Why There Is a Lack of Fellowship

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 11
A SPIRITUAL believer and a worldly one are like oil and water, which may be together in the same vessel, yet do not make a mixture—far less a diffusion. The spiritual and the carnal may be together in the same outward fellowship, yet there s no inward communion. They do not have the same common elements before their souls, hence their spiritual communion is impossible. This is the secret of broken fellowship, and heaviness in worship. The instrument of praise has many strings out of tune, and hence discord arises. Saints who meet in the same assembly are not on speaking terms with each other spiritually. When they meet they have nothing to say to each other on spiritual things. They are not in the same spiritual condition, and their consciousness of the incompatibility shuts them up from each other in silence. And if they have nothing in common for spiritual converse, how can they have anything in common in prayer and worship? The one part of an assembly have Christ and the things above before their souls: the other part are in very broad and constant contact with the world: the consequence is the tone and spirit of the assembly are dragged down; and it may take a whole hour before the saints are brought up to a worshipping spirit: and very frequently there is no consciousness of Worshipping in one body at all.
In saints being so generally mixed up with the world, and not separate from it and with the Lord in spirit outside of it in a new world, is the explanation of the moral deadness of assemblies and their incapacity for worship. That the world acts to lower the moral tone and to put saints out of living fellowship with one another, Scripture affords abundance of sorrowful illustration. Is it not remarkable, too, how strikingly the more prominent instances go in pairs? The mere statement of a few examples will show this:—
1. Abraham, the man of faith, had his Lot, who ultimately left him and went to Sodom.
2. Moses, the man of God, had his Aaron who, when he was on the mount with God, went into idolatry to please the people.
3. David, had his Jonathan, who, though he loved him as he laved his own soul, yet left his fellowship in the outside place to return to his seat at the king's table. His heart was with David, and his fellowship with Saul! Alas! how many saints are like him.
4. Elijah had his Obadiah, who professed great respect for Elijah, yet, having been in fellowship with wicked Ahab, he felt that there was no communion between the separate "man of God" and himself when he met him. How small Obadiah felt to be looking after sustenance for Ahab's horses and mules when he met the faithful man of God who had been in the outside place, entirely hidden and sustained by God at the time when he had been figuring as chamberlain in the king's household.
5. Elisha had his Gehazi, who went after Naaman, and by his worldliness spoiled the prophet's testimony to the grace of the God of Israel.
6. Micaiah had his Jehoshaphat, who went with King Ahab to Ramoth-Gilead, and nearly perished in battle, while Micaiah went to prison for his fidelity to the word of Jehovah testifying against the expedition.
7. Paul had his Peter, who went into dissimulation, and carried others with him—even Barnabas, and was rebuked by Paul before them all for not walking uprightly, led into it by his tenderness to those who represented religious worldliness. His old savoring of the things that be of men led him astray.
Of our Lord Jesus it is said that all His disciples forsook Him, and left Him alone. Paul says, “No man stood with me but all forsook me, notwithstanding the Lord stood with me." An unworldly Jesus and an unworldly Paul were in communion with no moral distance between. What an honor and comfort to have the Lord standing with him when all the saints failed to do so. In evil days and seasons of moral crisis it must be the Lord and the witness though all forsake us. Those who do not deny themselves for Christ save their life, but lose it. It is very striking to see such pairs as we have mentioned in outward contact in the Word, but of different inward tone and spiritual decision of character. Such there are still in the Church of God, and hence difficulty arises There would be no difficulty were it only dissimilarity in knowledge, attainment, or growth, for babes, young men and fathers may be in the happiest spiritual fellowship as long as they are fresh and spiritual, but when there is lack of sanctification to a heavenly Christ and a willing cleaving to the world, there is an effectual hindrance to spiritual fellowship and to united worship, as well as to profiting by the ministry of the word. Two saints in the same earthly position, having like knowledge of the Word and walking professedly in the same path of separation from evil when thrown for a time alone into each others' company, feel that they have nothing to say to one another. Neither ventures to make a spiritual remark. They cannot: they dare not: for there is a secret sense of more restraint; so, instead of speaking of Christ and Christianity, they speak of the weather, or the war, or the latest catastrophe. How do you account for this? How was it that Elisha needed a minstrel before he could speak? (2 Kings 3:1515But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. (2 Kings 3:15)). It was because of the king of Israel in company with Jehoshaphat. So is it with saints who are spiritually sensitive and walking in the Spirit, when others who profess to be separate from sinners, and are not, are present. They are on different moral elevations, and in dissimilar spiritual 'conditions. The one is mixed up with evil, and is secretly seeking to make the best of both worlds: his more spiritual brother feels in his presence as if he would require the " minstrel " (the elevating converse of a Christ-enjoying saint) before he could utter a sentence on spiritual things. If the other speak, through a feeling of the necessity of saying something, he will likely feel the necessity for giving himself a character for conversions or good works like Obadiah (1 Kings 1815And Elijah said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself unto him to day. (1 Kings 18:15)) for having fed the spared prophets in the cave in the time of famine while living as chief administrator in the house of Ahab, while Elijah was in solitary separation with Jehovah at the brook Cherith; and, notwithstanding Obadiah's good deeds, the Lord's prophet was in the wrong place in the house of the wicked king, on whose account the judgment of famine had been sent: and when he met Elijah, good deeds and all, there was no fellowship, and Elijah let him know as much. Too many are Obadiahs!
