30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:30–32, NKJV).
Some justify broadening the boundary of fellowship with error and sin by misusing this passage, suggesting Jesus had fellowship with sinners (2 John 9). One example is maintaining fellowship with those who remain in unscriptural remarriages. They opine since Jesus ate and drank with sinners, they can have ongoing fellowship with brethren in sinful relationships and practices. Moral sins and doctrinal errors are tolerated, rationalizing that “everyone is a sinner” and charging “you’re a legalist demanding 100% doctrinal conformity.” Jesus was not a sinner, and He did not endorse sin when He ate with sinners. He taught them the gospel and called them to repentance (vs. 31-32; Luke 15:1-7). And He said we must abide in His word (truth) to be His disciple (John 8:31-32). (Surely that means all truth.) The scribes and Pharisees condemned Jesus and His audience but never saw they needed to repent of their sins. To them, His proximity to sinners meant defilement. Jesus was not condoning sin by teaching sinners to abandon their sin (2 John 10-11). He was with sinners to teach them to repent and follow Him – to “go, and sin no more” by walking in His light of truth (John 8:11-12). Like Jesus, let us teach sinners to repent and walk in the light. We can do this without compromising truth and having fellowship with sin (Eph. 5:11; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:9–10, NKJV).
God calls sinners into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” by the gospel (2 Thess. 2:13). As Jesus said, “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:45). We must understand and accept that fellowship with the Lord Jesus is not based on our desire, definitions, and declarations. Nothing less than the writings of Christ’s apostles form the basis of fellowship with God. John declared this in 1 John 1:3-4, “that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:3-4). Fellowship with God must first exist before God approves fellowship with others (2 John 9-11). Simply put, we do not validate our fellowship with God; God does with His truth. When we practice the truth, we walk in the light in fellowship with God (1 John 1:5-7). God-approved unity exists among Christians when we are in fellowship with God (1 Cor. 1:9-10).
These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you (1 John 2:26, NKJV).
The possibility of being deceived about spiritual matters is just as real today as when the apostle John wrote to the children of God. As then, many are still against Christ yet pose as if they are for Christ; Hence, the warning against being deceived (1 John 2:18-19). John emphatically directs us, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). How? By using the truth with which Christ has endowed (anointed) us: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:20-21). The truth Jesus Christ gave us through His apostles (1) Identifies the deceptions of false teachings (1 John 4:6), and (2) Assures our fellowship with the Father and the Son (John 14:21-24), and (3) Leads us to His promise of eternal life (1 Pet. 1:3-9). John says these are among the reasons we let His word abide in us (1 John 2:24-27; John 8:31-32). Use God’s word to verify your faith. Rejoice in your fellowship with God and be comforted in Christ’s promise of eternal life. Rest assured, God’s word of truth will not deceive you.
3 Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle. 4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; And on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Psalm 43:3–5, NKJV).
The psalmist longed for God’s vindication against an ungodly nation, unjust men, and his enemy’s oppression (Ps. 43:1-2). He regarded God’s truth as a beam of light that would lead him to God’s presence, where he would joyfully worship (Ps. 43:3-4). His hope in God removed the distress of his soul, confident in the Lord’s help (Ps. 43:5). Notably, the light of God’s truth is still the way God leads souls to Himself and His Son, Jesus the Christ. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:44-45). God the Father draws sinners to Christ by hearing and learning “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68; Col. 1:4-5). Open your heart to the word of God. Let His light lead you to His presence where you will find salvation from sin, fellowship with Him, hope that calms every distress, and praise for God’s constant help (Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 16:13-15).
For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him (2 Samuel 14:14, NKJV).
Absalom, king David’s son, had fled into exile after murdering his brother Amnon in vengeance for raping his sister, Tamar (2 Sam. 13:14, 22, 38-39). Today’s passage records the words of a wise woman whom Joab conscripted to persuade David to let Absalom return from his banishment (2 Sam. 14:1-24). They are poignant and persuasive. Death is coming to us all, and its effects cannot be undone, like so much water spilled on the ground (Heb. 9:27). God is the Giver of life, not the One who wants to take it from us (Gen. 2:7). Likewise, God takes no pleasure in the death of sinners (Ezek. 18:31-32). Sin causes spiritual death (Gen. 2:15; Rom. 6:23). But God, in His great mercy, has devised a plan that gives spiritual life from sin’s death through His Son Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4-12; 2:1-7). Sin separates us from our heavenly Father, banished from the close fellowship He desires. God calls sinners to come to Him by the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). David allows Absalom to return from exile. God’s plan of redemption in Christ ends our spiritual banishment to end so we may walk in sweet fellowship with Him (Eph. 2:13; 1 John 1:6-7). Praise be to God for His abundant love and mercy He gives us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. 10 He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. (2 John 9–11, NKJV)
From pulpits and pews, people speak of “salvation issues.” True, there are issues of personal conscience and choice (on which God has not given a divine pronouncement) that qualify as non-salvation issues (Rom. 14:1-5). But today’s passage is not of that sort. The doctrine of Christ has been revealed and recorded in the Scriptures. We are called to abide in His doctrine (the truth, Jno. 8:31-32). The Scriptures reveal issues that affect salvation. Here are some: 1) Sin is a salvation issue (Rom. 6:23). Violating God’s will (and tolerating its transgression) brings eternal death. 2) Worship is a salvation issue (Jno. 4:22-24). We cannot offer God vain worship (void of “spirit and truth”) and be saved despite sinful worship (Matt. 15:7-9). 3) False doctrine is a salvation issue (2 Tim. 2:16-19). Men strayed from the truth and overthrew people’s faith with their iniquity when they taught error about the resurrection. For this reason, John warned us not to have fellowship with those who teach error (2 Jno. 10-11). 4) Spiritual neglect is a salvation issue (Heb. 2:1-4). Failure to grow in Christ is a sin that brings punishment (v. 3). Simply put, when God speaks His will, it becomes a salvation issue (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4).
Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. (Galatians 6:6, NKJV)
At first blush, this statement may seem out of place. Paul has been exhorting mature Christians to restore the fallen with the meekness of self-examination and a call to personal duty. Verse 6 is a particular application of “bear one another’s burdens” as we “fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). It stands in opposition to “let us not be…envying one another” (Gal. 5:26). Where envy exists, there is self-seeking, confusion, and every evil thing (Jas. 3:16). Lange says of today’s verse, “this is the very strongest antithesis to envying” (Commentary on Galatians, 150). Instead of “grudgingly withholding” from the teacher of God’s word, the student is to “share in all good things” with the teacher. Share (koinoneo) is the verb form of “fellowship.” The sharing of “all good things” is foundational for the Lord’s command, “that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14). We ought to share in the material support of those who teach God’s word. No ill-will should form toward the teacher of God’s word in the heart of the student. Just the opposite. The fellowship of temporal support between student and teacher is the practical application of our charge, namely, “through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:23–24, NKJV)
It is easy to say we love Jesus. But it is not so easy to genuinely love Him. Jesus defines when we love Him, and when we do not. In today’s passage, Jesus used the word agapao (love), a verb, an action word, to describe how to love Him. We know someone loves us when they show their love through actions (1 Jno. 3:18). Likewise, loving Jesus is revealed by our actions. He said if we love Him, we will keep His word. Obeying Jesus is the benchmark of love (Jno. 14:15). When we love Jesus, God will love us. A relationship of loving fellowship is formed with the Father and Son (v. 23). Not loving Jesus is exhibited by not keeping His words. We do not love Jesus when we disobey Him; those are His words (v. 24). Jesus has given us a way to know whether we love Him. If that is your desire, then keep His word. By doing so, you know that you love Jesus, that the Father and Son love you, and that you are in fellowship with them.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3–4, NKJV)
A friend reminded me recently that God has always separated the light from the darkness. On His first day of creation, God commanded light into existence, called it “good,” and divided the light from the darkness. God’s word is light: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psa. 119:105). (God’s word removes the darkness.) God sent the Messiah “as a light to the Gentiles,” bringing salvation to the ends of the earth (Isa. 49:6). (Christ calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light, 1 Pet. 2:9). Jesus said He is “the light of the world” and that by following Him, we “shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jno. 8:12). God delivers those redeemed by the blood of Christ from the power of darkness, conveying them into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13-14). (God separates the redeemed from the dark power of sin and death.) God is light, and those who practice His truth walk in the light and have fellowship with Him (1 Jno. 1:5-7). And, the heavenly, eternal city of God is to be illuminated by the Lamb. There, the night is vanquished forever (Rev. 22:23-25). Yes, God separates the light from the darkness. Jesus said, “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (Jno. 12:35-36). Come out of the darkness into the light truth for salvation, divine fellowship, and eternal life.
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20, NKJV)
There is a context to this statement that informs our understanding and its application. It is not an unrestricted statement giving two or three Christians carte blanche to do anything they decide is in Christ’s name. Here and in other Scriptures, apostolic authority must exist for Christ’s approval and fellowship. The immediate context of today’s passage addresses dealing with sin by a Christian against another Christian (Matt. 18:15-17). Heaven’s approval for the forgiveness and retention of sins rests upon the teachings the apostles receive from heaven (Matt. 18:18). That is, what the apostles bound and loosed on earth was already determined by the Lord. The inspired apostles revealed heaven’s will, and they were united in faith and practice in the name of (by the authority of) Christ (Matt. 18:19-20). Christ was “in the midst of them” (His apostles) as they revealed heaven’s will. When we follow their teachings, we are following heaven’s will by heaven’s authority (Col. 3:17). Doing so assures us of fellowship with the apostles and the Lord God (1 Jno. 1:3). Two or three Christians gathered together do not establish what God’s will is. What the apostles taught is the authority we have to act in the name of Christ as individuals, as several saints, or as the local church.