Biblical Fellowship #1
By Tommy Thornhill
Fellowship is a word that suggests both relationship and participation. The idea of being partners with others in jointly sharing and actively participating in such things as Labor unions, Political parties, Military service, churches or other types of organizations permeate our society. It is a part of human nature to seek fellowship because humans are social creature who desire association with other people. The kind of fellowship one chooses to have depends on the desires of the person himself and the character and nature of the partnership/relationship sought with common interests involved, whether it be physical or spiritual. While Christians are permitted to have fellowship (as the world understands the word) with those who are not Christians, in areas such as business, social, civic, home, such fellowship is forbidden in the spiritual religious realm. Since religious fellowship is of highest interest to me, the one that I am most concerned about, I thought it good to write some articles on “Biblical Fellowship” and what it entails.
We often sing a song, “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms,” which begins with the phrase, “What a fellowship, what a joy divine …” As the phrase states, to possess this “fellowship” is truly a joy divine for it means we are in fellowship with God and His Son as well as with fellow Christians. I can think of nothing better than to enjoy this blessed sweet fellowship. The apostle John is so happy about the fellowship he and his fellow apostles enjoy with Jesus Christ and His Father that he wants his readers to have this same beautiful fellowship. We see this as he writes his first epistle. In the first 7 verses he uses the word, fellowship, 4 times. Notice – “That which was from the beginning … the Word of life … we declare unto you … that which we have seen and heard … that you may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ … If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth, But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” 1.Jn.1:3,6,7. (bolding, emphasis and division of verses are mine -t.t.).
John thought this spiritual fellowship so important that he wanted his readers to be able to share in it. But did you notice the warning he issued in the midst of what he wrote about this fellowship with God and fellow saints? In v.6 he wrote, “If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Years earlier the apostle Paul had written a similar warning, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” Eph.5:11. (bolding, underlining mine t.t) So, while fellowship with God, Jesus Christ and fellow saints is good it is also very important as to whom we extend this fellowship and what we choose to fellowship. So, it should behoove all of us to come to a better understanding of what Biblical fellowship means.
So, let’s make a study of what “fellowship” is, to whom it is extended, and toward what it is to be exercised. “Fellowship” is a very prominent word that appears ca.18 times in the NT, beginning in Acts 2:42 “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Keep in mind that from its first introduction in the NT fellowship is listed among spiritual things (apostles’ doctrine, breaking of bread and prayers), not with secular things. Throughout the rest of the NT it is commended and/or commanded as an essential part of the Christian’s spiritual life, not his physical. The basic word, “koinos” (meaning to have in common 1 time) is also found in the words, “koinonia (12 times),” “koinoneo (1 time),” “sunnkoinoneo (3 times).” Another word which is also translated fellowship is “metoche” (1 time) 2.Cor.6:14. These words are variously defined as fellowship, communion, sharing, association, joint participation or partnership. They are translated by fellowship, contribution, communion, distribution, communication, companion, partaker and partner. Notice that all these words have to do with joint sharing, joint participation and partnership in the sharing of “spiritual things,” never secular. Even when the saints sometimes shared in “material things” it was for spiritual purposes Rom.15:27. Biblical fellowship is NEVER used in connection with social activities like social halls for feasting, entertainment and recreation Rom.14:17. Not all human participation/association is NT fellowship just as all dipping is not Bible baptism.
As stated at the beginning fellowship involves two things, a relationship and participation. Biblical fellowship is what beings (human or divine) ARE together (relationship) and what they DO together (participation). Before we can scripturally and spiritually participate together in the things of God, we must first establish a right fellowship with God the Father and Christ His Son 1.Jn.1:3; 1.Cor.1:9; Jn.17:2-3. True Bible fellowship extends in two directions. Vertically – upward to God and Christ 1.Jn.1:3. Then, horizontally – outward to others 1.Jn.1:3, 7. In v.3 John speaks of the vertical relationship with God and Christ (koinonia) which also includes the Holy Spirit Phil.2:1; 2.Cor.13:14. He wants Christians to enjoy this same relationship, but to do so the believers must walk in the light vs.6-7; 2.Pet.1:4. They are then “one” with God and Christ Jn.17:20, 23; 15:1-5 and as they walk in the light they also have a horizontal relationship, as “fellows” (equals with each other). They share a “common salvation” Jude 3; with a “common faith” Tit.1:4 (Peter calls it a “like precious faith” 2.Pet.1:1). They share in common activities as depicted by the human body 1.Cor.12:12-27. As believers they share a common relationship in becoming fellow partakers of the divine nature 2.Pet.1:4. They are also fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God Eph.2:19. They are “fellow heirs of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” Eph.3:6. (to be continued).
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