John Wimber writes on living out the biblical concept of fellowship.
The Greek word commonly translated “fellowship” (koinonia – see Acts 4. 42 and 1 John 1. 3) has no exact English equivalent. Koinonia implies more than just socializing at church parties or chatting on the church’s front lawn after Sunday service. The word means “holding our lives in common.” First-century Christians demonstrated that meaning through spiritual, social, and material generosity toward one another. I will use fellowship in this article to mean a “common sharing of the grace and of the blessings of God,” a definition that comes close to the biblical idea of koinonia.
The biblical concept of fellowship is important to understand and live out. In the early church there was a relationship between the warmth of heart toward God and generosity toward each other. So close were these relationships the early Christians did not see themselves as isolated individuals but as “members one of another,” in “communities” where individuals grew to spiritual maturity and cooperated with each other in advancing God’s kingdom. Within these communities they gained strength, support, and protection from the corroding influences of the world. Thus they were well prepared to face anything the devil might throw at them when they went out into the world.
This quality of relationship contrasts sharply with the faith of many modern Christians, who narrow their relationship with God to individualistic concerns like repentance and conversion, prayer and Scripture study, personal righteousness and evangelism. But God has called us to grow to maturity in the body of Christ. We are called to “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,” growing up “in every way into him who is the head, into God, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love” (Eph 4. 13, 15-16).
It begins with a relationship with Christ
Fellowship begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ. In John 14, 6 – 15, Jesus says to the apostles, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, but through me.” Most Christians, even baby Christians, are familiar with this passage of Scripture. In many instances this passage led them to put their faith in Christ! “If you want to know the Father,” Jesus says, “you must know me.”
But few Christians realise this truth also informs us about the basis for our relationship with brothers and sisters. Jesus’ words confused Philip. “Lord,” Philip asks, “show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answers, “Don’t you know me, Philip? . . . Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
This is one of the most profound and important teachings in Scripture. Jesus and the Father are one and always have been one. Theologians would say they are one in nature, though they are two distinct persons. Jesus said only words that the Father told him to say, he did only deeds the Father told him to do, he performed only works that the Father performed.
The Father was so pleased with him. Even before Jesus began his public ministry, at his baptism, he split the heavens and spoke saying, “This is my kid, and I really like him. I really approve of him. I am pleased with him.”
This is one of the most profound and important teachings in Scripture
And Jesus has invited us into this quality of relationship with the Father. So the basis for knowing and experiencing fellowship with brothers and sisters is entering a relationship with the Father through the Son. Fellowship with brothers and sisters for early Christians was a result and an expression of their fellowship with God in Christ and in the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor 1. 9; Phil 2. 1; 1 John 1.3).
Commitment to Christ is commitment to Christ’s body. Years ago as a new Christian, I thought my personal pilgrimage with God was the essence of Christianity. I used to evaluate my maturity repeatedly. “Am I growing, Lord?” I remember when I was memorizing Scripture, eventually memorizing about a thousand verses. “Boy,” I thought, “I must really be mature. I must really be growing. Look at all these verses I have memorised.” That was how the Bible memory course motivated me: You want to grow in Christ? Memorise his word. But in fact I was growing little. I was still biting my wife’s head off, yelling at my kids, and damaging my relationships in a thousand ways. I had memorized many verses, but few were worked out in my life.