NECESSITY AND BENEFITS OF RELIGIOUS FELLOWSHIPS

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

 

I.Intro.

A.one of the reasons for the sad decay of true Christianity is the neglecting to assemble ourselves together, in religious association

B.this passage of scripture draws from the experience of a wise man, and shows the necessity and benefits of associations in general, and of religious associations in particular [Two are better than one]

II.proof that the wise man's assertion is correct, that "two are better than one"

A.this is something that is absolutely necessity for the welfare of our body and soul

1.when we look at man, as he came out of the hands of his Maker, we would think that he was perfect, entire, and lacking nothing

2.after creating Adam, God saw something that was still lacking to make Adam happy

3.this is why God said, ďIt is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for himĒ - Genesis 2:18

B.God said, "It is not good," thereby implying that creation was imperfect, in some way, unless an help could be found for Adam, that was suitable for him

1.this was the case of man before the fall

2.if a suitable help was needed for man in a state of perfection; surely after the fall, we may well say, "It is not good for man to be alone"

3.we come naked and helpless out of our mother's womb, our wants increase with our years, and we can scarcely survive a day without the assistance of others

C.fellowship is absolutely necessary in respect to our bodily and personal needs

1.when we see how mankind is divided into different cities, countries, and nations, the necessity of fellowship appears more evident

2.how can communities be kept up, or commerce carried on, without associations

3.no one is self sustaining, everyone is important to someone

D.what is this, when compared to the infinite greater need of the soul

1.without doubt, manís soul was the primary reason for God saying, "It is not good for man to be alone"

2.manís soul was a copy of the divine, whose attribute it is to fellowship

3.man could not be completely happy in paradise, without a partner to share in his joys

4.God knew this, and therefore said, "I will make him an help meet for him"

5.though woman was the means of his fall; that was not due to any natural consequence of society

6.manís fall was due in part to the craftily lies of the deceiver, Adam's own folly, and his choosing to be miserable with one he loved

E.man could not be fully happy, even in paradise, without a companion of his own species, much less now that he has been driven out of paradise

1.now we need one another's assistance, to instruct us in the knowledge of God

2.now we need others to exhort us to practice those things which belong to our everlasting peace

3.this is a strong argument for why "two are better than one," and why we should "not forsake the assembling ourselves together"

F.as Christians, we are able to see what God requires of us, with assistance from the Holy Spirit

1.as soldiers of Christ, we have proclaimed war against the world, the flesh, and the devil

2.we are surrounded with millions of foes without, and infected with a legion of enemies within

3.we are commanded to shine as lights in the world, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation

4.we are traveling to eternity, and need help to encourage us on our way

5.when we reflect on all this, we see what a necessary thing it is to meet together in religious fellowship

G.early Christians were aware of this; therefore they continually fellowshipped with each other - Acts 2:42

1.Peter and John after being threatened and dismissed by the council, made haste to be with their companions - Acts 4:23

2.when Peter was released from prison by the aid of an angel, immediately goes to the house of Mary, ďwhere many were gathered together praying" Acts 12:12

3.so precious was the communion of saints in those days

III.some reasons why "two are better than one," especially in religious fellowships

A.man, in his present condition cannot always stand upright, because of the frailty of his nature - Ecc 4:10

1.we are prone to be drawn into error by our judgments, and into vice by our practice

a)we are often unable, or unwilling to correct our own failures

b)the world is apt to flatter us in our faults, but few are so kind as to tell us the truth

c)it is a privilege to have some true, wise, hearty friends; who continually watch over our souls, to inform us where we have fallen, and to warn us so that we do not fall again in the future

d)we will never know the full value of this, until we come into glory

2.even if we could always stand upright, we are prone to lukewarmness and indifference - Rev 2:4

B.two are better than one, because they can impart heat to each other - Ecc 4:11

1.hot coals, if set apart, soon go out; but if heaped together, enliven each other, and give a lasting heat

a)if Christians unite, they will quicken and enliven each other

b)if they separate and keep apart, they will soon grow cool and apathetic

c)if two are three meet together in Christ's name, they will have heat; but how can one be warm alone

