Togetherness (Part 3)

TOGETHERNESS I. God has ordained that men be in company with others. A. Before sin's entrance, God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. GEN 2:18. B. God has thus ordained families, nations, friend and churches. C. The locusts are commended for their wisdom in going forth by bands. PRO 30:27. D. Jesus sent His disciples out by twos. MAR 6:7. E. Paul emphasized the importance to him of his companions. ROM 16:1-4, 6, 9; PHIL 2:25; COL 4:11; 2TI 1:16; PHM 1:20. F. Mark the four benefits of togetherness taught in ECC 4:7-12. 1. There is good reward of our labor when it is shared with another. 2. Another can help us when we fail. 3. Another can provide us with a greater potential to achieve a goal. 4. Having another provides us with greater defense. G. Mark these additional benefits of interacting with others. 1. It provides opportunity to give and receive love. PRO 17:17. 2. It stimulates us to duty. HEB 10:24-25. 3. We receive needed counsel and correction. PRO 27:5-6, 9; 15:22. 4. It sharpens our countenance (bearing, demeanor, behavior or conduct). PRO 27:17. II. Church fellowship is a mutual fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. ACT 2:42; 1JO 1:3. A. Fellowship is "partnership; membership of a society; participation, sharing (in an action, condition, etc.); something in common, community of interest, sentiment, nature, etc." B. We enjoy something together that cannot be shared with those in the family or community who are not Christians. 2CO 6:14-18. C. Therefore, we are to be kindly affectioned (disposed, inclined) one toward another with brotherly love. ROM 12:10. 1. Are we inclined toward our brethren or away from our brethren? 2. Do we view each other as brothers or as strangers? 3. Do we prefer Christians? Do we make friends of them? PSA 1:1 c/w PSA 119:63. III. Church members help one another by the ministry they have one to another. A. We show that we are Christ's disciples by loving one another. JOH 13:35. 1. There needs to be a personal demonstration of love one to another. 2. Our love for one another must be expressed in deeds. 1JO 3:17-19. B. We are to care one for another as members of the same body. 1CO 12:12-27. 1. Church members are one body in Christ. 2. As members of the same body, church members NEED each other. 3. Unity is expressed by our care and compassion for one another. PHIL 2:1-4; 1PE 3:8-9; 1CO 12:20-27; ROM 12:15-16; HEB 13:3. 4. If we truly love one another, we will seek each other's good which in turn will bind us together. 1CO 13:4-7 c/w COL 3:14. 5. We are to be knit (closely and firmly united) together in love. COL 2:2. a. Our hearts are comforted as we are thus knit together. b. The benefit of the body is hindered without unity. AMO 3:3. c. Unity is a directive from Jesus Christ. 1CO 1:10. C. We are to admonish one another, i.e., to put one another in mind of duties; to counsel against wrong practices; to exhort one another. ROM 15:14; HEB 3:13; 10:23-25; LEV 19:17. D. We are to confess our faults one to another and pray one for another for healing. JAM 5:16. 1. Christians cannot help one another to overcome weaknesses by pretending that none exist. 2. We will come nearer dealing seriously with our faults if we handle them according to JAM 5:16. E. Christians are to comfort one another, i.e., to strengthen; to encourage, to hearten; to support, and assist one another. 1TH 5:11. 1. Note that this ministry requires that Christians be together! 2. This is a ministry of edification, of building one another up instead of tearing one another down. 3. Consider how Job comforted others and do likewise. JOB 4:3-4; HEB 12:12-13. 4. Be a comfort to others. Nobody likes to be around a perpetual drag. F. We are to bear one another's burdens. GAL 6:2. 1. This does not mean that we fulfill each other's responsibility. GAL 6:4-5. 2. It means that we support each other through prayer, compassion, forbearance (ROM 15:1; EPH 4:2), exhortation, comfort, and needed assistance. ROM 12:13. G. We are to use hospitality one to another without grudging. 1PE 4:9; ROM 12:13. 1. Hospitality: "The reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers, with liberality and goodwill." 2. Entertain: "To find room for; to give reception to. To admit and contain; to 'accommodate.'" 3. Guest: "One who is entertained at the house or table of another." LUK 19:5-7. 4. Remember the story of Mary and Martha: do not burden yourself with overdoing the entertainment. LUK 10:38-42. IV. There is more to church membership than simply sitting through the service on Sunday. A. Scripture sets forth daily interaction among believers. ACT 2:46-47; HEB 3:13. 1. Daily: "adv. Every day, day by day. Often in a looser sense: Constantly, always, habitually." 2. The sense here is one of faithful, habitual and continual interaction (especially as situations would demand it) moreso than a rigorous "must interact with other members every single day or else" command. 