This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
Our theme tonight is a distinctive concept of the New Testament. It is fellowship. This is what I want to speak to you about tonight. Fellowship is one of the key words of the New Testament. The New Testament writers took certain secular words that were in use in their day and took them over into their writing and gave them certain specific, specialized meanings to express the experience and the faith of the gospel. And one of these key words is the word for fellowship.
Now I have put it up here on the chalkboard with just a little explanation. The word is fellowship and in Greek the word is koinonia. How many of you have heard the word koinonia used? Most of you I expect, quite a lot at any rate. Well koinonia is the Greek word that is translated in the King James as fellowship. Koinonia is derived in Greek from an adjective koinin which means common. When the apostle Peter said that he had never eaten anything common, or unclean, the word he used was koinin.
Now you might wonder how that comes to mean fellowship and the answer is explained here. Koininia means having things in common. That is the exact basic meaning. Or, in a more elegant English phrase, sharing together. Now this is one of the key concepts of New Testament Christianity. And it is this that I want to speak to you about tonight.
For an introductory text let’s turn now, if you wish to follow in your Bibles, to 1 Corinthians 1:9. Paul says:
“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (KJV)
By the preaching of the gospel, those who respond to it are called or invited into the fellowship of Jesus Christ. Into the sharing together with and of Jesus Christ. We are called to share Jesus Christ together.
Now the word unto which goes before fellowship indicates, both in Greek and in English, that fellowship is an end. Unto indicates that’s what we are seeking to move into and to enter into. Charles has pointed out in some of his messages that salvation is more than being called out of; it’s being brought into. It’s one thing to be called out of Egypt, it’s another thing to be brought into the Promised Land. You see, lots of Israelites who came out of Egypt never came into Canaan. They perished in the wilderness. And I’m afraid that has happened to multitudes of people who have believed the gospel. The gospel has got them out of Egypt but it’s never got them into Canaan. They perished somewhere on the way. And, in fact, I think lots of people do not realize that there is an end to which we are being brought by the gospel. What is the end? Here is the answer. It’s fellowship. It’s sharing together.
Now there’s a difference between ends and means. I was a professional philosopher at Cambridge University for about nine years. And one of the things that philosophy recognizes is the distinction between ends and means. And I’m sure that it’s not only philosophers. An end is something which is desirable for itself. A means is something which is desirable if it produces the end. But if a means does not produce the end, it loses its purpose and its value.
Now I am convinced that the majority of professing Christians and religious people have become so immersed in traditional practices and ways of doing things and structure and organization that they have completely forgotten the distinction between means and ends. They very rarely, if ever, ask themselves what is the end purpose of what we are doing every Sunday or every week or every Thursday. And secondly, they do not go on to ask, Are the means that we are using achieving the end that we desire? I am confident that if the whole professing Christian world would sit down and ask these two questions: What is the end that we seek to achieve with all our activities? And secondly, Do the means that we are using achieve that end? and honestly face up to the answers, I am convinced that 80 percent of religious activity would cease immediately. Because what it is actually is an endless repetition of things that are means, designed to achieve an end which people have forgotten about and which is never achieved.
Now the importance of fellowship is that it’s the end. Through the preaching of the gospel we are called into as an end purpose the fellowship, the sharing together of Jesus Christ. Now I am a preacher. God called me to be a preacher. If I know one thing about my spiritual experience, I know that God called me to be a preacher and a teacher of the scriptures. As a matter of fact, he called me in l944 in Palestine in a little Jewish village just outside Haifa. He spoke to me and he said, I have called thee to be a teacher of the scriptures in truth and faith and love which are in Christ Jesus for many. I have never doubted from that day to this that God called me to be a teacher of the scriptures. I know it. But let me say that neither teaching nor preaching are ends. They are only means. And if they do not achieve the desired end then they are valueless. They are time and effort wasted. And I judge my own performance in this way.
At one period in my ministry I served for five years as a missionary in East Africa in Kenya. And I was the principal of a college for training teachers for African school, African teachers. And as part of my responsibility I used to have to watch our teachers in training teach what we call practice lessons. Anybody who has been a teacher anywhere will realize that teachers have to teach practice lessons before we turn them loose to do the real thing. And I am very, very familiar with what it means to sit at the back of a classroom and evaluate a man or woman’s performance.
