The word fellowship is not something you will quickly find in the Old Testament. Psalm 94:20-23 is likely the verse you will find: “…Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?”
The thought presented in the verse is an interrogative statement. It is asking a rhetorical question to make the point that God cannot fellowship sin. When leaders use their power to sin, God will not be in association with those individuals. The same is true of all men. God will not recognize someone as His own if they engage in sin. To underline this point consider the words of Isaiah: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Is. 59:1-2).
When sin is present there is a separation that exists between the one carrying sin and God. “Separation” and “fellowship” stand at opposite ends of understanding. They are akin to unity and disunity. When individuals or groups are in fellowship with each other they have a common sharing. They stand together, not apart.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Everything was good because it was in harmony with the Word of God. However, when the day arrived in which man disobeyed God and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, sin entered the world. The fellowship of God and man separated. Of course, long before the formation of the heavens and the earth God had a plan of unity through the blood of His Son. This is widely believed to be shadowed in the wording of Genesis 3:15 and it becomes clearer as the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament are laid down. This article will now examine a few Old Testament examples to better demonstrate how God views fellowship. Remember, the writings of the Bible prior to the covenant in Christ were recorded so that we might learn from them (Rom. 15:4).
Genesis 6 records a timeframe in man’s history in which nearly everyone had turned their back on God. Yet there was one man, a preacher of righteousness, who did not. Noah was that man. He walked with God (6:9). If God viewed the worldly walk of man the same as a righteous walk, then there would have not been a flood. However, God saw the wickedness and suffered grief over creating them (6:7). This was not what He wished for man. He wanted them to choose to be something better. Noah had chosen better. So God instructed Noah to build an ark. There was not one instruction which Noah did not obey. When all of mankind were drowning in the waters brought on by their own sinfulness, the love of God kept Noah alive. God does not fellowship sin.
In Leviticus 20:24-26, Moses is providing instruction to the people of Israel for when the take the Land of Canaan. In Genesis 15 God told Abram that the iniquity of the Amorites (people of Canaan) was not yet full. By the time Israel came to the land, God was ready for the people of Canaan to be destroyed. Their cup of sins was full to the brim. God does not fellowship sin. God had separated the people of Israel from those of the world. God’s desire was that the people be holy, pure, and devoted to Him. God even provides an example for them in a type. They were to be aware of the difference between clean and unclean animals and avoid the unclean. Clean and unclean, holy and profane, pure and worldly cannot unite.
Ezra 6 records the decree to allow Israel to leave captivity in Babylon and return to build the house of God. They speedily work and build the temple “according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia” (6:14) They put in order the service of God for the temple and the priests offered sacrifice for the sins of the nation. They did so according to the Law of Moses. “…all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat and kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy” (6:21-22) Notice the people sought after God by separating themselves from those of the world. They understood what fellowship means. The people of God cannot embrace sinfulness. God does not fellowship sin.
Ezra 9:1-2 records the same timeframe. The people thought they had separated themselves from the heathen. However, that was not the case. The people still had marriages from the people of the land which were against God’s will. Ezra upon hearing this tore his robe. Other God-fearing men trembled over this sin. Ezra prayed to God for forgiveness of the people for this sin. Then in Ezra 11 the transgression was made known to the people of Israel and they separated from their wives – even the wives with whom they had children. Why? God does not fellowship sin. God had commanded them and they feared disobeying Him. They had just spent 70 years in captivity for sin. Nehemiah 9 and 10 cover this same time frame and the repentance of Israel over their sinfulness.
So that the impression that God only cared about Israel is not given, consider the books of Jonah and Nahum for a moment. Jonah was instructed to go to Nineveh. There he was to tell the people to repent of their sinfulness. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire and the people were not the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were not Israel. Yet as with the Amorites before Israel came to the promised land, God did not want Nineveh to live in sin. How many other prophets did God send to sinful nations? We have no record. God does not want man to perish (2 Pet. 3:9)! We do know that Israel was to be an example unto the nations. We also know that Nineveh would be an example. As Jonah called for the wicked nation to repent, the preaching and sign of his resurrection from the deep convicted them. They repented, from the king downward, crying unto God and changing their lives. God does not fellowship sin. Sadly, a century later, sin would again reign in Nineveh. God had given that people a chance. They did not heed the warnings of the generations before them. The book of Nahum speaks of the might of God – His power, justice, patience, and love. Yet, it also speaks of the coming judgment of God and the fact Nineveh would be an example of how God feels about sin.
In the New Testament the man Apollos was able to teach Jesus using only scriptures we know as the Old Testament (Acts 18). He looked at the things written beforehand to convict men. Certainly, we can look to the Old Testament examples to teach about fellowship. Does God want us to yoke ourselves together with the world? No, he does not. As Moses wrote, “O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever!” (Deut. 5:29)
Travis has been a minister in the Lord’s church for over 15 years. He attends and teaches at the Eastside Church of Christ in Mt. Vernon, OH. He is the creator of churchofchristarticles.com.