The month of July was a blessing to my family in so many ways. We took full advantage of the open Wednesday evenings to spend time in fellowship with other families (as well as whole Sunday School Classes) in our church. It was a joy to gather around the table with dear friends and deepen our relationships with one another. These special times together really grew my appreciation of what God has given us in the “gift” of Christian community, and it led me to ponder a biblical theology of fellowship.
The word “Fellowship” in Scripture comes from the Greek word Koinonia which denotes a social partnership or relational participation. In the Christian context, it more specifically denotes a shared relational communion established on the basis of a common Lord and faith. In his first epistle, the Apostle John writes, “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3) A few verses later, he continues, “But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1:7)
These verses, and many others like them, set forth very clearly the fact that our vertical relationship with God through Christ results in a horizontal relationship with all believers. We embrace those horizontal relationships as we identify with the local church and enter into a body of fellowship governed by the Word. One of the clearest pictures that Scripture gives us of this community is found at the end of Acts 2:
And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts2:42-47)
In this passage, we see the activities of biblical fellowship. First, they gathered regularly to devote themselves to biblical teaching. The community established by the Word of Christ has an identity defined by continuing in the Word of Christ – the bride will love the sanctifying truth of her husband. Second, prayer was also integral to their fellowship. In prayer, we express worship and dependence to our sovereign God as we adore Him and trust every necessity to His hand. As we pray for one another, we are also to confess our sins to one another as a matter of horizontal accountability (James 5:16).
Third, we see the observance of the ordinances in the body. In this particular passage, the first mention of the “breaking of bread” refers to the Lord’s Supper. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are living pictures of the grace of Christ given by Him as tangible worship experiences that project our identity as His body. Fourth, we see how needs were met in the fellowship – earthly goods were provided by the body for anyone who had need. 1 John 3:17 says that meetings the needs of our brothers is evidence that we abide in the love of God.
Fifth, we see that they were intimately involved in one another’s lives as they went “from house to house” enjoying the fellowship of the Spirit and growing in the grace of Christ. I’m afraid that we often allow the pace of our lives to cut us off from the simple beauty of having brothers and sisters in Christ regularly in our homes. This reality serves to limit our accountability and the depth of love we are to manifest in our churches. Home-based hospitality fosters a joy and unity between families that strengthens churches. Thus, let me encourage you to recover the real depth of biblical fellowship – open your home and your heart more often to those who are part of our covenant community. Forsake not the gathering (Heb 10:24-25) and fail not to love as Christ has loved you (John 13:35). I cherish you all!