Thursday, July 18, 2013

What is Fellowship? Part I

"And they continued steadfastly  in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42, NKJV) (emphasis mine)

First of all, let's define the "they." Who are the "they?" It seems they "they" are those who are mentioned in verse 40 and verse 41. Peter is preaching to a group of people and he exhorts them to be saved from the perverted Jewish nation.

Those whom he is preaching to respond by "receiving" Peter's words and they were baptized to show that they had received Peter's words.

So, that is who the "they" are. 

Secondly, what did the "they" do? Verse 42 says that the "they" continued. This is a bad or poor translation of προσκαρτερουντες. Our word is a present active participle. This means that the "they" were continuing at that moment and they continued to continue. A better translation might read that "they were adhering closely" to the apostle's doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.

These people who had been saved by the gospel are now consistently adhering to the teachings of the apostles.

Let's look at this word fellowship. 

There is an old joke that goes somewhat like this-

If you have 3 baptists in a room you have 4 opinions. Basically it means that baptists like to "fight" and have a hard time getting along. This is borne out in the fact that there are over [at last count] 46 different types of baptists. 

I tell this joke often although I am a baptist. First, I am a baptist with a little "b" and second, I understand it and have seen it so I am really not offended. If you are, then lighten up.

The reason I tell it is we find the same problem when we talk about fellowship. If you ask 10 people what fellowship means or to define it you will get 11 definitions.

When we talk about fellowship I think the first thing we have to do is define it. We must be on the same page as to what it means and what we are talking about or what we say about it will have either no meaning or it will foster confusion.

The Greek word is κοινωνια. It can be translated as fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, or intercourse. From these ideas we get the following notions:
  • the share which one has in anything
  • intercourse, fellowship, or intamacy
  • a benefaction, a collection, or joint contribution
We are most familiar with the notion or concept that is used of the intimate bond of fellowship which unites Christians and of the fellowship of Christians with God and Christ.

For this post let me share with you 6 things that fellowship is not.
  1. Fellowship is not two or more people in a ship
  2. Fellowship is not an event - it is not a worship service, pot-luck, VBS, Bible study, small group, men's prayer breakfast or etc.
  3. Fellowship is not merely having conversation either with or without food or drink
  4. Fellowship is not merely sharing a common activity
  5. Fellowship is not secular although it may take place in a secular environment
  6. Fellowship does not take place with non-believers even if they are present
When you hear the word "pot-luck" you might automatically think "fellowship." Or you might think that getting together for food or drink constitutes fellowship - it doesn't! These things do not resemble the fellowship that we see in the Bible.

Tomorrow we will define fellowship. Stay tune!


Scott said...

Memorized and Meditating upon Psalm 133 - This and your next article should prove helpful. Also getting ready for Romans 12 -- By Grace, gracing one another with the grace God has graced us with.

Anonymous said...

Thought provoking Gregg and look forward to tomorrow.


Kansas Bob said...

I love how Jesus modeled what fellowship looked like in the gospel accounts.

Gregg Metcalf said...

Scott - Great passage to memorize! Hope the next few posts are indeed helpful!

Yvonne - Thanks! Looking forward to seeing you manana.

Bob - Yes He did. Why can't we?

Susan said...

"adhere closely"...yes! And isn't it only possible by the Holy Spirit's indwelling? (sorry...rhetorical)
...and also in order to adhere closely we first need to be able "to hear" and "to understand" as well as "to do" and "to adhere closely". None of this I am able to do...not in my flesh, and in my flesh I make excuses as to why it is ok to not do, hear, understand. But in Christ alone, and by His Spirit, all things are possible. :) Thanks Gregg.

Gregg Metcalf said...

Susan - you're welcome. It is not possible apart from the HS.