Duties of Christian Fellowship: Rule 1

I’m reading a book about the Templars. It’s fascinating. This stuff is happening in the 12th century, and I’m asking myself along the way, “how did they develop that practice if they are reading and making sense of the Bible?”

These people did some crazy stuff that we all look back on and wonder what the heck were they thinking.

I have to be careful, because their situation is not much different than ours. Christianity had become a political movement more than the kingdom of God. The faith was a means of power for many not the way of salvation for all who believe. I know I’m over simplifying a tad, but you get the gist. We have done much the same thing, except we are a bit earlier in the process they were were 800 + years into. Some have used the faith to gain power. Some use the faith to justify their pursuits. For some the faith is what they were born into. These are dangerous things.

The farther one gets away from the biblical intent the more dangerous and off beat we can get. God uses “reformations” in salvation history to help us regain focus. Thankfully he gave us Luther in the 1500’s. We may be in need of some Luther’s in the 21st century. We have a few challenges.

One challenge in the post-Christian south is the use of biblical language without the actual and powerful biblical practice. We use bible language and do non bible things. We say “fellowship” but we actually gather around mutual affinity for things other than the kingdom of God. Affinity for things is not bad, but if that affinity is for things not of the kingdom and we dress it in biblical language, we have a dangerous/deadly substitute.

Fellowship in the local church in the post-Christian south is a hard nut to crack.

John Owen wrote a little booklet in the 1600’s called “The Duties of Christian Fellowship”. In this little two section booklet, he deals with “rules with respect to walking in fellowship with the pastor” and “rules with walking in fellowship with respect to other believers”. We won’t deal with section one as that comes off as self-serving. What I’m interested in here is relating the 15 little biblical rules Owen relates in regard to fellowship in the local church.

We’ll cover them one at a time over the coming weeks.

Rule 1: Believers have a duty of affectionate, sincere, genuine love in all things towards one another; a love compared to that of Christ for the church. 

Now, Owen gives his biblical basis for each rule, the explanation of the rule and biblical motives for obeying the rule. I absolutely love how he lays that out. I would suggest you go buy this little booklet here Duties of Christian Fellowship

I’m not going to make his argument for him, but what I will do is give you Scripture references, and some applications.

Scripture: John 15:12; John 13:34-35; Romans 13:8; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 4:21; Romans 12:10

Motives to obey: Owen gives oodles of Scripture for these motives to obey, but I’ll just give some on some points and leave you to your bible reading.

  1. The command of God.
  2. The eternal, distinguishing faithful love of God toward his people and his purpose in it.
  3. The intense and inexpressible love of Jesus Christ seen in his humiliation and in his laying down of his life for us, presented to us an an example.
  4. The notable renewal of the old command to love, with such reinforcement that it is called a new commandment, and is distinctively the law of Christ.
  5. The state and condition of those between whom this command is to be fulfilled are a) all those who are children of the same Father, Mal. 2:10; b) those members of one body, 1 Cor. 12:12-13; c) those who are partakers of the same hope, Eph. 4:4; d) objects of the world’s hate, 1 John 3:13
  6. The impossibility of performing any other duty without it.
  7. The great sin of lack of love and all those consequences, Matt. 24:12; 1 John3:14-15

We are to love because it’s the command of the Lord.

We are to love people in the local body. You can’t love people you are not invested in or serve intentionally, weekly, in covenant, and on mission. Love is not given when we attend, or attend to get, or fail to fully invest.

We can’t truly do any task well without the love of Christ controlling us.

A failure to love like this is sin, and it comes with consequences.

Let’s love each other well in obedience to the Lord Jesus command.

1 John 3:14 (ESV) We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.


Romans 12:1-2…Worship As A Living Sacrifice

Romans 12:1-2

Worship as a Living Sacrifice

There is a “grownupness” to biblical worship that transcends styles and trends and geography.

In the west we’ve done a great job of transporting our youth camp experiences from the beach into our covenanted, corporate gatherings and the divine conversation of “revelation and response” is easily replaced with “performance and affirmation of good performances or rejection of less good performances”.

