FELLOWSHIP OF THE ASSEMBLY by Dr Higgins

  1. Focus of the Assembly
  2. Foundation of the Assembly
  3. Figures of the Assembly
  4. Fragrance of the Assembly
  5. Fruitfulness of the Assembly
  6. Function of the Assembly
  7. Fellowship of the Assembly

Rom 12:9 [Let] love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
Rom 12:10 [Be] kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Rom 12:11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
Rom 12:12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
Rom 12:13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
Rom 12:14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
Rom 12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

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1Co 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
1Co 10:17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

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1Co 11:17 Now in this that I declare [unto you] I praise [you] not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.
1Co 11:18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
1Co 11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
1Co 11:20 When ye come together therefore into one place, [this] is not to eat the Lord’s supper.
1Co 11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink [this] cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

*** *** ***
Eph 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
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Subject of this meeting is:
(7) Fellowship – Its Blessings and its Burdens

We read in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 that there are 2 differences in the way Paul writes of the breaking of bread.
In chapter 10 Paul mentions the cup before the bread and notice, the bread stands for two things and not one.
The reason he has reversed the order is because he is not talking of what we do at the Lord’s Supper, but the results of what we have done at the Lord’s Supper.
And so the cup and the blood that is the basis of everything we do, is mentioned first.

The partaking of bread too has two meanings.
First of all it is my participation of what Christ has done at Calvary.
And second, as we each partake, we are together confessing that we are One Body and One Fellowship.

Now if we were just preaching the Lord’s Supper we would make this distinction between chapters 10 and 11.
Chapter 10 tells me when I am part taking the Lord’s Supper; it should control what I do when I am not here.
Chapter 11 tells me when I am partaking the Lord’s Supper how I should act when I am here.

And so in Chapter 10 the problem was other fellowships that they were going to, that was contrary to the Word of God.
And so when they were partaking of the Lord’s Supper and breaking bread, they could not belong to two fellowships at one time. It shows how inconsistent it is to go to the table of idols and also to the Lord’s Table.
And so chapter 10 controls what I do when I am not here.

But chapter 11 deals on how they were behaving when they were there:
Putting others to shame and despising the assembly.
So breaking the bread also controls our behavior towards others.

Now the misunderstanding of this passage:
1Co 11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
Some believers read this and think they are not worthy to part take the Lord’s Supper as they are not living as they ought to, or that they had a bad week and therefore not worthy.

I do not part take of the Lord’s Supper because I am worthy.
I part take because He is worthy.
What Paul is saying and is referring to here is, part taking of the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner.
They were not realizing what they were doing.
So Paul was warning them of the danger of viewing it as just another meal.

So, does it mean stay home? No.
Let him examine himself and so let him eat and drink of that cup.
None of us are worthy. But He is worthy.
And He deserves my confession and proclamation of His death till He come.

But others may say – we don’t get along, and so we cannot part take of the Lord’s Supper.
And so if I do part take I am hypocritical.
This is a poor excuse and unbalanced.

The Lord Jesus has told you what to do.
If you bring your gift to the altar and worship and then remember something against your brother, then first be reconciled with your brother, then come and worship.
So you are responsible to go and try to be reconciled.
But if he will not be reconciled, that does not matter.
You have gone with a forgiving spirit and you are freed of the burden of the problem.
So we cannot sit back and say I cannot get along with that brother.

In some parts of the world it is tragic.
Should a brother come into an assembly where there is someone who neither gets along with that brother and the assembly that he comes from … and although the over seers do receive him and read out the letter of commendation, that brother who that does not like the visiting brother will not part take of the Lord’s Supper.
Now what is this brother saying in the light of 1 Corinthians 10?
He is saying – I have no part in the death of Christ, and I am no longer in this assembly.
He has essentially put himself out of fellowship.
It is a tremendously serious thing to refuse to take the emblems
You will not find a single Scripture to support disciplining yourself with another brother.
Discipline is always an assembly matter.
It is never what I decide to do with another brother.
If the assembly has received the brother I do not like, I should submit to his acceptance into the assembly fellowship.
I may privately express my concerns, but it should never evolve into a major issue in the assembly.
So the Breaking of bread has tremendous implications for our lives.
Paul told us we declare and proclaim the Lord’s death and if you refuse to part take of the emblems, you are saying that the Lord’s death means nothing to me.
So you can see the seriousness and the solemnity of what we are doing at the Lord’s Supper.

