Good Friends, Good Food, Good Times
Today permitted an opportunity of tremendous enjoyment for me. Following a doctor’s appointment, I had arranged to meet with a preacher friend for lunch. While I expected both him and his good wife to be there, she had another appointment. Yet, I was delighted to find two lifelong friends and two other Christians that are good friends. The six of us enjoyed each other’s company, good food, and a good time of sharing laughter, concerns, and the reassurance of our brotherly love for each other.
Some would call this “fellowship” and by literal definition, that is precisely what we enjoyed. Webster defines “fellowship” as “1.
companionship; 2. Community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience, 3. A company of equals or friends, 4. The quality or state of being comradely. Yes, we are companions, share the same interests, activities, feelings, and experiences, and consider ourselves a company of equals/friends and we retain a state of comradery. But this was not a “church function.” It was simply a time we found to be together and enjoy our time together.
Many believe that the scriptural definition of “fellowship” must include eating. While any serious bible student will concur, that Jude speaks of “feasts of charity” (Jude 12), must also concur such feasts were never proposed as the principal purpose of gathering for worship. When Paul wrote to Corinth, he expressed his disdain that they would even attempt to make a banquet feast of the Lord’s memorial. (1 Corinthians 11:17 – 22). While there is nothing unscriptural about eating or eating together as if at a banquet when several gather, it is never shown as a part of the fellowship in worship! Yet, somehow, many have concluded, “You can’t have fellowship without eating.” Let’s study the fact that we have fellowship in worship without eating a huge meal!
The word “fellowship” is found fourteen times in the New Testament. Of these times, the famed Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance offers essentially two definitions for the word: 1. To share in the company with; to participate; 2. partnership, that is, (literally) participation, or (social) intercourse. Depending on the context of the word, one can easily determine its meaning. However, of these fourteen passages, only one comes close to meaning “eating a feast” and careful study will reveal it is not speaking of a feast, but rather the participation of the Lord’s supper (Acts 2:47). The remaining passages reveal the following:
1 Corinthians 1:9 -- fellowship with Jesus Christ
1 Corinthians 10:20 – forbids fellowship with devils
2 Corinthians 6:14 – the impossibility of fellowship of righteousness with unrighteousness
2 Corinthians 8:4 – the fellowship of ministering to the saints
Galatians 2:9 – Paul and Barnabas receiving the right hands of fellowship
Ephesians 3:9 – the fellowship of the mystery (i.e. gospel)
Ephesians 5:11 – forbids fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness
Philippians 1:5 -- fellowship in the gospel
Philippians 2:1 – fellowship of the Spirit
Philippians 3:10 – fellowship of His (the Lord’s) sufferings
1 John 1:3 – fellowship with God the Father and His Son, Jesus
1 John 1:6 – fellowship with God the Father
1 John 1:7 – fellowship between ourselves and God the Father
Read that list again and tell me what “fellowship” has to do with eating to please God. Instead, careful students will note that fellowship is the participation in service with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Our singing, praying, studying, communing, giving – our worship is fellowship with Them! Not only participation, but “social intercourse” with Them and with one another as we teach, admonish, and exhort, one another in every aspect of our worship of God!
Can such fellowship be enjoyed without a worship service? Certainly! Haven’t you ever prayed for or with an individual for some need, or thanksgiving? Have you ever sung hymns with another for the sheer joy of the song, and the enthusiasm it brought to you and those who joined you in singing a psalm, hymn, or spiritual song? Have you ever enjoyed a fervent study of God’s word apart from a time of “scheduled worship?” Are not these times of “joint participation” and “social intercourse” with God, His Son, and those brethren who join in the activity?
It troubles me that our minds tend toward the temporal more than the spiritual in such matters (Romans 8:6). For many Christians, the temporal is vital, if not greater, than the simplicity God desires, and the earliest brethren exemplified when employing fellowship in their gatherings.
Yes, like most, I like to eat good food with great friends, and have a great time! But there’s a time and a place for such things. In worshipping God, I’m too busy with Him to eat for my flesh.