June 18, 2016
CommonUnity – Week 1 – What is Biblical Unity
Today we begin a new series on another spiritual discipline. The interesting thing is most of us when we think of spiritual disciplines we naturally think of prayer and Bible reading, but after that we get stuck. We might say things like fasting, (but really that a is a larger part of prayer), maybe journaling (we have touched on that in both prayer and Bible reading) but then we kind of stall out with ideas. If you remember when we began at the beginning of the year we looked at Acts chapter 2 and saw that the word devotion was a key word for spiritual disciplines. Let look again at that section.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
So far we have looked at…
The Apostles Teaching = Bible reading
Prayer = Prayer
Today we begin to look at the third of the spiritual disciplines listed in Acts. Fellowship. Many of us would not think of fellowship as a spiritual discipline. There are several reasons we don’t look at fellowship as a spiritual discipline. One of the reason we don’t think of fellowship as a spiritual discipline is that we have a faulty definition of fellowship. When we think of fellowship we often think of an activity that happens in a big room in the basement of a church (A Fellowship Hall). In our day the word is used to describe gathering ranging from coffee and donuts to worship services. Most times it is associated with gathering where there is eating. Now, there is nothing wrong with eating and gathering with God’s people at events like this. They are important and give us opportunity to be with one another to better get to know our church family. They are design to promote fellowship with each other. But that is not the primary ideas of what Scripture means when it talks about fellowship. The word fellowship in scripture has a much fuller and deeper meaning. Today we are going to look at that meaning and allow it to challenge us to move deeper into Jesus and what he wants us to focus our lives around.
Before we look at the Biblical ideas of fellowship it is important to understand that the enemy is opposed to true biblical fellowship and he does all he can to keep us from walking in this discipline. He does this in many ways, he uses business, isolation and independence as tools to keep us from the things that are so important. As with any spiritual discipline it is a gift from God that is intended to grow us closer to the Father and His purpose for our lives. This is why the enemy battles it so much in our lives. Remember it says in Act 2 that they devoted themselves to this. It takes effort. But I believe this is one of the key ingredients to us becoming the church that God desire us to be and how we can see the results of God “adding to our numbers”.
The Biblical Meaning of Fellowship
The word fellowship here is the Greek word, “koinonia.” This Greek word is derived from the root, “koinos,” which was a prefix in ancient Greek. If you were to add this prefix to words meaning “living,” “owning a purse,” “a dispute,” and “mother,” you would get words meaning “living in community together,” “owning a purse in common,” “a public dispute,” and “having a mother in common.” So we see that the root of the word, “fellowship,” means “to hold something in common.”
This word was used to describe corporations, labor guilds, partners in a law firm, and the most intimate of marriage relationships. Fellowship is a word denoting a relationship that is dependent on more than one individual. It is an interdependent relationship.
Interestingly, it was never used to describe man’s relationship to God before the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell the church.
There are a few other words that are used in the New Testament as synonyms. These are words which have overlapping but not the identical meaning of koinonia.
The four synonyms of koinonia in the New Testament are:
philos, which means “related by love for outward characteristics”;
hetairos, meaning a sharer in a common enterprise;
sunergos, meaning a fellow-worker;
metochos, a participant.
Each of these words denotes a unity which is expressed outwardly. This is true of fellowship but by contrast, fellowship is also an inner unity. This inner aspect of fellowship may be seen in verses like
1 Corinthians 1:9: God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Here, fellowship primarily focuses on our spiritual unity with Christ, an inner relationship. Philemon.6, 2 Corinthians 13:14 and Philippians 2:1 also emphasize the inner relationship which is at the root of fellowship.
But fellowship does not stop with being an inner unity for it is primarily an action word! Koinonia is used nineteen times in the New Testament and in addition to being translated as “fellowship” it is also translated by the words, “contribution,” “sharing,” and “participation.” In fact action is always included in its meaning. Fellowship, you see, is not just being together, it is doing together! This is a point almost universally ignored in today’s modern church.
The word “fellowship” is actually a unique relationship with Christ. We have a relationship of being “in Christ.” We also have a relationship of being “a part of Christ’s body.” Fellowship is neither of these. It is not “being in” or “being part” but it is “doing with” Christ. It is our partnership with Christ in fulfilling God’s will. We will discuss this aspect in much greater detail next week.
Finally, fellowship is not just doing anything together. It is only doing God’s will together. Our fellowship with others is only as good as our fellowship with Christ, our unity. And we can only participate with Him in doing God’s will, because that is all He ever does! For this reason we must quit thinking of Christian fellowship as primarily doing things such as having pot luck dinners or watching football or playing basketball with other believers. These have their place and they are not wrong but they are only fellowship if we are bringing Christ into the center of those relationships and times. Remember last week we talked about bringing God glory?
