Koinōnia

by Mike Ratliff

42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42 (NASB) 

42 Ἦσαν δὲ προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ, τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς. Acts 2:42 (NA28)

Most of the churches I attended in my life had something called “fellowship” and some even had  space dedicated to it called “fellowship hall” or something similar. We had time after “church” that was called “fellowship time” that always seemed to be a relaxed time of visiting together and just being friendly with each other outside of normal “church stuff.” In the New Testament the word that is translated as “fellowship” as in Acts 2:42 (above) is κοινωνίᾳ (koinōnia), which Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest defined as, “joint participation in a common interest or activity.” Instead of simply a friendly time of visiting together or a coming together for relaxation, κοινωνίᾳ, then, is a partnership, a sharing of something in common.

42 And they were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the fellowship, the breaking of the bread and to prayers. Acts 2:42 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In this verse we have the fourfold activity of the church. The believers continued steadfastly in the teaching or doctrine of the apostles and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. It should be clear that these believers were not divided in any way. They had a single-mindedness to stand firm in what the apostles were teaching them and in doing that they partnered together to do so. In this they broke bread together and, of course, prayed together. There was a close communion with each other. This partnering together, this fellowship is second only to the foundational element of doctrine and teaching. It is crucial that Christians fellowship with one another.

True Christian fellowship is far deeper than simple socializing together. It involves a true union and bond in thought and desire, and goal. Carefully read the following passage.

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. Philippians 1:3-5 (NASB) 

What was making Paul joyful? It was the Philippians partnership with him in the Gospel. However, greatest of all is our fellowship with our Lord Jesus Himself as Paul says in Philippians 3:10, “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…

On the other hand, there is a flip side to κοινωνίᾳ that we must consider. There are some with whom we should never have fellowship.

14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,
“I will dwell in them and walk among them;
And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord.
“And do not touch what is unclean;
And I will welcome you.
18 “And I will be a father to you,
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”
Says the Lord Almighty.
1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 6:14 – 7:1 (NASB)

Paul used four different graphic words in this passage to describe a relationship. We have already looked at κοινωνίᾳ, which is translated here as fellowship. The word the NASB translated as partnership in v14 is μετοχὴ (metochē). It means “sharing or participation.” In v15 of the NASB we have the word harmony, which is the Greek word συμφώνησις (sumphonēsis) from which we get our English word symphony. It means “unison and agreement.” Also in v15 we have the words in common, which is the Greek word μερὶς (meris), which means “a share or portion of something.” Finally, in v16 in the NASB we have the word agreement, which is the Greek word συγκατάθεσις (sugkatathesis), which is an accord or a consensus.

Paul’s questions using these words were rhetorical. Of course there can be no question of the importance of the Christian’s separation from the world. Paul’s word usage here was brilliant. He heaped them one upon another so there will be no misunderstanding about the believer’s forging too close a bond with non-Christians.

Think of marriage, business partnerships, dating, friendships, club memberships, et cetera. The next one may cause some discussion, but also think of those secret lodges or organizations like the Masons. They are not Christian. Even a brief examination of their literature reveals that. Therefore, we must be wise and not have any close relationships with these groups or people. It is God who has made these distinctions. Why? He wants the Body of Christ to be pure, to “be separate” and “touch not the unclean thing.” He does not want us to be defiled by evil or by fellowship with those who do evil. Think on this my brethren, when believers do fellowship with evil, they break fellowship and communion with God.

Soli Deo Gloria!

4 thoughts on “Koinōnia

  1. In my 70+ years, much of what I have seen and experienced that was called “fellowship” was really quite different from what is found in Scripture. For example, “men’s fellowship” was often nothing more than a bunch of guys sitting around talking about sports, or fishing, or some other activity. Little of nothing in their ‘fellowship’ had ANYTHING to do with Christ or Christ’s Ekklesia. In like manner, “women’s fellowship” or “youth fellowship” or “kid’s church” RARELY was based on, or focused on, Biblical things (i.e. faith, holiness, doctrine, etc.) 😦

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  2. Just to nail down your comments on Freemasons, here is a quote by the well-known American Freemason Albert Pike whose book, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (1871) was distributed in the United States, from 1910 to 1969 to all initiated freemasons under the Scottish rite. In this work Pike explained the Freemason view regarding religious belief (1871/1944: ch. XXVI):

    “We do not undervalue the importance of any Truth. We utter no word that can be deemed irreverent by anyone of any faith. We do not tell the Moslem that it is only important for him to believe that there is but one God, and wholly unessential whether Mahomet was His prophet. We do not tell the Hebrew that the Messiah whom he expects was born in Bethlehem nearly two thousand years ago; and he is a heretic because he will not so believe. And as little do we tell the sincere Christian that Jesus of Nazareth was but a man like us, or His history but the unreal revival of an older legend. To do either is beyond our jurisdiction. Masonry, of no one age, belongs to all time; of no one religion, it finds its great truths in all. To every Mason, there is a God; One Supreme, Infinite in Goodness, Wisdom, Foresight, Justice, and Benevolence; Creator, Disposer, and Preserver of all things. How, or by what intermediates He creates and acts, and in what way He unfolds and manifests Himself, Masonry leaves to creeds and religions to inquire,” (M&D pg 524)

    Pike goes on to reaffirm the Freemason syncretistic/relativistic worldview, expressing the belief that all religions are the ‘same’ and that each has their own ‘truth’ (1871/1944: ch. XIV, p. 226):

    “Masonry, around whose altars the Christian, the Hebrew, the Moslem, the Brahmin, the followers of Confucius and Zoroaster, can assemble as brethren and unite in prayer to the one God who is above all the Baalim, must needs leave it to each of its Initiates to look for the foundation of his faith and hope to the written scriptures of his own religion.”

    Clearly, no Christian accepting the innerancy of Scripture or Christ’s claims about himself can accept the views promoted by Freemasons.

    Quotes drawn from :
    Pike, Albert (1871/1944) Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Jenkins, Inc. Edition Book Manufacturers – Richmond. VA. Ebook
    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/19447

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  3. I had the privilege a couple of months ago to bring a short message to my new church. It was based on Acts 2:42 and how the early church “did church”, and compared that (as much as I could glean from Scripture) with how “church” is “done” today in this current culture. (Tried as hard as I could, but found no evidence of a “worship team”, in this list). Being new at the church it has taken some time to connect with a few others on a deeper level. A few of us meet for coffee once a week and a few times when the others have left I remain behind with one other brother and we connect. Our conversation turns to matters of the heart and the workings of the Holy Spirit within ourselves or someone else which seems to be evident to our frail spiritual eyes. We have an opportunity to express our deepest desires for holiness for our small group of redeemed souls. I’m hesitant to use the word “church,” which I know is the biblical term, but has been so corrupted by a whole lotta goats.
    Those rare and precious times when our hearts and souls are open to one another in God’s presence, are I believe true “fellowship.” I relish those times. And I’ve learned they are times of vulnerability, times of openness and honesty. But I think it is also a process. A growing process which takes time. We are “His workmanship”!

    I was just thinking, when Jesus walked on earth, what was His fellowship like with the apostles? Was it different with the three than with the twelve?

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