the weblog of Alan Knox

Κοινωνία 3

Posted by on Aug 3, 2006 in fellowship | Comments Off

In two previous posts (Part 1 and Part 2) I have discussed the Greek term κοινωνία (koinōnia – often translated “fellowship”) and its application for the church, especially in Acts 2:42. I suggested that the term κοινωνία represents a common bond/sharing among believers that is created by God through the Holy Spirit. As such, κοινωνία cannot be created through various activities, such as fellowship meals, prayer meetings, etc. Instead, such activities are the natural (read, supernatural) results of believers who already possess κοινωνία.

In his first epistle, John reminds us that our κοινωνία with one another is based on our κοινωνία with God: “… so that you too may have fellowship (κοινωνία) with us; and indeed our fellowship (κοινωνία) is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3 ESV). So, those who have κοινωνία with the Father and the Son through the Spirit should also have κοινωνία with one another.

In The Church Unfinished (New York: Paulist Press, 2004, p.83), Bernard P. Prusak discusses the κοινωνία (which he calls communion) in the church in Jerusalem in Acts 2:42-47:

That communion was understood primarily to be a participatory unity in which all the disciples of the risen Jesus mutually shared a relationship with God, given gratis in and through Jesus. The mutual reception of God’s gift of self in turn generated a spirit of community and generous sharing among the recipients themselves. Christians had a communion among themselves that flowed from their mutual communion with God.

What does it mean, then, that the believers in the church in Jerusalem “devoted themselves… to κοινωνία” (Acts 2:42 ESV)? If κοινωνία is created by God in the believers who make up the church, why did they have to devote themselves to it?

As we answer this question, consider the remainder of Acts 2:42. Luke also states that the believers also devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the breaking of bread, and prayers. (Note: I understand that there is much discussion concerning this list. Specifically, are there two, three, or four items listed. I personally believe there are four separate items. However, the four are interrelated; they are not completely separate items.)

What does “devoted” mean in this verses? In Acts 2:42, “devoted” translates the Greek verb προσκαρτερέω (proskartereō). According to BDAG, in this context this verb means “hold fast to, continue in, persevere in.” In other words, the believers “held fast to, continued in, or persevered in” the κοινωνία that God had already created in them.

The natural inclination of mankind is toward selfishness or self-centeredness. The supernatural inclination of a regenerated person is toward God and others (κοινωνία). The believers in the church in Jerusalem were persevering in this supernatural inclination while denying the natural inclination. They were not creating κοινωνία through various activities; instead they were deliberately living out the supernatural κοινωνία that God had created within and among them.

What are the implications of those for a person who does not live according to this God-given κοινωνία? As I see it, there are two possibilities: 1) The person is not regenerate; God has ever created κοινωνία within him or her. 2) The person is quenching the work of the Spirit in his or her life.

Next, I want to discuss several ways that κοινωνία can be demonstrated today.