Recently I have been doing some reading on the Canadian Expeditionary Force during WWI. I was struck by the fact that even in North America during the war there was espionage and the very real threat of attack. Because of this, cruise ships traveling to and from Britain did so in convoy with battleships. The logic was simple—lone ships are an easy target. That logic was understood in the seventeenth century as well, and the Puritan writer George Swinnock applied it to the Christian life when he said, “Satan watches for those vessels that sail without a convoy.”
As Christians, the Bible warns us to be “sober” and “vigilant” because of the continual threat of the one who has evil intent against us. But the safety of the Christian is bound up in another important New Testament word—koinonia, translated by the English word “fellowship.” This was one of the key features associated with the strength and growth of the early church. Luke tells us that the saints continued in “the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship…and the Lord added to the Church…” (Acts 2:42-47).
It is important to distinguish between fellowship and unity; fellowship is more specific. There may be unity—i.e., the absence of division—without the enjoyment of real and vital fellowship. We are thankful to God for unity in our congregation, but we must not be satisfied to leave it there. We must work at encouraging one another, building one another up, and strengthening the body of Christ. It is here, not in unity alone, that the well being of the congregation consists. The word koinonia is used in the New Testament to press home the need for mutual interaction as a means of grace. Like other prescribed means of grace, fellowship flows directly from Christ and finds its fulfillment in the development of His kingdom and the glory of His name.
Fellowship is first of all, with “the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” In his first epistle, John uses the word fellowship four times in the first chapter (1 John 1:3, 6, 7). There it is used exclusively in the context of salvation. In other words, to have fellowship with God is to have eternal life, to be saved. It is from this that all fellowship flows and apart from this there can be no true fellowship with those around us. read more »