the weblog of Alan Knox

There is something fundamental about fellowship…

Posted by on Mar 19, 2007 in community, discipleship, discipline, fellowship, love | 15 comments

Fellowship… There is something about fellowship that makes it fundamental to the church. When Jesus was asked to name the greatest commandment, he answered:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)

There are at least two amazing things about this passage. First, Jesus did not stop with the commandment to “Love the Lord your God”. It would seem that commandment would be enough. Instead, he said there is a second command that is like it. Similarly, Jesus said that the Law and the Prophets depend on both of these commandments. Again, the Law and Prophets do not just depend on “Love the Lord your God”. The Law and the Prophets also depend on the commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself”.

There seems to be a fundamental connection between our relationship with God and our relationship with other people. John said something similar in his first letter:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 ESV)

This seems very simple. If we love God, we will love others. If we do not love others, that demonstrates that we do not love God. The two are fundamentally connected.

In the prologue to his first letter, John also discussed our relationship with God in terms of our relationship with one another:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, 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 1:1-3 ESV)

When we have fellowship (κοινωνίαkoinonia) with one another, we are demonstrating our fellowship with God. Verse 3 could even be translated as follows: “… that you too may have fellowship with us, and that fellowship of ours is truly with the Father and with his son Jesus Christ.”

We cannot separate our love for God from our love for other people. We cannot separate our fellowship with God from our fellowship with other believers. Fellowship is fundamental in the life of a believer and in the inter-connected lives of a group of believers.

But, just as we cannot create love for God and others, we cannot create fellowship either. Instead, the Spirit creates a bond between His adopted children that humans cannot create on their own. The fellowship (“sharing”) that we have in common is the presence of the Holy Spirit. And, this fellowship exists between all believers. Certainly relationships can be deep or shallow, intimate or surface-level, but fellowship between believers is created by the Spirit, not by our interaction with one another. Relationships that are based on this Spirit-created fellowship should be nurtured, strengthened, encouraged, and sought through continued interaction. But, those relationships must be built fundamentally on Spirit-created fellowship.

What does it mean for fellowship to be fundamental to believers and the church? Here are two examples:

Discipleship depends on fellowship…
When we recognize that discipleship is more than simply teaching facts to someone, then the fundamental role of fellowship becomes clear. Discipleship requires sharing life together. Without fellowship, discipleship is reduced to the transfer of information, which is not true discipleship at all.

Discipline depends on fellowship…
When a brother or sister is living in unrepentant sin, we are taught to disassociate with that brother or sister. In modern times this has been reduced to preventing attendance at certain activities. However, if there is true fellowship involved, then discipline requires the rupture of vibrant relationships: like divorce in a family, back when divorce was not an accepted option.

Fellowship… There is something about fellowship that makes it fundamental to the church. I want to learn more about fellowship. Perhaps others could share what they’ve learned about Spirit-enabled, Spirit-created, Spirit-driven fellowship…


15 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 3-19-2007

    Discipline and Discipleship depend (hinge) on fellowsip – ooo, good ones. I won’t go into detail, but that really hits home.

  2. 3-19-2007

    Hi Alan,
    It sometimes seems to me that the Church equates fellowship only with “events”…usually centering around food. That’s partly not off-the-mark, when you look at the fellowship in the early Church. They participated in communal meals (including the Lord’s Supper, as we’ve discussed in the past), but not without some conflicts. Even then, there were some who hogged all the lasagna and pocketed the chocolate eclairs when they “ate & ran”. That does not sound like fellowship to me. Sounds more like “self-ship”.
    Real Christian fellowship isn’t just sitting around the same casserole–it’s partaking in the same Spirit. That Spirit is sitting in the chair next to me, and in the chair next to that one. It isn’t just breaking bread, it’s cementing a bond, and we can’t do that in one hour on Sunday.
    Fellowship is intentional, not accidental. It means taking time out of my life to call the gal who sits in the chair next to me on Sunday and to see what God is doing in her life on Monday or Wednesday. It means being willing to share my failures as well as successes with her. It means loving her, even if she isn’t especially lovable. And that can happen only on a spirit to spirit level.
    We can’t expect real fellowship to flourish when it is based only on shared interests like sports or crafts or events. Those may all facilitate conversation, and they may build superficial relationships, but they don’t join our hearts. They don’t give us the freedom to be vulnerable and honest with each other. Only the Spirit of the God who has accepted me can enable me to accept another broken sinner, whether or not he plays basketball or has never read a book or or picks his nose or is hyperactive or talks too much, as I do!.
    If the Holy Spirit has planted us in the same Body, He must intend for us to spend time together (eating, too) and work together. We can’t do that if we just “eat & run”.
    Kat

