Two men were riding a bicycle built for two. They came to a long, steep hill. It took a great deal of struggle for the men to complete what proved to be a very stiff climb. When they got to the top, the man in front turned to the other and said, “Boy, that sure was a hard climb.” The fellow in back replied, “Yes, and if I hadn’t kept the brakes on all the way, we would certainly have rolled down backwards.”
When it comes to cooperation, it helps if some would not keep holding the brakes while others are struggling to get up the hill. To reach the goal, everyone needs to work together lest time and energy are wasted in the process potentially leading to failure. This is true of the church as well as any other organization.
When Paul wrote to the Philippi Church, he commended them for their cooperation:
I thank my God at my every remembrance of you— always when offering any prayer on behalf of you all, finding a joy in offering it. I thank my God, I say, for your cooperation in spreading the Good News, from the time it first came to you even until now. For of this I am confident, that He who has begun a good work within you will go on to perfect it in preparation for the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:3-6, Weymouth New Testament, WNT)
Paul paid quite a compliment to the church. He commended them for working together to spread the Good News of Christ and the Kingdom. This is the kind of spirit seen in believers who are preparing for the Day of Jesus’ return.
The spirit of cooperation is described in terms of partnership, communion, and fellowship. The Greek word for it is, koinonia. Strong’s Concordance defines the word as, (a) contributory help, participation, (b) sharing in, communion, (c) spiritual fellowship, a fellowship in the spirit.
When churches have koinonia there is remarkable unity. It is especially marked with “fellowship (koinonia) in the Spirit,” as Paul points out in the second chapter of Philippians 1-4:
Now if your experience of Christ’s encouragement and love means anything to you, if you have known something of the fellowship of his Spirit, and all that it means in kindness and deep sympathy, do make my best hope for you come true! Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view. (vss. 1-4, J.B. Phillips New Testament, PHILLIPS)
While Paul commended them for their cooperation in chapter one, he encouraged them in chapter two to keep it up by applying harmony and love together and refraining from “rivalry and personal vanity,” which are often the culprits behind DISunity. Seeing things “from other people’s point of view” enables cooperation. And it all starts when all the members genuinely have a Christ-like attitude of humility (Phil. 2:5-11).
The result of such unity is growth not only in community but personally, as well. For example, in Acts 2 we read where thousands of people were baptized into Christ having learned of their need to repent and believe in Christ (v. 38). The personal lives of these people were changed. This all began when 120 disciples were gathered in a room, united in prayer (Acts 1:15; 2:1). And God sent a miraculous sign under the influence of God’s Power (Acts 2:1-4). These events happened on a religious Jewish holiday known as the Day of Pentecost. At the end of the day, these believers would show unity that would yield great strides in the growth and development of the church.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved, (Acts 2:42-47, New International Version, NIV).
As these verses demonstrate, the spirit of cooperation produces blessings. It motivates us to share with those in need. It makes worship a wholesome experience. It brings everyone together. It builds strength. And it helps to attract others to the Good News of Christ and the Kingdom. When we have fellowship with God through Jesus Christ (vertical relationship), then our church fellowship (horizontal relationships) will become spiritually prosperous (1 John 1:3). Think of how this affects and benefits families, communities, and society as a whole (cp., Exodus 35:20-35; 36:3-7; Haggai 1:12-14; Psalm 133:1-3; Rom. 12:16; Galatians 3:26-28; 1 Cor. 1:10; 12:14-20; 1 Pet. 3:8-9). It’s how we can become light and salt to the world (Matthew 5:13-16). And if everyone peddles together instead of someone putting on the brakes, the climb to reach the goal will be much easier.
Here is Carolyn Arends singing, “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love,” a.k.a., “We Are One in the Spirit”: http://youtu.be/00F–Q_p_68
Good News to YOU!