The Word “Fellowship”
The word “fellowship” used in Acts 2:42 and 1 John 1:3 indicates the putting away of private interest and the joining with others for a certain common purpose.
Hence, to have fellowship with the apostles, to be in the fellowship of the apostles, and to have fellowship with the Triune God in the apostles’ fellowship, is to put away our private interests and join with the apostles and the Triune God for the carrying out of God’s purpose.
Our participation in the apostles’ enjoyment of the Triune God is our joining with them and with the Triune God for His divine purpose, which is common to God, the apostles, and all the believers.
Different Fellowships Among Christians Today
Among Christians today there are not only different teachings but also different fellowships. Let me illustrate from my experience with the Southern Baptist denomination. Because my mother was a Southern Baptist, I attended Southern Baptist schools.
Whenever a communion service was about to be held, the announcement was made that only those who had been baptized by that denomination could participate in the communion service. This means that this denomination had its own fellowship, and that fellowship was not the fellowship of the apostles.
The Fellowship Of The Apostles Is Open
The fellowship of the apostles is open, receiving all kinds of genuine believers in Christ. For example, this fellowship receives believers who have been immersed and believers who have been sprinkled.
Furthermore, those in this fellowship do not require that believers be immersed only by them. However, certain sects insist that only their baptism is valid. They may insist that a believer be baptized again if he wants to join their group. This is an illustration of a fellowship that is different from the fellowship of the apostles.
Any Group That Does Not Receive All True Believers Is A Sect
Do you know how to determine whether or not a particular Christian group is a sect? One way to determine this is to check whether or not that group receives all real believers in Christ.
For example, suppose a brother in the Lord who is a Roman Catholic priest attends our Lord’s table meeting. We certainly would receive him because he is our brother in Christ. However, any group that does not receive all true believers is a sect and is not practicing the fellowship of the apostles.
Those Who Reject Believers Of Different Races Or Nationalities Are Not Practicing The Oneness Of The Body Of Christ
In certain places believers of one racial group are not received by Christians who are of a different race. Are those who reject believers because of their race in the fellowship of the apostles? Certainly not. Their fellowship is the fellowship of a particular race, not the fellowship of the apostles.
The fellowship of the apostles surely includes believers of every race and nationality. We have an illustration of this in Acts 13:1, where we see that among the prophets and teachers in the church in Antioch were those of different races and nationalities.
Those who do not receive believers whose nationality differs from theirs are not practicing the fellowship of the apostles. Suppose certain brothers in the United States are not willing to receive brothers from Germany. They say, “These Germans are too strong. We simply cannot accept them.” If such were the case, those American brothers would be a sect. They would not have the fellowship of the apostles but some kind of so-called American style of fellowship.
Let us also suppose that the German brothers react and say, “Since you Americans will not accept us, we will not accept you.” The result is that there are two so-called fellowships, a German fellowship and an American fellowship. The New Testament, however, knows only of one fellowship—the fellowship of the apostles.
According to Acts 2:42, in the first church life there was only one fellowship, and that fellowship was of the apostles. The apostles’ fellowship included all genuine believers. In the church life in the Lord’s recovery we follow and practice the fellowship of the apostles.
The signs believers post in front of their meeting places often indicate that they are not in the fellowship of the apostles. For instance, in China I saw a sign that identified a particular place as an “American Presbyterian Church.”
Not long ago I saw a sign in southern California identifying a certain group as a “Taiwan Chinese Church.” How strange that in China there was an American Presbyterian Church, and in California, a Taiwan Chinese Church. Such groups are not practicing the oneness of the Body of Christ.