in the Christian Library
1 Kings 22:49
1. One of the most critical areas of Christianity is “fellowship.” This is critical because it identifies WHO you are, WHAT you believe, THOSE with whom you share a kindred spirit, and the BELIEFS you cherish. In fact, your “fellowship” will illustrate your basic convictions about God.
In the New Testament the importance of fellowship is frequently stressed. From the NT we are able to formulate a clear position on God’s fellowship liberties and restrictions.
a. John 7:24 – Christians are duty bound to “judge” between righteous and unrighteous.
b. Mt 7:1-27 – Christians must not form a biased opinion but must discern between what is good and what is evil. Failure to make this judgment will result in an eternity apart from God. The “wise” will restrict fellowship while the “foolish” will have unrestricted “tolerance.”
c. 2 Co 6:17-18 – Christians are duty bound to keep separate from those who invite, or practice a compromise of God’s Truths.
d. 1 Co 5:7 – Christians must be firm in setting fellowship limits (cf 5:9). This restriction must be deliberately practiced (5:13b).
e. 2 Ths 3:7 – Christians must closely guard the fellowship they offer to other Christians. This can encourage false teachers, immoral practices, gossips, and others who destroy the Lord’s Body (cf. 1 Ths 5:14; 1 Ti 1:20; 2 Ti 2:16-19; Rv 2:2, 14-16, 20-23).
f. These points cause a number of questions to arise:
1) Why is God so “exclusive”?
2) What is the problem with allowing “tolerance” in fellowship?
3) How closely is this restricted fellowship practiced?
4) What can possibly happen to those who are not as restrictive as God in their fellowship?
5) Why is the idea of restricted fellowship so repulsive to many in our current society? To many who are members of the Lord’s Church? See Stephen’s situation as an example of the bitterness that often meets those upholding God’s exclusiveness (Acts 7:54).
6) What is the “real issue” in any fellowship question? The “real issue” is deciding the Almighty’s approval/ disapproval for a certain practice or a certain group. The real “issue” of fellowship is the intensity of devotion to God. If one is willing to become more tolerant than God, then s/he is basically telling God that s/he does not want to love the Lord God with all heart, soul, and mind!
2. A good illustration of our lesson is found in the Apostle John’s
life. Iranaeus (ancient church historian) records an interesting event
in John’s life. The Apostle of love had moved to Ephesus where he would
spend his final days on earth. During this time there were Christians who
advocated the false doctrine of “Gnosticism.” This was an appealing doctrine
(It basically said that what we do with our bodies does not matter because
all that really matters is the “spirit.” Hence, cart blanc permission to
do whatever you desire!). Many believers were being duped by the Gnostics.
John was fighting this heresy and advocated that one could not be in fellowship
with God and hold false doctrines. His first epistle was written to confront
There is a practical illustration of John’s teaching recorded by history. In Ephesus lived the founder of Gnosticism (his name was “Cerinthus”). One day John was going to the public baths in the city. He entered and after a while learned that Cerinthus was also in the bath-house. John instantly arose and ran out of the building exclaiming, “Let us flee lest even this bath-house falls down because there is an enemy of Truth within!” (Roy H. Lanier, Jr., Epistles of John, x).
The “Apostle of love” was very restrictive in his fellowship. Why? He would not be in the same building with someone who was known for supporting error. Why? He refused to associate with those who rejected the Bible’s Truth. Why? Is this an isolated incident? No. this incident reveals a very practical aspect of fellowship – “come ye OUT from them”! There can be NO association with those opposed to God (the immoral, the contentious, the divisive, etc. All designated as producing works of the flesh in Gal 5:19-20).
3. King Jehoshaphat illustrates the danger that awaits Christians who seek a more lenient fellowship that God permits. Here is sobering lesson to all who have desires “to move the line just a little.”
King Jehoshaphat’s history is found in 1 Kings 22:1-50; 2 Kings 3:7-20; 2 Chronicles 17:1-21:1. In reading these accounts we discover the following points that will help us understand the urgency of insisting that all observe God’s fellowship limits.
a. Historical Perspectives
1) King Jehoshaphat was the son of Asa and probably served as King during the last years of Asa’s illness.
2) King Jehoshaphat expressed a strong devotion to God. He sent princes and priests throughout Judah to teach the people how they should obey God’s Law. This shows us that King Jehoshaphat had faith in God and sought to serve God and to encourage others to serve God as well. These are admirable qualities. He was a very pious King.
3) In spite of Jehoshaphat’s admirable qualities, he made some very bad mistakes regarding fellowship. These would impact the future of the nation after he died. NOTE: Stress that one’s choice of fellowship limits has a dramatic impact. Often this impact is not immediately visible but in future years one will look back and see the folly of such! King Jehoshaphat illustrates this very well as the lesson’s conclusion will show.
4) The reign of King Jehoshaphat should be commendable. However the pious King made a very bad decision. This led to a serious blot on his record. The King decided he would make peace with the Northern Kingdom. He concluded the long conflict between the two groups and “joined” with the evil King Ahab (2 Chron18:1).
a) What did he hope to gain by such? Some suggest that King Jehoshaphat expected to bring about a re-union for the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. He wanted to be known in history’s ledger as the great “peacemaker.”
b) How did he endeavor to find “unity” between the two groups?