Burdens and Obligations of Fellowship:
• It speaks of a fervent consecration to Christ.
• A full commitment to the gathering of the assembly.
• A flawless testimony in godliness
• A fragrant life of growth.

It is growth that I want to speak of now.
We can speak of growth in many different spheres.
Certainly there must be growth in our appreciation of Christ.
Recall the instructions given in the meal offering in Leviticus chapter 2?
When the offering was brought, he took a handful and put it on the altar for God.
The question is: Did God fit as much as his hand could hold?
Is my hand growing every year so I have more to give to Christ?

There should be growth in my Christ likeness too.
You remember the story of Hannah and Samuel?
Every year Hannah went to visit Samuel and every year she made a new coat for him.
She expected growth in her son every year.
So it is not just my hand growing, but am I growing more in Christ likeness?

Now our Greatest Need:
I don’t want to minimize growth in my appreciation of Christ likeness.
I don’t want to minimize growth to be more like Christ.
But I want to talk of my growth in my relationship with other believers.
You may not think this as an important subject, but problems that arise in assemblies rarely arise over doctrine but they arise mostly in the problem of getting along with each other.
The Word of God is so crystal clear in how we are to treat each other, and we can hold on to such truth for the rest of the Word of God and fail to carry out what is definite.

There are 4 things I want to leave with you before I leave Singapore:
1. Finding beauty in other believers
2. Fostering the good and the blessing of other believers
3. A forbearing in blemishes of other believers
4. And the most difficult of all – Forgiving the bruises of believers.
These are the four things we fail in as believers in carrying them out.

1 – Finding beauty in other believers:
It means looking for Christ likeness in other believers and looking for things in them that God finds pleasure in.
But then you may say: “But you don’t know them! And I can’t see anything in them!”
There are 2 possibilities for this:
1. Most likely, there is something wrong with you.
2.There maybe something wrong with them, but most likely the beam is in your own eye.
Remember, God finds something to appreciate in every believer.
They may have a weakness, but God appreciates them, and so I should strive to find that in other believers. It may not be easy … and it might mean having to get closer to them to begin to appreciate them.
So if I look for Christ instead of all the defects, it will help the assembly.

Fostering the Blessings of others:
Come to Romans chapter 12 to discover how many times Paul writes “one another … one another?”
Well over 30 times!
Paul expects Christianity to be lived in community together.
He expects us to be a blessing to one another.
Notice verses 9 and 10 – First of all in the practice of love: Actually in the compass of these two verses, he uses three different words to describe love and one is not superior to the other.
Rom 12:9 [Let] love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
Rom 12:10 [Be] kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

They are all different and each of them has their place.
Agape – Is the causeless and unconditional love.
Brotherly Love – Philadelphia Love
Kindly Affection – Family Love
We are reminded that we have an obligation to love each other and to love in every way possible.
• I love you for no other reason than the command to love you.
• I love you because you are my brother
• I love you because I find things in you that in the family we can enjoy together.
And so let your love be without hypocrisy or pretense.
1 Corinthians 13 is a fitting commentary on the way we should love.
Love covers faults and failings
(Here it is not talking of the sins that the assembly needs to deal with)
But rather we do not publicize to the unsaved the little inconsistencies of the believers.
Love always credits others with the best motives.
Love always expects change.
Love always perseveres and continues to seek what is lost.
Have you ever heard a believer saying I am leaving the assembly because you do not love me?
What is wrong with that statement?
Nowhere in the Bible do we find that I am to look for love from you.
The Bible commands me to love you.
So if I am complaining you do not love me, I am just thinking of MYSELF.
My response is to love without conditions, and to love without ceasing and to persevere in that love.

Some may ask – what it means to credit others with the best motive?
So often we assume that people love for the wrong reason.
And then we think we are so discerning because we have detected a wrong motive for what they are doing.
Paul says love not only bears all things but believes the best of others.

I have 60 years of practice of doing that exact thing.
When something goes wrong, I always make it seem not so bad.
I can always make it seem less bad.
So Paul says … instead of thinking this way for yourself, THIS is the way you should think of other believes.
So the First Command and this is not a suggestion…
THIS is a Command by the Holy Spirit and Paul to LOVE.

