My friend, who is also a neighbor, gets busy, as I do, and we don’t meet as often as we would like. Our conversations aren’t remarkable and wouldn’t be particularly interesting to others. We recount what we’ve been up to since we last met or talked, or what’s on our calendars for the next few days. Aa we talk, we thank God for answered prayers and his help. We both place our Christian faith at the top of our priorities, spending time in God’s Word and serving our community. When we disagree about some way to approach someone or do something, it’s quickly put right by bringing in the gospel, and we’re on the same track. It’s not that way with everyone; sometimes, we can’t seem to overcome our differences of opinion or ways of viewing the world with others. When we have our Bible study discussions here, some of the participants grow very quiet with thoughtful expressions, letting me know that the biblical view being addressed is different or new for them. I’m always encouraged when someone lets me know they appreciate new teaching and are thinking about what we discussed. When God redeems us, the Holy Spirit works in us to transform our thinking. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18; also see Romans 12:1-2.) God’s people, transformed in Christ, have what the Bible calls “koinōnia,” fellowship that draws us closer to God and others into his kingdom. God called the early church to awesome koinōnia giving his people one generous heart and mind in the gospel, resulting in others coming into his kingdom.
Christ’s First Church
In Acts, we read about the first church God planted in Jerusalem. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47) Having committed themselves to biblical instruction, every soul, all who believed, had all things in common, giving to all, having favor with all people—which was only possible through the Holy Spirit’s work. The result was the growth of the kingdom of God, more blessings for more people, and increased blessings for those already in the fellowship. “The greatness of the event raised them above the world, and the Holy Ghost filled them with such love, as made every one to be to another as to himself, and so made all things common, not by destroying property, but doing away selfishness, and causing charity.” (1) “Acts 2:42-47 describes the early church. It is presented as a model church, but this does not mean that it was perfect. A few chapters further on, we are going to find that it was far from perfect. It had hypocrites in it, as our churches also have. It had doctrinal errors. It certainly had sinful human beings of all types, as our churches do. Yet it was a model in many important respects, and it is as such that it is described in Acts 2…Not only did it devote itself to the apostles’ teaching, but the early church also devoted itself to fellowship at many levels. [John] Stott says that ‘the word “fellowship” was born on the Day of Pentecost.’ This is because Christian fellowship means ‘common participation in God,’ which is what had drawn the early Christians together.” (2) God called the early church to awesome koinōnia giving his people one generous heart in the gospel resulting in others coming into his kingdom. The early believers didn’t create this fellowship; God did. They didn’t work themselves into a blessed state of submission, humility, sacrifice, or devotion to Christ. The Holy Spirit did this work in and among them, and they were blessed. Do we trust God and yield to him for awesome koinōnia with our brothers and sisters in Christ so that others can have Christ’s salvation in his kingdom with us?
“The apostle John wrote, ‘We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ’ (1 John 1:3)…The fellowship of the church was a common fellowship because of the great spiritual realities the believers shared in together. Fellowship with God and true fellowship with others go together…If you find yourself out of fellowship with God, you will begin to find yourself out of fellowship with other Christians…But if you come close to God, you will inevitably find yourself being drawn close to other Christians. And it works the other way, too. If you spend time with other Christians, if you share a great deal with them, that fellowship will help to draw you closer to the Father. When we talk about our participation in God, we are talking about a ‘sharing in.’ But this ‘sharing in’ also results in a ‘sharing out.’” (3) “The fellowship that the Bible describes in Acts is that of sharing a common life together. As Jerry Bridges notes in his book, True Community, ‘The first Christians of Acts 2 were not devoting themselves to social activities but to a relationship–a relationship that consisted of sharing together the very life of God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They understood that they had entered this relationship by faith in Jesus Christ, not by joining an organization. And they realized that their fellowship with God logically brought them into fellowship with one another. Through their union with Christ, they were formed into a spiritual organic community.’ Sharing a common life together is not about doing activities but about sharing life. Spiritual life. It is about working together to bring about God’s Kingdom purposes. It is about serving together, helping each other through trials, lifting each other up when we fall, praying for one another, urging one another on in the faith. And ultimately, it is reflecting Christ in our love for one another, imaging Him to the fallen world around us. It all starts with our own friendship with God—our own fellowship with God. We give and receive from Him. We give Him our burdens and He gives us His grace, rest, and strength. We receive from Him spiritual nourishment and then pour it out to other believers. They in turn also receive from God and pour it out into our lives. It is a constant flow, an unceasing giving and sharing of God’s love and grace with one another.” (4) As we follow the example of the early church, yielding to God’s calling for face-to-face, in-person koinōnia, we will be tremendously blessed. Others will notice and be drawn by God into Christ’s salvation, sharing the fellowship in his kingdom with us.
“The word fellowship has been so watered down in contemporary speech that it conveys only a faint suggestion of what it meant in earlier times. When we speak of fellowship today, we generally mean no more than comradeship, the sharing of good times…When the Bible uses the word, it means being caught up into a communion created by God. [In Philippians 1:3-5]…Paul was so thankful in the case of the young church at Philippi. They may have had things in common. But Paul is not speaking of these. He is thankful for their share in the gospel of God. They had been taken up into a divine fellowship. They were united, not upon a social level, but by their commitment to the truths of the gospel.” (5) Paul experienced fellowship with the Philippian church, in-person and from a distance. He wrote to them, “It was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.” (Philippians 4:14-16) What blessings have you shared with your Christian family lately? “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Related Scripture: Psalms 55:14; 119:63; Luke 24:52-53; Acts 1:14; 4:32-33; 5:42; 13:12; 16:5; Romans 14:18; 2 Corinthians 8:9-15; Ephesians 4:3-6.
- Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Acts 2:42-47, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/acts-2.html
- Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Acts 2:42-47, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
- Boice, Ibid.
- Boice, Ibid.
- Fox, Christina, Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ helps Friendships to Flourish, Christian Focus Publications, 2017, Kindle Edition.
- Boice, Ibid, Philippians 1:3-5.
June 30, 2022