What comes to mind when you hear the word "fellowship"? Perhaps shaking hands with all the brethren, enjoying a fellowship meal and making sure to get some of sister so-and-so's chocolate cake, or visiting in the foyer before worship. Or perhaps you're thinking of a small assorted group on their way to Mordor. Although these are examples of fellowship, the concept is much broader, and the Greek word we know of as "fellowship" can be translated as several different English words. Each of the scriptures below have to do with fellowship, with that word marked in bold. Let us explore this Biblical concept of fellowship together.
Fellowship towards other people
We usually think of fellowship as something mutual, but when we share what we have with other people, that is also fellowship. Consider the following passage about financial help that was sent to help Christians who were in need:
For it hath been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints that are at Jerusalem. (Romans 15:26)
The Hebrews writer also reveals to us that sharing with others is a sacrifice to God:
But to do good and to communicate [share] forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)
When you give of your means to help others, that's fellowship. When you share, that's a pleasing sacrifice to God! We should seek out more opportunities to be a part of this kind of fellowship.
Fellowship among brethren
The word fellowship also has to do with working together and being part of someone else's life. When the early Christians had all things in common (Acts 2:44-47), they were in fellowship. Notice this description of them in Acts 2:42:
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)
This kind of fellowship among fellow Christians is a beautiful thing, but extends farther than just eating together, or shaking everyone's hand. The apostle Paul mentions his collaboration with the Philippian Christians to evangelize, calling it "fellowship":
I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you, always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy, for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now... (Philippians 1:3-5)
It's hard to stay motivated when we're working alone, but when Christians work together, there is so much we can accomplish! Let's have more "fellowship in furtherance of the gospel" as we seek to save lost souls.
Fellowship with God
Although these types of fellowship are important, none can compare with the fellowship that we have with God as His children, and the fellowship we have with Christ as His disciples. Before becoming Christians, we had fellowship with darkness and sin, but now in Christ that has all changed:
If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7)
Walking in the light is such a wonderful place to be! Not only do we have fellowship with fellow light-walkers, we also have fellowship with God through Christ. Additionally, if you replace the word "fellowship" with "communion," the Lord's supper comes to mind, and rightly so. As we can understand from Mark 14:25, Christ is with us as we partake of the symbols during the Lord's supper. Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 10,
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)
Far from being an empty ritual, the Lord's supper is a time every week when we have a close connection with Christ, experiencing that fellowship in the way that He has designed for us.
Although the word "fellowship" has a broad meaning, you will notice that every use of the word has to do with interactions. Whether it's fellowship with God or man, it's impossible to have fellowship by yourself. Just as we could not save ourselves from our sin, neither can we live the Christian life without other Christians. Let us make special effort to have fellowship with other Christians, and to maintain our fellowship with the God who has made all types of fellowship possible!