The Second is the Priority of others.
In verse 10 you find ‘ preferring one another’.
Rom 12:10 [Be] kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
This means to outdo another person in order to advance them.
The idea is no competition or rivalry or manipulation so that I can have an important place.
So it is my responsibility to help every believer to be a Christian.
It is especially my responsibility in the assembly. I am to foster the good in others.

THIS is what it means in Philippians chapter 2:
The Lord Jesus esteemed others better than Himself.
This does not mean HE thought I was a better person than He was, because that would be false.
To esteem others better than ourselves is to put the welfare of others before my own welfare.
The Lord Jesus did this to preserve us form going to hell. He took our punishment at Calvary.
That’s how far the Lord Jesus went in honoring me ahead of Himself.
And so you should be marked by this SAME PRINCIPLE of putting others ahead of yourself.

In Verse 11 ….
Our Authorized Version poorly translates:
Rom 12:11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

It is not slothfulness rather being diligent and burning hot in my spirit in serving the Lord.
So in my diligence I am not slothful – it is the measure in which I do it.
Fervent in spirit – is the manner in which I do it.
And Serving the Lord is the motive by which I do it.
If YOU serve Christians you burnout and get discouraged.
But if you serve the Lord, He directs you to serve His people and He gives you the grace.

The Lord Jesus was a bond slave.
But He never was a bond slave of men.
He was a Servant of Jehovah, and as He served Jehovah, He met the needs of men.
So here we are reminded to serve the Lord and as we serve Him, we will serve His people.
Because if you try to put verses 9 and 10 into practice, you will get very little appreciation and if you are not serving the Lord, you will give up quickly.
So we are reminded of the persistence that is needed.

Now ask a practical question:
When was the last time you thought of someone in the assembly in how I can help that Christian?
Or how can I advance them in some way?
The writer of Hebrews used a word to describe this – Consider one another to provoke them to good works.
The word he uses for ‘consider’ is to study someone … to try to understand what would be a help to them. And so we need to be persistent and not give up easily.

But then there is also Perception that is needed:
Rom 12:12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
Rom 12:13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
Rom 12:14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
Rom 12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
: 12 is all about pray and persistence.
:13 is about sympathy of material needs
:14 is about spiritual needs
:15 is about emotional needs
So we need to be available to believers to meet all the above things.
If all we do is preach truth and never love this truth, we are failing to carry out the full truth of God.
We must learn to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those that rejoice.
We need to know when to rejoice and when to weep.

In Galatians Chapter 6 we are commanded to bear one another’s burdens.
Gal 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

There are some believers who bear tremendous burdens in life.
They are not burdens of a day or a week or even a year, but the burden of a lifetime.
And we need to be there to bear them.
But if you are NOT praying and NOT studying, please DO NOT go to comfort them.

There were 3 men with good intentions who went to comfort Job.
They were very wise. For 7 days they said nothing.
The problem started when they opened their mouths.
If you don’t understand people do not try to comfort them, because these men who came to comfort Job when they were finally done with their talking, God told them – You have NOT spoken a single thing that is right about Me!
The many things that they said were true.
But it had nothing to do with Job.
So don’t just quote Scripture and think there are easy answers.
It is far better sometimes to weep with them same as like Ezekiel did.
He sat with the captives.
It is sometimes better to comfort them by just your presence.

Forbearing for Blemishes:
Both – Ephesians chapter 4 and Colossians Chapter 3 remind us of forbearing in love.
So the beginning of verse 12 will help us differentiate between ‘infirmities’ and ‘sin’.
Col 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Col 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also [do] ye.

They are little things about our personality that may bother someone else.
Example– the way a person coughs or may be the shaking of a leg that may be distracting or just being fidgety …
Spirit of God says, learn to forbear them.

Below are some things to keep in mind to help us learn to forbear:
1 They are elect:
God has chosen them. They are God’s nobility.
They are holy in God’s sight and He loves them and you are instead all occupied with the little things.
So you be careful of what you do of someone God loves.
It is our responsibility to see them in that light.
Learn to have mercy. We tend to be quick and hard on people.
Be merciful, humble and meek. This is power under control.

So what does all this mean?
First of all it means respecting others and valuing them as fellow-heirs of eternal life.
Appreciate the beauty of Christ in them while also recognizing the differences in personality in the way God has created each one of us.
None of us are the same.
If everyone in the assembly was like you would there be anyone you would not be able to get along with?
You probably would.
God made some people shy, others bold …Some always looking sad while others are always joking.
There are a multitude of personalities and we must learn to live with each other.
And so we must learn to live with each other in our differences that are not sin but just personality traits.
We need to learn to forbear by recognizing our differences and restraining ourselves.

