The term ‘Koinonia’, a Greek word, occurs around 20 times in New Testament. Each of these verses give one or more aspects of the Koinonia as implied by the original Greek term. Koinonia is mostly translated in English New Testament as ‘Fellowship’. The meaning of the Greek word takes many forms – Fellowship, close relationship, participation, gift, companion, partner and sharer. 1 Koinonia first occurs in Acts 2: 42. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
” 2 Some of the important passages are, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. ” 3 “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. ” 4 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. ” 5 “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
” 6 “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? ” 7 “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy 1. Richard J. Goodrich, Albert L. Lukaszewski, A Reader’s Greek New Testament (Michigan: Zondervan, 2003),375-376. 2. Acts 2:42 3. 1 John 1:3 4. 1 John 1:6 5. 1 John 1:7 6. 2 Corinthians 13:14 7. 2 Corinthians 6:14 1 complete by being like minded, having the same love being one in spirit and purpose. ” 8 “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. ”
9 A care full reading of these passages denote Koinonia to mean, fellowship, fellow ship with fellow humans, fellowship with the Triune God – God the father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, common attribute – holiness, common bond – Love, like minded, one in Spirit and purpose, and the purpose of this fellowship is to become like Christ.
This fellowship is possible only with similar characteristics – purity, which is made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Fellowship with Christ means in Pauline thought, being in Christ, in Christ’s words, being in Christ to give fruits. This term is associated with the church. Bible says Church is the body of Christ. 10 Church is not the making of men but it is the creation of our Lord. God is the author of the church. So also Koinonia is not of men but it is the gift of God. It is evident then that the fellowship meant by the term Koinonia denotes the fellowship between the members of the church and that with Christ.
Koinonia is brought into the church by the Holy Spirit and with out God the Trinity present in the church, there is no koinonia worth mentioning. It can be said, Koinonia is the God’s plan for the church. God wants fellowship with His created beings and also wants that fellowship to permeate among his created beings. The Koinonia – Fellowship with God has a definite purpose, entails participation in God’s plan and being partner and sharing in his work- his vine yard. 8. Philippians 2:1, 2 9. Philippians 3:10 10. Ephesians 5:24-32
The concept of Missions ensues from the study of Koinonia. We can clearly see this concept through out Bible. Fellowship with God Creation scenario. In Genesis, we see God creates all the universe and Adam. God wanted Adam to have fellowship. God and Adam had fellowship. But when sin entered humanity, effecting the fall of man, Adam wantonly got away from the presence of God and the agony and anguish inflicted on God is reflected by God’s question “Adam ,where are you? ”11 Fall of man. The consequence of sin is the loss of Fellowship with God.
The corollary of this is the loss of fellowship among human beings as depicted by the Cain-Abel episode. Instead of loving fellowship- Koinonia, there arose jealousy, hatred, and enmity resulting in murder. When God asked Cain , “where is your brother, Cain lied, saying I don’t know. He even protested saying, am I his keeper? – a reckless answer. Sin breeds lies and recklessness. The scenario was continuing and the mankind was estranging from God’s intended purpose of creation, kindling the indignation of God, resulting in the deluge during Noah’s time.
But there are instances of people having fellowship with God like Enoch and Noah. Life of Enoch. It is written in Bible, that Enoch walked with God while living in this world. God took him at his 365th age. Enoch’s life illustrates a life of constant and continuous fellowship with God. Life of Noah. Noah lived a life pleasing to God denoting the fellowship he had with God. God was communicating with Noah and Noah was responding to God’s instructions and doing the work God had given to him. Fellowship entails partnership and participation of the God’s plan. Call of Abraham.
God called Abraham to follow him and Abraham faithfully followed him. Godetween God and Abraham seen in this passage is a fine example of Fellowship – close relationship between God and Abraham. God wanted to bless the whole world through Abraham and reestablish the lost fellowship between God and humanity. The chosen tribe of Israel, with whom God wanted to establish fellowship, is the descendant of Abraham.
The nation of Israel. The nation of Israel is the chosen one for establishing God’s fellowship with humanity. God wanted to bless the whole nations of the world through Israel. God blessed Egypt through Joseph. He blessed Babylon through Daniel. God planted his presence among Israel during their sojourn in wilderness, all through day and night. God communicated with Moses face to face, just like a friend. Moses had good fellowship with God. The nation of Israel was not faith full all the time and sinned against God. Sin estranges God’s people from God and the fellowship is lost.
God wanted to reestablish the fellowship and he raised many prophets to give clarion call and to bring back people to his fold. Prophets. The mind of God is clearly depicted in the messages of the prophets. Through Isaiah God laments, “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. ” 13 Fellowship is lost when there is rebellion, “The Ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. ” 14 Fellowship is lost when there is no understanding, when there is loss of communication.
