Covenant relationships in the Jesus Fellowship
Covenant brotherhood! A commitment by born-again, baptised in the Spirit men and women to be "knitted together" [Col 2:2] [Eph 4:16] as a church of Jesus -- to be, like the first Christians, "of one heart and soul". [Acts 4:32]
In the Jesus Fellowship many have entered into a membership covenant, joining together as a committed brotherhood-church. This covenant, like those made between people in the Bible, is made before God and is viewed as being unbreakable. We agree to be bonded with one another and to work out the implications of such a pledge of brotherly love.
The Covenant promise
In the Bible we read that God made a covenant promise. He said, "I will be your God and you shall be my people." [2 Cor 6:16] This promise is found in many places in the Bible. It is fulfilled in Jesus. His New Covenant body and blood (in His death for us) become the means of Him "building His church", producing a covenant people "for God's possession". [1 Pet 2:9]
Many Christians in the past made covenants with one another -- the Salvation Army, Baptists, Independents, Anabaptists. They promised to belong to God and to one another. In the Jesus Fellowship we see covenant working in three directions:
God covenants to be the Almighty Father to us as a Christian church [2 Cor 6:16]
We covenant with God to be His people, "a church of the living God" [1 Tim 3:15]
We covenant to belong together, love one another and be Christ's church together [John 13:34] [John 17:20]
We promise never to let one another down. We help one another through difficulties. We forgive and encourage one another. We fight together to save sinners with the gospel, sharing in sufferings and disappointments. We build strong brotherhood relationships and 'find' ourselves. This vow of covenant brotherhood is part of the strength of our church.
The membership covenant of the Jesus Fellowship has seven parts to it:
Holding the Faith. Belief in the Christian faith expressed in the Bible.
The holy brotherhood church. Love and loyalty for the holy brotherhood-church that God has called us to be.
Consecration and service. Commitment to holy living and service for building Christ's church.
The community life of God's people. To love one another in equality, simplicity and righteousness.
Suffering with Christ. To stand firm in the face of opposition and love our enemies.
Discipling, accountability & discipline. To accept wisdom and help from other members, with mutual correction, confession of faults, forgiveness and reconciliation.
The bond of covenant. A pledge of oneness and an intention of lifelong commitment to the Jesus Fellowship.
New covenant members are received into the Jesus Fellowship through baptism and the "making of covenant". They will have been counselled and read the covenant of membership.
They are baptised in water. In their baptism they covenant to God and to His people. They become a member of the body of Christ (the church). The Holy Spirit works powerfully in their baptism and creates covenant life in the soul.
They make covenant. After baptism, they are welcomed into covenant membership by their church household and, later, at a gathering of the whole church. Each one is then introduced by a leader and enthusiastically received. One by one they say, "Before God I do so make covenant in Jesus' Name."
They give and receive "the Right Hand". In the Bible, one covenant sign is the gripping of right hands, [Gal 2:9] [2 Kings 10:15] and with prayer they are welcomed into the covenant brotherhood, the church.
If someone who joins the Jesus Fellowship has already been baptised, their baptism is recognised and they are received as a covenant member in the same way as those who have just been baptised. (Not all members enter covenant -- see Hot Topics 1)
Church household welcoming
Two other covenant happenings for new members occur at the first church household Agape (love) meal after making covenant:
Bread and Wine: At the first Agape meal of their church household, where the covenant is affirmed through the bread and wine, new members are welcomed -- often with wisdom and prophecy.
We remember Jesus who through death has become the New Covenant head of God's people. [1 Cor 11:24,25] We rejoice in the covenant we have made to be God's people together. [1 Pet 2:10]
Washing of feet: Also at the first household Agape, we wash the feet of new covenant members as a sign of the covenant we have made to be true to them and to serve them. [John 13:14,15]
In the Jesus Fellowship, we find great strength and fulfilment in our covenant commitment as God joins us together as "living stone" to "living stone". [1 Pet 2:5]