Now we used to teach our teachers that they had to have a lesson plan and they had to have certain things in that lesson plan: the apparatus they are going to use, the objective, the test whether they’ve achieved the objective, various different things we required them to do. And I remember sitting in the back of a class, I can see it so vividly in my mind’s eye now, in East Africa in a little primary classroom. It was a grade three I think. Here was this young man teaching a lesson on what to be polite, I will call, sanitation. Actually the Africans are a lot more frank than we are. And they call things by the right name, they don’t call a spade an agricultural instrument, they just call it a plain old spade. So this man was teaching on this basic principle of sanitation if I may express myself that way. And well I’ll tell you what a ?cho? is. It’s a toilet actually. Let’s be honest. And you see, Africans were not really used to toilets. That was one of the things we had to teach them about. And he had a very well prepared lesson. And he had a beautiful diagram which was all right in his lesson plan, it was to come up on the board. And he got his diagram up on the board and he went through his lesson. And I could see him glancing in my direction from time to time with a kind of look that suggested, I’m doing pretty well, aren’t I? So I didn’t give him any response to that because I was waiting. Then we came to the assignment, let’s call it, which is done to test whether the children have learned anything from the lesson. See, one of the great principles of educational psychology which should get into the church is this: Remember, nothing has been taught until something has been learned. You can go through all the process of teaching in your Sunday School every Sunday but you’ve taught nothing beyond what has been learned. And sometimes if some Sunday School teachers would check what has been learned they’d get a nasty shock!
So this man came to the assignment and the assignment was that the children were to copy down in their exercise books this beautiful colored diagram that he had put up on the board. And he felt that his responsibilities were over at that point so he stood back with his arms folded and just watched the children, looking in my direction expecting some kind of approbation from me. However, I got up, tiptoed around the classroom and looked over the children’s shoulders to see what they were putting in their exercise books. And I have to tell you this: what appeared in their exercise books had little or no relationship to what he had put on the blackboard. So at the end of the lesson when the children were dismissed, instead of commending him I had to reprove him. I had to say your lesson was good, your plan was good, your diagram was good but you didn’t get it across to the children. And you never bothered to check whether the children had got it by looking at what they were putting in their exercise book.
Well I cannot tell you how many times since then I’ve evaluated my own preaching on that basis. Your sermon was good, your outline was good, your blackboard work if you had any was good, your diagrams were good but what did the people get? That’s the acid test. And I am convinced, as I’ve said, that 80 percent of religious activity is an endless repetition of accepted means that never achieve an end. And as a matter of fact, people have actually forgotten what the end was that they were seeking to achieve. After about ten years, any religious group or institution arrives at the place where project number one is keep the institution going, regardless of whether it was achieving what it was brought into being to achieve. That’s true almost of any religious group. The real urgent priority after about five years is keep it going. The result is that the world is full of religious groups who have kept themselves going in some cases hundreds of years after they’ve ceased to achieve the end that they were brought into being to achieve.
So tonight we are going to seek to examine this question: What is the end and then let’s face up to the question are we achieving the end? Are you and your religious group, am I by my ministry achieving the end purpose of the gospel? What is that? Fellowship.
Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 1 again, verse 9:
“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (KJV)
The gospel is an invitation to enter into and to share together the fellowship of Jesus Christ our Lord. This I think is stated even more clearly and rather more fully in 1 John 1:1–3. Actually John is here telling us the purpose for which the apostles and the writers of the New Testament gave us the historical record that they gave of the life and ministry of Jesus. Why did they set down this historical record which we now know as the New Testament? What was their purpose? What did they seek to achieve? The answer is given in these first three verses of 1 John 1.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; [and the word Word is with a capital, it refers to Jesus, the living Word. We saw him, we handled him, we watched him, we were at close quarters with him] For the life was manifested and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us...” (KJV)
The record of the gospel shows us Jesus, the living Word, made flesh, dwelling amongst humanity, and it presents us with an intimate closeup picture of the Lord Jesus Christ in his human nature, his ministry, his death, burial and resurrection.
Now the third verse tells us why this historical record has been transmitted to us.
“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (KJV)
You see the word “that” indicates the purpose. Again we have the end. This is not a mean, this is the end. What is the end? That we may have fellowship with the apostles. And what was their fellowship? Their fellowship was with God the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. In other words, the gospel is an invitation to the human race to share the eternal fellowship of the godhead.