  3. 3-19-2007

    Hi Alan,
    It sometimes seems to me that the Church equates fellowship only with “events”…usually centering around food. That’s partly not off-the-mark, when you look at the fellowship in the early Church. They participated in communal meals (including the Lord’s Supper, as we’ve discussed in the past), but not without some conflicts. Even then, there were some who hogged all the lasagna and pocketed the chocolate eclairs when they “ate & ran”. That does not sound like fellowship to me. Sounds more like “self-ship”.
    Real Christian fellowship isn’t just sitting around the same casserole–it’s partaking in the same Spirit. That Spirit is sitting in the chair next to me, and in the chair next to that one. It isn’t just breaking bread, it’s cementing a bond, and we can’t do that in one hour on Sunday.
    Fellowship is intentional, not accidental. It means taking time out of my life to call the gal who sits in the chair next to me on Sunday and to see what God is doing in her life on Monday or Wednesday. It means being willing to share my failures as well as successes with her. It means loving her, even if she isn’t especially lovable. And that can happen only on a spirit to spirit level.
    We can’t expect real fellowship to flourish when it is based only on shared interests like sports or crafts or events. Those may all facilitate conversation, and they may build superficial relationships, but they don’t join our hearts. They don’t give us the freedom to be vulnerable and honest with each other. Only the Spirit of the God who has accepted me can enable me to accept another broken sinner, whether or not he plays basketball or has never read a book or or picks his nose or is hyperactive or talks too much, as I do!.
    If the Holy Spirit has planted us in the same Body, He must intend for us to spend time together (eating, too) and work together. We can’t do that if we just “eat & run”.
    Kat

  4. 3-19-2007

    Hi Alan,
    It sometimes seems to me that the Church equates fellowship only with “events”…usually centering around food. That’s partly not off-the-mark, when you look at the fellowship in the early Church. They participated in communal meals (including the Lord’s Supper, as we’ve discussed in the past), but not without some conflicts. Even then, there were some who hogged all the lasagna and pocketed the chocolate eclairs when they “ate & ran”. That does not sound like fellowship to me. Sounds more like “self-ship”.
    Real Christian fellowship isn’t just sitting around the same casserole–it’s partaking in the same Spirit. That Spirit is sitting in the chair next to me, and in the chair next to that one. It isn’t just breaking bread, it’s cementing a bond, and we can’t do that in one hour on Sunday.
    Fellowship is intentional, not accidental. It means taking time out of my life to call the gal who sits in the chair next to me on Sunday and to see what God is doing in her life on Monday or Wednesday. It means being willing to share my failures as well as successes with her. It means loving her, even if she isn’t especially lovable. And that can happen only on a spirit to spirit level.
    We can’t expect real fellowship to flourish when it is based only on shared interests like sports or crafts or events. Those may all facilitate conversation, and they may build superficial relationships, but they don’t join our hearts. They don’t give us the freedom to be vulnerable and honest with each other. Only the Spirit of the God who has accepted me can enable me to accept another broken sinner, whether or not he plays basketball or has never read a book or or picks his nose or is hyperactive or talks too much, as I do!.
    If the Holy Spirit has planted us in the same Body, He must intend for us to spend time together (eating, too) and work together. We can’t do that if we just “eat & run”.
    Kat

