Jack Carroll - Fellowship - Bakersfield, California Convention - 1948

Second, this is a Fellowship of shepherds and sheep in the same fold. This is part of His Fold. There are 50 or more undershepherds in this gathering, there are many whom we think of as lambs and sheep of His Flock, and maybe some in our midst not yet shepherded, not yet in the Fold, whom we hope will enter before this convention closes.

Jesus Himself is the Good Shepherd. John 10:11
Jesus Himself is the Great Shepherd. Hebrews 13:20-21
Jesus Himself is the Chief Shepherd. I Peter 5:4.

Third, this is a Fellowship of ambassadors and citizens in the same kingdom. In writing to the Ephesians in Chapter 6:19, Paul speaks of himself ''as an ambassador in bonds," and in 2:19 of the children of God as "no longer strangers and foreigner ~ but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God."
 
Then there is a fourth line of thought--that we are a Fellowship of members of the same Body, Christ our Head and every member of the Body fitting into its appointed place "arid seeking to fill that place worthily."

You will have noticed I have used the word Fellowship several times. This is one of the most wonderful words in the N.T. a Fellowship of brethren in the same family; a Fellowship of shepherds and sheep in the same fold, a Fellowship of ambassadors and citizens in the same kingdom, a Fellowship made up of members in the same body. I would like to ask you this afternoon, "Do you value this fellowship? Are you honestly seeking to contribute your share towards making this fellowship all God intended it should be?"  If you understand and appreciate this four-fold fellowship, you will be able to give a clear answer to the question--What do you people represent in the world?

The word Fellowship in the Bible means partnership, comradeship, companionship - three wonderful words. We are called by the gospel into this fellowship. It is not a fellowship--it is THE FELLOWSHIP.”  If you read carefully Acts 2:42, you will notice those that gladly received his words were baptized, and they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, etc.”  In the original, the definite article “the” is used. In Ephesians 3:9 we find the definite article "the" again. "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things, by Christ Jesus.” I would like to say that God's purpose was that this Fellowship should be the sweetest that can be known on earth.  If our fellowship is no sweeter, no better than the fellowship found in the worldly religious systems, then we are no better than they are. I would like to impress upon you today that each of us, whether we are in the work giving our lives, or whether meeting together in little groups through out this state, we are individually responsible for contributing our share towards making this wonderful fellowship all God intended it should be. That is God's purpose for each one of us as individuals and we hope that there is a sincere desire to honesty fulfill that purpose so that we may help to bring about that wonderful ideal described in Psalm 133. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

Now in reading over these letters in connection with the church at Ephesus, I would advise you to follow each of these lines of thought separately, get firmly fixed in your minds this four-fold fellowship into which we invite men and women, it will not only help in giving your testimony, or in ministering to each other, but also as the servants of God, it will help us in preaching the gospel in the world.

In N.T. days this fellowship was attacked by the enemy, Satan, the adversary of God and man, who knew then, and knows now, that if he can take any step or make any move that will influence any individual to so act that this fellowship, which means so much to us, be disturbed or wrecked, then that is what he will seek to do. His purpose is to wreck our relationship with each other as individuals in the little church, or our relationship with each other as a whole in this world. Might I say here, when we speak of this fellowship of brethren in “THE” same Family, we do not mean a state-wide fellowship, or a country-wide fellowship, but a world-wide “Fellowship in the same great family of God.”

Henry has been speaking about our brethren in Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Some of us have been in these countries and enjoyed the same fellowship there which we are now enjoying in Bakersfield. Some of us have been in different parts of the world where men and women were not only of a different race but a different color and speaking a different language, yet we were deeply conscious of the fact we were enjoying the same fellowship as we are enjoying here today. So when we use the word "fellowship," we do not use it in any limited sense, but use it in the N.T. sense, because the servants of God in those first days recognized they were responsible in their ministry to aim at bringing about an answer to the prayers of Jesus in John 17 in a world-wide sense. In attacking the church at Ephesus, Satan adopted two main lines of attack. If you will open your Bibles now and turn to Acts 20, we have in the last part of this chapter a talk Paul gave to the elders of the church at Ephesus. In verse 28 we read, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God."  He was warning the elders of the church at Ephesus and the Christians that made up that church that the time would come when grievous wolves would enter in among them, scattering the sheep, not sparing the flock. And that actually happened before he, as their shepherd, was executed in Rome in A.D. 64.

For a long period the time church grew up and prospered under the shadow of the synagogue system. What we mean by that is that the synagogue system was licensed by the Roman government, there were many sects in connection with that synagogue system.  At first as the gospel was preached, the Romans believed that Christianity was simply another Jewish sect, and they looked upon the Christian religion as being included in the Jewish system and therefore a legitimate religion. The Jews were anxious to convince the Romans that this was not so, and were continually charging that the Christians were preaching another King, and another Kingdom, and they ultimately succeeded in convincing the Romans that Christianity was entirely distinct from the synagogue system and not entitled to recognition or government protection.

