The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: K

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"Koinonia" (fellowship)

The word "koinonia" occurs about twenty times in the NT. It can refer to (a) sharing one's goods or wealth with those in need, and may then be translated "contribution", or "distribution", or "to communicate"; (b) participation in a common life of faith, which would include the Breaking of Bread; (c) association with the Lord Jesus Christ (which would also include the Breaking of Bread) and with his Father (CMPA, "Fellowship: Its Spirit and Practice", Xd 109:13).

Following is a summary of the passages where koinonia occurs:

A. Sharing one's goods:

B. Participation in a common life of faith:

C. Association with Christ and his Father:

There is a related verb, "koinoneo", which is used in similar ways: (a) of giving to those in need, (b) of the relationship between fellow-believers, and (c) of association with our Lord; though we have also here a negative use: (d) of having association with forbidden deeds or doctrines, against which the saints are warned. The relevant passages are as follows:

A. Giving to those in need:

B. The relationship between believers:

C. Association with our Lord:

D. Association with forbidden deeds and doctrines:

A summary of the use of these two words in the NT:

  1. They are used in the positive sense, to be shared, 25 times; and in the negative sense, to be withheld, only 3 times -- which should certainly give us a hint as to which is most important!
  2. Fellowship is with the Father and Son 10 times; and with one another only 6 times. (Even here, however, we may have fellowship with one another only because we have been called together out of the world by God.) Fellowship is His to bestow, not ours. We share "fellowship" with our brethren, certainly -- but we share what we have each received as a gift, and not what we have each earned!
Scriptural fellowship -- as we have seen -- is joy: for us, the joy of mortal men and women in sharing common knowledge and purpose with the Eternal Father and with His Son, to whom He has committed all power and authority:

"Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full" (1Jo 1:3,4).

"As Paul writes to the Corinthians, we have been called unto the fellowship of Jesus Christ our Lord. In him we have a friend who never fails, a companion who never tires, who fills our moments of prayer and meditation with strength and comfort and hope, who answers our spiritual seeking with fresh insight, new vision, and deepening peace. For as we, with the same insatiable thirst as the psalmist, reach out for God, in sky and sea and earth, and long for the deep inner peace, which is His gift, He meets our uplifted eyes and upraised spirits. For, 'In thy light shall we see light', and share it in the living fellowship of His family" (S Harris, "A True Fellowship", Xd 106:309).
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