FELLOWSHIP & SHARING
IN THE COMMUNITY OF
The idea of a "common unity" between all those who belong to Jesus seems
to be largely ignored, in these days. It may, at times, be acknowledged in
the "theological" realm, but it is grossly neglected - or even opposed -
in everyday life. Even the idea of "fellowship" - one of the expressions
of this common unity - has become stripped of its original meaning - and
now often implies nothing more than coming together for heavy eating and
shallow conversation. But gluttony and frivolous speech are a far cry from
the way of life that belongs to us - and is required of us - as
children of the Most High God.
This study focuses on various dimensions of community, fellowship and sharing,
as found in the New Testament. It focuses both on the facts, which are to
influence our perspective on the way we should live, as well as on the commands,
which are to influence our actions. (The context, as always, must be taken
This is what we must strive for, if we want to escape the shallow, superficial,
institutionalized "Christianity," which surrounds us. It may look quite
impressive to people, with all its programs and activities, but it makes
God want to vomit. (Compare to Revelation 3:14-22.)
PART 1: FELLOWSHIP, COMMUNITY, SHARING...
A. With God
"God" or "the Father"
1 John 1:3 - Our fellowship is with the Father.
1 John 1 6-7 - If we claim to have fellowship with him, yet walk
in darkness, we lie... / If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we
have fellowship with each other (God / us)...
- "Jesus Christ"
- 1 John 1:3 - Our fellowship is with... [the Father's] Son, Jesus
- 1 Corinthians 1:9 - God... called us into fellowship with his Son,
Jesus Christ, our Lord. [The word "Lord" means "Master."]
- "The Body/Blood of Jesus Christ"
- 1 Corinthians 10:16 - The "cup of blessing" is a
participation/sharing in the blood of Christ; the bread is a
participation/sharing in the body of Christ.
- [Note the contrast to v. 18, 20, which mentions participation/sharing in
a pagan alter and the demons represented by it.]
- "The Holy Spirit"
- 2 Corinthians 13:14 - May... the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be
with you all. [Note: This verse could be understood as saying either: 1)
the Holy Spirit is the source of that fellowship, or 2) we are in close
fellowship with him. Either interpretation would give us a true statement
about people who belong to God.]
- Philippians 2:1 - If you have any... fellowship with the Spirit...
be one-minded (etc.).
B. With God's Blessings, Character, etc.
Blessings of the Gospel ("Good News") and Salvation
Romans 11:17 - [Based on an analogy: the grafting of wild olive branches
into a cultivated olive tree, even though it is contrary to their wild nature:]
You Gentiles (non-Jews) were grafted into the tree (symbolizing Israel) &
share in the nourishment that comes from the root (symbolizing the
Jews' forefathers, to whom the promises were given). [= You get to share
in the blessings, etc., that came as a result of the promises given by God,
to the Jew's ancestors - even though these promises were not originally given
Romans 15:27a - You Gentiles (non-Jews) have shared in the Jews'
spiritual blessings. [second half of the verse: Therefore, you Gentiles
(non-Jews) have an obligation to share with them (the needy Christian
Jews) your physical blessings.]
1 Corinthians 9:23 - Paul: I do all things for all people... for the gospel's
sake. [The gospel = the "good news" about salvation.] He did this so that,
together, they could share in its (the gospel's) blessings. [Paul
was willing to give-up any of his "rights" and privileges for the good of
Grace (Undeserved Kindness)
Philippians 1:7 - You all share in God's grace with me.
Divine Nature (God's Moral Character)
2 Peter 1:4 - Because of God's promises (see v. 3), these two things are
now possible: 1) You can now participate / share in the divine nature
[= You can have/develop his moral character in your life (which means, you
can become "like Christ")] and... 2) You can escape the corruption in the
world, which is caused by evil desires.
1 Peter 5:1 - Peter witnessed Christ's sufferings in the past. [He also shared
in them, in the sense of 1 Peter 4:13]. In the future, he will share
in Christ's glory - a glory that will be someday be revealed (made known)
[See 1 Peter 4:13 & other verses in the section about suffering &
its blessings. Sharing in Christ's glory is made possible because of our
willingness to also share in his sufferings.]
C. With People - "Reciprocal" Sharing [the same type of sharing is expressed
by each of those involved]
Individual People Doing Things Together (examples)
Luke 5:10 - James and John - Simon's fishing partners.
2 Corinthians 8:23 - Titus = Paul's partner and fellow-worker
Philippians 1:5 - They (Paul & the Christians at Philippi) were
partners (in many ways) in spreading the good news about Jesus.
