What do you mean by saying fellowship is "a state of being?"


I read your sermon outline on fellowship - it is very good. I have a question: you said that fellowship is a "state of being" and I do not understand what you mean. So can you explain it to me, please? People talk about "having fellowship" when they eat together, is it right to say that? Do I have fellowship with my family? Maybe you can help me understand.


The word "fellowship" ought to be used in the same way that you use the word "friendship." I assume you hang out with your friends. Does that mean the hanging out is the friendship? Or is it better said that because you are already friends, you hang out with each other? I hope you see that the latter is the accurate statement because it is possible to hang out with people who are not your friends.

In the same way, people who are in fellowship with each other tend to do things together, such as worshiping together or eating a meal together. But the things they do together doesn't create the fellowship. The meal isn't the fellowship. My relationship with another person is the fellowship.

So when we read, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42), we should not understand that "fellowship" meant they ate meals together. They did do so (Acts 2:46), but that is not the point being given by saying these Christians continued steadfastly in fellowship. It was because of their love for each other that these people found a bound of commonality between them. "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1:10). That bond is seen expressed in their sharing of the Lord's Supper together, and it is why it is all known as "communion." "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread" (I Corinthians 10:16-17). That bond is what led the disciples to share what they had with each other. "Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common" (Acts 4:32).

Fellowship is a description of who they were. They were a people of one heart and one soul. Thus fellowship is a description of their state or attitude toward each other.

When people turn it backwards they lose so much meaning. Sitting down at a meal does make the people at the table have one heart and one soul. But people with one heart and one soul do enjoy sitting down for meals together. People who use "fellowship" to mean a meal then to think you can do fellowship (as if fellowship was a verb). It is a noun that tells us how a group of people view each other.

I hope you have a lot of patience because I am still struggling to understand things?

I do understand what you are saying when you say to think of fellowship as a noun, like friendship. Now you say fellowship is not a verb but Vine says...

"to have fellowship," is so translated in Phi_4:15, RV, for AV, "did communicate." See COMMUNICATE.

So aren't we having fellowship when we do things like distributing to the necessity of the saints and partaking of the Lord's Supper together?

"Fellowship" translates the Greek word koinonia, which is a noun. It can be translated also as communion, association, partnership, sharing, or contribution.

Koinoeo is a Greek verb (notice the different ending). It is related to koinonia but it is translated differently. In English it can mean to share, partake in, communicate, or participate.

Actually there are a set of Greek words which all revolve around the root word koinos, which means "common." Koinoeo is used for making business contracts, joining in marriage, forming a friendship, living in a community, or even getting an education. Where koinonia expresses that two people are of one heart and one mind, koinoeo expresses the actions of working together.

  • Romans 12:13 - distributing aid to needy saints
  • Romans 15:27; Galatians 6:6; Philippians 4:15 - sharing the gospel and material goods
  • I Timothy 5:22; II John 11 - joining another in sin
  • Hebrews 2:14 - sharing life in the world
  • I Peter 4:13 - sharing hardships

Notice especially Hebrews 2:14, "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." Jesus shared humanity with all people, but at the same time we cannot claim that Jesus was in fellowship with all of mankind. That was the point I was making earlier. It is possible to do some common action with another without having a common heart. But going the other way around people with a common heart often do common actions together.

There is a danger that when we engage in common action with others we are showing our support for them and it might eventually lead to having a common heart. That is why Paul and John warned about doing things with sinners (I Timothy 5:22 and II John 11).

I listed all the usages of koinoeo above. Notice that eating a meal or sharing the Lord's Supper isn't listed, though one might argue that it would be suitable usage. What Vines was trying to express in too few words is that koinoeo can be an expression (in action) of a fellowship that already exists. The Philippians expressed their fellowship with Paul by sending him monetary aid while he was preaching the gospel (Philippians 4:15-19). They worked in common with Paul by supporting him because they had a common faith between them. The sending of funds did not create the fellowship. The fellowship led to the sending of the funds.