3. By parallel, we are told "Continue in prayer..." (COL 4:2), "...Praying always..." (EPH 6:18), "Pray without ceasing" (1TH 5:17). a. Yet there is a time for prayer to cease. LUK 11:1. b. The concept is that believers should be forward, not fainting in prayer. LUK 18:1. c. At some point, daily interaction must be limited by the warnings against being busybodies. 2TH 3:11-12; 1PE 4:15. 4. Are we forward, willing, constant and habitual about our interaction with each other, especially where circumstances would require it? 5. Who are our favorite companions? B. As the members minister to one another, their spiritual potential is maximized. EPH 4:16; COL 2:19. 1. The members are edified. 2. The members are nourished. 3. The members together increase. C. None are exempt from this mutual ministry. 1. The church is compacted (firmly and closely joined together) by that which every joint/member supplies. 2. All the members are needed. 1CO 12:18-22. D. The church is a body in which each member works together with the other members to edify itself for the glory of God. EPH 2:21; 3:21. 1. The church is not a building for public and private worship without the interaction of the worshippers with one another. 2. The church is not a theater in which the worshippers simply watch the pastor perform. 3. The church is not a country club or social club for carnal pleasures. V. Consider the hindrances to togetherness and mutual ministry. A. We will not seek companionship if we do not sense our need for it. 1. "The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee" (1CO 12:21). 2. "Woe to him that is alone when he falleth" (ECC 4:10). B. Being too busy and, therefore, lacking time will hinder togetherness. 1. We must guard against the cares and pleasures of this life choking this fruit. LUK 8:14. 2. Sacrifices are needed to love one another and so prove ourselves to be Christ's disciples. JOH 13:35; MAR 8:34-36; 10:29-30. C. Pride and the hatred of reproof will deprive us of the benefits of mutual ministry. NEH 9:16; PRO 12:1; 13:1; 15:12; 25:12. D. Backbiting, whispering and talebearing will destroy togetherness. 1. Backbite: To detract from the character of, to slander, traduce, speak ill of: a person absent. 2. Slander: The utterance or dissemination of false statements or reports concerning a person, or malicious misrepresentation of his actions, in order to defame or injure him; calumny, defamation. 3. Talebearer: One who officiously carries reports of private matters to gratify malice or idle curiosity. 4. Officiously: In an unduly forward or obtrusive manner; with importunate forwardness; without being asked or required; gratuitously. 5. Whispering: The action of saying or reporting something quietly or secretly; suggestion or insinuation (by whispered speech); faint mention or rumour; esp. malicious insinuation, secret slander or detraction, backbiting. 6. We are not loving our brother when we complain of his faults behind his back rather than facing him with them. LEV 19:16-17; PSA 41:7. 7. Whispering and talebearing destroy togetherness. PRO 16:28; 17:9. 8. Talebearers do not respect private matters. PRO 11:13; 20:19. 9. Who wants to confide anything to a whisperer, talebearer or backbiter? 10. Do NOT listen to backbiting. a. The backbiter cannot fulfill his sin without a listener. b. Drive backbiters away with an angry countenance. PRO 25:23. 11. God hates those who sow discord. PRO 6:12-19. E. Togetherness and mutual ministry are hindered by fear. 1. We may fear being betrayed. a. One Judas Iscariot does not mean that all are Judas Iscariots. b. Let not abuses cause you to not love others as you ought. PSA 37:8-9. 2. We may fear negative reactions from those we confront. a. If you fear losing a friend because you reprove him, you are loving yourself more than him. LEV 19:17. b. If your friend hates rebuke, then he is a fool (PRO 23:9) and you don't need a fool for a friend. PRO 13:20. 3. We may fear scrutiny or exposure. a. The godly desire loving scrutiny even though it stings. PSA 141:5; PRO 9:8. b. Roaches run from the light. JOH 3:19-20. c. Repentance and holiness preclude any fear of light. JOH 3:21. 4. God has not given us a spirit of fear. 2TI 1:7. 5. Perfect love will cast out fear. 1JO 4:18. F. A lack of trust will obstruct togetherness. 1. Trust is a vital element in good relationships. PSA 41:9. 2. Scripture warns against evil surmisings. 1TI 6:4-5. 3. Remember King Saul's paranoia. The innocent were not safe with him. 1SAM 22:6-16. G. Togetherness does not stand a chance in the face of envy. PRO 27:4. 1. Envy: (v.) To feel displeasure and ill-will at the superiority of (another person) in happiness, success, reputation, or the possession of anything desirable; to regard with discontent another's possession of (some superior advantage which one would like to have for oneself). 2. Envy breeds strife. JAM 3:14-16. 3. Those who seek vainglory (...inordinate or unwarranted pride in one's accomplishments of qualities; disposition or tendency to exalt oneself unduly; idle boasting or vaunting) fall into envy. GAL 5:26. 4. Love does not envy. 1CO 13:4. H. Selfishness will obstruct the mutual benefit of togetherness. 1. True friends don't only appreciate us for what we can give them or do for them. PRO 19:4-7; JUDE 1:16. 