A Theology of Fellowship- Part 2


Biblical Basis of Fellowship

1. The word “fellowship” is koinonia, association for the purpose of mutual involvement; in the NT it routinely carries the idea of religious involvement.

2. It is translated as “close association involving mutual interests and sharing, association, communion, fellowship, close relationship.”

3. The word can be used to refer to a sign of fellowship or a proof of brotherly unity, such as a gift or contribution.

4. The concept can also include the activities that accompany the mutual interests.

5. The definition of fellowship is important. It is not “fellowship” as we commonly use it – a cup of coffee and piece of pie after the Sunday evening service; it is a partnership in ministry.

1 Corinthians 10:1–4 (ESV)
1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
Baptized into Moses = a spiritual identification as the people of Yahweh
Eating the same spiritual food and drinking the same spiritual drink = a spiritual fellowship together as one people- the people of God.
1 Corinthians 10:5–8 ESV
5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.
1 Corinthians 10:9–11 ESV
9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
If, as an identified people of God who fellowship with God, you participate in known willful sin God will judge you. And it is necessary for the remainder of the people of God to purge the known sin from their midst.
Happened as an example?
23,000 fell in one day (Sin of Baalam- Numbers 25. Moses was instructed to kill every male leader who had committed sexual immorality and thus the anger of the Lord was turned away from the rest of the people- what was the example?)
Fiery serpents- Numbers 21- the people grumbled against God so God sent poisonous serpents and many of the people died. What did that cause the rest of the people to do? Repent, and look upon the bronze serpent and be healed.
These illustrations are written for what purpose for us? Our instruction. There is a lesson that we must learn from all this.
Lesson #1
1 Corinthians 10:12–13 ESV
12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Lesson #2
1 Corinthians 10:14–16 ESV
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
The cup of blessing is referring to what?
The bread that we break is referring to what?
When we partake in the Lord’s supper there is a spiritual participation with the blood of Christ. It is not that partaking of the Lord’s supper saves us, but our partaking identifies us as one who shares in the benefits of Christ’s death.
2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink.
This identified the people of Isreal as ones who shared in the benefits of the people of God. Thus partaking in the Lord’s supper is a spiritual participation / fellowship / identification with Christ. We are in union with Christ and thus we share in the benefits of His death.
1 Corinthians 10:17 ESV
17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
And because there is one bread- which is a picture of Christ- when we partake of the Lord’s supper together we identify with each other as one body. Fellowship with each other carries with it the idea of a spiritual partnership or a spiritual association. As I identify with Christ so I also identify with those in my church. Fellowship means spiritual partnership.
1 Corinthians 10:18 ESV
18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?
To knowingly eat food that has been clearly identified for a specific purpose, in this case worshiping God by means of the OT altar, makes one a willing participant of the offering from which it was taken. If I knowingly eat the food taken from the OT altar I spiritually participate in that form of worship.
If I knowingly eat the Lord’s supper I spiritually participate or fellowship in that form of worship.
And If I knowingly eat food offered to demons I spiritually participate or fellowship in that form of worship.
1 Corinthians 10:19–20 ESV
19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.
1 Corinthians 10:21–22 ESV
21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
Fellowship then becomes a spiritual partnership. And the question becomes this, “With whom or what can I legitimately enter into a spiritual partnership?”
1 Corinthians 10:23–25 ESV
23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.
Two different scenarios- v. 20-21 talking about a pagan worship service where meat is offered to idols- this is clearly a participation with demons and is never permissible.
v. 24-26 talking about buying food in a market or eating an the home of an unbeliever- no clear fellowship / participation in this instance.
1 Corinthians 10:26 ESV
26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”
The issue is not the food itself- the issue is participation or fellowship
1 Corinthians 10:27–28 ESV
27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—
1 Corinthians 10:29–30 ESV
29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
1 Corinthians 10:31–33 ESV
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
The question of “fellowship” is really, “With whom or what can I legitimately enter into a spiritual partnership?”
Acts 2:42 ESV
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
They devoted themselves to what four things in the early NT church? All four elements were part of the corporate worship of the NT church.
1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
As believers we are called by the Father into fellowship with the Son. Strong spiritual participation of the believer with Christ- we are in spiritual union with Christ- this forms the basis of all our hope.
Romans 15:26 ESV
26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.
2 Corinthians 8:4 ESV
4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—
2 Corinthians 9:13 ESV
13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,
1. This was not merely a charitable gift.
2. The use of koinonia means that it was an “outward expression of the deep love that binds Christian believers in one body, the church.”
3. “koinoni,a seems to have become a technical term in the early church for charitable financial relief within congregations (Acts 6:1) and between them (Acts 11:29; 12:25; Rom. 15:31).”
4. The Greeks wanted to “participate” in the contribution.
Philippians 1:5 ESV
5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
In what ways can believers partner or participate together in the gospel?
Philippians 2:1 ESV
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,
2 Corinthians 13:14 ESV
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
1. This may reflect the source of the fellowship (Spirit is in the genitive)
2. Or it may reflect the thing in which we are participating.
3. 2 Cor 13:14 speaks of three elements:
a) First is the grace which comes to us from Jesus Christ.
b) Second is the love which God demonstrates in saving us.
c) Finally, there is the fellowship of the Spirit.
(1) Perhaps “Spirit” is a “plenary” genitive; it is used in both an objective and a subjective sense. The fellowship is produced by the Spirit and is found in the Spirit.
(2) The Spirit creates the commonality which we find in the church.
(3) The fellowship or participation is in the Spirit and in his work in our lives.
(4) Paul is praying that the Corinthians would deepen their participation in the Spirit and that the Spirit would expand the unity which he gives to the community.
Galatians 2:9 ESV
9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.
1. This was not just a gentlemen’s agreement over who would do business where.
2. This refers to the common life of the community, the working together for a common good.
3. This indicates the partnering of Jerusalem with the Gentile ministry of Paul, the approval of their ministry.
Philippians 3:10 ESV
10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
In almost every case, we see “fellowship” to be a union with spiritual underpinnings or spiritual purposes. Thus, when I speak of a biblical theology of “fellowship,” I mean a partnering of individuals or churches or associations or parachurch ministries or any other group for the purpose of promoting biblical truth, based on a common spiritual foundation.
John 17:11 ESV
11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
John 17:21 ESV
21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
John 17:22–23 ESV
22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Romans 12:4–5 ESV
4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
1 Corinthians 12:12–13 ESV
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Ephesians 4:4–6 ESV
4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
The question of “fellowship” is really, “With whom or what can I legitimately enter into a spiritual partnership?”
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