Scripture & Thought
“We are telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
“Christian Fellowship” – What does that mean? We know what “Christian” means. But what does “Fellowship” mean? Someone has defined it as “two or more fellows in the same ship.” Not the best definition, but it’s close.
Fellowship doesn’t mean that the “fellows” must agree about everything, but it does imply that at the very least they agree to be together in one place and at one time. And if it’s a “ship,” they certainly must agree on a set of rules to follow. Jumping up and down or running around in circles in a 12-person boat would be distracting, if not dangerous to all on board.
Christian Fellowship adds a dimension to the terms. And the New Testament is not silent on the subject.
The Greek word koinonia is the New Testament word for fellowship. As common as its usage is, the word appears in the New Testament only 19 times – about 6o times if we include its Greek synonyms. Primarily it is a post-Pentecost description of the relationship between Christ and his church and the quality of life among believers within the Christian community.
The question is, “What should be the quality of life in an authentic fellowship of Christians?” Both the Apostle Paul and the disciple John address these questions in their epistles to the church. In Romans 12:7 Paul described the goal of Christian fellowship as “accepting one another.” In his first letter to the church the Apostle John wrote the first we started with in this section (John 1:3).
In Romans 15:9-12 Paul quotes from the Psalms to underscore the truth that the plan of God for humankind is an inclusive plan. Here is one of those quotes: Psalm 117:1 –“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; praise him, all you people of the earth.”
Clearly the New Testament writers understood that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was inclusive (rather than exclusive) and that within the Christian fellowship no one was to be excluded! Perhaps it is not a leap of faith to say it this way: Just as Jesus Christ is an inclusive Savior, the Church is to be an inclusive Fellowship.
Authentic Christianity can best be seen in the community – a community of faith. Christianity cannot survive in a vacuum. It cannot exist alone. It expresses itself in group. Authentic Christianity flourishes where “two or three (or more) are gathered” in Jesus’ name. In that setting He promises to be present in fellowship with them through his Spirit.
In John 17:21 Jesus prayed, “My prayer for all of them (the disciples and all who would follow after them) is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father – that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.” Jesus wouldn’t have included that in his prayer if he didn’t mean it.
As someone has put it, “koinonia is doing God’s will together with another person.” When people partner with God through His Spirit, fellowship happens! Isn’t it time that we practice what we preach?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, far too often we think in terms of what separates us from other believers rather than on what unites us as believers in Christ. Remind us often, Lord, of Jesus’ prayer for his followers in John 17. Remind us of your desire for the Church to be united, not divided. Remind us to pray that we become instruments of grace, rather than weapons of war. In Jesus’ Name I pray.