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Today I want to talk with you about fellowship. We have not been a member of an organised church for 25 years. When we share this fact a common response is “Oh but Fanny, you must fellowship… the bible tells us so.” And then quite often Hebrews 10:25 will be quoted:
In this episode of Caleb’s Journal I would like to share with you some thoughts I have had on fellowship. What does true fellowship look like? To me there is much more to fellowship than attending church, listening to a sermon and having a chat over a cup of tea before everyone heads their seperate ways for the rest of the week. There is a depth to fellowship. It is not a passive activity but an active one which results in a shared strength and joy in the body of believers, yet it is also coupled together with persecution… fellowship and persecution – they are not two words that we usually put together, yet believers in the early church often experienced it so… how can this be?
Let’s take a deeper look at fellowship together and as we do so may we encourage one another so that we may grow together in unity in order to advance the kingdom.
Fellowship requires active participation
In Greek, the word fellowship is κοινωνια koinónia. The first time this word is used in the New Testament is in Acts 2:42.
This passage in Scripture and the 5 verses that follow gives us a glimpse into how the early church experienced this ‘fellowship’. For them it was not a passive experience. On the contrary, it was one of action. The essential element of the Greek word κοινωνια is ‘participation’. It depicts an interactive relationship between believers who are sharing their New Life through our Risen Lord. As believers, it is Jesus that connects us and fellowship is an active walking out together of that new life we have in Christ.
Did you get that?
True fellowship is where we take the revelations from the Word and encourage each other to walk them out together. At its foundation, our Christian experience is an active pedestrian one… where we share the Word together and then walk it out by ‘following our Lord’
As we do so, as we bind ourselves together tightly in Jesus, we as a body come to know Him and are able to witness and give expression to His righteousness and justice to all those around us and thereby manifest His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Fellowship in the midst of the community
The believers of the early church walked out this fellowship within their own communities. We read in Acts 2 verse 46;
The words of this verse portray to us a beautiful scene of what true fellowship looks like. In many ways it forms a blueprint for us to follow.
Can you just picture it… these people made their way together to the temple courts. The temple courts of old were like the town squares of our day… the hub of the community, the place to be. So these Christians did not hide themselves away, they placed themselves in the midst of their community with deliberate intent. It was in this open space that they shared a meal together… but this was no ordinary picnic… they shared something more than just sustenance for their physical bodies, their focus was on sharing the spiritual food, the Word of God.
By discussing the Word of God openly in these public spaces passers by were not only able to overhear what was being taught and discussed from the Word of God but they were also able to observe the lives of these believers. Can you imagine the atmosphere? These believers were united in their vision, the Scriptures states that they were of one accord or, more literally, sharing the same passion. They were passionate about their walk with the Lord and they wanted everyone to know about it.
True Fellowship manifests Righteousness and Justice
By participating in this kind of fellowship the believers were manifesting true righteousness and justice within their communities. This is an essential part of our christian walk. Neglecting to fellowship in this way, in the public squares, leads to injustice running rampant in our communities.
Is this not what is also happening in our day?
The prophet Isaiah also speaks of this. In Isaiah 59:14 we read;
Furthermore, we read in the next verse that because of the absence of Justice and Righteousness those who hold onto truth become a prey and will suffer persecution.
It is time that we, as Israelites, followers of Christ take up this great mission again… may we, like the believers of the early church place ourselves once again in the midst of our communities and shine forth His Light by engaging in true fellowship.
Doing so will not be without its challenges. It will require great courage on the part of the believer as by turning away from the evil practiced in our unjust communities we will become a prey.
Fellowship and persecution
The believers in the early church experienced this persecution on a daily basis. Their passion, their message, was not welcomed by all because the New Life we have in Christ is in direct opposition to the life of the world. This is a fact that remains the same throughout the ages.
Being exposed in the temple courts opened the believers up to scrutiny and yet the believers of the early church willingly put themselves in the midst of this hostile environment and continued to meet at this place daily.
This ‘continuing daily’ required great strength and courage as well as perseverance. This is reflected in the Greek word used here, προσκαρτερέω proskartereó which literally means ‘to steadfastly continue’… showing a strength that prevails in spite of difficulties.
Fellowship and Growth
However, there were also those passers by who would be drawn to the Word that was being shared and the Love and New Life displayed. As they stopped to listen they would be invited to join in and this provided a wonderful opportunity for the body of believers to grow. Living the gospel message in this public way was powerfully attractive because;
This must have been a great source of encouragement for these dedicated believers as they saw their labour, because labour it was, bearing fruit. God’s righteousness and justice was being manifested in their communities…
A CALL TO FELLOWSHIP
Are you starting to feel the energy and power of true fellowship? This is the kind of fellowship our Lord desires for us too. As Israelites, the body of Christ, we are called to participate in fellowship so that the righteousness and justice of our Lord and Saviour is manifested in our communities. This is an important mission, a sacred duty which has been entrusted to us. Failure to heed the call has far reaching consequences as when we neglect this form of fellowship injustice will take hold within our communities.
The question for each of us is… do we have the courage to walk forth together boldly in this mission?
Intimate Fellowship in the home
For the early church, fellowship did not end in the temple courts. Luke also records in Acts 2:46 a more intimate fellowship, shared only with the believers, where there was the breaking of bread;
This breaking of bread did not occur in the public space, it occurred within the privacy of the home. The meals shared here were more intimate as the Word was discussed on a deeper level. By partaking of communion, by breaking the bread, the Lord is revealed to us on new and deeper levels – and this deeper revelation is what fellowship in the homes was all about. It was a time when the body of believers came to ‘know’ the Lord and each other more intimately so that they could walk forth as one.
The resultant union in the body is wonderfully portrayed in the last phrase of our verse;
You are called to experience the joy of fellowship
There is great joy in true fellowship. And it is this joy that the Lord desires us to have with Him and with each other. In the beautiful prayer recorded in John 17 our Lord prays earnestly for us that we be placed in the midst of a hostile world but that through His Name, through ‘knowing’ Him, we will not only be protected, but we will become conduits of His Life, through the sharing of His Word… and as we do so, both individually and as a nation, our joy will be fulfilled.
May the Lord grant us the wisdom, strength, courage and devotion to fellowship as the early church believers did. May we not hide ourselves away but as a unified body walk out boldly the new life we have in our Lord for all to see.