Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

Fellowship in the Gospel

In the Bible "fellowship" means a joint participation in a scriptural work or a partnership. God intends that we be partners in the great work of preaching the gospel. We become partners in gospel work when we share the burden of preaching the gospel.

Paul commended the Philippian church for its partnership with him in the gospel. He wrote, "I thank God ... for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now" (Phil. 1: 3-5). Apparently, it was a very short time from the establishment of the church in Philippi until it was sharing the work of preaching the gospel in other places.

But how did Philippi have "fellowship in furtherance of the gospel"? Paul is more explicit about the matter in Phil. 4:15, 16 when he said, "And ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving but ye only; for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my need." They became partners with Paul in his gospel work by supplying his "wages" while he preached. They held up his hands while he preached.

Paul told the Philippians that their support of the gospel would redound to their account with God. Paul did not seek support merely because he was in need, but also because the brethren needed to share his work with him. Paul wrote the Philippians, "Not that I seek for the gift; but I seek for the fruit that increaseth to your account" (Phil. 4:17). The support which the Philippian church sent to Paul by their messenger named Epaphroditus was called by Paul "an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God" (Phil. 4:18). God was pleased with these brethren when they provided the necessary things of life that Paul might give himself to gospel preaching.

A church does not exist only for its own benefit. We are to edify ourselves, but it is a selfish church that is not concerned with the work that needs to be done outside the confines of its own membership. The gospel is to be taken to every creature (Mark 16: 15). To the greatest extent of our ability, we must become partners in the great task of taking the gospel through out the world.

Actually it is a thrilling thing to me to contemplate the many different places where we could become partners in the gospel. There are many men who need to have our assistance in the work they undertake. God has commanded that we have "fellowship" (Acts 2:42; Rom. 15:26) in scriptural work. We are privileged to live in an affluent society. With such bountiful resources as we possess, surely we have the ability, and thus the responsibility, to become involved in more partnerships in gospel preaching work. Let each one of us give liberally, as he hath been prospered, that the wake of our influence in preaching the gospel might go out to even other places.

The gospel needs to be taken to sinful and dying men, and we can help to do it. And we need such "fellowship in furtherance of the gospel" to go up to the throne of God "an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God" which would abound to our account. Can we do more? I believe we can. What say ye?

November 4, 1971