In 1 John 1:1-10 the word fellowship appears four times, indicating its significance in the mystical body of Christ represented throughout the world in the form of local churches. The Oxford dictionary defines fellowship as friendly association or companionship. The first occurrence of Koinonia (Greek for fellowship) is in Acts 2:42. Believers in Christ are to come together in love, faith and encouragement. That is the essence of Koinonia. In Matthew 16:18 the Lord referred to this community (which was soon to be united through the baptism of the Holy Spirit) as "My Church". A church without the fellowship of its members, however weak and imperfect they may be, is no church at all.
Fellowship may be likened to a large ship with four smaller ships on its deck = Friendship, Partnership, Companionship and Relationship. A close look at these four "small ships" through the lens of God's Word reveals that JESUS CHRIST is the perfect model for every "Christian Fellowship" to emulate if it has to live up to its divine calling to be Christ's witnesses in this world.
Friendship: Jesus treated His disciples as His friends and gave His life for them (Jn.15:12-15). The evidence of true friendship is in the self-denying and self-sacrificing love as taught and exhibited by our Lord. "What a friend we have in Jesus!" Is our friendship modelled on Christ's?
Partnership: Jesus worked in partnership with His disciples. "Take my yoke upon you" (Matt.11:29). Although He was their Lord and Master, He never bossed over them. He worked alongside them as their yoke-fellow.
Companionship: The three-and-a-half years of companionship between Jesus and His disciples and later His constant companionship through the Holy Spirit is yet another example for us Christian brothers and sisters to emulate in our fellowships. Pride and conceit have no place in true, loving companionship.
Relationship: In the four gospel accounts, we see the love and care Jesus showed His disciples. How patient and loving He was in dealing with their weaknesses and failures! Except for the tragic loss of Judas Iscariot, the relationship between Jesus and His disciples remained intact. Note that it was the Master who fulfilled His responsibility of protecting and keeping His disciples together in His name (Jn.17:12). Today we have the responsibility of staying together united in the love of Christ (Col.3:14).
Dispelling The Darkness
1 John 1:6 says that we are liars if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. How can we prove that we have fellowship with God? By living as children of the light. John declares, "God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all" (vs.5). When bickering, suspicion, jealousy, resentment, misunderstanding, pride, self-interest, loose talk cast their dark shadows on our fellowship, do we take immediate steps to dispel the darkness? Or do we continue to "walk in the darkness" and betray our loving Lord in whose name we meet? Let us not forget that we have been called to "walk in the light as He is in the light (so that) we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, (God's) Son, purifies us from all sin" (vs.7).
When we obey God's Word, we walk in His light and have fellowship with Him and with one another. Such a Christian fellowship wields God's power and shines as a beacon of light in the world.
A Form Of Godliness
In spite of their leaders' sound Bible teaching, praise and worship and testimonies week after week, why do we see moral laxity and spiritual coldness in so many churches? Here's why: the members who worship together fail to apply God's Word in their lives. Concluding His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord tells His listeners: "Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand" (Matt.7:26).
Many Christians are still embroiled in quarrels over issues that are bound to arise as long as they do not put to death their carnal nature. (Let Colossians 3:5-10 sink into our hearts). Writing to Timothy about the "terrible times in the last days", the apostle Paul warns him to stay away from people who exhibit a form of godliness but reject the power that could make them godly (2 Tim.3:5).
Get Right With God
Perhaps one of the saddest truths about us Christians is our natural tendency to defend and justify ourselves and/or to blame someone else whenever we are drawn into an argument over issues that can cause a rift in the fellowship. If only we learn to replace our natural (carnal) tendency with the spiritual nature we possess through the indwelling Holy Spirit, our fellowships and relationships would be a mini-heaven on earth! Just as we were made right with God in Christ Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit when we heard the gospel, our restored relationship with God can remain healthy and fruitful as we continually yield to the Holy Spirit rather than to our fleshly nature.
In his first epistle the apostle John, while emphasizing the need to keep walking in God's light for a joyful and God-honouring fellowship, sounds a warning to beware of the deception of a self-righteous attitude (claiming to be without sin). To confess our sins to God and to one another requires humility (1 Jn.1:7-10). God honours those who are humble and contrite (Isaiah 57:15); but He resists the proud. Healthy relationship with God and with one another in the fellowship are 'two sides of the same coin.'
Be Like Little Children
In Matthew 11:25 Jesus praises His heavenly Father because it was His good pleasure to hide the kingdom truths from the "wise" and "learned", and to reveal them to little children. Jesus longs to see us, His disciples, possessing the innocence of a little child so that the arrogance of the "wise" and the "learned" does not hinder us from learning and embracing the Kingdom lifestyle. The Lord began His ministry on the earth with a call to repentance as well as a call to follow Him. Repenting and following Christ means turning away from our self-centeredness and "self" control and turning our lives over to Christ's direction and control. Christ will direct and control our lives through the Holy Spirit as we humbly submit to His Lordship. Our fellowship will then be one that honours Christ.
May we always strive to reveal Christ to the world and impact our society with His compassion as did the fellowship of the first century Christians. May the wonderful name of our Lord, the Captain of our ship, be exalted through each of us.