Pastoral Exhortation

Definition of Christian Fellowship

Written by Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy Sunday, 06 March 2016

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The term “fellowship” has become a commonplace word not only in the church but also in the secular world, so much so that even casual meetings over some drinks have come to be known as “fellowship”. The modern world’s idea of “fellowship” has become so watered-down that it no longer carries the intended meaning as defined by Scripture.

The Greek word koinōnia is where we get our English word “fellowship”, as translated in our King James Bible in twelve instances. In other occurrences, it is rendered as “communion” (4 times), “communication” (once), “distribution” (once), “contribution” (once) and “to communicate” (once). It comes from a root word that means “partnership”, and suggests a close relationship as expressed in God’s covenantal bond with His people. Christian fellowship among believers is an extension of that covenantal relationship of love that exists between God and His people. The apostle John’s words in 1 John 1:3 affirm this understanding of Christian fellowship - “that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

It all began with God. Even though man was alienated from God by his sin and rebellion, God initiated the move to reconcile man to Himself and seek a closer relationship with him. In Genesis 3:8-9, right after Adam had sinned, God never left him despite his alienation, but condescended and came down to find him. As fallen Adam hid from God’s presence, God graciously called out to him, “Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9). These words continue to echo in the gospel call of Jesus Christ, “Where art thou, O sinner?”

Surely it does not mean that God, being omniscient, did not know where Adam was and needed to ask such a question. It was God’s initiative to give Adam the opportunity to confess and repent of his sin. Thus, Christian fellowship is an act of God’s grace in seeking out sinful man so that He may establish a sweet relationship with him.

By nature, fallen men and women are bent on running away from God. This truth is obvious in the way we react to God’s Word in the light of the carnal things that we think, say or do. Because of sin, we are at enmity with God. But God has always been stretching out His hand in reconciling sinful man to Himself. Biblical history is replete with God’s call to man to come into a sweet relationship with Him, as shown in the following passages:

(Cf. Jeremiah 11:4; 30:22; 31:33; 32:38; Ezekiel 11:20; 2 Corinthians 6:17-18).

These are just some of the many verses in the Bible in which we see God’s wonderful calling, desire and effort to reconcile and keep His people close to Him. It is a relationship by which God holds His elect dear unto Himself.

This vertical relationship with God is expressed in the horizontal, mutual relationships among His people. This is what we call Christian fellowship. “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12b). “He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16b). ■