Fellowship is a wonderful thing. Sometimes it can feel like being a Christian is a lonely path to tread. We might have difficulties with‘friends’ who are opposed to what we believe or may feel that we should join in the activities that they engage in.It is a good thing to know that God never intended us to stand alone for Him. We need the companionship of those who believe the same things that we do, and that’s what fellowship is all about.
In the Bible, the English word ‘fellowship’ is a translation of the Greek word koinonia. It has the idea of association, community and partnership. If you like, sharing together those things we have in common, or ‘fellows in a ship’; all experiencing the same general circumstance and pulling together for the common good. And what do we share in common? Basically this, that we all have the one and the same Saviour! This is the common bond of fellowship between true believers.
Firstly, the word of God teaches that mankind has a basic need for fellowship. In Genesis chapter 2 verse 18 God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him’. Secondly,fellowship is valuable. For example, one can support their companions if they stumble on the Christian pathway, Eccles. 4.9-12. Finally, our God is a God who specializes in togetherness and fellowship. For example, the Lord Jesus called a group of disciples to follow Him, and many New Testament epistles were written to groups of believers gathering in local assemblies.
As Christians we have fellowship with God and with God’s people. All believers have fellowship with the Father, 1 John 1. 3, the Son, 1 Cor. 1. 9, and the Holy Spirit, 2 Cor. 13. 14. This is the basis of our fellowship with each other. What a wonderful thought it is that we have a partnership and association with the Godhead and we share this in common as believers. There are seven key aspects of fellowship that we share as believers with all of God’s people.
Fellow-disciples, John 11. 16. We are fellow-learners and pupils together of Christ.
Fellow-soldiers,Phil. 2. 25. We are fellow-associates in conflict and warfare for Christ. This campaign is spiritual, not physical, and we’re on the winning side!
Fellow-servants, Col. 1. 7. We are fellow-slaves to the same master and we obey His commandments.
Fellow-prisoners, Rom. 16. 7. Not many of us share the same prison for the name of Christ, but we may be called to experience suffering together for Him.
Fellow-workers/labourers/helpers, Phil. 4. 3. We work and labour together for the same cause.
Fellow-citizens, Eph. 2. 19. We belong to the same heavenly community and our home is in heaven.
Fellow-heirs, Eph. 3. 6; Rom. 8.17. We share the same blessings and privileges.
Fellowship with Local Believers.
You will undoubtedly have heard of the phrase ‘coming into fellowship’. It is often used but probably doesn’t convey any truth particularly well! Acts chapter 2 verse 41 states, ‘They that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls’. Note God’s divine order:salvation (‘gladly received his word’), baptism (‘were baptized’) then added to the local company of Christians (‘were added unto them’). Imagine you are someone who has just trusted Christ. As a young believer, you now share something in common with other believers; you have the same Lord and Saviour! You may not though, as yet, have been added to (become a member of) a local company of Christians (what is often called ‘coming into fellowship’). This involves much more than just sharing in common the same Lord and Saviour. It involves commitment, responsibility and participation.
Commitment (Acts 2. 42; 4.23):
By joining myself to a company of local believers I am declaring that this will be my spiritual home and I will make every effort to be at the assembly gatherings. I am now part of this local ‘body’ of believers (1 Cor. 12. 27) and as such ‘little me’ is indispensable (1 Cor. 12. 21-22)! I am not now open to other offers but my diary should be arranged around the assembly gatherings. Continuance (Acts 2. 42): in Jerusalem the local believers continued ‘stedfastly’ (attentively/devotedly) in Bible teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers. Not only does this verse again emphasize commitment, but suggests that there is no biblical foundation for wandering from church to church. I should stick at it even when the going is tough. Of course, there were no other churches around in Jerusalem at this time and no cars to drive to another assembly when things got hard.
Conduct (Ps. 93. 5; 1 Tim. 3. 15;1 Cor. 3. 16-17):
The local assembly is God’s dwelling place.Scripture calls it the ‘House of God’ and the ‘Temple of God’. The believers will therefore reflect the character of its owner and occupier and be marked by holiness. The Tabernacle was God’s dwelling place and made according to God’s pattern. As such, Moses had no right to tamper with God’s direction concerning its construction and order. Likewise, the assembly belongs to God. We use the Bible as our guidebook to its order, and we have no right to meddle with it or complain about it!
Contribution (Rom. 15. 26; 1Cor. 16. 1-2):
A freewill offering is often taken on the first day of the week so believers can contribute towards the running costs of the assembly. There are electricity and gas bills to pay as well a sprinting costs, etc. Not only should I contribute what I am able to financially, but I should be willing to contribute my time, effort, intellect and energy to every aspect of the work. Care (John 13. 35; Col. 1. 4): the local assembly is a wonderfully warm place to be. There will be a care and compassion between the saints which acts as a marvellous witness to the community.
Compliance (1 Pet. 5. 1-3):
There is a distinct beauty about the order of a local assembly. It will be guarded by men the Holy Spirit has chosen (Acts 20. 28) called elders (also called overseers and shepherds when describing different aspects of their work). These men are guides and examples to the assembly; they are not there to rule, dominate or dictate. They are responsible to the Lord for any decisions they might make on behalf of the assembly. Every believer should be willing to humbly submit to their godly direction.
Space does not allow us to consider some other important aspects of fellowship. For example, the Lord Jesus gives a clear procedure to follow when arguments arise between believers and fellowship is temporarily broken (Matt. 18. 15-17). It is also a particularly illuminating study to consider the phrase ‘one another’ throughout the New Testament epistles. The word often indicates the key privileges and the responsibilities of fellowship with each other.
Idea for Study Do you consider the following verses to be a privilege or responsibility of fellowship, or both? John.13. 34; Rom. 12. 10; 14. 13,19; 15. 14; 1 Cor. 12. 25; Gal. 5.13; Eph. 4. 2, 32; 5. 21; Heb. 3. 13; Jas. 5. 16; 1 Pet. 4. 9; 1 John 4. 7.