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
A. Sharing one's goods:
B. Participation in a common life of faith:
- "To make a certain contribution for poor saints"
- "Fellowship ('joint participation':
Diag) of the ministering to saints" (2Co
- "They glorify God... for your liberal
distribution unto them" (2Co 9:13).
- "But to do
good and to communicate forget not" (Heb
C. Association with Christ and his Father:
- "They continued in the apostles' doctrine and
fellowship, and breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Act 2:42). (This shows that,
though "fellowship" may include joint participation in the emblems of Christ's
death, it is not confined to that one
- "The right hand of fellowship" (Gal
2:9). (A partnership of preaching the
- "For your fellowship in the gospel... (I
thank God)..." (Phi 1:5).
- "Fellowship of the
Spirit" (Phi 2:1).
- "For your fellowship is with
the Father and his Son... if we walk in the light... we have fellowship one with
another" (1Jo 1:3,7).
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
- "By whom (God) ye were called unto fellowship of
his Son" (1Co 1:9).
- "The cup... communion of the
blood of Christ; the bread... communion of the body of Christ" (1Co
- "What communion hath light with
darkness?" (2Co 6:14).
- "The communion of the Holy
Spirit be with you" (2Co 13:14).
- "The fellowship
of the mystery" (Eph 3:9). (The shared effort in preaching to the
- "Fellowship of his sufferings" (Phi
- "Our fellowship is with the Father and his
Son... If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie..."
A. Giving to those in need:
B. The relationship between believers:
- "Distributing to the necessity of the saints"
- "If the Gentiles have been partakers
of their spiritual things... (they should) minister in carnal things" (Rom
- "Let him that is taught in the word
communicate unto him that teacheth" (Gal
- "No church communicated with me as
concerning giving and receiving, but ye only" (Phil
C. Association with our Lord:
D. Association with forbidden deeds and doctrines:
- "The children are partakers of flesh and
blood...(and) he (Jesus) also..." (Heb
- "Rejoice... inasmuch as ye are partakers
of Christ's sufferings" (1Pe 4:13).
A summary of the use of these two words in the NT:
- "Neither be partakers of other men's sins" (1Ti
- "For he that biddeth him God speed is
partaker of his evil deeds" (2Jo 1:11).
communion hath light with darkness?" (2Co 6:14). (This word is "koinonia" again,
as above, but the implication is as the last two
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
- 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!
- 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!
"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