A Study of Fellowship
I have been laboring in the Lord’s kingdom as an evangelist of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for nearly twenty-nine years. I have found that, in general, churches of Christ are often criticized for their lack of involvement with other religions and organizations. Since we do not participate with other religions in joint worship services, outreach projects, community projects, etc. we are considered to be anti-this-or-that and basically antisocial.
The reason churches of Christ do not join with other religions is quite simple: We are not in “spiritual fellowship” with the rest of the world. I realize this may sound pompous and arrogant, but it is a statement based upon fact and scriptural reasoning. I ask that you please extend some patience and consideration as we present, from the Word of God, the facts regarding spiritual fellowship.
Let us begin with a few simple definitions. There are five Greek words that can be translated as “fellowship.” They are: Koinonia, koinonos, metoche, koinoneo, sugkoinoneo. If you were to examine the various definitions and summarize them, here is what you would find. The basic idea of fellowship is to be in association of, to participate with someone in something, to share, to have in common, to partner with someone in something, and to join in something.
The Bible uses the idea of fellowship in four different ways: 1) Fellowship – referring to a Christian’s relationship to the heavenly Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. 2) Fellowship – referring to a Christian’s relationship to other Christians. 3) Fellowship – referring to Christians working together in matters pertaining to the Lord. 4) Fellowship – referring to a person’s relationship with the works of darkness.
Where Does Spiritual Fellowship Begin?
Spiritual fellowship (partnership, sharing, or communion) must first be established with God. To enter this fellowship, partnership, sharing, or communion with God, one must turn to Jesus Christ. In order to turn to Jesus, one must turn to the will of Jesus’ Father. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). The will of the heavenly Father was revealed first by Jesus and then by His apostles (Cf. Hebrews 2:3-4). Turning to Jesus, doing the will of the Father, involves the following: One must believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God (John 3:16). Jesus taught that the person who believes in Him and is baptized would be saved (Mark 16:15-16). Jesus also taught that repentance was necessary to bring about the remission of one’s past sins (Luke 24:46-38). Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ taught the necessity of repenting of one’s sins and being baptized in order to receive the remission or forgiveness of those sins (Acts 2:38). Paul taught that with the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9-10). For a sinner to be converted to Jesus Christ, to enter His fellowship, that sinner must: believe in Jesus Christ, turn to Jesus Christ through a repentant heart, confess his belief in Jesus Christ, and obey Jesus’ command to be baptized. At this point, the person is saved, God having forgiven him of his past sins.
Where Does Fellowship Begin?
What happens at the point of one’s salvation and conversion? In answering this question, we will develop a better understanding of the beginnings of spiritual fellowship. According to the Bible, when one is converted to Jesus Christ, he is saved (John 3:16; Mark 16:16). This means that God has forgiven the converted of all his past sins (Acts 2:38). Now that God has forgiven the converted of his past sins, the converted walks in a newness of life (Romans 6:3-7). (A closer study of Romans 6:3-7 shows that the converted was baptized into the death of Jesus Christ (v 3), the converted arose to walk in a newness of life (v 4), and the converted was set free from his bondage to sin (v 7).) The converted was also baptized into Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26-27, Romans 6:3-4). When the converted was baptized into Jesus Christ, he was baptized into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-14). This is the same as the Lord adding the converted to the church (Cf. Acts 2:38,41,47; Ephesians 1:22-23).
When a person is converted to Jesus Christ (Acts 3:19), he enters into spiritual fellowship with Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 1:9, we read, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). John shows an example of the converted being in fellowship with the Father in heaven. John wrote, “. . . that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
Other evidences of the existence of this spiritual fellowship between the converted and God are as follows: 1) This fellowship or communion with the heavenly Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is seen in the fact that Christians are children of God and brethren of Christ (Romans 8:14-16, 17). Fellowship must exist if one is to be a child of God and a brother of Jesus Christ. 2) Fellowship with the heavenly Father is also seen in the fact that Christians are to be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:1-4). The Greek word translated as “partakers” also means to have fellowship with or to be a sharer in something. Those converted to Jesus Christ are partakers or sharers of the divine nature. Without spiritual fellowship with God, it would not be possible for the Christian to be a partaker of the divine nature.