You see, I pointed out two nights ago in my message that there are three things that are eternal in the nature of the godhead. And I am going to put them up again because the message tonight relates again to one of these things. Eternal in God. If I had room I’d write the godhead which is the exact word that’s used to describe God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as one God. The word used in the New Testament is the godhead. There are three things that are eternal in the nature of the godhead. What was the one I spoke about Monday night, how many of you can remember? Fatherhood, that’s right. Fatherhood. God is eternally a father. The second one is headship. God is eternally the head of Jesus Christ. The third one is the one we’re speaking about tonight, fellowship. The fellowship of the godhead is eternal. It did not begin in time. Before creation ever took place there was perfect, unbroken fellowship in the godhead between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. See that?
I heard Brother Kevin Ranaghan, who is a Catholic Charismatic theologian and preacher who is a friend of mine, define the Holy Spirit this way. He said the Holy Spirit is the love relationship between the Father and the Son. Now I don’t believe he intended that as a complete account of the Holy Spirit but it is a precious thought. There is a love relationship that completely unites the Father and the Son in perfect, unbroken harmony and fellowship. It’s in the Spirit. This is what we are invited to share; the fellowship of the godhead. So that the gospel projects out of eternity into time three things that are inherent in the nature of God: Fatherhood, headship and fellowship. And I will show you a little later on that you cannot separate headship and fellowship. There is no true fellowship without headship, we’ll come to that a little later.
Let us read on for a moment now in 1 John 1. Having made this statement that the end purpose of the gospel is to bring us into the place where we share the fellowship of the apostles, and their fellowship was sharing the fellowship of the Father and the Son, I think I should read that again. It’s such an important verse. Verse 3:
“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us, and truly [that word truly means it’s an amazing thing but it’s true] our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (KJV)
Can you conceive of the honor that’s bestowed upon us of being invited into the fellowship of the godhead? That’s essentially what the gospel is. It’s an invitation to join the eternal, perfect, unbroken harmony and fellowship of the godhead. And Jesus prays in the 17th chapter of John, you don’t need to turn there, that all believers shall be one exactly as he and the Father are one. In the same perfect harmony and fellowship. This is the consummation of the purposes of the gospel for the church; to bring all believers together into that perfect, unbroken harmony, unity and fellowship which has eternally existed within the godhead. So the gospel is an invitation to the human race to enter into the fellowship of the godhead; the fellowship of the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.
Now verse 4 says:
“And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” (KJV)
Fullness of joy comes when we enter into the fullness of this fellowship with God and with one another. Now John goes on to make certain statements about fellowship which are extremely searching and extremely important. He goes on to say, verse 5:
“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (KJV)
This is the message. God is light and in him is no darkness. Now Paul says elsewhere darkness and light cannot have fellowship together. It is impossible. The first thing that happened in creation is that God separated between light and darkness and that separation cannot be broken down. So if we want fellowship with God who is light, what’s the conclusion? We ourselves must be in the light. This is the next statement.
“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” (KJV)
You cannot have fellowship with God who is light and be in the dark. And notice what John says in the next chapter, I don’t believe I’m going to turn to it, but he says remember anybody that hates his brother is in the dark. In other words, if we have a wrong attitude towards our fellow believers, resentment, criticism, hatred, we are excluded from fellowship with God. Because darkness cannot have fellowship with light. This comes out in the next verse here, verse 7:
“But if we walk in the light, as he [Jesus] is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (KJV)
Now that word cleanseth is a continuing present tense. The tenses in Greek are very important. The blood of Jesus Christ is continually keeping us clean. All the tenses in that 7th verse are continuous. If we continually walk in the light, we continually have fellowship one with another, and the blood continually keeps us clean.
Now notice the central place of fellowship. It’s the place between walking in the light and being cleansed by the blood. Now I have heard Fundamentalists and Pentecostals quote part of that verse. They say the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin. I always rejoice to hear anybody that exalts and testifies to the blood of Jesus. But remember my dear friends that the cleansing of the blood of Jesus is conditional. It only happens if we meet the conditions. What are the conditions? If we continually walk in the light. If we continually walk in the light two results follow. The first is we continually have fellowship one with another. The second is the blood continually keeps us clean.
