John 1:14 “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”
What is fellowship, according to Scripture? How are we in danger of mere socialising instead of having true fellowship? The Salt Shakers committee requested that these issues be dealt with. There are two possible scenarios we face in the church with regards to fellowship.
One situation could be that fellowship in the church has the beginnings of growing cold or has even grown cold. Even before one steps into church, one hopes not to bump into certain church members at the bus stop or in the carpark. In the church, gazes are averted; the existence of another is ignored. In cliques, invisible boundaries are erected; conversations are repeated, shallow and cold.
A second situation is that at present, fellowship is flourishing, and we simply cannot get enough of it. There is a spring in one’s step as one catches up to walk and talk with another member. In church, everyone looks one another in the eye, and with genuine Christian joy greets another. Yes, there are groups of friends formed, mothers sharing with each other the same struggles, but there are no boundaries between such groups. Conversations are filled with spiritual matters. Friends engage in frank sharing of the spiritual highs and lows of their Christian walk. One is ready to receive encouragement as much as to give it. One simply cannot get enough of this blessed fellowship and is sad to leave church.
As a church called Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, we are deeply interested in true fellowship. For that is how the Scriptures understand the concept of the covenant: not as a cold contract, but as a warm relationship of friendship. And the heartbeat of that friendship is fellowship.
What is true fellowship?
True fellowship among believers is the sharing of all things in light of our relationship with God, realised in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
To fellowship is to share in all things with another. But what does this mean? It means that there are some things that belong to us as individuals which we must share with others. These may be unique struggles, personal problems, or secret struggles. But to fellowship is to appoint someone, and then give to that person a certain portion of all these personal things. Now it is not just one person that is carrying the burden, but two. By that verbal sharing, two hearts now share and participate in that same suffering and joy together. To fellowship is to share.
This sharing is in light of our relationship with God. If this is not so, all our conversations and interactions with one another would be mere socialising. By “mere socialising” we refer to having conversations that are void of a spiritual mindedness. It is talking about things for things’ sake. It need not be just talking about the news, weather, food, or sports. Merely socialising can also be talking about church matters. It is mere socialising when we backbite and destroy the good reputation of other church members. Whereas biblical fellowship involves talking about God and the things concerning God, “mere socialising” is fellowship without its heart, Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, we may be discussing something as normal as the weather, but there can still be true fellowship. Don’t think so? Hear what David says to us about the weather: “The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad. The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook” (Ps. 77:17-18). Or how about talking about the weather and sports at the same time? “(T)he firmament sheweth his handiwork … In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which … rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race” (Ps. 19:1, 4-5). The difference between fellowship and mere socialising is not the subject of the conversation, but the worldview and spiritual discipline to be spiritually minded in all our conversations.
This fellowship is not merely made possible by Jesus Christ and the cross, but it is realised and made effectual. It is crucial to remember this. If we don’t, the warm fellowship in the church will slowly evolve into isolation and avoidance of each other. To forget our fellowship in the Son (1 Cor. 1:9) will result in the isolating of oneself. That is where one attempts to live apart from the body of Jesus Christ even though one is engrafted to it. It is like if a body part is cold, numb, and frostbitten, perhaps by bitterness, offence, or some sin ,so that now that part of the body does not communicate with the rest of the body. This happens in the church when members mark other members, seeking not to say anything to them, or do their best to keep all interaction to a minimum. This isolation and avoidance, like frostbite, does not just harm the body part itself, but the whole body is painfully affected.
To fellowship with each other, we must remember our fellowship with the Son. Therefore, we now turn to that beautiful and mysterious doctrine of the incarnation. The incarnation is God’s gracious act of the Son of God taking on our full, weakened, real human nature, in order to fellowship with us. This amazing truth is taught in John 1:14: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”.
To let the full force of this truth sink into our souls, we must ask first: just who is this Word? He is the second Person of the Trinity! He is “the only-begotten Son of God”. He is “begotten of the Father before all worlds”. He is “God of God”. He is “Light of Light”. He is “true God of true God”. He is “begotten, not made, being of one essence with the Father ”. He is the one “by whom all things were made”. The Word is God!
Now just what did God do? He took on our flesh! He became human, like us in all things, sin excepted. To say that He stepped into our shoes is a gross understatement. The second Person of the Trinity has a human nature so real that now there is nothing that we go through in this life that Jesus does not understand. So weakened and complete is this human nature that He is so moved by our sufferings and sorrows of life that He even wept together with us (John 11:35)! He is Immanuel, God with us.
But why will the Son of God leave heaven, come into our world, and take on our complete human nature? He did so to fellowship with us.
What is the relationship between the two phrases in John 1:14: “And the Word was made flesh” and “dwelt among us”? It is the relationship of purpose. The Word was made flesh in order to dwell among us. The word “dwelt” means “to tabernacle” in the original. The tabernacle is the OT picture of God dwelling, living with His people in covenant fellowship. This is the purpose of the incarnation — God dwelling with us, God fellowshipping with us.
Have you ever wanted to fellowship, to have intimate and personal conversations, with someone that hates you, slanders you, offends you by doing the exact opposite of what you say?
This is what Jesus does to us. He fellowships with us. Jesus, who is truly God and perfectly righteous, did not hold us filthy sinners at arm’s length. He did not give us the cold shoulder or a forced “hi”. He did not come to merely socialise with us. He did not just come to tell us we are sinners and to point out our sin and weakness.
He shared in all things with us. He shared in our greatest suffering, sin. He took upon Himself all the guilt of our sin. He took on even the curse of our death that rightfully belonged to us. He did not hesitate to be numbered with us shameful sinners. The extent of Jesus’ fellowship? The depths of hell for us. At the cross He was alienated from the Father so that we might be reconciled and have fellowship with Him. He now shares with us the secret of the Father, the covenant (Ps. 25:14). He now shares with us His resurrection life and righteousness. There comes a day when He will share with us His glory when we are glorified in heaven (2 Thess. 2:14, Rom. 8:30).
What does Jesus’ fellowship with us have to do with the fellowship in CERC currently? Everything. The extent and warmth of our fellowship with those whom we find most difficult to fellowship with now is but a reflection of our understanding of the Son’s fellowship with us. Will you “merely socialise” or have true fellowship in Christ this Lord’s Day?
In the next article we will focus on how the truth of the incarnation shapes our fellowship.
Written by: Josiah Tan | Issue 54
 Nicene Creed