1) He involved his son in marriage. He agreed for his son to marry the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. The daughter’s name was “Athaliah” and she would cause nothing but misery in later years.
2) He visited Ahab in the Northern Kingdom. This social visit provided opportunity for King Jehoshaphat and King Ahab to join together in a common mission (2 Chron 18:3). This mission cost Ahab his life and almost killed Jehoshaphat (18:31). God’s prophet (Jehu) strongly condemned King Jehoshaphat for his foolish fellowship practices (19:1-3).
3) He entered into another cooperative effort with the Northern Kingdom (2 Chron 20:35-37). It was with a different Israelite King (King Ahaziah). Maybe King Jehoshaphat thought that a different party would bring about a different end – even though there was a different King, the “heart” of the other group was the same! Another prophet rebuked Jehoshaphat for “changing the lines” (Eliezar, 20:37). It seems that the King of Israel wanted to try again. Another message was sent to King Jehoshaphat inviting fellowship in a venture. This time King Jehoshaphat responded with a statement showing that he understood fellowship between the two groups was not possible (1 Ki 22:49).
4) One more instance in King Jehoshaphat’s history shows that he was not fully convinced that God’s exclusive fellowship lines meant that the two groups could not be re-united (2 Ki 3:1ff). Another King was now ruling in Israel. Maybe King Jehoshaphat once again thought, “This time I deal with another ruler and so the outcome will be different.” King Jehoshaphat was inclined to enter into another fellowship activity with the other group. The expedition was threatened with disaster, but Elisha gave directions on how the victory could be won (3:13ff). NOTE: Elisha’s response to the King of Israel (v. 13) shows the prophet understood there was to be NO fellowship between the two groups! The Moabites were defeated only because King Jehoshaphat’s presence moved God to be merciful.
b. Practical Perspectives
1) God’s verdict on King Jehoshaphat’s fellowship efforts was very clear (2 Chron 19:2; 20:37; 2 Ki 3:13-14).
2) Fellowship with those who rebel against God leads only to tragedy! All that King Jehoshaphat worked for was destroyed because he did not limit his fellowship (2 Chron 20:37).
3) Fellowship with those who rebel or compromise or reject God’s Truth will bring tragedy into families! King Jehoram succeeded his father King Jehoshaphat to Judah’s throne. However, his father’s compromises and lax fellowship views led to unhappiness (2 Ki 8:18). King Jehoshaphat had urged people to know and obey God but his son, influenced by his father’s lax views on fellowship, used political pressures and actual persecution to compel idol worship (2 Chron 21:11). Because a father refused to maintain a strict fellowship limitation, the Southern Kingdom fell into idolatry, national weakness, and political disaster. The ultimate tragedy – when Jehoram died, his son Ahaziah (he was named after Ahab’s son) ruled only one year and did great evil all because Jehoshaphat had compromised God’s strict limits of fellowship ( 2 Chron 22:3). Jehoram was killed in battle and his mother (Ahab and Jezebel’s daughter) took control of the Southern Kingdom. The first thing she did was to order the murder of all her grandsons so none would challenge her throne! What an enormous cost for a “tolerant” fellowship practice!
c. Eternal Perspectives
1) The alliance which Jehoshaphat sought to re-united the two groups, led to great tragedy. His policy of “tolerance” allowed sin freedom to contaminate the Souther Kingdom and ultimately led to its destruction!
2) Jehoshaphat had grand ideas of making peace between the two groups, but he forgot that those who make peace with the world become enemies to God. The Christian has NOTHING to do with those in rebellion to God (2 Ki 3:13).
3) Jehoshaphat’s willingness to join with the Northern Kingdom provided Ahab and Jezebel the appearance of legitimacy. But it was not effective in removing the sin that separated the Northern Kingdom from God. Those in the Northern Kingdom we still guilty of sin even if the Southern Kingdom joined with them!
4) Whenever righteousness joins unrighteousness only Satan wins! Whenever Christians join erring Christians or the world, the Christians are always losers! Hence the urgency of Revelation 18:4 and I Corinthians 5:13b.
4. An undeniable discovery from our daily Bible reading – Throughout the Scriptures God ALWAYS commands His people to observe a clear separation between those who are faithful to God and those who are not faithful to God. (Cf Ex 8:23; 11:7; 12:43, 48; 18:20; Lv 7:20, 21 25, 27; 11: 45, 47;17:9; 18:3-5; 20:23-26; 23:29; Nu 15:30-31; 16:3, 7; 22:12; 25:2-3; Dt 4:2-6; 7:2b-6; etc.).
Christians have a choice to make regarding the limits of their fellowship:
a. Will they act foolishly as Jehoshaphat? Trying to re-unite
that which is impossible? Trying to join Christ and Satan? Attempting to
establish harmony with those in the world but initiating anger with the
b. Will they act wisely and judge with righteous judgment? Will
they follow the certain Truths of Scripture? Will they honor God’s commands
and not modify them to become more “tolerant” of that which rebels against
God? Will they choose what assures blessings to their families? This was
the choice ancient Israel faced and one of her illustrious leaders urged
the nation to be firm in their fellowship (cf Josh 24:15).
Copyright 1999 by John
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