7-6-3 The Atonement and Fellowship

A major result of the existence of Jesus was unity amongst God’s people. Thus the Angels sang: “…on earth peace among men in whom He is well pleased” (Lk. 2:14 RV). If we are not at peace amongst ourselves, then God is not well pleased. God has reconciled all of us into Himself through the work of Jesus (Col. 1:20 RVmg.); reconcilliation with God is therefore related, inextricably, to reconcilliation with each other. The fact that believers in Christ remain so bitterly unreconciled is a sober, sober issue. For it would appear that without reconcilliation to each other, we are not reconciled to God. All we can do is to ensure that any unreconciled issues between us and our brethren are not ultimately our fault. It is abundantly evident in the New Testament that there is a connection between fellowship and the fact we are all in the same one body of the Lord Jesus. But there is also an associated connection between the fact that all who experience the Lord's saving work are therefore and thereby in fellowship with each other. It follows that if we deny fellowship to a member of the one body, we are suggesting that they are outside the experience of the atonement. Thus we will be judging in the sense of condemning; and as we judge... (Mt. 7:1). Consider the following evidence:

- " If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 Jn. 1:7,8). To refuse a brother fellowship is to imply that he is in the darkness, and that the blood of Jesus Christ is not cleansing him from sin.

- " If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's" (2 Cor. 10:7). If we are sure we are the Lord's, let's remember that we aren't the only person He died for. Therefore we must receive one another, as Christ received us, with all our inadequacies of understanding and behaviour (Rom. 15:7). We are thereby taught of God to love one another; we must forgive and forbear each other, as the Lord did and does with us (1 Thess. 4:9; Eph. 4:32).

- Paul had " fellowship in the Gospel" with the Philippians, " because...ye all are partakers with me of grace" (Phil. 1:5-7 RV). All those in the Lord Jesus by valid baptism, and who remain in Him by faithful continuance in His way, are partakers of His gracious pardon, salvation, and patient fellowship; and they will, naturally and inevitably, reflect this to their brethren as part of their gratitude to Him.

- We were redeemed in one body by the cross; and therefore, Paul reasons, we are " fellowcitizens with [all] the saints, and of [all] the household of God...in whom all the building fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God" (Eph. 2:16-22). Christ died for all of us in the one body, and therefore we who benefit from this are built up together into a temple in which God will eternally dwell. To refuse fellowship to other stones of the temple is surely a denial that they are part of that one body which was redeemed by the cross. He died to make us all one, to abolish all that humanly might keep us apart, " for to make in himself one new man, so making peace" (Eph. 2:13-15). To uphold division and disharmony within the " one new man" is well nigh a blasphemy against the body and blood of the Lord. From the Lord's pierced side came His bride, after the pattern of Eve from Adam, through the blood (memorial meeting?) and water (baptism?). The creation of the one body was a direct result of His death.

- Christ being undivided is placed parallel with the fact Paul was not crucified for us, but Christ was (1 Cor. 1:13). The implication is surely that because Christ was crucified for us, therefore those He died to redeem are undivided. We have one Saviour, through one salvation act, and therefore we must be one. The atonement and fellowship are so linked.

- " All men" would be drawn together unto the crucified Christ (Jn. 12:32). There is a theme in John's Gospel, that there was disunity amongst the Jews whenever they rejected the message of Christ crucified (7:43; 9:16; 10:19- which implies this was often the case). Conversely, acceptance of His atonement leads to unity.

- There is great emphasis in Ex. 26 that the tabernacle was " one" , joined together in such a way that taught the lesson of unity. The spiritual tabernacle, the believers, was " pitched" by the Lord- translating a Greek word which suggests 'crucifixion' (Heb. 8:2). Through the cross, the one, united tabernacle was pitched. To tear down that structure by disuniting the body is to undo the work of the cross.

- The Lord spoke of the giving of His life, as the good shepherd, in the context of bringing all the sheep together into one fold (Jn. 10:15-17).

- Clearly enough, the bronze serpent lifted up on the “standard” was a symbol of Christ crucified. But time and again throughout Isaiah, we read that a “standard” or ensign will be “lifted up” in order to gather people together to it (Is. 5:26; 13:2; 11:12; 18:3; 62:10). This was the idea of an ensign lifted up. Thus our common response to the cross of Christ should be to gather together unto Him there. And we need to take note that several of those Isaiah passages are speaking about what shall happen in the last days, when divided Israel will unite on the basis of their acceptance of the crucified Jesus.

- The Lord Jesus died as He did in order that all who benefit from His cross should show forth the love, the glory and the Name of the Father and Son, and thus have an extraordinary unity among themselves- so powerful it would convert the world (Jn. 17:20-26). This theme of unity amongst us played deeply on His mind as He faced death in Jn. 17. He died that He might gather together in one all God's children (Jn. 11:52). Those who advocate splitting the body, thereby showing the world our disunity, are working albeit unwittingly against the most essential intention of the cross. And in this, for me at least, lies an unspeakable tragedy.  The atonement should create fellowship. 

The Lord Jesus is a yoke- He unites men together, so that the otherwise unbearable burden of the spiritual life is lighter (Mt. 11:29). If we do not let our fellowship with others lighten our load, then we basically have not been brought under Christ. To be in Him, under His yoke, is to put our arms around our brethren and labour together.

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