As a result, in Nero's day grievous wolves entered in among the Lord's people. Many were put on trial and condemned to death. If you are familiar with the history of Nero's crimes, you will know many of our brethren were chained to iron stakes and oil poured on their bodies and ignited, thus illuminating the gardens of this monster. Grievous wolves sought to destroy this fellowship at that time. But outward suffering and outward persecution will always tend to deepen and increase the sweetness of this fellowship. These suffering children of God were brought nearer to each other, their witness for Christ became more real to them, and if we read the 1st Epistle of Peter, written at that particular time when this persecution was sweeping over the Roman Empire and reaching out wherever little groups of God's people were meeting together, you will notice that the key-word of that letter is "suffering" and "sufferings of Christ" and the "sufferings of Christians."  The whole letter of Peter was written to brace those Christians up so that they would know the trial of their faith even by fire, was precious in the sight of God, would only separate the dross from the gold, and make manifest all that was true and real in their lives.

Outward persecution is not the most dangerous to this fellowship.  We have often said that we would welcome outward persecution because it would help us to be more what God intended us to be.  There are countries where our brethren risk much to meet together in His name. They are in continual danger of arrest and punishment. But here in this land, we thank God for the liberty that is ours where none can interfere with the children of God in the  matter of worshipping and serving Him how,  when, and where we please.

In the verse which follows, we read of a more dangerous attack, more subtle. In writing to this church at Ephesus, he says in verse 30, “Also, of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” More deadly, and more dangerous than any outward enemy that secret foe, that enemy who once was within, and is now without. and who would seek to come in amongst the lambs and sheep of God's Flock, speaking perverse, things ,that he might draw away disciples  after himself.  This actually happened to the little church at Ephesus. In 1 Timonthy 1:18-20 you will read of this condition. “This charge I commit unto you, son Timothy...of .whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan. that they may learn not to blaspheme.” They were excluded from the fellowship of God's people. They arose from within. They were speaking perverse things and their purpose in doing so was to draw away disciples after themselves. So as a result of their attempt to wreck the fellowship of God's people, they were excluded from the fellowship.

In 2 Timothy 2:15 - 19 we read much the same thing.  What I want you to get this afternoon is this - that the enemy of our sou1s is ever on the alert, he doesn't sleep day or night.  He will attack God's people in either of these two ways, from within or from without and God's people need to be on the watch always lest any creep in amongst us, and by their influence seek to disturb or shake the faith of the weakest lamb in the flock of God. Roman 16:l7 - 18  In I John 2:19, John had these same enemies, in his mind. He said, “They, went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”

What is the attitude, that John encouraged God’s people to take under these circumstances? Turn to II John 9-11, and you will get the definite instructions which God's people were guided by then. and should be, now and until the Lord returns.  So in connection with this fellowship, the people of God were asked to recognize these two methods of attack, from without or from within, and they were given the clearest possible instructions as to how to act, under such circumstances. Read over carefully Acts20:29-30, Romans 16:1-18;1 John 2:10, II John 10.  

The attack from within is more subtle and more dangerous than the attack from without. We need to be on guard and, especially those who have responsibility in the matter of shepherding the lambs and sheep of the flock of God in this our day. There is another way that, this enemy attacks:  the people of God.  He brings to bear certain influences that will cause them to do, just exactly what the Lord Jesus charged this same church at Ephesus with.  "Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love,”  If we read over this message carefully, you will notice that He commends them for many things, for their liberality, their works, and orthodoxy, their ability to deal with those who claimed to be apostles and were not. "Nevertheless," even with so much in their favor, to their credit, He said, “I have somewhat against thee...thou hast left thy first love.” You might ask, “What does it mean?" Perhaps I can help you understand.

There are at least three characteristics of this "first love" in our hearts: first, devotion to our Heavenly Bridegroom as the "fairest among ten thousand the altogether lovely One."  Second: devotion to His interests in the world. Third: devotion to the interest of God's people with whom we have fellowship. I do not know anything more sad that could happen to a child of God than to retain the outward marks of fellowship and orthodoxy, to be counted in among God's people and servants, when in reality this is not true; "Thou hast left thy first love." You no longer love Me as you did at the beginning. You no longer love His interests in the world as you did at the beginning. You no longer love your brethren as you did at the beginning.

It would be helpful for each of us to look into our hearts and ask ourselves this question, "Have I the same love in my heart for my heavenly Bridegroom as I had at the first?" Have I the same love in my heart for my brothers and sisters as I had at the first? Have I the same love for the spreading of the gospel, for the lost world, that I had at the first, at the beginning? It would be very wonderful if, as a result of this convention, whatever measure of this "first love" has been lost in our lives, if it could be recovered and we could leave with a deeper, truer love for our heavenly Bridegroom, our brothers and sisters, and a lost world.