Bruce Collins, Evangelist

The personal website of Bruce Collins

What is Christian Fellowship?

 

 

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42 NKJV)

 

In our congregation we have a gathering to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and then we break for a time of "fellowship".  I often hear that we are going to have "fellowship" at a social function.  Now I am all for these activities, but as I have been studying the Biblical concept of fellowship, I think we are selling the concept short. Since I believe that the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers are four fundamental pillars found in every new testament gathering that identifies as a local church, I have often wondered if coffee and donuts is one of those pillars.

 

Definition

Fellowship is defined as a friendly association, mutual sharing, acting as though we are one in Christ, partnership, agreement, and/or communion.  It is certainly should be experienced in all of the functions of the church but the word seems to be used in a different way in Acts 2:42.  Some have suggested that the verse should be translated and they continued steadfastly in THE fellowship even though the definite article is implied and is not actually included.  I understand that in the Greek language it is possible for a passage that might be translated with the indefinite article to be translated with the definite article because it is implied (that is, it makes sense).   So in this case “a fellowship” could be translated “the fellowship”.  I think that makes sense in this case.  When the early Christians were saved and identified with the Lord in baptism they became a known group.  They were of “this way.”  They were called the sect of the Nazarenes.  They were called Christians.  But they were a distinct people and those who were saved did not try to hide their associations.  They continued steadfastly in the fellowship.  They were no longer a part of the world, they were a part of this new thing called the church and they did everything that they could to identify with and be faithful to that group.  Some have said fellowship is really people in a ship.  They have to work together to make the ship go.  In the ship is safety.  Outside of the ship is a watery grave.

 

Ways the Word is used in the New Testament

As I have looked at the usage of this word in the new testament, eating together is implied in some cases but the primary focus is on being in agreement, working together, worshiping together, and praying together.  In Philippians 1:5, the word describes a financial gift given to Paul.  In 2Corinthians 6:14, we are to separate ourselves from unbelievers because light and darkness cannot have fellowship or communion, that is, they can’t coexist.  Sometimes the word is used to explain the support given to the work of the Lord in terms of prayer and perhaps in a commendation to those who might not know the workers.  Usually the implication is that those who give others “the right and of fellowship” are in total agreement with the work that they are doing.  (See Galatians 2:9).

 

We tend to limit our concept of fellowship to social interactions that usually involve a meal but that is not the primary way we express our fellowship.  We express it by being in agreement and by being loyal to the church that God is building in the broad sense and by supporting the local church that we are called to support in our local community.  That means that when we can we support all the meetings of the church and all of the work of the church. 

 

Are we “In Fellowship?”

The early church lived in a communal way where every member of the church had their practical needs met.  Some have pointed out that Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5 proved that communal living didn’t work.  But all it proved is that Ananias and Saphira were hypocrites.  They were not under obligation to sell land and give it all to the church as Barnabas had done.  But the fact that people took care of each other, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the people who were continuing steadfastly in fellowship were really in fellowship.  I don’t suppose that there will ever be a time when Christians again continue steadfastly in fellowship the way the early church did. 

 

God never intended for Christians to survive apart from Christian fellowship.  We are sheep, not lone wolves. However, we need to ask ourselves, are we attending church or are we continuing steadfastly in the fellowship of our local congregations?

 

Bruce Collins

 

Meditation for the week of September 16, 2018

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