Part 2

What makes the church the church? Luke, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us a picture in Acts 2:42-47.

Last week we looked at the distinguishing characteristic of devoting ourselves to the teaching of the apostles, which is now recorded for us in the Bible. This week we look at the distinguishing characteristic of fellowship.

The Greek word translated “fellowship” means having in common. The fellowship of believers consists of people knit together by Christ and centered on Christ. Like the sun pulling the planets to orbit it by its gravitational pull, the Son pulls individuals together through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

The most visible gathering of this fellowship occurs every Sunday morning. People all over the globe from every walk of life, economic class, race, gender and ethnicity bump elbows with one another to worship and celebrate their common belief in Christ.

People who may never have crossed one another’s path elsewhere gather as brothers and sisters in Christ. Contrary to public opinion, one of the most diverse times during the week occurs every Sunday morning.

All are welcome into this fellowship through the common entryway of Christ. We all come as sinners in need of Christ’s saving grace.

“There is no one righteous, no not even one (Romans 3:11),” Paul said. Christ gives the offer of grace to all, no matter what our level of intelligence, economic class, race, gender might be.

“All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24),” Paul said. In a world of hostility, people find peace in the fellowship of Christ. They find peace with God and peace with one another.

Though the church has sometimes failed to express her identity, the fellowship represents a place where there is “neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).” Step into any biblically-centered, Spirit-filled church and you will instantly sense the camaraderie and love for one another.

People sometimes try to find this type of fellowship outside the church, but never find it. Nothing compares to the sweetness of the fellowship of the people of God.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.” (Psalm 133:1-2) Let us devote ourselves to the fellowship of God’s people.

The Rev. Michael A. Birbeck is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church Wellsboro. You can contact him at pastor@fpcwellsboro.org.