Now, you see the logical place of fellowship, it’s the test of our relationships. If we are not in fellowship one with another this is evidence that we are not walking in the light. And if we are not walking in the light then we are not being cleansed by the blood. So that the test of our spiritual condition is are we in fellowship with one another? Out of fellowship, out of the light. And the blood does not cleanse in the dark. I’m going to say those two statements again. Out of fellowship, out of the light. You cannot escape that. Secondly, the blood does not cleanse in the dark. When you are out of the light you are not under the cleansing and protection of the blood. Many, many people are misusing the protection of the blood. They claim its protection when they don’t qualify for it. People say to me, well Brother Prince, when you cast out demons do you plead the blood over yourself? Well I say I may do, but really I shouldn’t need to. We shouldn’t need to go around pleading the blood over every situation and person and object and problem. If we are walking in the light, the blood is already being applied continually. The important thing is not to plead the blood, it’s to walk in the light. Here’s the crux of everything.
Now, if we have got out of the light—how many of you since you believed in Jesus have ever got out of the light? Would you let me see your hand? I’ll put mine up too. I know what it is to get out of the light. Now, what do you do if you get out of the light? You’re in the dark. You want to be cleansed, you want to be restored to fellowship with God. What do you have to do? You’ve got to come to the light. This is the hardest thing to do. Get out of the light and into the dark and then you long to be back but you’ve got to do this humbling thing. In your condition of uncleanness because you’re no longer cleansed by the blood, you have to come into the light. And all of us shrink from exposing our uncleanness to the light. We want to keep away in the dark and not let God or man see our uncleanness. Now, coming to the light in the language of John is called what? Confessing. Now let’s read on.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, [verse 9] If we confess our sins, [if we bring them to the light] he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (KJV)
The beauty of it is that when you come to the light you’re made clean. Then you don’t have to be ashamed any longer. But if you let shame keep you from coming to the light, then you never get cleansed. See, this is what Jesus said in John 3. Let me show you this. John 3:19–21. These are very solemn words.
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (KJV)
When the light comes, our destiny is decided by how we respond. If we remain in the dark we remain in our sin and our condemnation and our shame. But if we come to the light we are justified and cleansed and there’s no more need for shame. It may well be that as you hear my voice right now you are faced with this critical decision. The light has come, what am I going to do about it? I have a kind of inner compulsion to pause for a moment and say to anyone who may be in this valley of decision at this moment, come to the light. Don’t let shame and condemnation keep you from confessing because when you confess, God forgives and cleanses, your shame is taken away.
You see, fellowship is really the place of testing. It’s the place where the fire burns. And that’s why many, many people shun fellowship. You’ll find that in your own experience. There’ll come a time when you are being drawn away from God and enticed to do things that are not acceptable to God. You’ll find there’s a certain reluctance at that point to come into full fellowship with the believers. Because that’s where the light is, that’s where the fire burns. That’s where the furnace is. There’s one scripture that God has impressed upon my mind and I want to read it to you. It’s one that I don’t think I’ve ever or at least not often used in preaching. It’s in Isaiah 31:9. We’re only going to read the last part of the verse which is this. A statement is made and then it says:
“...saith the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.” (KJV)
Zion is the place of the fellowship of God’s people. Where is the fire? In the fellowship. That’s why some people shun fellowship because as long as you remain in the fellowship you’re in the purifying furnace and fire that may burn but it cleanses.
There’s another picture the Lord gave me sometime. You’ll remember the story of David as the little shepherd boy going out to fight the great giant Goliath. And I’m sure that you remember David armed himself with a sling. But to complete his artillery he needed some smooth stones. I used to always ask the African students why did they have to be smooth? And of course the answer is because if they had had any corners on them they would not have flown through when David cast them out of his sling. Any corners or unevenness on those stones would have made them unreliable, they would not have gone direct to the mark.
Now when David wanted five smooth pebbles, where did he go? Did he go to the top of the mountain, chose some stone from there? No, he went down to the brook because he knew where to get smooth pebbles. And out of the brook he picked up five smooth pebbles and he actually only needed one. I suppose he chose five because he said to himself it could be that I would miss four times but I’d never miss five times. Actually he hit the first time. He didn’t need the other four.
