A Greek word that is associated with fellowship is the word ‘echo’, which means ‘have’.
In other combinations the word means share, participate, partaking, partner or companion.
In the New Testament ‘echo’ is used as an expression for possession and relationship.
The (Hebrew) Old Testament doesn’t have a special word for ‘echo’ and similar meanings are usually translated as ‘tie’ or ‘unite’.
The heart of the Old Testament is that God has chosen his people, they are his possession. But he is also his people’s God and wants to have fellowship with them by his promises and gifts.
Jesus Christ is our salvation, “He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son has not life”. 1 John 5:12. To have fellowship with Christ and one another is to ‘know’ him and to ‘abide’ in him.
The other Greek word for fellowship (which most people know) is the word ‘koinoneo’, which, depending on the form in which it is used can mean: communal, share, partake, communion, fellowship, giving, sharing, be connected with.
‘Koinonia’ describes the close union and brotherly bond between people. In the New Testament this sense of brotherhood is described as a way of social life.
In Jesus’ days, the communal life of the Essenes was based on the idea of the equality of all the members. They all had to renounce their possessions and hand them over to the community. The ancient writer Philo uses the word ‘monasterion’ – monastery - to describe a group that devoted their lives to the study of scripture as. Around 4 AD, many Christian communities continued the tradition of ascetic, monastic life and shared common property.
Throughout the book of Acts we read how the first Jewish believers shared their goods with each other, as a voluntary sacrifice to the needy. The individual was completely upheld by the community. But it wasn’t organized, and on a voluntary basis. Private ownership was permitted and not condemned, like e.g. the mention of the house of Mary in Acts 12:12.
Paul’s collections (containing donations from other churches), were a reflection of their fellowship with one another. This was especially important for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem, because they where in the majority.
Besides sharing their earthly possessions, these churches also shared their faith in Jesus Christ. The stream of ‘spiritual gifts’, which flowed out of Jerusalem through the ministry of the Apostles, resulted in a counter-stream of ‘earthly gifts’ towards Jerusalem. Even today we see this spiritual principle still at work.
The principle of fellowship is not only something of Old and New Testament times. Also today, fellowship is marked by sharing. This can be done in a practical way, by sharing our finances, earthly goods and materials, but also our gifts and abilities for the good of one another.
But also in a spiritual sense when we, as believers, have ‘communion’ with each other. Then we celebrate that we are transformed by Christ Jesus to the very roots of our being and birthed into a new existence. We have gone over from death to life. By incorporating Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and glory, we have true fellowship with him and with other believers.
Sharing of our faith in Jesus Christ with each other is also part of fellowship. Encouraging one another with his words; spending time together to worship the Lord, and praying together. And we don’t have to do that only in a (mega) church, but can also have fellowship in a small Bible study group in someone’s home. Even when two or three are together, Jesus says he is in their midst.
In Galatians 2:9 we read that James, Peter and John gave Paul and Barnabas “the right hand of fellowship”, meaning they recognized them in Christ.
Likewise, through ‘Koinonia’, wherever we are - visiting another city or when traveling abroad - the brotherhood of believers is ‘instant’. We give each other the ‘right hand of fellowship’, even though we never met each other before. Although our earthly fellowship is not perfect, it’s a foretaste of how it will be in heaven, when we will have eternal fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ and the saints.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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