There are many in that would preach that one is justified by faith but yet can’t seem to get past the dichotomy of the believer – that is, I’ve been redeemed, but yet I still find within myself a desire for sin. Since we can’t have folks living however they want to, we have to find a way to deal with this.
We can’t tell them that their justification will be forfeited by doing bad works since it was never determined by doing good works. It was by faith and faith alone. But, if we view a believer as separate from Christ, then we can say that by our good works, we get closer to Christ and by our bad, we get further away. This “getting close/being close to God” we’ll call “fellowship.” Therefore, if you do bad things, you can lose your fellowship even though you are still redeemed.
Seems like we’ve solved the problem, no?
Well, let’s apply a little pressure to the brake pedal for a moment. Let’s take some time to see this idea of fellowship in action in scripture and see if it holds up to framework we established above.
It wasn’t uncommon for David to bemoan the oppression of the wicked of Israel and certainly of the world around him. Often in the book of Psalms, we find David’s cries of concern, but resolved in mind that God was still the Rock of his salvation. In a Psalm 94, we find this very thing taking place. But, in the midst of this, we find an interesting word used. Note the wording in verse 20:
Psalm 94:20 Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?
This word fellowship is translated from chabar and is only translated “fellowship” one time as such from the Hebrew scriptures and it is right here in Psalm 94. However, this isn’t the only time the word chabar is translated in the Old Testament. Keep Psalm 94 in mind as it mirrors something Paul tells the Corinthians. We’ll get to that soon enough, but first, let’s look at other verses that the word chabar is translated and this should give us some clues as to what chabar means, and certainly then what “fellowship” is. If chabar is translated otherwise, then we should simply find synonyms for “fellowship”, should we not?
Genesis 14:3 All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea
In Genesis 14, there are some kings of Gentile nations who are coming together to fight against the king of Sodom and of Gomorrah. The word “joined together” is a translation of chabar.
Exodus 26:3 The five curtains shall be coupled together one to another; and other five curtains shall be coupled one to another.
As Israel is constructing the tabernacle in the wilderness, there are particular instructions about how these curtains are to hang in relation to one another, they are to be “chabar-ed” or coupled together.
We seem to have found some synonyms for “fellowship”, which are “joined together” and “coupled together.” Wait…I thought fellowship was about how close our relationship is with God, based on our obedience and good works?
What is the point of joining or coupling something together? Is it so that the TWO shall remain TWO, separate, and distinct entities? Or, is the purpose of joining/coupling something together is so that the TWO shall now be ONE?
In Ezekiel 1:11, the prophet writes of what he saw around the throne of God and he speaks of these creatures that have multi-faceted faces as well as 6 wings, the purpose of these wings are spelled out, but note in the verse what it says about two of the wings: Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.
These two wings were “chabar-ed“, or joined together with the wings of a fellow creature. You would expect that if their wings were joined together, that these creatures would move as ONE, no difference or variance in direction. Note the next verse, Ezekiel 1:12 And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.
We are finding some interesting truths regarding fellowship and they are centered around being joined together so that two become one. Regardless of the scenario or the objects or people involved, the idea is to bring two or more together in one. If this is the case, then we ought to find consistency with what Paul writes concerning this idea of two becoming one. When we think of fellowship, we need to think of this idea of many becoming one. We have another word for this and it is union.
First, I mentioned above to keep Psalm 94:20 in mind because David’s question is a fundamental question that demonstrates a fact about God – God is jealous and is God alone. David rhetorically asks if the throne of iniquity will have fellowship with God – and, of course, the answer is a resounding “no”. We find this same theme show up also in the earthly ministry of Christ when He claimed that they could not serve God and mammon. Further, Paul asks some questions to the Corinthians with this same idea of ‘God alone’ in mind,
2Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
2Corinthians 6:15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
2Corinthians 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
When we try to view ourselves (the believer and Christ) as a stroll whereby the believer tries to keep up with christ, we have this “two remains two” mindset, whereby we ultimately end up trying to serve God and mammon. But, what fellowship (joining/coupling/union) has righteousness with unrighteousness? If righteousness were measurable, then know that a nano-ounce of unrighteousness is enough to not have fellowship with righteousness, which is Christ. As Paul writes to the Galatians, a little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Since our flesh is still the house of sin and death, then it would take God judicially and spiritually removing us from that flesh to no longer be in union with the flesh. (This is our sanctification, by the way). It would take God removing us from the identity of unrighteousness (every aspect and facet of it), and placing us into the identity of righteousness (again, every aspect and facet of it).
This answers the dichotomous paradox that some believers struggle with – I’m justified before God, but yet, my flesh thrives to sin. The answer is that the very reason you can stand justified before God is because God has separated you from the flesh. But, He didn’t separate you from the flesh to leave you in a state of limbo, for righteousness is not found in any other place other than in Christ. And, it reminds me of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his first letter,
1Corinthians 6:17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
Two have become ONE!! This is fellowship on display – it is the reality of our joining/coupling/union to Righteousness Himself, Jesus Christ. There is no fellowship/union/coupling/joining together of the flesh with Christ but every time we turn to ourselves to maintain a “good relationship” with God, we are attempting to join Christ to Belial. We are attempting to make God have fellowship with the throne of iniquity. The religious definition of fellowship (that we laid out at the start of the post) actually does the opposite of what it claims to do – instead of drawing you closer to God, it serves to try to couple light with darkness.
Paul shows that we have been joined to Christ and that is a absolute present reality for every believer. And, this fellowship/union is so thorough that Paul says in Ephesians 5:30, that we are members of Christ’s body and of His flesh and of His bones. Paul was called to deliver information about fellowship with Christ that was theretofore not known. Marriage of husband and wife was the mystery that defined the state of the believer with Christ – two have become one. Note Paul’s words to the Corinthians,
2Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
The word “espoused” is from harmozo, which means “to joint.” The gospel of Christ – the mystery of all that God has made us to be in the person of His Son – is the very truth that demonstrates our union with the Savior. There is never a time when a believer is not in fellowship with Christ, otherwise, the believer would not be in union with Christ and therefore no longer justified.
Thankfully, we can rest in what the scriptures really teach regarding true fellowship and rejoice therein, rather than wresting in the religious definition that is nothing more than man’s wild and diseased imagination. The believer stands justified and enjoys fellowship/union for eternity, but let there be no confusion, the believer’s eternity already exists. Why wait until heaven to start living by faith? Why wait until heaven to finally yield to the Spirit? Enjoy the reality of your fellowship with Christ every day!