In our Young Professionals & Amateurs Sunday School Class, we had a study yesterday on the Biblical teaching of “fellowship”. In some ways (not all) we have missed the beauty of this aspect of the New Testament Church. To many American congregations, fellowship is limited to a time and place and a certain activity (usually involving food). In many bulletins you will see the advertisement of “Food, Fun and Fellowship!” in describing some upcoming event.
In the New Testament, it seems that fellowship went deeper than that. It was the total sharing of each other’s lives. One way they fellowshiped was in GIVING. The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia. And we see this word translated into English sometimes as “share” “participate” and “contribute”. Romans 12:13 “Share with God’s people who are in need” – that is a form of koinonia. Romans 15:26 “For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.” Again – a form of the word koinonia. It had to do not with simply giving a dollar to the poor in general but in contributing to the poor among believers who are in need. It was within the church. Elsewhere in Galatians 6:10 Paul says we should do good to all people but especially to the family of believers. We are to take care of one another to fulfill the Biblical call to true fellowship. That does not mean to enable irresponsibility or laziness but to take care of those in genuine need.
Fellowship also had to do with a partnership in advancing the gospel (Philippians 1:3-7). It involved sharing in the sufferings of Christ (Philippians 3:10). 1 Cor. 10:16 speaks of communion as a time of fellowship. Acts 2:42 says the very first Christians devoted themselves “to the fellowship”. Fellowship is so much more than just an event that we schedule. It is part of the lifeblood of the Christian life.
In American churches we have heard and taught an idea that is not found in the New Testament. That idea is this: “You don’t need the church to be a Christian“. WHERE DO WE GET THAT IDEA?! It’s not fromt he New Testament. That is a false teaching that has come out of our “have it your way” mentality. Such an isolationist idea of Christianity is foreign to the New Testament. We cannot fulfill the commands to perform these actions of fellowship by ourselves. We cannot follow the example of the New Testament church alone. We need each other and God designed the Church to be a body. Look at 1 Corinthians 12 and try to figure out how someone can live the Christian life alone. If you are isolated by force (through imprisonment for your faith; or shut in) that is one thing. But that is not true of most Christians in America. And even those who are shut in should not be denied fellowship. We should be taking fellowship to them.
My point? Guard your time to keep anything from pulling you away from the fellowship of the body of believers. Don’t fall for this “un-New Testament idea” of doing Christianity alone.