Now, God showed me that fellowship is being in the brook. You see, what made those stones smooth? Two things. The continually flowing of water over them is one thing. Secondly, the stones jostling against each other. That knocked the corners off and made them round, smooth and useable. Now that’s what fellowship is. First of all it’s not on the mountain top. It’s not in the place of pride and selfexaltation. It’s in the valley in the place of humility. It’s where the water is running, the clean purifying water of God’s word ministered, cleanses, smoothes, rubs off the corners. And the other process is your being jostled against your fellow believers. And every time they jostle you and you jostle them, off goes a little bit of that corner that has to come off before Jesus can use you. And when Jesus wants a useable vessel or instrument he never goes to the mountain top, he goes to the valley and he picks out a stone that has been under the process of cleansing and smoothing by the water and has been rounded and smoothed by fellowship with the other stones.
Now it is a painful process knocking sides with fellow believers. I know it well. They’ll hit you just where you don’t want to be hit but that little corner that would make you unusable gets smoothed off. I frequently go for a walk along the beach in Fort Lauderdale, it’s one of my favorite activities when I’m down there. And from time to time I’ll find a piece of glass on the beach. And of course you know that’s dangerous because a bather could easily cut his feet. But most of the glass that you find has been in the sea and it doesn’t have to be in the sea very long before it ceases to be dangerous. I don’t know how many hours it is but the process of the waves and the sand churning and moving very quickly take off those sharp cutting edges. Sometimes I find a piece of glass that has been in the sea but not quite long enough. It still has got a fairly sharp edge. And you know what I always do? Pick it up and throw it back. Well sometimes God has to do that with you. You’ve got some of the edges off but you are still a little bit dangerous to your fellow believers so God picks you up and throws you back. When you come out the second time you’ll be smooth, safe and usable. That is fellowship. It’s not all pleasant but the results are extremely beneficial. And believe me, if you do not come out of the place of fellowship, you will not be acceptable or useable by God.
I was talking to a man here last night, I don’t think he’s here tonight. He told me his problem and I said are you in fellowship with any group? He said no. And as he sat and talked to me he created in me this impression that there wasn’t anybody good enough to have fellowship with him. Well that is a mistake, believe me. I remember once I thought to myself, [I’d just become a missionary], these Pentecostal people are so silly. I’ll do better without them.
Now I was perfectly right with half the statement. The Pentecostal people were silly. I’ve been Pentecostal long enough to know that. No one can argue with me about that, I’ve been Pentecostal 30 years and more and Pentecostal people are silly. And I’m one of them! But I thought they were silly and I wasn’t. And I said to myself I can do better without them. You know that’s the most serious mistake I’ve ever made in my ministry. It’s the greatest disaster that every happened to me. God rescued me, but out of fellowship I went into darkness and into darkness Satan got me. And God rescued me. Friend, I’ll tell you, your fellow believers are silly, they’re awkward, they’re difficult to deal with. But remember you’re one of them. And when you get together you’ll knock the corners off them and they’ll knock the corners off you. But if you stay out on the mountainside and say I’m going to be an individual on my own, nobody is going to tell me what to do, you’ll stay out on the mountainside. God will never pick you up and use you. He takes the smooth stones out of the brook.
Now I am going to go on with the theme the fellowship of the godhead. The fellowship of the godhead is eternal and it’s the birthplace of God’s purposes. Let me say this, two statements. It’s eternal. We’ve got that up there but we’ll put it here again. Number one. Number two, the birthplace of God’s purposes. I hope you can grasp this truth. It’s a tremendous revelation of God’s word. All God’s purposes are born out of the fellowship of the godhead. Let me show you just a few quick examples. Genesis 1:26. Creation. Especially the creation of the human race. God said let us make man in our image after our likeness. It was a collective decision of the godhead in counsel to make man.
All right. Genesis 3:22. Man had sinned and disobeyed God. What is the conclusion, Genesis 3:22:
“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil...” (KJV)
We’ll have to do something about it. See? A collective decision of the godhead in counsel. Genesis 11:7, the human race were beginning to build the Tower of Babel. Verse 6:
“And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language...” (KJV)
A collective decision of the godhead. Isaiah 6:8. Again, Isaiah had this wonderful revelation of the Lord on his throne in glory. He had the cleansing of his lips with the coal of fire from off the altar. And when his lips were cleansed then he could hear the voice of the Lord and it says in Isaiah 6:8:
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (KJV)
The godhead in counsel. Where can we find a representative? In other words, all that we see done by God in time, in creation and in redemption on earth is born out of the fellowship of the godhead in eternity.