  5. 3-19-2007

    Hi Alan,
    It sometimes seems to me that the Church equates fellowship only with “events”…usually centering around food. That’s partly not off-the-mark, when you look at the fellowship in the early Church. They participated in communal meals (including the Lord’s Supper, as we’ve discussed in the past), but not without some conflicts. Even then, there were some who hogged all the lasagna and pocketed the chocolate eclairs when they “ate & ran”. That does not sound like fellowship to me. Sounds more like “self-ship”.
    Real Christian fellowship isn’t just sitting around the same casserole–it’s partaking in the same Spirit. That Spirit is sitting in the chair next to me, and in the chair next to that one. It isn’t just breaking bread, it’s cementing a bond, and we can’t do that in one hour on Sunday.
    Fellowship is intentional, not accidental. It means taking time out of my life to call the gal who sits in the chair next to me on Sunday and to see what God is doing in her life on Monday or Wednesday. It means being willing to share my failures as well as successes with her. It means loving her, even if she isn’t especially lovable. And that can happen only on a spirit to spirit level.
    We can’t expect real fellowship to flourish when it is based only on shared interests like sports or crafts or events. Those may all facilitate conversation, and they may build superficial relationships, but they don’t join our hearts. They don’t give us the freedom to be vulnerable and honest with each other. Only the Spirit of the God who has accepted me can enable me to accept another broken sinner, whether or not he plays basketball or has never read a book or or picks his nose or is hyperactive or talks too much, as I do!.
    If the Holy Spirit has planted us in the same Body, He must intend for us to spend time together (eating, too) and work together. We can’t do that if we just “eat & run”.
    Kat

  6. 3-19-2007

    Hi Alan,
    It sometimes seems to me that the Church equates fellowship only with “events”…usually centering around food. That’s partly not off-the-mark, when you look at the fellowship in the early Church. They participated in communal meals (including the Lord’s Supper, as we’ve discussed in the past), but not without some conflicts. Even then, there were some who hogged all the lasagna and pocketed the chocolate eclairs when they “ate & ran”. That does not sound like fellowship to me. Sounds more like “self-ship”.
    Real Christian fellowship isn’t just sitting around the same casserole–it’s partaking in the same Spirit. That Spirit is sitting in the chair next to me, and in the chair next to that one. It isn’t just breaking bread, it’s cementing a bond, and we can’t do that in one hour on Sunday.
    Fellowship is intentional, not accidental. It means taking time out of my life to call the gal who sits in the chair next to me on Sunday and to see what God is doing in her life on Monday or Wednesday. It means being willing to share my failures as well as successes with her. It means loving her, even if she isn’t especially lovable. And that can happen only on a spirit to spirit level.
    We can’t expect real fellowship to flourish when it is based only on shared interests like sports or crafts or events. Those may all facilitate conversation, and they may build superficial relationships, but they don’t join our hearts. They don’t give us the freedom to be vulnerable and honest with each other. Only the Spirit of the God who has accepted me can enable me to accept another broken sinner, whether or not he plays basketball or has never read a book or or picks his nose or is hyperactive or talks too much, as I do!.
    If the Holy Spirit has planted us in the same Body, He must intend for us to spend time together (eating, too) and work together. We can’t do that if we just “eat & run”.
    Kat

  7. 3-19-2007

    Hi Alan,
    It sometimes seems to me that the Church equates fellowship only with “events”…usually centering around food. That’s partly not off-the-mark, when you look at the fellowship in the early Church. They participated in communal meals (including the Lord’s Supper, as we’ve discussed in the past), but not without some conflicts. Even then, there were some who hogged all the lasagna and pocketed the chocolate eclairs when they “ate & ran”. That does not sound like fellowship to me. Sounds more like “self-ship”.
    Real Christian fellowship isn’t just sitting around the same casserole–it’s partaking in the same Spirit. That Spirit is sitting in the chair next to me, and in the chair next to that one. It isn’t just breaking bread, it’s cementing a bond, and we can’t do that in one hour on Sunday.
    Fellowship is intentional, not accidental. It means taking time out of my life to call the gal who sits in the chair next to me on Sunday and to see what God is doing in her life on Monday or Wednesday. It means being willing to share my failures as well as successes with her. It means loving her, even if she isn’t especially lovable. And that can happen only on a spirit to spirit level.
    We can’t expect real fellowship to flourish when it is based only on shared interests like sports or crafts or events. Those may all facilitate conversation, and they may build superficial relationships, but they don’t join our hearts. They don’t give us the freedom to be vulnerable and honest with each other. Only the Spirit of the God who has accepted me can enable me to accept another broken sinner, whether or not he plays basketball or has never read a book or or picks his nose or is hyperactive or talks too much, as I do!.
    If the Holy Spirit has planted us in the same Body, He must intend for us to spend time together (eating, too) and work together. We can’t do that if we just “eat & run”.
    Kat

