What Is the Meaning of Fellowship?

Roy E. Cogdill
Orlando, Florida

Since so much is being said and written on the subject of "fellowship," it seems good to examine the use of this word in the scriptures so we may see what its true significance is and what scriptural fellowship embraces, as well as how it is manifested.

"Koinon" in the New Testament can properly be defined as "sharing something with someone." It denotes a partnership in work or legally, such as Peter shared with James and John in the fishing business (Luke 5:10).

It is used to express a common relationship or nature. Jesus, in order to destroy the power of Satan over mankind, shared with man "flesh and blood" that He might deliver man through His death and destroy the power of Satan over him (Heb. 2:14).

We become "partakers" (sharers) of the divine nature through the precious promises of God and the provisions of His grace (2 Peter 1:4)

The Gentiles became "partakers" of the "root and fatness" (the full nature) of the olive tree when they were "grafted" in as branches and shared such fullness with the Jews (Rom. 11:17).

We are enabled to enjoy "fellowship" with the Apostles and with God and Christ through the Gospel revealed (1 John 1:3).

Through this Gospel we have been called by God into the fellowship of His Son (I Cor. 1:9). This participation with Christ is as a member of His body, which is the church, into which we are baptized under the direction of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:13). As members of His body we participate with Him and the benefits of His blood, subject to His authority and in the doing of His will (I Cor. 12:11-14). He is the head of that body, over all things to it, and gives to its members life and strength (Eph. 4:15-16). In that relationship Christians enjoy the bounty of His grace (Eph. 1:23).

This participation in Christ and fellowship with Him is made a reality when through faith our lives are identified with His and we become fellow-laborers with Him. Personal participation with Christ is made possible in Christian worship at the Lord's Table in His Kingdom in the observance of the Lord's Supper. Paul makes a very explicit and impressive argument on this in the tenth chapter of First Corinthians.

The argument runs like this: (1) In Jewish worship the altar where God's name was recorded represented and meant the presence of God to the Jews. Those who ate of the Jewish sacrifices became "partakers" of the altar, which meant to them "participation with God" because the altar was His, His name was recorded upon it, and it represented His presence (I Cor. 10:18).

(2) Paul points out that in like manner in the assembly of the saints, even two or three in His name (Matt. 18:20), when the bread and wine are taken in commemoration of His death there is "communion" (fellowship) with the Christ, with His body and His blood, and therefore participation or sharing with Christ, personally (I Cor. 10:16).

(3) In such observance of the Lord's Supper there is common union with Christ upon the part of Christians and therefore (fellowship) common union upon the part of Christians with each other in this worship. Partaking of the one loaf, in commemoration of the one body Christ gave as a sacrifice, affords and expresses union and fellowship with Christ and unites those who thus participate with Christ in fellowship one with another in the body of Christ (I Cor. 10:17).

(4) He follows with the conclusion that since this is true (union with Christ and with one another in the Lord's Supper) so also participation in false worship unauthorized by Christ, but in harmony with the will of the Devil, meant union with Satan and those who serve him (I Cor. 10:20)

(5) The argument concludes with the fact that those who participate in this false worship serve Satan rather than God and as a result cannot be identified with or participate with Christ (I Cor. 10:21).

This very plain teaching unmistakably condemns those who think they can fellowship religious error, participate in it and encourage it, or bid God's speed to those who take part in it's practice and promotion and yet have "fellowship'' with Christ.


January 22, 1970