If you want a picture of this fellowship in the New Testament, let me just show you John’s gospel just for a moment. This is just a picture of the perfect fellowship of the godhead in eternity. John 1:1:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (KJV)
The word that’s translated with is the Greek preposition ?pros? which means toward. So here was the eternal Word, the Son toward the Father. In other words, in perfect, unbroken face to face communion and fellowship one with another. John 1:18, the same picture again.
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him...” (KJV)
The Son in the bosom of the Father, toward the Father in perfect, unbroken communion and fellowship. This is the fellowship of the godhead and all the purposes of God in time are borne out of this fellowship.
Now this is true not merely of the godhead but it’s true of the people of God. The birthplace of God’s purposes in his people is fellowship. No fellowship, no spiritual birth. Now here is the crux of what I am telling you tonight. I hope that I’ll be able to make it clear to you. No fellowship, no spiritual birth. Turn to John 3:6 and you see this principle that cannot be broken.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (KJV)
There are two kinds of birth. There’s the birth out of the flesh which produces flesh. It cannot produce other. There’s the birth out of the Spirit which produces spirit. The flesh cannot produce the spiritual. The spiritual cannot produce the flesh. You see, God’s order is like begets like. We all know that. Silly people in schools may try to teach us different, but all of us know that a man begets a man and a monkey begets a monkey. We’ve never seen a man beget a monkey and we never will. And anybody that can believe that believes more than I can believe. Like begets like. Flesh begets flesh. Spirit begets spirit. I don’t discredit this theory because I’m a preacher. I never could believe it when I was a philosopher. It struck me as the most ridiculous theory I had ever heard. And after nearly a hundred years of trying to prove it it still remains an unproven theory. Let no one in school ever teach it to you as a proven fact because it isn’t. It is the theory of evolution and it will never be more than a theory because it isn’t true. That’s why.
Now I’m not against education and I really don’t believe in starting separate schools. I believe turn the Christians loose in the secular schools and let them win their schoolmates for God. I don’t believe in withdrawing. I better not get into this but I have been in Christian education and I find you can create a kind of hothouse atmosphere which produces hothouse plants. One day that hothouse plant has got to go out into the cold winds of the world and it will wilt in most cases. Now Prince, that’s enough about that. I don’t believe in handing the secular schools over to the devil. That’s the essence of it. I believe that if we understand the power of prayer, what it means to bind and loose, the power of the Holy Spirit and power of testimony, we can move into the schools and take them for God. And that’s what my project is. But I’ll preach about that another time.
All right. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Flesh cannot produce spirit. Now, the only birthplace of the spiritual is the place of fellowship. No fellowship, no spiritual birth. Now this is the problem in the church. Because in the church, by and large, the one thing we don’t have is fellowship. The ordinary church building is so constructed as to make fellowship almost impossible. It’s a long narrow room, there’s a raised platform at one end and a podium or pulpit or whatever you’d like to call it, a P.A. system and all the seats are facing that way. And everything tells you the moment you walk into that building that anything that’s of any importance is going to happen from behind that pulpit and your job is to sit there and look at it. And all you see of other people is what? The back of their necks. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot fellowship the back of somebody else’s neck, it just doesn’t work. See, this is the tragedy.
Now I preached a sermon once in a Pentecostal church, it was a good church and it was a good sermon too! It was a Sunday morning sermon and the pastor really liked it. And there was a warm atmosphere in the church at the end, a real sense of God’s presence. And you know what he said? He said don’t run away home, stop and have fellowship. Shake hands with at least half a dozen people before you go. And I said to myself, dear God, is that the ration that your people are living on? Is fellowship shaking hands with half a dozen people before you go home? No wonder they look starved. You know what God’s people are hungry for? What they’ll run miles for? Fellowship. The average institutional church does not provide it. This is not a criticism of the institutional church. Because I believe in systematic teaching and preaching, exactly what I’m doing now. We are not having fellowship now, you are listening to me teach and preach. But if all I do is teach and preach and nothing develops out of it, then my teaching and preaching has been in vain. It is not an end, it is a mean. The end is fellowship. And when God’s people come together in fellowship, then spiritual birth takes place.
Now the trouble is with most Christians, they’re conditioned to think in terms of committees, agendas, programs and so on. So when they come together, somebody opens in prayer, they read the Minutes of the previous meeting, they go through the agenda, they have a resolution, they close in prayer. What is that? It’s flesh. What does it beget? Flesh. It cannot beget spirit. Where is spiritual birth going to take place? In the place of fellowship. What is fellowship? It’s not coming together about an agenda. It’s not coming together to construct a committee. It’s not coming together to arrange a program. It’s coming together to enjoy Jesus Christ, worship him, share him together, and out of that worship and out of that sharing the Holy Spirit will bring forth a birth. But until God’s people come into fellowship, there is no spiritual birth.
