthew 5:9)
• Believers are offered fellowship with God and with
his son, on the condition that we “walk in the light”
by obeying God’s laws.
• Fellowship is given to form one united body from all
those many different types of people whom God calls.
• Selflessness and hard work are required to develop
1. List some examples from the Old Testament of fellowship
(good and bad) between individuals. You could start with David
and Jonathan, Ahab and Jezebel, Ruth and Naomi.
2. List some examples from the Old Testament where people
tried to or did destroy fellowship? (e.g. Psalm 55:12-14)
3. How should we decide when a person’s beliefs or actions
4. Read 1 Kings 19:12-18. Elijah said that he was the only
true believer in all Israel, but God said that there were
7,000 other people with whom he had fellowship. What can this
5. Should differences of opinion be allowed to destroy fellowship?
[Hint: look at the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas
in Acts 15:36-40.]
1. Since fellowship is based on shared goals and beliefs,
it must exclude those who do not share the same goals and
beliefs. What level of detailed agreement is required for
fellowship to exist?
2. Exclusion from fellowship is not mentioned very often in
the Bible. One of the most frequently mentioned reasons for
exclusion was divisiveness. Find some Bible passages that
mention this problem. What is divisiveness and what practical
steps are required to exclude the person from fellowship?
3. Many passages indicate that those who work to strengthen
fellowship will be blessed. How should the balance be struck
between fighting to maintain unity and the exclusion required
• Biblical fellowship by George Booker (published by
the Christadelphian disciple, 1979). This book considers many
scriptural passages on fellowship and discusses the principles
learned from them and their application today. 172 pages.
• Fellowship matters by Andrew Perry (published by Willow
publications, 2nd edition, 1996). A comprehensive and careful
analysis of biblical fellowship. 200 pages.
• BB Study 11.5
• Further letters to George & Jenny, Chapter 31,
by Harry Whittaker (published by Muriel Whittaker, 1995).
4 pages. A frank letter about the problems of fellowship between
groups of believers.
• The Christadelphians: what they believe and preach
by Harry Tennant (published by The Christadelphian, 1986),
Chapter 24 “Fellowship”, 12 pages.
• Reformation, by Harry Whittaker, Chapters 6, 32 and
• The genius of discipleship by Dennis Gillett (published
by the Christadelphian, 1984). Chapter 24 “Unity”.
The Lord's Supper