2.the question "how can one be warm alone," implies an impossibility

a)to be warm in religion without company is, at best, very difficult

b)religious fellowship will help keep us zealous, as well as steady, in the way of godliness

3.as soldiers of Christ's, we are to wrestle against principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness

a)it is an invaluable privilege to have a company of fellow soldiers about us, exhorting us to stand our ground, and to follow the captain of our salvation, though it be through bloody seas

C.two are better than one, because they can secure each other from enemies without - Ecc 4:12

1.the devil is not deficient in his artful attacks, to divert or terrify us from pressing forward for Christ

a)to make his temptations undiscernable, and more successful, he will employ some of our nearest relatives, or most powerful friends, (as he set Peter against Christ)

b)he will always tell us to spare ourselves, that we do not need to take so much pain; that the way to heaven is not as narrow as others imagine it to be

2.here we see the advantage of religious company; when we find our self surrounded on every side, and unable to stand, we can haste to our companions, who will help us to stand

a)friends can secure each other from those who oppose them

b)the devil is fully aware of this; therefore he does his utmost to stop the communion of saints

c)this was his grand scheme in the early church; he persecute them, in order to separate them

d)this shows the enmity he has against Christians assembling themselves together

e)the devil has not forsaken his old strategy; to entice us to be by ourselves, whereby we will be destitute of one another's help

3.Peterís dismal downfall could have been prevented had he kept to his own company

4.our Savior knew the power of fellowship, therefore He always sent out His disciples "two by two"

IV.the duties incumbent on every member of a religious society

A.mutual reproof [if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow] - Ecc 4:10

1.the wise man, in our text implies that each of us may fall

a)when a brother is overtaken with a fault, those who are spiritual ought to seek their restoration

b)those lifting up the fallen must also considering their own frailty, lest they also fall - Galatians 6:1

2.we are all frail, unstable creatures; and it is only the grace of God that keeps us from falling

a)every fallen brother should receive our pity, rather than our resentment

b)each member should strive to be bold, as well as gentle, in restoring the fallen to his former state

3.if a person falls willfully into a crime, we are not to deny them forgiveness - 1 Corinthians 10:12

a)we should look to the apostles for an examples to follow

(1)consider how quickly they forgave Peter, who had so willfully denied his Master

(2)we find John and Peter together only three days later at the resurrection - John 20:2

(3)later in the day we find Peter assembled with the other disciple - John 20:19

b)they quickly forgave, and associated with their sinful, yet repentant brother, we should do likewise

B.mutual exhortation [if two lie together, then they have heat] - Ecc 4:11

1.here the wise manís principle is that it is impossible for religious people to meet together, and not to be the warmer for each other's company

2.it is possible to communicate heat to each other, by brotherly exhortation

a)every member of a religious society should write this advice in their heart - Hebrews 10:24-25

b)we need exhortation to arouse our sleepy souls, to watch against the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil

c)we need exhortation to excite us to renounce ourselves, to take up our cross, and follow our Savior

C.mutual assisting and defending each other - Ecc 4:12

1.here the wise man takes it for granted, that wrongdoing will come, but they may still prevail

a)there is nothing in Christianity that promotes wrongdoing

b)on the contrary, it advances nothing but unity and love

2.ever since the fatal sentence pronounced by God, after the fall of our first parents, the unconverted sinner, has persecuted him that is born of the spirit

a)we find early proof of this in Cain and Abel; Ishmael and Isaac; and of Jacob and Esau

b)the whole Bible contains much about the great and continued opposition between the children of this world, and the children of God

c)the first Christians were remarkable examples of how a threefold cord is not quickly broken

(1)though those troublesome time are over, yet Paul laid down a general rule, and all who are godly prove the truth of it - 2 Timothy 3:12

(2)every Christian should unite their forces in order to stand against the opposition of the ungodly, so that they do not desert their Saviourís cause

(3)the more we have that stand with us, the easier it is for all to stand

V.some conclusion from what has been said

A.if "two are better than one," and the advantages of religious associations are so many and so great; then it is the duty of every Christian to establish and promote fellowships of this nature

B.as true disciples of our Lord and Master, we must happily establish ourselves in such fellowships, which will strengthen us in our Christian warfare