If I were to ask you to define “fellowship,” many of you would describe events that take place in your fellowship hall, or in your auxiliaries, circles, or leagues. Your fellowship may include shaking hands during a worship service, or drinking some coffee with friends in a classroom. More than likely, your definition of fellowship involves some type of food shared among friends. But what if I told you, this is not biblical fellowship?
In the New Testament, fellowship is our attempt to define the Greek word Koinonia (pronounced something like Coin-on-Knee-uh). Koinonia describes having a share in something, or to share with someone something significant. We could describe it as participating in something meaningful with others who also find it meaningful.
Scripturally speaking, we find koinonia in passages like 1 Corinthians 10:16, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the (communion/participation/fellowship) of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the (communion/participation/fellowship) of the body of Christ?” When we take the bread and cup of communion, we are participating/fellowshipping in the remembrance of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Together, with bread and cup, we share in the story, faith, and salvation that we all received from our victorious Christ Jesus.
Paul’s words to the Ephesians in the text above are a perfect example of Christian Koinonia. Though Paul was absent from those Christian brothers and sisters, he encouraged and edified their faith by praying specifically for endurance, their growth, and to receive more spiritual wisdom from God. Paul desired for believers to share spiritual unity with each other, and together they will share unity with God. My favorite example of Christian koinonia is implied in 1 John 1:3. “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have (communion/participation/fellowship) with us: and truly our (communion/participation/fellowship) is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” In other words, when we share in the experience of Jesus Christ, we also share in the fellowship with God.
So then, what does this mean for you? True Christian fellowship may include donuts and coffee, but it must include a shared relationship with Christ, and an encouragement to each other to grow in faith in Jesus Christ. However, we must take this idea deeper. It is not just this relationship, but it is a shared responsibility to help other believers persevere to the end. It is to love one another to keep him or her from making a shipwreck of faith. It is to remind him or her that sin is a lie, and the wages of sin is eternal sorrow and death. It means to care enough to keep another believer from being lured away by sinful amusements.
Your Christian koinonia may be as simple as encouraging a brother to come to worship next week. It may be as simple as a card of encouragement to a sister who is struggling. Nonetheless, koinonia is at its best when we refuse to let someone walk away from the Church. Let your words give light to one who is in darkness. Let your encouragement help another one to tie a knot in the end of the rope and hold on for another day.
Koinonia, though a New Testament word, is found throughout the Old Testament. At the battle of Rephidim, as long as Moses held up his hands, Israel prevailed, but when he let down his hands Amalek prevailed. When Moses’ arms grew weary, Aaron and Hur held up his hands until the sun went down, and the enemy was defeated. You can share koinonia with your pastor, leadership, and teachers when you will encourage them and hold them in prayer.
My favorite example of koinonia is from 1 Samuel 23:16. David was at war with the Philistines. After several intense battles, King Saul sought to engage David at Keilah and destroy him and his army. When David learned of Saul’s plans, he and his army escaped into the wilderness of Ziph to defend themselves against Saul. David was physically, mentally, and spiritual tired, but Jonathan went to see David. “And Jonathan, Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God” (1 Samuel 23:16).
Koinonia is a profound and deep encouragement to a believer to persevere in good work and spiritual growth. When a leader or teacher calls a worshiper or student who has been absent for a few Sundays, it is a good thing. But when several believers call on that one and encourages one to rejoin the group, this is real koinonia.