The Lord Jesus taught His disciples for three and a half years.
How many times did He rebuke them during His teaching ministry of three and a half years with them?
Remember, the Lord Jesus is the perfect man, with no beam in His own eye.
He had perfect discernment to see into hearts and actions that we could not.
Yet in his three and a half years He rebukes:
• Peter “Get thee behind me Satan”
• James and John who wanted to call down fire from heaven with:
“You do not know what manner of spirit you are.”
• And in the Resurrection in Mark 16, He unbraided his disciples for their unbelief.
So in the three and half years of teaching them, the Lord Jesus rebuked them 3 times.
Most of us do it 3 times a week.
Learn the lesson from the Lord Jesus. He was very slow to rebuke.
Does it mean He overlooked what was wrong?
He was constantly teaching them and moving them forward.
He did it by grace. He never had a whip for His disciples.
So we need to learn to restrain all out displeasure.

On Forgiving:
This is NOT about infirmities and blemishes … But we are reminded that if any has a complaint …
This is about bruises.
It is sad to confess that believers do bruise each other at times in ungracious actions and hurtful words.
So what do we do?
What is the meaning of Forgiveness?
First of all forgiveness does not mean forgetting.
We do not have the ability to forget.
But this is what it says about God:
“Your sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”
So while we cannot forget, we can choose not to remember.

What is the difference?
The difference is that we do not allow what had happened to affect how I look at that believer today.
But on the other hand, I do not nurture the hurts that I feel.

1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love thinks no evil.
What it means is that love takes no thought of the evil done to itself.
The expression we use in the west is that love does not keep score.
If you got a goal … just wait till it is my turn to kick. I will get even when I get a chance.
Believers are not to keep score of who said what … and when.
Forgiveness means all that has not happened!

What is the manner in which we forgive?
The Lord Jesus explains in the parable of the debtor.
He frankly forgave them both.
That means that there was a total clearing.

Now someone may say … But they have not apologized.
I should always have a forgiving spirit – regardless.
I should be willing to go and confess my part of the problem and ask for forgiveness.
It is never 100% one person’s fault and zero the other person.
Even if it starts out with one person, the response of the other person often aggravates the problem.
So you will never lose by taking ownership for your part of the problem.

But then, should he not come to me?
Listen to the Word of God. The Lord Jesus said:
“If you come to the altar with your gift, and you remember that your brother has something against you – YOU GO TO HIM.
In this case, I have done something wrong to my brother and so I GO TO HIM.

Now what about Matthew 18?
My brother has done something wrong to me. And now what do I do?
I GO TO HIM!
So, either way I GO TO HIM.
The one who did it and the one who was hurt by it, BOTH obey the Word of God.
And both are ‘gone’ – This is God’s plan …that both seek forgiveness.

There is a principle found in the Word of God that you have to face.
Spiritual men ALWAYS took the lead to seek reconciliation.
• Abraham with Lot
• David with Saul
• The Lord Jesus with Judas
And so if I sit back and say they must come to me, I am saying I am NOT spiritual.
Spiritual men want to make things right.
And so the manner of forgiveness is – FRANKLY AND FULLY.

The Motive of Forgiveness?
Matthew 18 is about – Have I gained my brother?
Do I value him as a fellow believer?
Do I value his fellowship?

Now, there is something greater involved.
In Ephesians 4 we read:
Eph 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

It means that we rise to our highest spiritual level when we forgive another person.
We are acting as God acted towards us.
So please don’t say – you don’t know what he did to me or said to me.
Was it MORE than what you did to God?
So the STANDARD is:
As God did for Christ sake, forgive you.

And remember the Ministry of forgiveness is COSTLY.
It cost God everything to forgive you.
You may have to sacrifice something to forgive your brother.
You may not get your rights or a public apology in front of all.
You may lose … but God paid a tremendous price.
I would almost say that a forgiveness that costs nothing is NOT forgiveness.

So we have spoken of:
• Finding the Beauty in others
• A Fostering of Blessings for others.
• A Forgiving of bruising of others
If these things can mark us, most of our Gospel Halls will be full of people we have driven away.
May God Bless and Preserve us.

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