2. Do not always assume the receiving end. ACT 20:35. 3. Be forward to listen to others rather than always expressing yourself. JAM 1:19; PRO 18:13. 4. Be sensitive to others' feelings. ROM 12:15; JOB 6:14. 5. Do not overdo togetherness. PRO 25:17. a. Allow your acquaintances privacy and freedom from you. b. Those who overstay their welcome are thinking only of their need for company, which is selfish. I. Beware of intolerance. No relationship can survive constant criticism. 1. We are commanded to forgive and forbear. COL 3:13. 2. While not encouraging it or foolishly excusing it, we must be tolerant of imperfection in others. a. Those most intolerant of others' imperfections tend to consider themselves to be the model of righteousness. LUK 18:9-11. b. The holiest of men are undone in the face of a holy God. ISA 6:1-5; 64:6. c. God considers our frame and infirmity (PSA 78:37-39; 103:13- 14). Should we not do likewise to one another? d. "If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared" (PSA 130:3-4). 3. The merciful will receive mercy. MAT 5:7; JAM 2:13. 4. Love will bear and endure the weakness of others. 1CO 13:4, 7. J. Togetherness is hindered by the members living great geographical distances from each other. 1. It is hard for those who are separated by distance to be together. 2. The whole concept of a local church implies that its members live close enough together within a locality to fulfill their duties as members. 3. The automobile has widened the circle of our localities, enabling members to commute long distances to church assemblies. 4. However, long distances do hinder interaction among the members beyond that of the Sunday assembly. a. Technology (telephone, computers, etc.) has provided a means to communicate with each other instantly without being in one another's presence. b. However, we must be cautious that these "conveniences" do not become substitutes for genuine togetherness. c. Conceivably, video-conferencing from our homes could make assembling virtually obsolete except for necessary ordinances like communion, feet-washing or baptism. d. But the obvious order of Jesus Christ is that we regularly and faithfully leave our houses to go to His house (the church assembly)! HEB 10:25. VI. Non-resident members are greatly handicapped in realizing all that it means to be a member of the body of Christ. A. It cannot be denied that there is such a thing as non-resident membership. ACT 8:26-40; 11:19; COL 4:9, 12. B. God has used non-resident members for the dissemination of the gospel and the raising up of churches. ACT 8:4 c/w 11:19-26. C. However, a non-resident member should not forever forfeit the benefits of mutual ministry within the context of church togetherness in hopes of a church starting in his area. D. Consider the drawbacks of non-resident membership. 1. They miss the fullness of joy and benefit that comes from face-to-face interaction. 2JO 1:12; 1TH 3:6-10. 2. They cannot be regularly at the Lord's Table. 3. They are hindered in mutual ministry that church members have one to another. 4. They are absent from necessary decisions of the church such as disciplinary proceedings. This makes it more difficult for them to be of one mind with the church in such actions. 5. They miss a lot from the sermon and service by not being present. 6. It is too easy to fall into the "men of Laish" mentality (JDG 18:7) by avoiding scrutiny by the pastor and other members. E. Non-resident members who have NO concern over what they are missing should be questioning the depth of their love and commitment to the church. 1. This is not meant to cast a snare before those whose circumstances reasonably forbid them from being amongst their brethren. 2. Again, "...mercy rejoiceth against judgment" (JAM 2:13). F. God may do either of two things for non-resident members. 1. He may raise up a church where they are. PSA 107:35-37; ACT 11:19-26. 2. He may lead them to a place where there already is a church. PSA 107:4-7. G. It is reasonable to allow a limited period of time for digging and dunging to see if there will be evangelistic fruit blossoming into a church. LUK 13:6-9. H. However, if after a period of prayer and witnessing there is no such fruit, then a non-resident member would do well to consider relocation. 1. Discipleship may entail forsaking houses and lands. MAR 10:28-30. 2. Saints should never prize a job, a house, a location or family above the body of Jesus Christ. LUK 14:25-27; PSA 84:10. 3. May God bless the diligent efforts of His people to be amongst their brethren! I. PSA 137 has a definite message for non-resident members. J. PSA 27:4 should be the goal of non-resident members. VII. Each member should take initiative in being together with and ministering to their fellowmembers without being pushed by the pastor. PHIL 1:27; 2:12; PHM 1:21. VIII. Togetherness and mutual ministry require willingness, work and patience. 2CO 8:11; HEB 6:10-12.
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The Cincinnati Church is an historic baptist church located in Cincinnati, OH.