Fellowship in the New Testament

In this study we would like to look at the word “fellowship” and how this word is used in the New Testament.

We are living in a religious world where there is much abuse about this word.
Many talk about “fellowship dinners”, but is this a right use of this word?
What does the Bible mean when it talks about this word.

1. The meaning of the word “fellowship”.

The word fellowship has a very distinct meaning.

G2842 koinōnia

Thayer Definition:

1) fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse

1a) the share which one has in anything, participation

1b) intercourse, fellowship, intimacy

1b1) the right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship (in fulfilling the apostolic office)

1c) a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship

When we look at the meaning of this word we see that it has everything to do with a “joint participation”. This principle speaks of two people that are together in a work, in a community.

The Bible uses this word in relation to God and His people, but also from two people that walk together in the common cause of the Gospel.

There are other words that are being used in the Bible to describe this concept of being one with God and one with one another.

  • Fellowship (metoche): “partnership, sharing in, partaking of.”
  • Communion (koinonia): “sharing in common, joint participation, association.”
  • Accord (sumphonesis): “a sounding together” (concord, kjv).
  • Part (meris): “a part as distinct from the whole, an assigned part, portion.”
  • Agreement (sunkatathesis): “a putting together or joint deposit, approval.”

However, in this article we just like to look at the word “fellowship”.

2. The word fellowship is a word that is found 16 times in the New Testament.

I would like to briefly look at all these passages and make some short comments.

Act 2:41 They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls.

Act 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Act 2:43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

Act 2:44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

Act 2:45 and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need.

Act 2:46 And day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart,

Act 2:47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved.  

In this verse we find the first occurance of the word fellowship in the New Testament. When the first believers were baptized they were added to the Lords body, church and as a result they would:

  • Continue steadfastly in the Apostles teaching and fellowship.
  • In the breaking of bread and the prayers.

We see that the concept of fellowship is used in relation to being baptized into the body of Christ. It is used in relation to matters like Apostles teaching, breaking of bread and prayers.

Then we find an important word at the beginning of verse 44, the word “and”, this word further describes the lives of these new believers. In their new found faith they also shared all they had, whether it was food, possessions, they were always in one accord.
Some do want to connect the word 'fellowship” to the verses 46 and 47 but the context does not make that connection.
I make that observation based on the context, the word “and” at the beginning of verse 44 and how the remainder of the New Testament uses this word “fellowship”.

What we find in these last few verses is that these new Christians knew what “hospitality” meant.
Hospitality is a concept taught in the new Testament that Christians are to practice.
Hospitality gives us the opportunity to get to know one another better.

Note also:
The social life of these new Christians played an important role in their lives.
When we look at our text we see that it was these things had everything to do with their individual homes. (Rom. 12: 13; 1 Tim. 3: 2, 5: 10; 1 Petrus 4: 9)

Even when the Apostle Paul talks about the misuse of the Lords Supper in 1 Cor. 11 he tells them to eat their meals at home.

We live in a day and age where many Christians stress eating together, but we do not always find that Christians want to open up their own homes for these matters.
Many Christians want to eat in and at the building. No, true Christians do know what the word “hospitality” means.

So, what do we see, we see hospitality to be a big part of the early Christians, but it was done at home.

1Co 1:9 God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

1Co 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment.  

In this passage we see that the word “fellowship” has to do with being called into partnership with Christ. This partnership is of a spiritual nature.
New believers were baptized into Christ, they put on Christ and as a result there was fellowship with Christ and with other Christians.

Fellowship with Christ means that in Him we have access to God and access to all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1: 3- 14)

2Co 6:14 Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness?

2Co 6:15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever?

2Co 6:16 And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

In these verses we find the word “fellowship” used in relation to being wrongly yoked with unbelievers and wrongly yoked with all things that are not from above.

We find words like: Belial, idols. 

Belial: G955 Belial bel-ee'-al

Of Hebrew origin [H1100]; worthlessness; Belial, as an epithet of Satan: - Belial.

 

The word “Belial” is a word that means to describe all things that are worthless.
So, all things that are not holy to God are worthless to God.

Idol: G1497 eidōlon

From G1491; an image (that is, for worship); by implication a heathen god, or (plural) the worship of such: - idol.


Obviously, it talks about being seperate from the world and worldly things and issues.
So Christians, loyal to Christ, stay away from unbelievers in close relationships and from those things that are unholy. So the word “fellowship” is used here.

Note:
I have heard many Christians over the years say that to marry a non-Christian is not wrong perse. Well, when we read these thoughts in these verses we come to understand clearly that believers have no close relationships with non-believers. Their cannot be any portion between believers and non-believers.

2Co 8:3 For according to their power, I bear witness, yea and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord,

2Co 8:4 beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints:

2Co 8:5 and this, not as we had hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us through the will of God.

Here we find the word “fellowship” used to describe the financial help that was given by Christians for other Christians.

Helping needy saints is a concept often found in the Bible and here we find it used in connection to the word “fellowship”.
What a beautiful concept this is that we can have communion together with other believers when we share in their poverty.

We observe then that “fellowship” is a word that does not only describe our relationship to God but also to one another.