Let me show you this very quickly in the history of the church. Where was the church born? Now I know some people say it was born of the resurrection. I think most people say it was brought forth at Pentecost. What preceded Pentecost? Let’s look. Acts 1:14. I take it you’re familiar with the outline of the narrative.
“They all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” (KJV)
Ten days of prayer and supplication with one accord. That is fellowship. What was the conclusion? The beginning of chapter 2:
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” (KJV)
Out of that perfect fellowship was brought forth experientially so far as history is concerned the church of Jesus Christ, the church was born out of fellowship. And from then on until now, the only place of birth in the church is the place of fellowship. No fellowship, no spiritual birth. Look on in Acts 13 for a moment. See the beginning of the first great missionary project of the church. Acts 13:1–3:
“Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; [Five men are named, we do not need to read them.] As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted...” (KJV)
What were they doing? They were having fellowship with the Lord, ministering to him, fellowshiping with one another and out of that came forth the divine purpose:
“...the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” (KJV)
This whole project was born not out of a committee, not out of a program, but out of fellowship. And they accomplished the purpose that God had set apart. If you read the end of the missionary journey in Acts 14 it says in the 26th verse:
“And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.” (KJV)
They got the job done. Why did they get the job done? Shall I tell you why? Because it was born of the Spirit. 1 John 5:4, Brother Charles quoted this in the little time of prayer we had before the service and God fastened it in my heart at that time.
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world...” (KJV)
What is born of God must succeed, it cannot fail. And 1 John 5:18, if you want that as well:
“...but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” (KJV)
Let me say that about that which is born of God: It cannot be defeated, it cannot be touched by the devil. It is inviolable and invincible. That which is born of God. No wonder the devil wants to keep us from the place of spiritual birth. He’ll do anything he can to keep God’s people from coming together in fellowship because as they come together in fellowship, minister to the Lord, minister to one another, share together in the Spirit, out of that fellowship will take place the birth of something which Satan cannot overcome. He cannot touch it, he cannot defeat it, he cannot stop it. It’s born of God, it will overcome the world.
I’ve just had the privilege of being in Plymouth, Massachusetts, as one of three speakers that were invited at different times to help the city of Plymouth celebrate the 350th anniversary of the landing of the pilgrim fathers. Now this was a real honor for me. In fact, the first time I was so embarrassed by it that I chickened out, as they say in America, and wouldn’t go, but I went again. Now I have to say it my way. There were two other speakers. One was Billy Graham, the other was President Nixon. I like to say it like that but I have to add of course that they were not there at the same time. And I think they got a larger crowd than I did. I hope they did because my crowd was definitely not large. But for me, it was a marvelous experience because I came to know for the first time a little bit about the pilgrim fathers. And I made some fascinating discoveries. You see, I’m a Britisher by birth and American citizen, but a Britisher by birth. And I’m even more ignorant than most Americans about their history. And I find most Americans are tragically ignorant anyhow. But I learned something about the pilgrim fathers. First of all, I learned something which I must mention because it’s of great personal interest. I learned that the real birthplace of the pilgrim fathers spiritually, theologically, you know where it was? Cambridge University. You know why that thrills me? It’s because I was a professor at Cambridge University. And the real theologian that brought forth the truth that thrust them out on that venture was a man named John Robinson, a professor at Cambridge University. There’s a book about him coming out in November of this year which I have every intention of acquiring. But as I listened to this account of the pilgrims and I let the Spirit of God speak to me, I said to myself, here we have something that was born of the Spirit. And it could not be overcome. It was a spiritual birth.
