“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
Much goes on in Christian churches today under the name of “fellowship.” Usually this consists of coffee and donuts, or church socials, or sports. As delightful as these functions may be, they should not be confused with biblical fellowship.
Nowhere in the New Testament do any of the Greek words translated “fellowship” imply fun times. Rather, they talk of, for example, “the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:4) as sacrificial service and financial aid. (See, for example, 1 Timothy 6:18.)
Elsewhere, Paul was thankful for the Philippian believers’ “fellowship in the gospel” (Philippians 1:5), for he knew that “inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers [same word as fellowship] of my grace” (Philippians 1:7). This sort of fellowship may even bring persecution.
We are to emulate Christ’s humility and self-sacrificial love (Philippians 2:5-8) through the “fellowship of the Spirit” (Philippians 2:1). In some way known only partially to us, we have the privilege of knowing “the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10), and even “the communion [i.e., fellowship] of the blood” and “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:16).
As we can see, this “fellowship” is serious business. As in our text and subsequent verses, fellowship should be accompanied by teaching, prayer, and ministry to the poor (Acts 2:45).
This kind of fellowship will be in “favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).
“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” (Isaiah 53:10)
The very concept of God having pleasure in things that take place on Earth staggers the imagination. Most amazing of all is the revelation that it pleased Him to put His own Son through a terrible, bruising death, as the tremendous Messianic prophecy of our text reveals.
Nevertheless, this was the only possible way whereby “the pleasure of the LORD” could be accomplished in the redeemed lives of lost men and women, whom He had created for eternal fellowship with the triune God. “For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation” (Psalm 149:4).
Five times we read in the New Testament that God the Father spoke from heaven assuring us that He was “well pleased” with His “beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17;17:5; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; 2 Peter 1:17). “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him!” This is almost impossible to understand, but had it not been so, none of us ever could have been saved. The Lord Jesus Himself has confirmed to His own “little flock” that “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Thus, not only have we been created “for thy pleasure” (Revelation 4:11), but also we have been “predestinated . . . unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Ephesians 1:5). This is far beyond our comprehension, so we merely rest in the great truth that “it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). We know that “the LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him” (Psalm 147:11), and we rejoice with thanksgiving!
“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20)
The translators of the King James Bible used the English word “conversation” in 18 passages, among which are five different Greek terms. Most of the words would be understood by our modern idea “manner of life” or behavior. However, in today’s verse, the word is politeuoma, derived from another Greek word, polites. Our English word “politics” comes from that, especially in the sense of citizenship as it relates to governmental oversight.
The apostle Paul is the only New Testament writer to use the “politics” word, and he does so only two other times. On one occasion, “all Jerusalem was in an uproar” (Acts 21:31) over Paul’s supposed violation of the Temple. After giving testimony of his conversion and subsequent ministry to the unruly crowd, Paul said, “Men and brethren, I have lived [politeuomai] in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1), simply and boldy declaring that he now lived as a citizen of heaven.
Earlier in his epistle to the Philippian church, Paul had challenged them, “Let your conversation [politeuoma] be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). Paul’s challenge is just as clear to us: Live and think like our citizenship is in heaven.
Heaven’s rule may be best understood by our English word “commonwealth,” a political community founded for the common good. We are “joint-heirs” with Christ (Romans 8:17), and we should look “for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” (Proverbs 6:6-8)
Adam and Eve originally were given dominion over all the animal creation (Genesis 1:26), but sin came in and things changed. Then, after the Flood, God placed the fear and dread of man “upon all that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 9:2), and the primeval fellowship between man and his animal friends was broken.
More seriously, their fellowship with God was broken, and soon, in their autonomy, the source of true wisdom was largely forgotten. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things” (Romans 1:22-23).
Ironically, God now directs such foolish people to the animals they worship to find the wisdom they should have learned from God. “Go to the ant,” says the Lord, to learn industry and prudence. “There be four things which are little upon the earth,” the Word says, “but they are exceeding wise: The ants . . . ; The conies . . . ; The locusts . . . ; The spider” (Proverbs 30:24-28). “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider” (Isaiah 1:3).
“But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee” (Job 12:7-8).
If nothing else, the intricate design of even the lowest animal is eloquent testimony to the wisdom of its Creator and the madness of those who deny Him.
“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” (Acts 17:28)
“The fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man” was a religious cliché promoted for many years, especially by religious liberals in the period between the two world wars. However, continuing hostilities between and inside most nations now make the idea of universal brotherhood in this present world almost farcical.
The fact is, however, that God truly is the Father of all men, in the sense that He created them all. “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?” (Malachi 2:10). That was the rhetorical question posed to Israel in the last book of the Old Testament. In the New Testament the apostle Paul confirmed the same great truth to the pagan Gentiles. “[God] hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth,” and “we are the offspring of God” (Acts 17:26,29).
The sad fact is, however, that most men and women have actually become “children of the wicked one” (Matthew 13:38) because of sin. We can only become spiritual children of the heavenly Father by being born again through faith in Christ. But we then truly “become the sons of God,” as assured to all those who “believe on his name” (John 1:12).
Now we believers can all rejoice in the wonderful truth that we have the same heavenly Father. We have been “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, . . . but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:10-11).
May God help those of us who are (or will someday become) fathers on Earth to truly be children of our Father in heaven and thereby be genuine models of the heavenly Father to our human children here on Earth.
“The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1)
In communist countries, “the people” own the lands, while in capitalist countries, individuals may own “private property.” Both are myths unless these are viewed as a stewardship from God. We don’t really own anything, “for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:7).
In the mineral kingdom, the most important substances are the precious metals upon which monetary standards are based, yet God makes it clear that all “the silver is mine, and the gold is mine” (Haggai 2:8). The greatest members of the plant kingdom are the mighty trees of the forest, and God reminds us that “the trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted” (Psalm 104:16). All the birds and beasts in the animal kingdom are His also. “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10).
Again and again God reminds us that “all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5), and even the infinite heavens belong to Him. “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is” (Deuteronomy 10:14).
God has, indeed, given man “dominion . . . over all the earth” (Genesis 1:26), and Satan has, indeed, laid false claim to “all the kingdoms of the world” (Luke 4:5-6), but the fact remains that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Daniel 4:32).
Most of all, every Christian should understand that he and all he has belong to God, by both creation and blood-bought redemption. “Ye are not your own. . . . For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ).” (Philippians 3:17-18)
Godly leaders are responsible for living exemplary lives so that those whom they teach will both follow and eventually become leaders of others. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,” Paul demanded of the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 11:1). “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works,” he instructed Titus (Titus 2:7). But Paul was first a follower of the life example of Christ.
Today’s verse uses some unusual terms to both define the responsibility to follow and mark those walking after Paul’s lifestyle. Memos is Greek for “follow,” compounded with a prefix that means “together.” Our English word “mimic” comes from memos. We are expected to imitate the examples of those who lead godly lives, who themselves are committed to emulate the Lord Jesus.
Further, we are expected to “mark” those living after godly examples. The Greek word skopeo is the strongest word among several for identifying someone or something. It has the sense of intense observation. In the secular literature, it is sometimes used for a spy. God expects us to pay careful attention to those who “have the rule over [us]” (Hebrews 13:17).
And we are to watch out for those who may influence us for evil. There are “enemies” of the Lord Jesus. Those are sometimes among us, and we must “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17). May God give us the discernment to know the difference between “good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).