Fellowship Forum July Summary

Twelve people were in attendance and participation was encouraging, insightful, and brotherly.

[1] What constitutes good works, how are they performed, and what is their relationship to grace?

Eph.2:8-10 inform us that grace – God’s full provision for every need – is the source of all blessing and good works. They originate in His enablement and are engaged in by us according to God’s pre-ordained purpose for each believer. Walking in those good works that He has prepared beforehand is the sure evidence that one has indeed been saved by grace, and not by his own futile efforts to perform good.

Good works are a sympathetic working together on a common goal. God’s purpose is not to put “rules” on us, but engage with Him to do the things He does. Rules are the trellis upon which the branches grow and are supported.

What we do with our works is enter into fellowship with God in doing what He would do as in our bodies – loving as He loves, etc. Such works are the result of the Holy Spirit working through us. As such, self works originating in human effort, motive, and ingenuity are not good works.

The man whose sins were forgiven in Mark 2:3-12, also got up and walked. That was the tangible evidence both that Jesus has authority to forgive sins and that this man’s sins were forgiven. So it is that our walking in good works is the visible confirmation that we have been forgiven by Christ.

Good works will be judged according to whether they are good or bad [2 Cor.5:10], by our motives for doing so [I Cor.4:5], by our words: whether helpful or hurtful, gracious or offensive, truthful or false [Mt.12:35-37], and by our ways – the perspective and value system from which they have been performed [Ezek.7:3].

Numerous passages speak about the necessity, blessing, and testimony of good works. Jesus “went about doing good” [Acts 10:38]. Godly widows were known for good works of a habitual practice of Christ’s life being expressed in hospitality, assisting those in distress, and bringing up children – a daily reality rather than a periodic activity.  Those endowed with material resources in this life are to be “rich in good works” [I Tim.6:18] expressed in willing and generous sharing.

The bride of Christ as described in Rev.19 is clothed in fine linen fabricated from the righteous deeds of the saints performed in this life. God is at work in every believer to produce both the willing and the doing of these good works [Phi.2:13]. Believers are to engage in good works “to meet pressing needs” [Tit.3:14]. One of the purposes for Christians’ gathering is to stimulate one another “to love and good deeds” [Heb.10:24].

Such good works are aspects of the fruit whereby testimony is gained as to whether we belong to Christ or not. We, however, should guard against drawing unwarranted and hasty conclusions based upon our own partial understanding and observations; Lot, though having little to commend himself in the Genesis narrative, was nevertheless a “righteous man” [2 Pet.2:7-9]. Cornelius, though commendable through good works in many ways, was nevertheless an unbeliever in need of Christ [see Acts 10:1-4; 11:13,14].

We may comment upon behavior and admonish one another as to whether particular deeds, words, or thoughts are consistent with being Christian, but we ought not to conclude and state that the person himself is not a Christian if behavior is amiss. That is beyond our scope of judgment, though questions may be raised as to the legitimacy of profession when deeds are consistently ungodly.

[2] What are the practical implications individually and for the assembly that Jesus is Head of the body, High Priest over the house of God, and Foundation of the temple?

Christ is the foundation upon which all is to be built, not upon any man or ministry: as Head He guides His people along the way, and as our great Priest we enjoy unending acceptance in the courts of heaven.

The identical life of Christ courses through every member of the body enlivening each with His vitality. As such, all impulse to action comes from the directives of the Head to each member individually. The tasks and responsibilities are governed directly by Christ and not by intermediaries. The Head coordinates the activities of His own body according to His will.

Competition, thoughts of superiority, and ignoring of others are a practical denial of the reality of Christ as Head and we as members of one another in the same body. Diotrephes in 3 John demonstrates the practical evil that ensues when one attempts to have first place in the assembly rather than acknowledging in practice the true headship of Christ.

The Lord Jesus faithfully and unendingly represents each and every believer equally and without interruption before the throne of God. Thus each believer has equal access to a throne of grace in order to obtain mercy and help in time of need. Heaven is open, prayer is welcomed, and assistance is certain to all who call upon the Lord in sincerity and truth.

[3] Are Yoga/meditation and biblical Christianity compatible?

Biblical meditation consists of carefully reflecting upon the truth of the Scriptures with an active inquiring mind. Joshua 1:8 describes meditation in terms of “chewing the cud” as a sheep re-chews the same food in order to extract all the nutrients therein.

Yoga is a technique originating in eastern religions designed to reduce stress, obtain inner peace, and self-control. As such, it is a counterfeit of the work of the Holy Spirit in a believer. The Holy Spirit leads, speaks to our hearts, and grants wisdom to those who ask.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…self-control [Gal.5:22,23], alongside of which, no other “law,” spiritual exercise, or technique need be appendaged.

Christ as Shepherd of His flock speaks, and His sheep hear His voice and follow Him [Jn.10:1-5]. His anointing teaches us about all things and is true; we are to abide in it, not in eastern meditation techniques [I Jn.2:27].

Philippians 4:6-8 is the biblical answer to anxiety, stress, peace of heart, and self-control while exposing Yoga/eastern meditation for the counterfeit that it is: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your minds dwell on these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

[4] What is to be a Christian’s response to wounding of soul?

Meekness learned from Christ is to be our response [Mt.11:29]. Meekness is that disposition of soul that receives all as from the hand of God without complaint: even the evils and affronts of men permitted by Him for our everlasting good. Joseph demonstrated such when he confessed to his wicked brothers: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” [Gen.50:20].

God ordains suffering/wounds to bring forth glory through them. When love prevails in our hearts, “it does not take into account a wrong suffered” [I Cor.13:5]. In the account of Philemon and Onesimus, Paul says to even charge any wrongs Onesimus had done to his own account, demonstrating not only forgiveness, but willingness to make restitution for things that he was not responsible for in order to live in peace and harmony.

Other passages emphasize this such as I Cor.6:5-8. Here we are enjoined to even suffer wrong rather than pressing our claims and “rights” against a brother who even may be in the wrong.

I Peter 2:20-24 tells us that suffering for doing what is right finds favor with God. We are called to bear reproach and injustices even as Christ did, who uttered no threats, reviling, and who did not sin when mistreated by the hands of men. He rather “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

[5] What are the practical implications individually and for the assembly that Jesus is Lord of His servants, Bridegroom of the bride, and Shepherd of the flock?

As Shepherd of the flock, men are not to lord it over their fellows as do the nations [Lk.22:25]. Men are to lead as did Christ, by example and the persuasive power of truth: not by coercion, intimidation, or sanctions. This is the pattern we see in the apostles and their teaching in passages such as Acts 20:17-32 and I Peter 5:1-5.

As Lord of His servants, we are bought with a price and therefore do not belong to ourselves [I Cor.6:19,20]. Thus we have no rights and can make no demands. Our only concern is to know and perform the will of our Master. No men therefore have the right or responsibility to dictate to our conscience and rule over our souls by their own authority or decrees.

Our love and allegiance as a bride is to One: to the Lord Jesus, our Bridegroom. We submit, trust, depend upon Him and keep ourselves pure for His delight and companionship. Our hearts’ affection is reserved for Him exclusively and not poured out upon other lovers.

Summary submitted by Steve Phillips