By this point, you are probably a bit weary of self-isolation. You now long for fellowship, that sense of being together. And while “fellowship” has often been reduced to the church potluck, we know that it is deeper than that.
One of the challenges of getting a biblical view of fellowship is that word has become a “church” word and we don’t generally think of fellowship as a way of living. It is this broader since of the word fellowship (κοινωνέω (koinoneo) and related words in the New Testament). This word group is about being co-participants in something, like being partners, and is close to the idea of sharing with one another. For examples, James and John were said to be partners with Simon (Luke 5:10). The earliest church was devoted to living life together (Acts 2:42). Paul called on the Roman Christians to contribute to the needs of God’s people (Rom 12:13). He also knew that the churches of Macedonia and Achaia were happy to share their resources with the poor believers in Jerusalem (Rom 15:26). Our life together means that we share in each other’s sufferings and consolations (2 Cor 1:7).
In seeking to gather gifts to take back to Jerusalem from the Gentile churches, Paul spoke of the ministry of giving as fellowship. In 2 Cor 8:4, he calls it the privilege (Greek here is grace) of sharing in this ministry to God’s people and commended their generosity of sharing with others (2 Cor 9:13). He also commended the Philippians for their participation in supporting his ministry (Phil 4:5). When we give to our church, we are in fellowship with each other in living out the mission of God.
This word group is also used to describe our intimate life with God. For example, God’s faithfulness has called us into the fellowship of God’s son (1 Cor 1:9). Paul later framed the Lord’s Supper as a sharing or communion in Jesus’s blood and body (1 Cor 10:16). Paul’s closing benediction in 2 Cor includes that the communion of the Holy Spirit would be with God’s people (cf. Phil 2:1). Paul sought to know Christ and the power of the resurrection and the sharing in his suffering that would make us like Christ in his death (Phil 3:10). This type of sharing goes deeper than just sharing our stuff. It is sharing the life of Jesus within and among us.
There are more scriptures that could illustrate the use of fellowship in the New Testament, but these are plenty so that it went far beyond the church potluck. John in his first letter has a particularly unique way of talking of fellowship. John is seeking a fellowship relationship with his readers (1 John 1:3) that is joined to a kind of fellowship with the Father and the Son. This fellowship with the Son cannot be joined to “walking in the darkness” (1 John 1:6); however, if we walk in the light as Jesus is in the light, then “we have fellowship with one another the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Don’t reduce John to saying that we have fellowship because we walk in the light. John makes it clear that we all sin. John is more dynamic than that. He invites us into a relationship that involves participation with God and when that is in full swing we have the basis for having a fellowship with each other. In Christian thinking, these two go together. We love God; we love our neighbours. Another way to say this is that we largely express our participation in God by the way we partner with other people.
Fellowship is more than eating together; fellowship is living together.