Easton's Bible Dictionary
fellowship with God ( Genesis 18:17 - 33 ; Exodus 33:9
- 11 ; Numbers 12:7 , 12:8 ), between Christ and his people ( John 14:23 ), by
the Spirit ( 2 Corinthians 13:14 ; Philippians 2:1 ), of believers with one another
( Ephesians 4:1 - 6 ). The Lord's Supper is so called ( 1 Corinthians 10:16 ,
10:17 ), because in it there is fellowship between Christ and his disciples, and
of the disciples with one another.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
The terms "communion" and "fellowship" of the English Bible are varying translations
of the words koinonia, and koinoneo, or their cognates. They designate acts of
fellowship observed among the early Christians or express the unique sense of
unity and fellowship of which these acts were the outward expression. The several
passages in which these terms are used fall into two groups: those in which they
refer to acts of fellowship, and those in which they refer to fellowship as experienced.
I. Act of Fellowship
The acts of fellowship mentioned in the New Testament are of four kinds.
1. The Lord's Supper:
Our information concerning the nature of the fellowship involved in the observance
of this sacrament is confined to the single notice in 1 Corinthians 10:16 , 17,
"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?" Owing
to the presence of the material elements in the sacrament there is a temptation
to limit the word for communion to the sense of partaking. This, however, does
not entirely satisfy the requirements of the context. The full significance of
the term is to be sought in the light of the argument of the whole section (1
Corinthians verses 14 - 22).
Paul is making a protest against Christians participating in idolatrous feasts
on the ground that such feasts are really celebrated in honor of the demons associated
with the idols, and that those who participate in them come into fellowship with
demons. As a proof of this point the apostle cites the Lord's Supper with which
his readers are familiar. By partaking of the cup and the bread the communicants
are linked together in unity: "We, who are many, are one bread, one body: for
we all partake of the one bread." Thus the communion of the elements is a real
communion of the worshippers one with another and with Christ. Unless the communion
be understood in this spiritual sense Paul's illustration falls short of the mark.
The term for fellowship as used in Acts 2:42 is by some interpreted in this sense:
"They continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking
of bread and the prayers." The fact that the four terms are used in pairs and
that three of them refer to specific acts observed by the company of believers
suggests that the term for fellowship also refers to some definite act similar
to the others. It is very plausible to refer this to the community of goods described
in the verses immediately following (see COMMUNITY OF GOODS). The author might,
however, with equal propriety have regarded the interchange of spiritual experiences
as an act of worship in the same class with "the breaking of bread and the prayers."
Christian fellowship found a natural mode of expression in almsgiving. This is
enjoined as a duty in Romans 12:13 ; 1 Timothy 6:18 ; Hebrews 13:16. An example
of such giving is the great collection raised among the Gentileconverts for the
poor saints of Jerusalem (Romans 15:26 ; 2 Corinthians 8:4 ; 9:13). To this collection
Paul attached so much importance as a witness to the spirit of fellowship which
the gospel inspires in all hearts alike, whether Jew or Gentile, that he desired
even at the peril of his life to deliver it with his own hand. See COLLECTION.
A form of fellowship closely related to almsgiving was that of formal aid or cooperation
in Christian work, such as the aid given to Paul by the Philippians (Philippians
1:5). A unique form of this cooperation is the formal endorsement by giving the
fight hand of fellowship as described in Galatians 2:9.
II. Fellowship as Experienced.
From the very beginning the early Christians experienced a peculiar sense of unity.
Christ is at once the center of this unity and the origin of every expression
of fellowship. Sometimes the fellowship is essentially an experience and as such
it is scarcely susceptible of definition. It may rather be regarded as a mystical
union in Christ. In other instances the fellowship approaches or includes the
idea of intercourse. In some passages it is represented as a participation or
partnership. The terms occur most frequently in the writings of Paul with whom
the idea of Christian unity was a controlling principle. In its various relations,
fellowship is represented:
(1) As a communion between the Son and the Father.
The gospel record represents Jesus as enjoying a unique sense of communion and
intimacy with the Father. Among many such expressions those of Matthew 11:25 -
27 (compare Luke 10:21 , 22) and John 14 - 15 are especially important.
(2) As our communion with God,
either with the Father or the Son or with the Father through the Son or the Holy
Spirit. "Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1
John 1:3; compare also John 14:6 , 23 , 16).
(3) As our communion one with another.
"If we walk in the light, as he is in the
light, we have fellowship one with another" (1 John 1:7). Sometimes the idea of
communion occurs in relation with abstract ideas or experiences: "Have no fellowship
with the unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11); "the fellowship of his
sufferings" (Philippians 3:10); "the fellowship of thy faith" (Philemon 1:6).
In three passages the relation of the fellowship is not entirely clear: the "fellowship
of the Spirit" (Philippians 2:1); "the communion of the Holy Spirit" (2 Corinthians
13:14); and "the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:9). The
fellowship is probably to be understood as that prevailing among Christians by
virtue of the grace of Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
It is not to be inferred that the idea of fellowship
is limited to the passages in which the specific words for communion are used.
Some of the clearest and richest expressions of unity and fellowship are found
in the Gospels, though, these words do not occur in them. In fact, perhaps, the
most familiar and forcible expressions of the idea are those in which they are
represented symbolically, as in the parable of the Vine and the Branches (John
15:1) or in the figure of the Body and its Members (Matthew 5:29 ; Romans 12:5
; 1 Corinthians 12).
Russell Benjamin Miller
bible commentary, bible reference, bible study, history of, communion, define, fellowship, koinoneo, koinonia, lord's supper, types of communion