Richard G. Moore is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa.
In this new season of congregational activities, it is good to consider the blessings we have in the fellowship of saints. And in this connection to ask the questions: With whom is our fellowship? With whom do we commune? From the time of the fall there have been two seeds in the midst of this world. The seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. And as God’s people our f4lowship is not to be with the world which is the SI bed of the serpent. Rather the Word admonishes us to love one another, for love is of God. And therefore, the focus of our life of fellowship is to be with one another in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is to be with the fellow saints, and is precious.
In Philippians the second chapter this fellowship of the saints is referred to when we read in the first two verses; “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” And this chapter goes on to admonish us to care for one another. In particular this must characterize our life in our congregations.
What is the basis for our fellowship together as a congregation? What is the common strand that binds the members of the church to one another? What is the oneness that so unites the children of God? And in answer we may say at the outset that it is not based upon the blood relationship in which we may stand to one another.
Our fellowship together as a congregation may not be based upon the fact that we may be relatives, or that we are of the same national heritage. The fact that we may be Dutch or German, etc. is not the basis for true communion in the church. And the fact that our parents have attended church here is not the ground for our fellowship in the body of Christ, although we thank God when He gathers His church in our midst through the lines of continuing generations. And earthly ties are a reality also in the church. But this does not unite us together with Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nor does our union come from our philosophical perspective, nor from our social activity; that is, that our fellowship comes from our desire to discuss certain philosophies, which may be interesting. Nor do we seek the communion within the church for social expression—for our discussion groups, banquets, entertainment, etc. Although certainly as God’s children we enjoy discussion of the Scripture’s presentation of the true philosophy, or direction of life; and we also may rightly enjoy our society life. But these things can never form the basis for fellowship within the church. They do not bind God’s people together in spiritual union, but may be the fruit of that union!
Rather, we are drawn together in fellowship and communion exactly because of the fact that we are saints, and in this we are drawn together and seek out one another.
Now we must understand that a saint is not one who has distinguished himself by some special works of sanctification so that he is in some special way set apart by canonization, such as was done by the Church of Rome. Rather a saint becomes such because God has set Him apart to live consecrated to His service. And this God does by an act of His grace alone as He has redeemed us in Christ and called us by His Word. This results in the saint walking before God in all humility, seeking to serve Him in all things, and finding all joy in that service.
Then we must be given to understand that all true members of the Church are saints, and are such only because God has made them so. In ourselves we as saints are no different from the most carnal of men; and we must be the first to admit that by nature we transgress the whole of the law of God and indeed are inclined to all evil. We are not by nature saints, but are transformed by the grace of God to become saints.
So God, as the sovereign God, by His good pleasure alone has determined us to be saints. This He did already in eternity, before we did any good or evil. And in time God sent His Son to clothe us with the white robes of righteousness as saints, and by His Spirit breathes into us the consciousness of the forgiveness of sins. He turns us from our evil ways and causes us to begin to seek God in the narrow pathway of obedience that leads to heaven itself.
The one abiding in Christ, the saint, speaks the truth about God. Our God has been pleased to I reveal Himself to us, and He especially sets this revelation of Himself forth in the infallibly inspired Word. Now the saint humbly bows before that Word of God, and trembles at putting in the mouth of our God Words that which He has not spoken. This is often done in our day. The Bible often is considered anything but the infallibly inspired Word of God. It is done through the construction of Paraphrased “Bibles”. It is done through considering of the Bible to be time-or social-conditioned. Indeed we must have nothing to do with this heresy.
Rather, we desire as true saints of God to speak of the living God only as we are guided to so speak in truth from His Word. And we do this especially on the Sabbath Day as we are gathered under the preaching of that Word of truth by Christ Jesus our Lord. In this way we confess before all the faith that unites us together, and we grow in the knowledge of the Word that unites God’s children. For this reason it does make a difference to us where we go to church! There are doctrinal differences between churches that make a big difference and which may not be overlooked. We confess together the truth, and any departure from that truth causes separation from the true fellowship and communion of the saints. How precious and what a blessing that God has preserved His truth in our midst! This is cause for great thanksgiving! May we resolve, by grace, staunchly to defend this truth of the infallible Scripture!
In the second place, we as saint express our faith in our daily lives. Not only do we say with our mouth that God is holy and ascribe to Him our praise, but we shall also confirm this with our works. By God’s abiding grace we shall live in humble submission to His Word. And we shall do this in our home, work, business, government, and in our leisure, desiring in all of our lives to glorify God in thought, word, and deed. This is our calling as saints in the Lord Jesus.
We often do not do so well in manifesting in our lives this sainthood. There are times when we desire to seek God’s kingdom in all that we do, and when our zeal for the truth is very great, and we stand so close to God and love the communion of the saints. These are blessed times in our lives when faith is on the foreground. Yet this we have at the best of times only in principle, and often become blinded to the true walk of faith by our sin and spiritual frailty. And then, at these times, the fiery darts of the wicked do us true harm. We do not fellowship with God as we ought in prayer and in our worship. We fail to serve Him as children, and at these times the wages of sin do not seem so great, and we walk with oh, such weakness.
This was the experience of Paul as his words are recorded for us in Rom. 7. In Rom. 7:15 “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that, do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” And in Rom. 7:18 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” These words of the apostle express the constant struggle that we have as regenerated children of God as we yet dwell in the midst of this world. We have to daily battle the battle of faith, and this within ourselves. And often we come up short in this battle, walking in sin. Such a walk in sin disrupts our love of God and our love and fellowship with the saints. May we then in this season be given to the seeking of the grace of God in this battle against sin. For sin impairs fellowship. Saints and sin do not mix, as is evident in our lives. When we walk in sin without repentance we do not enjoy the consciousness of God’s fellowship, nor can have true fellowship with God’s children.
We have need, therefore, to know that we are right with God. Daily we have need of the assurance that, “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus, Christ.” Righteousness and holiness is the only ground for fellowship with our covenant Father. And only in the way of our confession of sin daily, can we with clear conscience stand in the presence of God and enjoy His communion and love. And in this way only shall we enjoy the fellowship of the saints.
How precious then is the faithful preaching of God’s word to us, which calls us to repentance, and through which the Spirit applies the blessings of Christ’s atoning cross to our hearts. Thus we are assured of the righteousness that is ours in Christ, experience the love of God for us, and grow in grace, to fellowship and commune with God and His people. May we receive of God the grace to attend diligently the proclamation of His Word, turn often to the Scripture for our guidance, and be given to prayer for this His care. Then indeed, we shall experience a growing communion with our God and the saints, which shall strengthen us in the battle of faith.