Defining Fellowship

It is unfortunate that many in the church today view the Biblical doctrine of fellowship under one of two umbrellas: either it regards eating or withdrawing. However, the Scriptures dictate a much broader importance to fellowship as God defines it. Fellowship is the central theme of every facet of the Christian life.

The Greek term that is translated “fellowship” in the New Testament is koinonia. It is defined by Thayer as “fellowship, association, communion, community, joint participation.” It is a mutual association from one person to another based upon any number of factors. Though the word translated “fellowship” is only used 20 times in the New Testament, the principles of godly fellowship are found on every page of the Scriptures. Therefore, for one to whittle down fellowship to the question “to eat or not to eat” is a misnomer. Consider what the Bible teaches us pertaining to the definition of fellowship.

Fellowship is between God and man. This is the foundational element of the fellowship necessary for a godly life. If an individual is not in association with God, none of the rest of the statements made in this article is of any value. We gain that fellowship by being obedient to the Gospel and coming in contact with the blood of Jesus Christ through baptism. John wrote, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

When we obey the Gospel we begin a life of association with God. That fellowship, if it is as it should be, will have an impact on every corner of our lives. That fellowship is manifested in a number of areas. The worship which we offer before God, as he has commanded, is an avenue of fellowship, the Lord’s Supper itself often being described as communion (1 Cor. 10:16).

It also extends itself into our everyday lives through prayer and study. Through prayer, we have an avenue by which we can come before the throne of God with anything and everything (1 Tim. 2:1-8). Through his Word, God has extended to man everything he needs to endure the trials and tests of life on this earth (2 Pet. 1:3). However, we must take the time to read and listen to what God has laid before us if our fellowship is going to truly benefit our lives. Hence, the fellowship between God and man is a very powerful thing that can only be broken if we leave God, for he will never leave us (1 Cor. 15:57-58).

Fellowship is between man and man. One of the greatest assets available to the Christian in this life is to have others of like faith surrounding them as they journey. John also places an emphasis on that aspect of Christianity when he says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

There is an association available to those who love and serve the Lord that is able to encourage, uplift, and strengthen the heart of every follower of Christ. This fellowship is manifested in many ways. Our worship and Bible study together as members of the body of Christ is a joint-participation beyond compare. How uplifting it is to be with those who serve the same God by obedience to the same commands! The encouragement to be gained from such cannot be overstated.

Fellowship is found in the time we spend together as friends and loved ones. Unfortunately, this has been left to the side of the road by many Christians, feeling that they do not need the company of Christians to make it through life. Then they wonder why every day is a struggle and life seems so miserable. A conscious effort must be made to assemble Christians for fellowship at every possible opportunity.

The nature of Biblical fellowship is powerful and rewarding. As we keep our fellowship with God, we gain fellowship with the greatest group of people on the face of the earth. Though no man is perfect, when he seeks to serve God as commanded that individual’s life and the lives of those around him will be truly blessed.

Oftentimes, when the withdrawal of fellowship toward a sinning Christian does not work, it is because the levels of fellowship God expects to exist among his people have been missing. Some erring Christians do not miss anything with the withdrawal of fellowship because the only “fellowship” they have ever seen is sitting in a pew on Sunday and eating an occasional potluck supper. Biblical fellowship is far more and far greater. It must be preached, exemplified, and lived as such.

When fellowship is appropriately defined, it is evident that it is one of the most powerful tools at the disposal of the Christian. The ability to work together, support one another, and grow together should be the desire of every child of God; and the absence of these things should be considered shameful to the servant of God and bring an ache of emptiness to the one who has left God. Let us never underestimate the power of fellowship.

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