How’s your Bible reading going? Obviously, you can read through the Bible and several people have commented on doing that gets them to read some things they might otherwise miss. You can also read favorite books or just follow a particular word or topic. That’s where a topical study Bible is helpful and that leads us to one further lesson on…
Worship and Fellowship
A survey some years ago asked Christians what the word fellowship meant to them. The answer most often given involved eating together. Yes, our potlucks and even ice cream suppers are filled with fellowship. But that is hardly the meaning that God uses. So let’s do a bit of study and appreciate God’s meaning for this important aspect of our worship.
The Old Testament uses several words that end up being translated from time to time as fellowship. A couple of examples will give us a good starting place.
First, one of the offerings to be made to God was what we often term as the peace offering. You can check back to our lesson on peace a few weeks ago. But you should remember that this offering was usually coupled with other offerings, especially the sin offering (cf. Numbers 6:14).
In short, the peace or fellowship offering was just that. The one making the offering (and their family) would share a meal of it, with part going to God, part to the priest, and part to the offeror. It carried the idea (especially in terms of the sin offering) of peace and fellowship restored to the sinner, their family, their God, and those who serve the Lord (thus the whole nation of God’s people).
That’s a hugely important fellowship and we can see the lessons in that that ties into the Lord’s Supper we share together. It is the uniting of Christ, God’s people, and us personally that makes it so precious.
Second, I really appreciate the way the New King James Version translates Psalm 94:20: Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You? The Hebrew word here, chavar, is the word for joining associates to form a community. It is often translated as allied in the sense of two nations or other groups working together.
The Psalmist in Psalm 94 is calling on God to judge the unrighteous, the wicked who gloat over the trials of God’s faithful ones. In verse 20 he is questioning if there is to be any fellowship or alliance between God and evil. The obvious answer is, NO (cf. verse 23)!
The concept here is exactly what Paul is saying in Ephesians 5:11: And have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds of darkness but instead expose them (literal translation).
That quickly brings us to the New Testament and its word for fellowship, koinōnia. The word in Ephesians 5:11 is the negative form, thus do not participate in/with in many translations.
Much like the meanings and words of the Hebrew, koinonia is the term for fellowship. It carries the meanings of fellowship, association or partnership (also a military alliance); from the verb to share. Other forms of the word include the concept of: communicate, distribute, partake, communion, contribution, distribution, companion.
A few examples will help us see this concept: Romans 15:26 says, For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Contribution here in the NASB is actually koinōnia, fellowship. When we give financially to help other Christians, that is fellowship with them.
In 1 Corinthians 1:9 Paul says,God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We are called by God to have that partnership, alliance with Jesus. Paul then extends that relationship to the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10:16: Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Those words translated sharing are both the word for fellowship.
In the Lord’s Supper, we reenact the treaty, we celebrate the unity of being one in Christ! Paul also challenges the Corinthians to NOT have fellowship with anyone other than Christians: Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14) Think about that. If your closest friends and associates are not Christians then you are having fellowship with the wrong people, the wrong God.
Ouch! That’s kind of pointed, isn’t it? How much does what God says really matter to us? The positive side of that comes in Philippians. If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion (Philippians 2:1). Paul then goes on to cite love and unity in Christ as our priorities. That’s God’s kind of fellowship!
Paul as he prays for and challenges Philemon to do what is right: And I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake (Philemon 1:6). Fellowship with fellow Christians and with God depends on us knowing God’s word and will. Interesting how that relates to the importance of reading and studying the Bible as a part of daily life!
As the first century draws to a close and with it, the writing of the New Testament, John, too, reminds us of fellowship, its meaning, and importance:
What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3) If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 John 1:6).
But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7)
Did you catch that last one? If we are really Christians, if we are doing what is right before God then we have fellowship. John, of course, will go on to emphasize that point. If you are not fellowshipping God’s people, Christ’s church, His body, then you are living in sin. So, in the end, fellowship with the right ones is part of the definition of the Christian life. And Christ-like living is defined as our true worship. Are you in fellowship with God and His people?
—Lester P. Bagley