  8. 3-19-2007

    Hi Alan,
    It sometimes seems to me that the Church equates fellowship only with “events”…usually centering around food. That’s partly not off-the-mark, when you look at the fellowship in the early Church. They participated in communal meals (including the Lord’s Supper, as we’ve discussed in the past), but not without some conflicts. Even then, there were some who hogged all the lasagna and pocketed the chocolate eclairs when they “ate & ran”. That does not sound like fellowship to me. Sounds more like “self-ship”.
    Real Christian fellowship isn’t just sitting around the same casserole–it’s partaking in the same Spirit. That Spirit is sitting in the chair next to me, and in the chair next to that one. It isn’t just breaking bread, it’s cementing a bond, and we can’t do that in one hour on Sunday.
    Fellowship is intentional, not accidental. It means taking time out of my life to call the gal who sits in the chair next to me on Sunday and to see what God is doing in her life on Monday or Wednesday. It means being willing to share my failures as well as successes with her. It means loving her, even if she isn’t especially lovable. And that can happen only on a spirit to spirit level.
    We can’t expect real fellowship to flourish when it is based only on shared interests like sports or crafts or events. Those may all facilitate conversation, and they may build superficial relationships, but they don’t join our hearts. They don’t give us the freedom to be vulnerable and honest with each other. Only the Spirit of the God who has accepted me can enable me to accept another broken sinner, whether or not he plays basketball or has never read a book or or picks his nose or is hyperactive or talks too much, as I do!.
    If the Holy Spirit has planted us in the same Body, He must intend for us to spend time together (eating, too) and work together. We can’t do that if we just “eat & run”.
    Kat

  9. 3-19-2007

    Hi Alan,
    It sometimes seems to me that the Church equates fellowship only with “events”…usually centering around food. That’s partly not off-the-mark, when you look at the fellowship in the early Church. They participated in communal meals (including the Lord’s Supper, as we’ve discussed in the past), but not without some conflicts. Even then, there were some who hogged all the lasagna and pocketed the chocolate eclairs when they “ate & ran”. That does not sound like fellowship to me. Sounds more like “self-ship”.
    Real Christian fellowship isn’t just sitting around the same casserole–it’s partaking in the same Spirit. That Spirit is sitting in the chair next to me, and in the chair next to that one. It isn’t just breaking bread, it’s cementing a bond, and we can’t do that in one hour on Sunday.
    Fellowship is intentional, not accidental. It means taking time out of my life to call the gal who sits in the chair next to me on Sunday and to see what God is doing in her life on Monday or Wednesday. It means being willing to share my failures as well as successes with her. It means loving her, even if she isn’t especially lovable. And that can happen only on a spirit to spirit level.
    We can’t expect real fellowship to flourish when it is based only on shared interests like sports or crafts or events. Those may all facilitate conversation, and they may build superficial relationships, but they don’t join our hearts. They don’t give us the freedom to be vulnerable and honest with each other. Only the Spirit of the God who has accepted me can enable me to accept another broken sinner, whether or not he plays basketball or has never read a book or or picks his nose or is hyperactive or talks too much, as I do!.
    If the Holy Spirit has planted us in the same Body, He must intend for us to spend time together (eating, too) and work together. We can’t do that if we just “eat & run”.
    Kat