In 1 Corinthians 10:31 it reminds us So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. It is only to the extent that we focus our activities on the purpose and glory of God that we can truly experience true fellowship in those times. Fellowship involves actively doing God’s will.
With these things in mind we should be able to give a biblical definition to “fellowship.”
“Fellowship is a relationship based on unity among believers that is lived out by accomplishing God’s purposes through the Holy spirit in cooperation with each other.”
Shorter: Fellowship is doing life together to glorify God.
So, we have seen that fellowship in its New Testament sense is an inner unity expressed outwardly. It is not just being together but doing together. It is not just doing anything together but it is working together to accomplish God’s will. Now we might ask, “Why is it so important?” Because it is important to Jesus. The last 12 week we looked at something called “the Lord’s prayer”. As I kept referring to it I would call it “The Disciples Prayer” The reason is that it was the prayer Jesus taught to the Disciples. But there is another prayer in scripture that I believe would better be called the Lord’s prayer. it is found in John 17. In this prayer just before Christ went to the cross, he spent time praying. In this prayer He prays for us specifically and the topic of His prayer is unity. He prays for us and our fellowship.
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave Me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began.
Notice Jesus refers to two parts of our definition right here. First is that we would know Him. This is about a relationship with Him. Second is that we bring Glory to God by doing the work that He give us to do.
6 “I have revealed You to those whom You gave Me out of the world. They were Yours; You gave them to Me and they have obeyed Your word. 7 Now they know that everything You have given Me comes from You. 8 For I gave them the words You gave Me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from You, and they believed that You sent Me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 All I have is Yours, and all You have is Mine. And glory has come to Me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name (authority), the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name (authority) You gave Me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
He talks about our obedience and He once again refers to our unique relationship with God and Himself. He says that while we are still in this world, we are protected for a purpose. Unity! not just some superficial kind of unity, The same kind of unity that Jesus and the Father have together. WOW. I don’t know about you but that seems impossible. Jesus prays that His disciples would walk in that kind of fellowship with each other. This is why the believer in Act 2 DEVOTED themselves to fellowship. It was Christ prayer that they would do this.
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them Your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
The result of these things is joy. Then He reminds us that we are not of this world! (We will see later that partnership with the world means we will not have fellowship). He asks that we be sanctified (set apart from the world) that our lives would no longer reflect the systems and thoughts of the world but would reflect God and His Glory. We cannot do this in our own strength. This is only accomplished through surrender to the work of The Holy Spirit in our lives, by devoting ourselves to this discipline.
Now some might say that He is praying specifically for The 11 Disciples (minus Judas mentioned in vs 12) but He continues…
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
The purpose of this unity is to show the world who God is. That they might believe in Jesus. Our unity, our fellowship is key to how effective our evangelism is. Have you ever desired to see someone saved? How much have you displayed to them the unity and fellowship that Jesus is praying for us? We will explore this more in the coming weeks as well. If we desire to see people saved and people be added to our numbers, we must get serious about walking in this unity and fellowship. Remember it was only when the believer devoted themselves to these disciplines that Christ added to them.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Finally Jesus wraps all of this up by declaring that the love that God has for us is the love that we must use to live out this grand calling of fellowship in our lives. It is His love that compels us to live this way (2 Cor. 5).
This is why Paul immediately opened the Letter to the Corinthians by saying—“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Cor. 1:10). And this is why he also wrote to the Ephesians in the very same passage where he discussed body function: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Emphasizing the same point, he wrote to the Romans—“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Rom. 14:19). Put another way, Paul was exhorting these Christians to do everything they could to “build up one another.”
members of one another (Rom. 12:5)
being devoted to another (Rom. 12:10a)
honoring one another (Rom. 12:10b)
being of the same mind toward one another (Rom. 12:16; 15:5)
loving one another (Rom. 13:8; 1 Thes. 3:12; 4:9; 2 Thes. 1:3; Heb. 10:24; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 5)
edifying one another (Rom. 14:19)
accepting one another (Rom. 15:7)
instructing one another (Rom. 15:14)
waiting for one another (1 Cor. 11:33)
caring for one another (1 Cor. 12:25)
serving one another (Gal. 5:13)
carrying one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
being kind to one another (Eph. 4:32)
esteeming one another (Phil. 2:3)
encouraging one another (1 Thes. 4:18; 5:11, 14)
confessing sins to one another (James 5:16a)
praying for one another (James 5:16b)
offering hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
fellowshipping with one another (1 John 1:7)
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 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. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin
The goal of the gospel was the creation of a fellowship. The gospel is preached because God wants to draw people into His family and into a family with each other. Our fellowship is with each other, with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ. So, our fellowship is based on our partnership with Jesus. That’s the essence of koinonia.
True fellowship is based only on the Work of Jesus Christ in us. We do not manufacture fellowship, it is a work of Christ in us when we submit to Him and His will for our lives.
For more from this series you can CLICK HERE.
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