The Expression of Love and Community... with other believers (a general statement
and two examples)
Acts 2:42 - All the believers... devoted themselves to...
Galatians 2:9 - The leaders (the apostles & others, in the church at
Jerusalem) gave Paul and Barnabas the "right hand of fellowship."
[They acknowledged them as partners.]
Philemon 1:17 - Paul to Philemon: If you consider me a partner,
then welcome him (Philemon's runaway slave, Onesimus, who was returning to
Philemon) the same way you would welcome me.
The Expression of Love and Community... with those who are enduring
Hebrews 10:33 - You were willing to associate publicly with (to
be a partner with) those who were being insulted and persecuted.
The Sharing of One's Faith with Other Christians
Philemon 1:6 - I pray that you will be active in "living-out" the faith we
share. [The focus here is not in "soul-winning" - which some people
call "sharing the faith" - but in the day-to-day expression of one's faith,
within the community of believers. It is connected with the love we must
have for God's people - that is, for our spiritual brothers and sisters.]
Telling Others About Jesus, So That They Also Can Have a Part in Our Fellowship
1 John 1:3 - We proclaim the things we have seen and heard so that you also
may have fellowship with us (also with the Father and the Son).
COMMENT: Note that few, if any, of these verses focus on the mutual sharing
of material possessions. This does not imply that such sharing is
wrong, but it does show that there are many other things to share,
besides mere physical objects! (Most instances of "sharing" of possessions
will be found in the next section.)
D. With People - "Directional" Sharing [the sharing is initiated by one person
and received by another]
With Those in Need (Sharing Material Possessions With Them)
Romans 12:13 - Share with the believers who are in need.
Romans 15:26 - The Christians in Macedonia & Achaia were pleased to
make a contribution to (= to share with) the poverty-stricken
believers who lived in Jerusalem. [See also v. 27, which reminds us that
we non-Jews are sharing in the spiritual blessings that belong to the Jews.]
2 Corinthians 8:4 - The Macedonian Christians pleaded for the privilege of
sharing in this expression of serving/helping the Jewish believers.
2 Corinthians 9:13 - Many people will praise God because of your generosity
in sharing with the Jews (and with others).
Philippians 4:15 - You were the only group of Christians who shared
with me, as far as "giving and receiving" were concerned. [Paul shared
spiritual blessings with them, which they received; in return, they provided
for Paul's physical needs - physical blessings which Paul received. See also
v. 14 - they also shared in his troubles.]
1 Timothy 6:18 - Command the rich to be generous and willing to
share (and also to do good things, etc.).
Hebrews 13:16 - Don't forget to do good things & to share with
others: God is pleased with these types of "sacrifices."
The Sharing Between a Learner and a Teacher; the Sharing of Material and
- Galatians 6:6 - Those who are taught/instructed about the Word should share
"all good things" with their teachers.
- Philippians 4:15 - You were the only group of Christians who shared
with me, as far as "giving and receiving" were concerned. [(See also
the previous section.) The Philippians helped Paul by sharing their material
possessions with him; Paul helped them by sharing spiritual blessings/possessions
- NOTE: Each of them - the teacher and the learner - are involved in "directional"
sharing, each sharing with the other something that the other has need of.
The Galatians 6:6 passage doesn't necessarily imply the sharing of material
possessions (though it doesn't exclude them, either). However, the Philippians
4:15 passage does imply the sharing of material blessings/possessions
(as well as the sharing of spiritual blessings/possessions).
The Sharing of Formerly Unrevealed Truths about God's Salvation to the
Ephesians 3:9 [KJV manuscripts] - Concerning the "mystery" about how Gentiles
could inherit the promise of salvation (through Jesus Christ): [MOST
TRANSLATIONS] - Paul helped people understand by "explaining" it; [KJV] -
Paul helped people understand how the Gentiles could "share" in
these matters. [Both translation groups communicate approximately the same
message, but in slightly different ways.]
E. With Suffering, as Well as with the Blessings That Go along with this
Suffering: Patience, Encouragement, Glory, etc.
2 Corinthians 1:7 - You have shared in our sufferings... you will
also [share] in our comfort/encouragement.
Philippians 3:10 - I want to know Christ and... what it means to
share in his sufferings... so that I may also "attain" the resurrection
from the dead. [Those who share in Christ's sufferings will also share in
his resurrection, and all it encompasses. (See 1 Peter 4:13, below.) Paul
can attain the resurrection only because of his association/connection with
Philippians 4:14 - It was good for you to share in my troubles (emphasis
probably on Paul's needs). [See also v. 15, which mentions other dimensions
of this sharing.]