  10. 3-19-2007

    Hi Alan,
    It sometimes seems to me that the Church equates fellowship only with “events”…usually centering around food. That’s partly not off-the-mark, when you look at the fellowship in the early Church. They participated in communal meals (including the Lord’s Supper, as we’ve discussed in the past), but not without some conflicts. Even then, there were some who hogged all the lasagna and pocketed the chocolate eclairs when they “ate & ran”. That does not sound like fellowship to me. Sounds more like “self-ship”.
    Real Christian fellowship isn’t just sitting around the same casserole–it’s partaking in the same Spirit. That Spirit is sitting in the chair next to me, and in the chair next to that one. It isn’t just breaking bread, it’s cementing a bond, and we can’t do that in one hour on Sunday.
    Fellowship is intentional, not accidental. It means taking time out of my life to call the gal who sits in the chair next to me on Sunday and to see what God is doing in her life on Monday or Wednesday. It means being willing to share my failures as well as successes with her. It means loving her, even if she isn’t especially lovable. And that can happen only on a spirit to spirit level.
    We can’t expect real fellowship to flourish when it is based only on shared interests like sports or crafts or events. Those may all facilitate conversation, and they may build superficial relationships, but they don’t join our hearts. They don’t give us the freedom to be vulnerable and honest with each other. Only the Spirit of the God who has accepted me can enable me to accept another broken sinner, whether or not he plays basketball or has never read a book or or picks his nose or is hyperactive or talks too much, as I do!.
    If the Holy Spirit has planted us in the same Body, He must intend for us to spend time together (eating, too) and work together. We can’t do that if we just “eat & run”.
    Kat

  11. 3-19-2007

    Chad,

    Welcome to my blog and thanks for the comment.

    Elder’s Wife,

    Thank you for the excellent comment! You expressed exactly what I was trying to express in this post.

    -Alan

  12. 3-19-2007

    I think Koinonia goes deeper even still than we are discussing here. Fellowship in the western church is equated to potlucks and icecream socials as Elders wife pointed out. in our attempt to counteract that we have delved a litle better into relational shared life, and that is in there also (very importantly) but the depth to Koinonia is in the phrase “joint participation” (vines)
    Joint participation lends us to a place beyond simply being relational, it speaks into the depth of involvement we have. for example we invite some friends over to play cards, that is fellowship at the relational level, we share a common meal with other believers that fellowship is relational, but when we involve ourselves into the situations in which we find other believers in, then we come to a level way beyond relationship, we then are into the place of joint participation. And it is at this place I believe the life of Christ and the life of the church will really begin to become a demonstrative force in our culture and will transform lives in the numbers it once did in ages past.

    having said that in order for this kind of joint participation to be experienced a couple things must happen:

    1) authenticity and vulnerability must be evident in believers, willing to share the depth of their struggles and weaknesses with one another;

    2)The church needs to quit presenting a fake reality of the gospel, community, and relationships that create canned, fake anonymity where individuality and pluralistic christianity thrive.

    Hi Alan I found my way to post on your blog, thanks for the input over on mine: http://centerpointe-koinania.blogspot.com
    Carl

  13. 3-19-2007

    Carl,

    Welcome to my blog and thanks for the comment. I agree that fellowship (koinonia) goes beyond what I have started discussing here. It is difficult to discuss koinonia apart from activites (such as shared meals and shared lives), but those activities are not koinonia in themselves nor do they create koinonia. Instead, koinonia is that sharing bond created by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. This sharing bond (super)naturally demonstrates itself in various activities that we have mentioned. What is the difference? The activities can be duplicated. The Spirit-bond cannot. When the activities are removed, either nothing is left, or koinonia still exists.

    -Alan

  14. 3-22-2007

    In 1 John 1, there are 3 levels of fellowship:

    1. Our fellowship with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ (v. 3);

    2. Our fellowship with one another (v. 7); and

    3. The fellowship you may also have with us (v. 3).

    In other words, as I understand it, our evangelism (inviting others to join in on our fellowship) is dependent on us first having fellowship with the Father and with His Son, as well as having fellowship with one another. In a sense, I do not see here room for truly “personal evangelism.” Biblical evangelism is done in the context of the fellowship of the church, and our fellowship one with another is an important part of the message we proclaim.

  15. 3-22-2007

    David,

    I had not thought of the relationship between fellowship and evangelism. I think you’re right.

    -Alan

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