Last Sunday evening, we noticed while considering the list of names in Romans 16 that there were several house groups among them and I suggested that one reason for such groups was to provide fellowship. We also noticed that a similar pattern had been adopted by the church in Jerusalem shortly after the Day of Pentecost.
The practice of so meeting together was not a New Testament discovery. In the Old Testament, in Malachi 3:16, a similar practice is described. Those mentioned in that verse met together to encourage one another in a period marked by false religious leaders and few visible signs of God’s blessing.
The fact that those devout believers resolved to meet together was evidence of their determined faithfulness to God and to one another. It was determined in that they made a deliberate choice to meet together and we know that one way to do nothing is to refuse to make a choice.
Another reason why they met together was their delight in one another. It is very easy for Christians to say that they love one another, but the proof of love is that they interact with one another whenever they can. Prolonged isolation is never an expression of brotherly love and is more likely evidence that those doing so are backsliding in their hearts, no matter what reason they give for their refusal to meet together.
As far as the groups in Malachi’s day were concerned, he tells us God was so delighted with what they said that he wrote it down. He was not present as a reporter but as a recorder. The allusion is to the practice of the Persian Emperors recording on a scroll the names of those who had performed notable deeds, with the aim of rewarding them in due course. This scroll was usually kept in the presence of the emperor. God took note of the actions of his consecrated people with a view to rewarding them for their actions.
The reward primarily will be given in the future, as it is expressed by God: ‘They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.’ But there will also be foretastes of the final reward such as a sense of his peace in the heart, answers to their prayers, guidance from his word, protection from their enemies, and many others.
We are now into another year, and we have an opportunity to once again consecrate ourselves to God. Last year, at this time, we thought it was useful to make 2015 a year for fellowship. Hopefully, we did develop greatly in that aspect of living Christianity. How about making 2016 a year of deeper consecration? As we can see from the verse in Malachi, there is a dynamic connection between fellowship and consecration.