1 Peter 4:13 - (About painful trials...) Rejoice that you share
in the sufferings of Christ. When his glory is revealed, you will be filled
with joy (in contrast to their present situation). [They will receive blessings,
glory, etc. At the present, they may experience pain, but the time will come
that they will experience joy - and this joy will last forever.]
Revelation 1:9 - John - your brother and sharer / companion in:
1) the suffering, 2) the kingdom, and 3) the patient endurance - all three
of which are ours because we are in Jesus.
Hebrews 10:33 - They not only endured suffering, but they were willing to
associate/be a partner with others who were also suffering.
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER: Many people want the blessings... but they're not
willing to accept the suffering that comes first!
F. A Few Misc. Passages
Participation/Sharing in What an Alter Symbolizes (if you sacrifice at that
1 Corinthians 10:18 - People who eat the sacrifices
participate/share in what the altar symbolizes. [Focus: the
incompatibility of sharing in the Lord's body/blood (v. 16) and (at the same
time) having fellowship with the demons represented by a pagan altar.
You can't have a part in/with both!]
Participation in Humanity - Jesus Willing to "Share" Human Nature with the
Rest of us
Hebrews 2:14 - Since God's children have flesh/blood, Jesus was also willing
to share in their humanity (so he could conquer the devil &
free us from death).
Partnership in the Gospel (Good News)
Philippians 1:5 - They were partners (in many ways) in spreading
the good news about Jesus. So whenever Paul prayed for them, he prayed with
G. Things to AVOID having Fellowship/Partnership With...
Note: In some of these verses, a direct prohibition against the activity
will not be found. Instead, the context shows that it is wrong.
1 Timothy 5:22 - Don't share in other people's sins
Revelation 18:4 - [Regarding the "Babylon" of prophecy] Come out of Babylon,
my people, so you won't share/participate in her sins (and experience
her punishment of plagues).
Darkness and its Fruits (spiritual darkness)
2 Corinthians 6:14 - What fellowship does light have with darkness?
Ephesians 5:11 - Have nothing to do with [don't share/participate
in] the "fruitless" (worthless) deeds of darkness. Instead, expose them for
what they are!
The Wicked Work of Apostates (people who have departed from the faith)
2 John 1:11 - Anyone who welcomes a deceiver/antichrist shares in
his evil/wicked work/activities. [Don't welcome him!]
Killing People who are Righteous (example: killing the Prophets)
Matthew 23:30 - The hypocritical boast of the religious leaders/teachers:
"If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we wouldn't have helped
them [participated with them] in killing the prophets!" [Actually,
they were just like their ancestors, and they were about to do something
even worse than them, by killing Jesus!]
1 Corinthians 10:20 - I don't want you to be partners with demons.
[See v. 18; also the contrast to sharing in the blood/body of Christ - v.
A. Preliminary notes:
The Bible uses the idea of "common" in two ways. In a "positive" sense, the
Bible describes the early Christians as having many things in
common. They also shared things, as the need arose. They
were all part of a common bond, since they had all followed the way of Jesus.
The Bible also uses the word "common" in connection with the Jewish ceremonial
regulations. In this sense, the concept has a "negative" connotation. It
is used in the sense of being the opposite of "special" or "set
apart (for something good)," and is usually translated by words such as,
unclean, unholy, or impure. Because this use of the word
is so different from our present focus on "sharing" (and so different from the
way most people today use the word "common"), verses that have this focus
are omitted from this study.
B. Common possessions of believers
Acts 2:44 - The believers ... had everything in common. [They shared
with those believers who were in need.]
Acts 4:32 - They shared [had in common] everything they
See v. 32-37 for examples of this.
See chapter 5 for a "bad example" of sharing. Ananias and Sapphira lied by
claiming that they were sharing all, though they were actually sharing only
part. Keeping part of the money was OK; lying about it was a sin deserving
C. Common faith/salvation
Titus 1:4 - Paul called Titus his "true son" in their "common faith."
Jude 1:3 - Jude says we all share the same "common salvation."
THE NEW TESTAMENT GREEK WORDS USED IN THIS STUDY:
PART 1: Fellowship, Community, Sharing...
- The Greek words used in this part of the outline can be divided into two
subgroups: 1) koinoneo, koinonia, koinonikos, and koinonos - which carry
the general idea of "sharing," and 2) sugkoinoneo and sugkoinonos - which
carry the idea of "sharing together."
PART 2: Some of the Things We Have in Common...
- All the verses in this part of the outline use the Greek word: koinos.
Dennis Hinks © 1987, 2000