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Principles of Fellowship

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Principles of Fellowship

October 8, 2000            Acts 15:1-35

 

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:11-22

Introduction:

          Birds of a feather flock together, don't they?

          That's a basic principle of life as we experience it.

          We see it especially at this time of year when flocks of geese or ducks or cranes fly overhead going south for the winter.

          Every once in a while you might see a couple different kinds of birds flying together, but on the ground or in the water it is usually a different story.

          This summer I saw two avocets on the shore of Lake Michigan in the midst of some seagulls.

          Avocets are very rare east of the Mississippi River.

          They were having a hard time since the gulls harassed them continually.

          But the avocets stayed and put up with it because of the food source along that particular stretch of shore.

          You could see this even on the farm when I was a boy.

          The chickens never ran with the guineas.

          The ducks and the chickens rarely mixed except occasionally at feeding time.

          People tend to be the same way, even though we are all people and have the same ancestors in Adam and Eve.

          Basically the only time we really mingle or socialize with the Hispanics and Koreans who share our church is at feeding time – like at a fellowship dinner.

          And even then we tend to sit with our own ethnic kind.

          Admittedly, part of that reason is the language barrier.

          But we even have these tendencies on a family basis.

          We can take pride in our family traits such as blond hair and blue eyes, or a cleft chin that runs in the family, or perhaps a particular shape of nose or a particular stature.

          We can take pride in a particular athletic ability, or musical talent, or academic skill that runs in our family.

          And we can put pressure on our children to marry those in which that feature will remain pronounced in order to feed our pride of heritage.

          Thankfully, cross-cultural marriages are becoming more acceptable these days with our emphasis upon inclusion.

          But we also know of situations in families who are socially and economically prominent where one is pressured to marry within their class so as not to compromise it.

          There is another issue at stake as we lead into this morning's message.

          And that is the issue of circumcision.

          As you know, this is a big deal with the Jews because of God's direction through Abraham and Moses to them as a sign of the covenant as a people of God.

          The appearance of a Jewish male is to be circumcised.

          Probably no parent in our white American culture who has ever had a male child has not gone through at least some debate or discussion on "whether we should have this child circumcised or not".

This question occurs because of what preference runs in the family and what the child should look like based upon what others in the family look like.

We have taken our cues on this from the Jewish roots of our Christian heritage.

          It is true that birds of a feather flock together.

          But the question that this issue begs is a better definition of "feather".

          What truly is the basis of our fellowship?

          The Jewish Christians who were so steeped in O.T. law, the Law of Moses, found it particularly hard to accept Gentiles on this point.

          And many of them caused considerable trouble.

          Perhaps many of these trouble-makers were not really Christian, but I believe that many were indeed Christians who needed some education.

          They just had to get past their particular viewpoint and get with God's program in the world.

          In recent weeks on our message series in Acts we have discussed the mission of the church and the message of the church.

          This morning we will be discussing the fellowship of the church and the principles we can learn about.

These things are all a part of God's empowerment of the church to take truth into the world and conform the lives of people unto himself.

Big Question:

What principles of fellowship can we learn from the cross-cultural situation faced by the early church?

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (vv. 1-5)

          B.      Implication

          The true basis for our fellowship must be continually defended.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (vv. 6-18)

          B.      Implication

          The true basis for our fellowship is theological and not cultural.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 19-21)

          B.      Implication

          The theological basis for our fellowship must be tempered by cultural sensitivity.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

IV.    Cycle Four

 

          A.      Narrative (vv. 22-35)

          B.      Implication

          The theological basis and cultural sensitivities of our fellowship must be communicated by the humble example and gracious authority of leadership.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Conclusion:

Big Answer:

What principles of fellowship can we learn from the cross-cultural situation faced by the early church?

          The true basis for our fellowship must be continually defended.

          The true basis for our fellowship is theological and not cultural.

          The theological basis for our fellowship must be tempered by cultural sensitivity.

          The theological basis and cultural sensitivities of our fellowship must be communicated by the humble example and gracious authority of leadership.

Timeless Truth:

          The founding principle of Christian fellowship is the blood of Christ alone.

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