I’m hoping that this blog becomes a series on the topic of ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î± (koinÅnia). I’ve never written a series of blogs before, so this will be an experiment.
Acts 2:42 states that the early believers in Jerusalem “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship” (ESV). In this verse, “fellowship” translates the Greek noun ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î±. In various passages of Scripture, this word is also translated as “association, communion, close relationship, generosity, contribution, partnership, sharing” (BDAG). My questions in this series of articles include:
- What is ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î±?
- What is the source of ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î±?
- How does the church ‘devote themselves’ to it?
The noun ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î± is never used in the Gospels, and Acts 2:42 contains the only use of the word in Acts. However, the author balances ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î± in Acts 2:42 by using the noun ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½ÏŒÏ‚ in 2:44. Luke uses ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½ÏŒÏ‚ four other times, but only one (4:32) carries the same meaning as in 2:44. In these two instances, ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½ÏŒÏ‚ means “being of mutual interest or shared collectively.”
Witherington comments on Luke’s use of ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î± in 2:42 in The Acts of the Apostles – A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998, p.160):
The term itself means a participation or sharing in common of something with someone else, in this case eating and praying. Thus, fellowship is not a very helpful translation, for fellowship is the result of ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î±, of sharing in common; it is not the ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î± itself. ÎšÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î± is an activity which can result in fellowship of some sort, and it can entail things like sharing not just spiritual activities such as prayer but also physical food or other goods in common (v. 45, cf. 4:32-37).
If Witherington is correct, then ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î± is not fellowship. Instead, fellowship is the product of having ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î±. According to Acts 2:42-47, the believers had all things in common and shared with others. They prayed and shared meals together. However, this did not produce ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î±. Instead, ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î± resulted in these activities. These activities flowed naturally from their devotion to (persistence in) ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î±.
This is important for the church today. Our fellowship with one another cannot be manufactured artificially through planned meals or activities. Instead, our fellowship/sharing/communion with one another will flow naturally as we devote ourselves to ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¯Î±.