They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.Acts 2:42 NIV
This verse describes life in the church immediately after Pentecost. And I believe we can learn much about the early success of the church from this passage. This body of believers devoted themselves to four things: Bible study (the apostle’s teaching), spending time together (fellowship), worship (breaking of bread), and prayer. The first four articles in this discipleship series will look at these four habits of the early church, with this one focused on fellowship.
The word translated as “fellowship” in Acts 2:42 is koinōnia. This Greek word means “fellowship, the close association between persons, emphasizing what is common between them: participation, sharing, contribution, gift, the outcome of such close relationships.” It is used 19 times in the New Testament in various ways.
Koinonia is most commonly used regarding a close community of believers. Some other uses include Romans 15:26, where Paul shares that some churches had contributed to the poor in Jerusalem. Philippians 1:5 refers to the partnership of the Philippian church with himself. 1 Corinthians 10:16 identifies participating in the Lord’s Supper as a participation in the body and blood of Christ. And finally, in 2 Corinthians 13:14, Paul refers to the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Koinonia expresses a unity within the community of believers that is more than just the sharing of a few common interests. It is a partnership entered into with others who have committed themselves to serve together as a unified body of believers—the body of Christ.
The Body of Christ
In 1 Corinthians 12:27, Paul said, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” As believers in the Lord, we have been baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). I am not a part of the church because I have chosen to join. Rather the Holy Spirit has made me a part of the body, the universal church. Every believer has membership in Christ’s church.
And, as members of the universal church, we are expected to be in community with other believers. These communities of believers, or local churches, are expressions of the universal church. I can choose, hopefully under the leadership of the Spirit, which local body I participate in. But participation is not optional for a believer. We will not prosper as believers apart from the church.
In Jesus’ prayer in John 17, he prayed for himself, for his disciples, and for the ones who would come to believe through the message of his disciples. And that is us. In John 17:20-23, he prayed that we would be one. That we would be brought to complete unity. Paul says something similar in Philippians 2:2, challenging us to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” The unity we have as believers should go beyond any other human relationship found in this world.
The Witness of the Early Church
Acts 2:42-47 is the first description we are given of the early church. The first verse of this passage was quoted above. But the rest of it goes on to amplify part of it. Verse 44 says, “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” And verse 46 says, “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.” This is reflective of a body of believers that was spending time together. And not just occasionally, or even once a week. Instead, they met together every day—both in the temple and in their homes.
And, I believe the final verse is at least partially a consequence of their fellowship together. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The fellowship they enjoyed together and the joy in coming to know their savior would have been appealing to the people around them.
The Advantages of Hanging Out Together
1 Corinthians 12 is a chapter that is often turned to when studying spiritual gifts. But the discussion of gifts is within the context of a more important topic. This chapter is primarily about the body of Christ. All of us together make up the body. And, as members of the body, the Spirit has equipped each of us for service. The gifts that I have been given are not for my benefit. Rather, they are for the edification, or building up, of the body.
It is important to remember that none of us are called to stand alone. We are a part of something bigger than an individual. Each of us brings something to the body that is beneficial to the rest of the body. And that means that what others bring to the table is beneficial to me. If I choose not to be a part of a local body, I hurt both the body I should be participating in as well as myself.
Ephesians 4:7-16 deals with this as well. This passage deals with the leadership gifts Christ gives to lead his church in growing toward maturity. And the passage closes by referring to how the body is built up as each part does its work. So strive to become the body part God has called you to be. Work to move the local body you are a part of toward full maturity.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV
The believers that Hebrews was written to had undergone some intense persecution, and more seemed to be in their future. So it would have been easy for them to have stopped meeting together to reduce the pressure they were under. But here, they were challenged to continue to meet together as believers in the Lord Jesus. There was much to be gained by meeting together. They would be able to support each other, encouraging or spurring one another toward love and good deeds. By meeting together, they could cheer each other on and know that they were not alone in what they were doing.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 gives a good example of the advantage of being with other believers. If you look at a rope, you see that it is made up of multiple strands. It is made that way because it is stronger than a single strand of the same overall size. Ecclesiastes compares that to individuals. If a person is alone and falls down, he will have no one to help him up. But if they are with another person, that second person can help the fallen one get up. Ecclesiastes closes this passage by saying that a rope of three strands is not easily broken. When we are connected with other believers, we will stand much stronger than if we are alone.
The passage from Hebrews quoted above talks about encouraging each other toward love and good deeds. And that speaks to the positive influence we can have on each other. In contrast to this is what we find in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” The people I hang out with dramatically influence me, in both a positive and negative fashion.
So it is important to choose our friends wisely. Choose to spend time with people who have values that will draw you closer to God rather than drag you away. And seek to be that person who will positively influence the lives of those you are around.
Walking in Love
In 2 John 1:6, John tells us that God’s command for us is to walk in love. But this is something that can only be done when with other believers. How can we walk in love if we are walking alone? So join together with other believers. And share your journey of faith together.
Some Questions to Think About
- What advantage is there to you in being a part of a local body of believers?
- Is there an advantage to that local body by having you as a part of it? What do you bring to the body?
- What would it take for you to be able to experience the koinonia that Jesus prayed for us to experience?
- Are you willing to be vulnerable and share your true self with other believers?
You are welcome to respond to these questions in the comment section below. If you do, be sure to check the “Notify me” checkbox just above the Post Comment button so you can get any feedback. Note that all comments are moderated. Only respectful comments relevant to the topic will be posted.
- Bible Study – Discipleship 101
- Spending Time Together – Discipleship 102
- Worshipping Together – Discipleship 103
- Drawing Near in Prayer – Discipleship 104
- Understanding Who God Is – Doctrine 201
- What Is Humanity – Doctrine 202
- What Is Sin? – Doctrine 203
- Jesus: Our Savior – Doctrine 204
- Gifted to Serve: Discipleship 301
- Meditation, Solitude, and Fasting: Discipleship 302
- What Is the Bible? – Doctrine 401
- The Nature and Work of the Holy Spirit: Doctrine 402
- What Is Jesus’ Church?: Doctrine 403
- Creation and Providence – Doctrine 404