This is one of the reasons we’ve focused not on a “kickin’” worship service, but on the Biblical model of worship as a living sacrifice.

Our service, no matter how “revelation and response” it’s order is only as effective as the effort to engage God in it on the part of God’s people.

I want to invite you to not consume, but to engage this morning.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…

  • Paul pleads with his audience…
  • Therefore: Paul pleads as the conclusion of his process of reasoning from chapter 1-11
  • Paul’s pleading / reasoning has been from God’s mercies:
    • Justification
    • God’s kindness and severity

Romans 11:22 (ESV) Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

    • Kindness: Gentiles and Jews are made into God’s Israel because the kingdom is made of those of the FAITH OF ABRAHAM, not merely made from his physical descent. (See Galatians 3:7; Romans 4:1-12)
    • Severity: God breaks off branches when grafting others in because of unbelief. This is not a statement of a Christian’s security. It’s a warning that you should not disbelieve, or become proud, but rather fear.

Romans 11:17-20 (ESV) But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear (with white knuckled intensity, hold on to Jesus and don’t grasp for other answers).

    • Paul’s own example

Romans 11:33-36 (ESV) Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

To present your bodies…

    • “Present” is the main verb of this sentence. It is the main action.
      • It means to “place”, “put down beside”. The idea Paul is using is from the priests laying the sacrifice down on the alter before the Lord in the temple.
    • “Bodies” is the noun. It is what is presented.
      • We are to present before God our very bodies.
      • All of our physical existence shaped by the internal work of what has happened with a new heart. 

As a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God…

    • “Living” is also a verb, but it’s a participle…that is it’s a verbal adjective.
      • It means that a person is actively living in a certain way…(See verse 2-21).
    • “Sacrifice” is the noun. That is the Romans…and us Romans…any Christian reading this passage is to be actively living in the way of this passage.
      • Our will.
      • Our desires shaped by God’s word, his kingdom, his people’s need for me and his gifts to me for them…
      • Completely given over to God for others for glory.
    • “Holy” and “Acceptable” are the adjectives. These words describe the nature of our living sacrifice before God based on the completed work of Jesus in chapters 2-11.

Which is your spiritual worship…

    • “Spiritual” is a word that means “reasonable” or “spiritual” based on context and other words used around it (See 1 Peter 2:2 is “spiritual milk” not “logical milk”).
    • I prefer “reasonable” here due to the fact that it is reasonable to conclude that worship should be as a living sacrifice due to the extravagant mercies of God. Just like sacrifices were required for the salvific work of God then, they are now freely offered in the form of lives lived by those saved by the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus for them, in their place for their sin.

How do we apply worship as a living sacrifice to us today?

I fear that in the application it may be too easy to insulate ourselves from these practices. Don’t let these applications miss you. There is something here for everyone.


  1. Transformation of our minds into kingdom minds not worldly minds. 12:2
  2. Think of yourself soberly, not highly. 12:3

1 John 2:15-17…desires of the flesh…desires of the eyes…pride of life…can and does corrupt our presentation of ourselves.

  1. Practice in your body being part of one body because you are members of one another through covenant. 12:4-5
  2. Use the spiritual gifts for the building up of each other. 12:6-8
  3. Love well, and love each other with brotherly affection. 12:9, 10
  4. Hate evil and hold to good. 12:9
  5. Compete to show honor. 12:10
  6. Don’t be lazy, serve the Lord with passion. 12:11
  7. Rejoice in hope as you patiently endure hardships together in prayer. 12:12
  8. Serve each other’s needs. 12:13
  9. Be hospitable to each other. 12:13
  10. Bless those who speak evil of you. 12:14
  11. Be present with each other in highs and lows. 12:15
  12. Have the same mind with each other. 12:16
  13. Never be haughty/snobbish/self-important. 12:16
  14. Don’t give out evil when evil is done to you…rather try to be honorable. 12:17
  15. Live peaceably with all people as far as it depends on you. 12:18
  16. Bless rather than seek vengeance. 12:19-20
  17. overcome evil with good. 12:21