My mind and heart have been dwelling upon that sweet word 'fellowship'. We all know what it means in ordinary social intercourse -- it means acquaintance, friendship, communion of spirit, interchange of thought and feeling. But I want you to see that all this marks the fellowship prevailing between the Lord and His sanctified saints.
There is a chorus we sometimes sing, which expresses something of what I mean: --
Friendship with Jesus,
I have been reflecting on this principle as it works itself out in the current everyday life of the sanctified. I will not now try to exhaust all the wonderful things in the vision which has come to me in relation to this matter, for I really could not explain to you all that has been in my mind and heart, but the thing has come to me somewhat in this fashion: --
1. First of all, I have thought of the fellowship of Salvation. That may sound rather low down for a Holiness Meeting, and yet that is just where true fellowship began, so far as I was concerned. There had to be a co-operation, a uniting of God and myself before my soul could be saved at all. Two words were in my mind -- 'He' and 'I'; He doing His part, and I doing my part. His heart; my heart; His approaches to me by the power and influence of His Holy Spirit; my approaches to Him. Jesus died; I believed. He called; I answered. He gave; I accepted. I trusted, and Jesus saved me.
I want you to see what I mean, because it was that union of the Lord Jesus Christ and my own heart which brought life, and light, and peace to my soul. My Salvation life began at that point, and I was able to say, as we often sing: --
'Tis done, the great transaction's done,
2. Then, pursuing this line, my reflection brings me up to this: there is a fellowship of love. 'He loved me, and He gave Himself for me'. We love Him because He first loved us. So, you see, our relationship has been built up, and is to be built up, upon that double plank. It is all in that. I do not suppose there is anybody in this Hall who does not know something of the power of love. You not only know the power of loving, but the sweetness of being loved. I am not quite sure which is the better side of the two, but they are two beautiful sides of fellowship.
Do we not see it in our family life? At any rate, I do. I can speak for myself in this matter because my family always has been a very affectionate one, and this loving and expressing our love to one another has brought us very close together. I think about the children. I go back to the time when they were little, and remember how they would climb upon my knee, and how they used to press their little faces against mine, and their little hearts, as it were, against my breast; and how, with more feeling than their words could express, they used to say, Dadda, papa, father, you are a dear! I do love you!' You would readily imagine what I should say back to them.
It has been just the same with my wife. She has sweetened my life very much with her expressions of love. She has done it by responding to my appeals, and by sharing my sorrows and joys. And I have no doubt that were she here to speak for herself, she would say she has equally felt the force and sweetness of my expressions of affection during the many years we have loved and lived together.
I have only told you these things because I want you to see that the fellowship of love is just as real between the Lord Jesus Christ and the soul that is set upon Him, as it is in these sacred human relationships.
3. Then there is the fellowship of service. Now, it follows that, if we are fully saved, we are and we should be workers together with God, not simply going out on 'our own', as you young people say sometimes, trying to do people good; but really, if it is as it ought to be, your relations are expressed in those words, 'We are workers together with God'.
There are several particulars about that fellowship of service which I want you to note. For instance, there is the union of purpose. You cannot have fellowship with God in service without a union of purpose. Are you in for that? Perhaps it may give my words a closer application if I glance at two or three references: 'For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that He might destroy the works of the Devil'. Are you in union with Him for that purpose? There is the reason round about us, plain and visible enough.
Take another: 'To this end came I into the world that I might bear witness of the truth'. Are you in union with Him in that witness-bearing? I assure you there is a great need of it.
Take still another: 'As the Father hath sent Me, even so' -- that is a very powerful little link -- 'even so send I you'. There is not only the sender and the one sent, but the same purpose in both minds.
There is the unity of effort; that is, being yoked together for the work. It is a beautiful thing to be yoked with loving comrades in service, so that when there is a difficulty to face, some burden to be carried, or something to be moved, then you can go in for a good pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together. But this fellowship with Christ really means having Jesus Christ as a yoke-fellow in your work for God; that as you are not your own, you are not left to yourselves, but find that He is yoked up with you, and when the pull comes it is pulling together -- He pulls and you pull.
4. Then this service sometimes goes so far as to become the fellowship of suffering. Jesus Christ could only redeem men by the sacrifice of Himself. There was no other way, and if He had not done that man would not have been redeemed, and the whole world would have remained under the ban of condemnation and without hope. It is on the same track that we must work out our union with Him in the service of God and humanity.
When I was meditating on this Divine union a picture imaged itself before my mind. The scene was a prison in Rome, where was seated a prisoner for Christ's sake; his name was Paul. During a visit to Rome they showed me the place where this was supposed to have occurred. There is Paul, in this prison-cell, writing a letter which he wants to send by one who, having visited him in prison, is now returning to his own people at Philippi.
The prisoner is reviewing his life. He writes that he was well-born, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and that he became very zealous, and persecuted the Christians until the Lord met him and converted him. He went on, 'But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.... That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.' And on the same page of his letter Paul says: 'Brethren, be followers together of me'. It is one of the plainest things which the Bible and Christian history confirm, that the union of service does very often include the fellowship of suffering.
5. The last feature of this relationship which I want to name is fellowship of victory and glory. Thank God, we are in for that fellowship!
We all know that a great victory will crown our Blessed Lord's sacrificial life and service; that the great Victor over death and the grave shall not only see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied, but as He sits upon His throne there will be many crowns of glory. But the blessedness of that knowledge is the fact that if we suffer with Christ we are also to reign with Him -- glorified together -- not only workers and victors, but 'more than conquerors'. We are to sit down among that company who are able to say that they overcame by the Blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. We may have to go on with the service and suffering, but we know that we shall be transformed into His blessed likeness, and be sharers of His glory.
Salvation, love, service, victory, glory! These are the things which we share with our Lord, and that is what I mean by Divine fellowship.
I do not think, however, I can leave this soul-entrancing vision of fellowship without specially indicating how men may enter into it. How shall I do this? By reading to you these words from the First Epistle of John: 'This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the Blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.' Who shall participate in the joy of this experience? The people who walk in the light; the people who are cleansed from all sin in the Blood of Jesus.