Gal 2:7 but contrariwise, when they saw that I had been intrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision

Gal 2:8 (for he that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles);

Gal 2:9 and when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision;

Here we see the writer speak about the hand of fellowship.
What is under consideration here?
The work of Gospel preaching.

When it was perceived that Paul was also a Christian then these man could work together in the work of preaching and teaching the Gospel.

Eph 5:8 For ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light

Eph 5:9 (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth),

Eph 5:10 proving what is well-pleasing unto the Lord;

Eph 5:11 and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them;

Eph 5:12 for the things which are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of.  

We see here that the word is used in relation to walking in the light, goodness, righteousness and truth.
That we should have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Christians ought to be seperate from the world.
We are to walk in the light as He is in the light. (1 John 1: 1- 10)

Phi 1:3 I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you,

Phi 1:4 always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy,

Phi 1:5 for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now;

Phi 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ:

In these verses we see that the word “fellowship” stands in relation to the relief that the Phillipians send to aid Paul in his preaching and labour for the Lord.
So, here the word is used in relation to helping Paul preach the gospel.
Relief send to them that preach the Gospel. 

Phi 2:1 If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions,

Phi 2:2 make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind;

Phi 2:3 doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself;  

The Apostel Paul writes here about the obvious things.
He asks them about:

  • Is there exhortation in Christ.
  • Is there consolation in love.
  • Is there fellowship with the Spirit.
  • Are there tender mercies and compassions.

He wants to encourage his readers to take the example of Christ by asking these questions to which the obvious answer is a loud “Yes”.
So, since all these things are there we are to follow the example of the Christ.
Laying down our lives to serve others. As Christ also came to serve and not to be served.

Do we have fellowship with the Spirit of God, O yes, we have that fellowship.
We are in partnership with the Spirit.

The Bible teaches us that all who are obedient to the Gospel-call, God sends His Spirit to live in them. (Acts 5: 32) So we have fellowship with the Spirit.
We are sealed with the Spirit (Eph. 1: 13)

Phi 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith:

Phi 3:10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death;

Phi 3:11 if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead.

In these verses we read about the Apostle Paul that he wants to attain to “fellowship” in the sufferings of Christ. Paul wants to be conformed to the Son of God in His sufferings.

What a picture of the Apostle, and not only for him, but also for us. We should want to be like Him in our sufferings.
In another place the Apostle wrote:

Rom 8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

Rom 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.  

When we do suffer with him we will also be in His glorification. We are called to suffer with Christ. In our lives we will suffer persecution, but He has overcome the world. (John 6: 33)

Phi 4:13 I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me.

Phi 4:14 Howbeit ye did well that ye had fellowship with my affliction.

Phi 4:15 And ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving but ye only;

Phi 4:16 for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my need.

Again, in these verses we see the concept of fellowship being used in relation to relief that was send the Apostel Paul to help him in the preaching of the word.

Phm 1:4 I thank my God always, making mention of thee in my prayers,

Phm 1:5 hearing of thy love, and of the faith which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints;

Phm 1:6 that the fellowship of thy faith may become effectual, in the knowledge of every good thing which is in you, unto Christ.

The work of love in the life of Philemon, his faith towards the Lord Jesus and his love toward all the saints was called the fellowship of his faith. Philemon was a man of truly Godly character.

1Jo 1:1 That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life

1Jo 1:2 (and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us);

1Jo 1:3 that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, that ye also may have fellowship with us: yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ:

Everything about Christ had been made manifest. All aspects of Jesus were known.
The readers could follow that example and so be made to have fellowship with them. 

Then the writer reminds them that fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

The one who laid down his life for the life of the world and through whom, being God manifested in the flesh, we have union with God, are made partakers of the Divine nature and dwell in God, and God in us.

In the next verse we also see what these things entail, that is that our joy may be made full.
Our joy is made full through our salvation in Christ and subsequently the joy and hope of eternal life.

1Jo 1:4 and these things we write, that our joy may be made full.

1Jo 1:5 And this is the message which we have heard from him and announce unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

1Jo 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

So John writes to us and tells us that we need to walk in the Spirit (Galatians) we need to crucify the flesh, we need to seek these things that are above.
We need to pursue holiness with God and peace with all man. (Hebr. 12: 14)

1Jo 1:7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

1Jo 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1Jo 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  

So we understand from these verses that walking in the light has everything to do with walking in the light and when we do so, when we pursue holiness with God and peace with all men, so we have fellowship with one another.
And when we fail we have an advocate whose blood can cleanse us from sin.

Rev 18:3 For by the wine of the wrath of her fornication all the nations are fallen; and the kings of the earth committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth waxed rich by the power of her wantonness.

Rev 18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come forth, my people, out of her, that ye have no fellowship with her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues:  

Another passage in which we understand that the word fellowship has to do with right living before God.

In all of these passages we never find a reference to eating.
It is always used in relation to the spiritual relationship that we have in Christ.

Copyright © 2017 Gert-Jan van Zanten · Webdesign by R081N
All Rights Reserved · webbijbel.nl
Hosted by VDX.nl VDX

 

Naar boven