Now I realize there are other origins and other threads in American history. It does not all go back to the pilgrim fathers. But central to this nation there is something that was born of God. And whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world. Friends, that is good news. And I don’t believe that that thing that was born of God has yet fulfilled all the purposes for which God brought it to birth. I believe the greatest lies ahead. Come back Friday night and I’ll tell you about it. But I’m convinced of it. I’m convinced that God has a destiny for the United States of America which began to take shape when a spiritual birth took place. And it was a birth in travail. No travail, no birth. You know the hardships and the sufferings that they went through. When anything new is coming forth, believe me, it comes forth the hard way. There’s agony, there’s travail, there’s prayer, there’s fasting. How glad I was to discover that they believed in fasting. You knew that of course. When the crops were failing, what did they do? Fasted. What happened? Rain came. The Indians said when it rains after a drought it always comes in such tremendous power that it smashes the crops down. There came a steady, fine, persistent rain for several days. The Indians said we have never seen it like that before. Why did it come? Because they fasted. It’s in the history and the origin of this nation. I’ve got a book out there, Restoration Through Fasting. It only costs you fifty cents. If you don’t know the truth about fasting and what it can do in history, it’s time that God’s people got familiar with this. There is a place of spiritual birth which brings forth that which will accomplish the purposes of God which Satan cannot stop, the world cannot overcome. And that’s the place of fellowship. That’s why to me this message is of such tremendous significance. It’s the message that is going to make possible the birth and the fulfillment of God’s purpose.
Now in closing this message let me quickly bring out certain truths about fellowship which are practical. First of all, fellowship demands certain things. Number one, a commitment. Number two, submission. This is remarkable. There are two words in the English language that I like. Commit and submit. And I use them almost every time when I preach. I say, Lord, I commit myself to you and I submit myself to you. And from then on I’m pretty confident of the result.
Now fellowship demands a commitment. Not merely to God but to one another. My wife was on a tour with me to Israel which we were leading and she said you know what fellowship is? [She was talking to the people on the tour.] It’s this: We’re all fellows on the same ship and we can’t get off. And that’s fellowship. Now if you can get off any time you feel like it, it’s not fellowship. It’s not dropping in a prayer meeting when you feel like it. Some prayer meetings are just a substitute for the cocktail party as far as I’m concerned. People have gotten tired of cocktails so they get a kick out of a prayer meeting. That’s not what I’m talking about. The type of prayer that accomplished things demands commitment in the people that come together to pray. That’s the first word, commit.
The second word is submit. You have to submit yourselves one to another. You remember what we said? In the godhead; fatherhood, headship, fellowship. Fellowship follows headship. Fellowship is not a lot of people coming together as a disorganized group just to have a good time. Fellowship demands order, discipline and submission. The key verse for the Body of Christ today is Ephesians 5:21:
“Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (KJV)
Fellowship demands commitment to God and to your fellow believers. It demands submission to God and to your fellow believers. Then it demands a place. Now the obvious and primary place of fellowship for the Body of Christ is the homes of believers. It’s not the only place, it’s not sufficient but it’s basic. The fellowship of the early Christians primarily was in their own home. Let me give you two scriptures quickly and I’m coming to the end of my message. Acts 2:46–47:
“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, [that’s the large place of fellowship] and breaking bread from house to house, [eating together in their homes, that’s the small place of fellowship] did eat their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (KJV)
When you are in the place of fellowship you don’t have to have a membership drive. The Holy Spirit brings souls to birth. Fellowship is the place for spiritual birth. They didn’t have to go out and get people. As a matter of fact, on the contrary the scripture says of the rest, no man does join himself to them. I wish it were like that in every church in this nation. That the unbelievers were scared to come amongst such a holy, united, God fearing group of people. They still come, believe me. People come up to me sometimes and say, Brother Prince, I’ve been wanting to come to you for six months but I’m scared of you. Why they should be scared of me I’m not quite sure that I know. But I say, but you came in the end. When God’s time came, you came. And I’m not altogether sorry that people are sometimes a little bit scared of me. Because I think people take their religion a little too lightly in some places.
Let’s look at the closing scripture and we’ll only read it, you can evaluate it for yourself. Acts 2:42, the result of Pentecost.
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine [teaching] and fellowship, and in breaking of bread [eating together] and in prayers [praying together.]” (KJV)
Those are the four basic continuing features of New Testament living. Let’s say them once again. Teaching, fellowship, eating together, praying together. That’s the pattern of New Testament living. Shall we close in prayer? Father, we thank you for your presence here tonight. And we pray that out of the words preached there will come forth a conviction in the hearts of your people that we must move into fellowship with thee and with one another. That we must live in fellowship. And Lord, as we live and move in fellowship we know that the Spirit of God will bring forth to birth the purposes of God for this generation. And we thank thee for this in Jesus’ name. Amen.