“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews” (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
Fellowshipping together as Bible-believers is at the very heart of Christian growth. It is within the church that individual believers can find edification, encouragement and comfort. While it is not always easy to get along with our brothers and sisters in Christ, there is no excuse for “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25).
True fellowship and the Word of God
If Christ, the Living Word (see John 1:1), and the Scriptures, the written word, are not at the centre of our fellowship then there exists no foundation to build upon. Without Christ and the Bible our gatherings are little more than social events. There are many churches that build Christian relationship around worldly activities, and in such places it is noticeable that there is no respect or acceptance for the authority of the Scriptures. Along with this Christ is not honoured as Lord. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7). No matter how friendly a church may be, if Christ is not honoured, and if the Scriptures are not taught, then it is not a church according to the New Testament pattern. “They continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). “Ye different sects, who all declare, Lo here is Christ, and Christ is there; Your stronger proofs divinely give, And show me where the Christians live!” (John Wesley).
The Scriptures actively believed
What is the Bible? Is it, as some say, “The Good Book” that few bother to read and study? The Scriptures are meant to be more than a collection of wise saying bound in a leather cover. They are meant to effectively work in us, that is, the Bible ought to be constantly transforming our heart, soul and mind. The apostle Paul, in Hebrews 4:12, writes, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” … “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
The word of God produces growth in those who believe it. It guides, corrects and empowers us in the Lord’s service. “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:14-17). The word, once received into the heart, is the good seed of the Kingdom, and springs up to eternal life. “Besides your accepting it with your hearts, it evidences itself in your lives. It shows its energy in its practical effects on you; for instance, working in you patient endurance in trial” (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary).
There are times when the church finds itself in situations it has no control over. For the early church it was persecution by pagans and legalists. For us it is government legislation, pseudo-Christianity and false religion. Other problems arrive when someone who is not of the same mind and spirit attempts to cause dissention. The quest for unity amongst churches and religions ignores the fact that there are differences. The persecution of the Thessalonian Christians was instigated by the Jews, for they stirred up the pagans with lies about the believers as they did in Berea. “But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people” (Acts 17:13).
We do not live in a fairy tale land where everything has to be perfect and harmonious, instead we fellowship with real people who have very real problems and hang-ups. The true church (that is the local body of believers) is meant to support each member when conflicts, difficulties and persecutions arise. “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:25-27). If the church is being persecuted, it indicates that it is living up to its commitment to Christ. “The same fruit, the same afflictions, and the same experience, at all times, and in all places, are an excellent criterion of evangelical truth” (John Wesley). “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
A church that worships Christ as Lord, stands upon the authority of God’s word, and is supportive of even the weakest member, can be used by God to accomplish great things in His name.