The Fellowship of the Spirit
James Smith, 1860
The church of Christ, as in union with Christ, as professing to walk by the word of Christ, should not only be one — but should manifest its oneness; and if this is true of the Church at large, it is emphatically true in reference to smaller separate churches. Yet it is to be lamented, that too frequently there are strifes and divisions there. Paul endeavors to guard the Lord's family against these things, and in order to do so, he exhorts them by the comforts of religion, and the pleasures of Christian fellowship, to maintain the unity of the Spirit. Let us look at his words, "If there be any fellowship of the Spirit," (Philippians 2:1.) "fulfill you my joy that you be like-minded." There is spiritual fellowship, and the fellowship of the Spirit in the church, and therefore there ought to be oneness of mind, purpose, and effort.
Fellowship is between persons. If the Holy Spirit were not a person, we could not hold fellowship with him. But being not only a person — but a Divine person, he can have fellowship with us, and not only with us — but with the whole church, and every individual member of it, both on earth and in Heaven.
Fellowship is also joint participation. Partaking together. We partake of, or receive the influences of the Spirit, which makes us holy. Nothing else will. Nothing else can. The Holy Spirit must take up his abode in us, and exert his influence upon us, or there will he no holiness in our nature, or in our life.
We partake of the gifts of the Spirit — which make us useful. All our qualifications for office in God's church, or for work in the Lord's field, are imparted to us, or produced in by the Holy Spirit. We partake of his witness, which makes us happy. For when he bears witness to our adoption into the Lord's family, and with our spirits that we are born of God — then doubts, fears, and misgivings are overcome, and we are filled with joy and peace.
We partake of, or receive the Spirit as the pledge of our inheritance — which makes us safe. For if God give us the pledge, he will put us in possession of the whole property.
Influenced by the Spirit,
endowed with the gifts of the Spirit,
enjoying the witness of the Spirit, and
having the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts —
we know what the fellowship of the Spirit means, and are prepared for every good word and work.
But more than this, we participate in his feelings and views:
Does the Spirit love the saints — all the saints — love them because they are saints, and because they belong to Christ? So do we, and just in proportion as we live in fellowship with him.
Does the Holy Spirit pity sinners, strive with them, and send the gospel to them? Just so, if we enjoy the fellowship of the Spirit, we shall feel the deepest interest in souls, and exercise the tenderest pity towards them. We shall seek by all means to lead them to Christ, we shall strive with them to bring them to conviction and lead them to Jesus, and we shall endeavor to have the gospel brought into contact with the conscience of every creature.
Does the Holy Spirit rejoice in the conversion of sinners? So shall we.
Does he rejoice in the enlargement and edification of the church? So shall we.
Has the Holy Spirit high and exalted views of Christ? Fellowship with him, will give us high and exalted views of him too.
Has the Holy Spirit humbling and abasing views of man, as God's enemy, and as a poor, depraved, and totally polluted creature? Just such views shall we have.
The fellowship of the Spirit will lead us to take just the same views of persons and subjects as he does; and will awaken in us just the same feelings toward them, as he has.
But the fellowship of the Spirit, will lead us to have and hold spiritual fellowship with the saints. "If there be therefore any spiritual fellowship," or fellowship between spiritual people, "fulfill my joy, that you be like-minded."
Spiritual fellowship consists in . . .
communicating with spiritual people, on spiritual subjects;
contributing to them of our temporal substance when in need;
and distributing among them both spiritual and temporal things, as the Lord has blessed us.
Fellowship endears parties to each other, unites them together in strong and sacred bonds, and prevents many and great evils. O that there was more spiritual fellowship in God's church, and among the Lord's people! If therefore, we . . .
partake of the same Spirit;
sympathize with the Spirit in his work and love;
have any spiritual fellowship with the saints —
then let us live in union with them, walk in full communion with them as far as we possibly can, and be like-minded with them, just as they are like-minded with Christ.
Satan will do all he can to divide the church and separate true believers from each other. Evil tempers will be displayed by some, who have not the root of the matter in them, so that it will be difficult to love and cleave to them. Let us therefore endeavor by all means to frustrate Satan's design, and the irritating effects of bad tempers both of professors and possessors.
Let us avoid all subjects that would separate and divide, and dwell most and principally on such as will draw us together and keep us together in holy union and love. Conversation about Christ, and on experimental subjects — always tends to draw the Lord's people together, and endear them to each other. Let us therefore speak of Christ, and write of Christ and when we come together, tell of what God has done for us, and wrought within us; so shall we avoid those subjects which tend to separate and scatter, and introduce those which will bind and cement us together.