Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Last time we talked about how we have all been united as one body in Christ; the way in which that unity practically works itself out in our day to day lives might be called fellowship. The basic meaning of the word fellowship is to share, or have in common, thus as members of one body there are certainly many things that we share one with another. The Bible talks about how we share (fellowship) in the work of the gospel (Phil 1:5), and in the body and blood of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 10:16 Here the word is translated “communion”). There is also a sense in which we share our material resources (Rom 12:13 translated “distributing”). There are many practical ways in which we can have fellowship with one another. To do a complete word study look up the word koinoneo (verb form; Strongs number: 2841) and the word koinonia (noun form; Strong’s number 2842).
For right now I would like discuss what the basis of our fellowship is (that is to say, the basis upon which we receive one another as brothers and sisters). Throughout the history of the church many believers have used many different criteria to determine whether or to what extent they will receive other believers into fellowship. Usually these things are based on certain things that we may or may not have in common. These things might be doctrinal, material, cultural or any number of things. Let us consider what John has to say about the basis of fellowship. In 1 John 1:3 we read, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also might have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.” This would indicate to us that our fellowship with one another is based on our fellowship with the Father and the Son. Indeed when considering what we share or have in common, what could be more important than our position in Christ? On the other hand when we consider the differences that we have, and the things that might divide us, what are they compared to that which unifies us? This topic is further expounded for us in John’s other epistles. In 2 John we are given an example of people with whom we are not to have fellowship, and what is the reason that he gives for breaking fellowship with them? They do not abide in the doctrine of Christ, and thus they have no fellowship with the Father and the Son (verse 9). Thus he says, “Do not receive them.” In 3 John we are given an example of those with whom we are to have fellowship, and again what reason is given? They went forth for His name’s sake (verse 7). Thus he says, “We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.”
Sometimes we are tempted to make distinctions among ourselves that only do harm to the unity of the body of Christ. When we say things like, “Is he/she in fellowship in an ‘assembly’?” we might be asking the wrong question. Perhaps we ought to ask, “Is he/she in fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ?” That is the real issue of fellowship, and we don’t need to make it any more complicated than that.
Let us now turn our attention to the more practical matters of fellowship. What does it look like day in and day out? In this respect, I think we need to be careful not to think of fellowship as some official designation (i.e. is someone in fellowship or out of fellowship). Fellowship is a much more active thing than that. It is possible for someone to be on a “fellowship list,” but not to be actively fellowshipping (partaking, sharing) with his or her brothers and sisters in the Lord. We need to ask ourselves, “To what extent am I really involved in the lives of my fellow Christians? Am I sharing with them in the work that God has given us to do? (Phil 1:5) Do I share in their sorrows and joys? (Rom 12:15) Is my time and my resources at their disposal? (1 John 3:17)” If you want to take a good look at what active fellowship looks like, read through the first 6 chapters of the book of Acts.