The Bible doctrine of fellowship is a fascinating study. Starting with a definition of the word itself, we can understand it by seeing how it is used in God’s word. From the Greek word koinonea, the word “fellowship” literally means joint participation. Let’s fill in that definition by seeing how the word is used in the New Testament:
1. Fellowship is something in which Christians participate. This is seen in the conduct of the early church. “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers,” (Acts 2:42). It’s not something that we watch from the sidelines, or talk about in a theoretical sense. It involves sharing our faith with others: “That the fellowship of thy faith may become effectual, in the knowledge of every good thing which is in you, unto Christ,” (Phile. 1:6). So, fellowship characterizes what we actually do and practice as members of the church.
2. Fellowship puts us in touch with God. “God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord,” (1 For. 1:9). “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..,” (Phil. 2:1). The very purpose of the gospel is that we may experience fellowship with God. “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,” (1 Jn. 1:3).
3. Fellowship with God depends upon our proper conduct here. “If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth,” (1 Jn. 1:6). Since “darkness” represents sin and error, we see that fellowship with God depends upon our avoiding error and sin in our lives. Indeed, we are specifically commanded to have no fellowship with sin: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them,” (Eph. 5:11).
4. We cannot have both fellowship with the world and fellowship with God. It is one or the other. “Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). “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,” (Rev. 18:4).
5. Fellowship with God includes fellowship with God’s people. “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,” (1 Jn. 1:7). So, we are not alone in our “wilderness wanderings.” God is with us and so are his people. We are truly in the company of heaven and earth’s finest.
6. Fellowship with God’s people involves participation in some amazing things. This may include the privilege of contributing to honest and worthy efforts. “Beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints,” (2 Cor. 8:4). Paul expressed thanks to the Philippian Christians for their financial support of his preaching, “for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now,” (Phil. 1:5). “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,” (Phil. 4:15). “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,” (Gal. 2:9).
7. Some of the things in which Christians fellowship may not always be pleasant. Early Christians shared in the sufferings of Paul: “Howbeit ye did well that ye had fellowship with my affliction,” (Phil. 4:14). They shared in the sufferings of Christ: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death,” (Phil. 3:10). The sufferings of our brethren become our own.
Fellowship! What an amazing concept in the life of the child of God.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.