This worldly element in saints is the bar to fellowship and the cause of the ruin of assemblies. It is amazing the rapidity with which an assembly of God's saints may be run down in its spirituality by the influx of the spirit of allowed worldliness. It may be in the full flow of spirituality, and in a year or two it has become languid and lifeless, the conscious enjoyment cf happy spiritual fellowship has ceased, and even when all continue to come together for prayer, worship, and breaking of bread as before, the spring, power, freedom, joy and brightness have gone, and the saints sit under the shadow of death. In such a condition of things it is also remarkable the suddenness with which the truth of the mystery of God and the place, character and calling of the saints as united to Christ in heavenly glory may be given up and practically surrendered by the mass. Fellowship in the conscious, living power of the Spirit being gone: the fine spiritual machinery of the Church having become deranged, the living power of the Word and the refreshing flow of the worship come to a dead stop, and there is no possibility of having it otherwise: for what use is it to turn the hands of a watch when the mainspring is broken? The conscious presence and power of the Spirit in better times revealing Christ and shedding abroad God's love in the heart served for truth to many, and they felt strengthened, happy and united; but the Spirit being grieved and quenched, the divine power that held together being relaxed, or quiescent, the low worldly condition that has been secretly growing as spirituality declined, becomes manifest and increases with such rapidity that it cannot be arrested, for there seems to be no longer power in any to overcome it however much it may be tried by the few who feel it and mourn over it, for it is corporate declension, and will likely go on until things are brought to a dead-lock, and the demoralization is complete. Those who still walk in the Spirit feel the moral relaxation as well as the terrible barrenness and deadness, and bemoan their helplessness; and, the atmosphere being loaded with impurities, they themselves are liable to become injured, even when they long and strive to have it otherwise. The truth becomes powerless; growth becomes impaired, and freshness languisheth; the prayers and thanksgiving are the dry repetition of verses of Scripture or the formal review of the whole field of revealed truth in which there is nothing revealed to the soul, and the truth of God, not being in the Spirit, has no real power of cementing divine unity of an inner sort, and hence the bonds of Church fellowship become loosened and broken: for the vessel having ceased practically to be the witness of God's love and goodness, and of the grace and glory of Christ, fellowship with the Father and the Son is not enjoyed, and, as a consequence, there is no longer conscious fellowship one with another; and we are in reality, back to the hollow formalism out of which we had come intensified in its baleful influence by this that it is practiced on the true ground of God for His Church. But continued faith in the Son of God and walking in the Spirit are essential to hold divine ground; otherwise both it and the truth may be allowed to slip away from us. When the Spirit is grieved and not acting in spiritual energy in binding souls in one, the truth for the hour is weakened, and bit by bit given up: fellowship in the Spirit is unrealized: united worship is an impossibility; and, instead of being exercised in soul by the sad things that are transpiring, and also by the things which affect injuriously the Lord's name, the mass are so greatly benumbed by the frosts of the ecclesiastical winter that they cannot be roused from their moral torpidity, and be made to address themselves to a genuine and penitent confession of their evil state, or to active efforts at practical separation from evil ways: but for the sake of ease and peace they prefer to assume towards all persons and causes the attitude of a benevolent neutrality! (Read Jude 20-2520But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 21Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 22And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. 24Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 25To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. (Jude 20‑25); 1 John 2:15-17; 215Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15‑17)
15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15‑17)
Peter; James 43Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. 4Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. 5Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. 6Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. 7Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. (James 5:3‑8); Titus 2:11-15; 3:1-911For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. 15These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. (Titus 2:11‑15)
1Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, 2To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men. 3For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 4But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. 9But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. (Titus 3:1‑9)
; 2 Tim. 315And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:15‑17); 1 Tim. 615Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen. 17Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; (1 Timothy 6:15‑17); Col. 21For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; 2That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. 5For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. 6As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 8Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Colossians 2:1‑9), 3; Phil. 31Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. 2Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. 3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. 4Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: (Philippians 3:1‑9); Eph. 4:17-32; 5:1-21; 6:10-2017This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20But ye have not so learned Christ; 21If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. 26Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27Neither give place to the devil. 28Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:17‑32)
1Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor. 3But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. 13But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. 14Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. 15See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:1‑21)
10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10‑20)
; Gal. 510I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. 11And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. 12I would they were even cut off which trouble you. 13For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 15But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, (Galatians 5:10‑20), 6; John 1710And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. 12While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. 20Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; (John 17:10‑20)).