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.

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