God laments through Prophet Jeremiah, “…what fault did your fathers find in me that 12. Genesis 18: 17-33 13. Isaiah 1: 2 14. Isaiah 1: 3 they strayed so far from me? ”15 God anguishes, “my people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. ” 16 God is the living water, but the nation of Israel have opted the worldly things instead of God, showing that the fellowship with God is lost when the close relation ship with him is lost.
God says, Israel has forgotten him, “Does a maiden for get her Jewelry, a bride her wedding? yet my people have forgotten me with out number. ” 17 God says, “My people are fools, they do not know me. They are sense less children; they have no understanding they are skilled in doing evil they know not how to do good. ” 18 When the fellowship with God is lost, knowledge of God and understanding of God’s ways are lost, and the ability to perform good works glorifying God is also lost. In all these passages God complains of the loss of fellowship with his chosen people.
But God longs to re establish the lost relationship. God says, Return faithless Israel… I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful, I will not be angry for ever…for I am your husband. I will choose you …I will give shepherds after my own heart, who will lead with you with knowledge and understanding …Return faithless people, I will cure you of your backsliding. (Jeremiah, 3:12, 14, 15, 22) God expresses his love for his people through the prophets. Through Jeremiah, He says, “Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him.
There fore my heart yearns for him, I have great compassion for him”. 19 Here we see the mind of God. Though the chosen nation has sinned and estranged from God, loosing the fellowship, God’s heart yearns for them and God longs to re establish the fellowship– the relationship. 15. Jeremiah, 2:5 16. Jeremiah, 2:13 17. Jeremiah, 2:32 18. Jeremiah, 4:22 19. Jeremiah, 31:20 God’s agony for the estranged people is depicted in the writings of Prophet Hosea, My people are determined to turn from me. … How can I give up you Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel? …My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man- the Holy one among you. ( Hosea, 11: 7-9) Here we see, God says he is among his people, but his people turn from him; but still God is compassionate and agonized. God promises through Prophet Jeremiah, making new covenant, forgiving their wicked ness and making them His People. “… I will put my law in their minds and write in their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people.
… for I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. ” 20 Here we see fellow ship with God is re established when sins are for given. The new covenant foresees a conversion in the mind of God’s people. The new covenant is best expressed by prophet Isaiah in Chapter 53, which talks of the Redeemer suffering for the sins of his people. Isaiah states, Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows … But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.
…the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all … he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. (Isaiah, 53: 4-8) The Redeemer took all the iniquities and bore all the punishment to bring forgiveness and restoring the peace and relation ship with the Godhead for his people. Fellowship with God is possible only when the sins are forgiven and when similar characteristics exist among all. The fulfillment of Prophecy and the advent of Jesus. At the appointed time, the eternal Son of God took the form of humanity and was born of Virgin Mary according to the scriptures
20. Jeremiah, 31:33, 34 . and with the fulfillment of prophecy. Gospel according to Mathew records the statement of the angel, She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins…. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ which means, ‘God with us. ’ (Mathew, 1: 21-23) Here we see, “Jesus will save his people from their sins, and “they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us –God dwells amongst us.
The second God head of the Trinity has assumed permanently the human nature so that He will dwell among the humans, and he will forgive their sins and justify them as sinless. This is the essence of the Gospel. Because of the advent of Christ Jesus, fellowship with humans is established. The teachings of Jesus. The Jews- Pharisees taught the Old testament scriptures scrupulously, leaving the essence of the scriptures. Jesus taught the scripture truths effectively using parables driving the central, deep, and spiritual points of the truth.
Apart from the ethical teachings contained in the sermon of the mount, Jesus taught his disciples how to do the will of God effectively, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. ” 21 In essence believing in the son of God is the work pleasing to God. The Gospel truth is well given in the words of Jesus, “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,”22 and “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
”23 The sole requirement of salvation on the part of men is to believe in the Name (Person) of Jesus and receive him. 1 John 6: 29 22 John 1: 12 23 John 3: 16 Abiding in Christ. Jesus explains the importance of abiding with him in Gospel according to John Chapter, 15. Here we see fellow ship between Jesus and the believer is compared to the vine tree and the branches. Only when the branch remain in the tree it can be alive and give fruits. Apart from the tree the branch itself cannot give fruits. So if we are in fellowship with Jesus and Jesus in us, we will be fruitful.
And God will be glorified because of our good fruits. 24 The fellowship entails giving good fruits for the glory of God. We may compare and contrast this with God’s question in the prophecy of Jeremiah, “I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine? ”25 God planted Israel as a good vine tree expecting good fruit, but it turned into a corrupt and wild vine. The reason for this unfruitfulness is the non abiding nature of the nation Israel. What is the fruit Jesus is talking about?
Jesus explicitly says to obey his commands, the chief command being the command to love each other as Jesus has loved us, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. ”26 Jesus has taught that love is the fulfillment of Law and Prophecies. Jesus has summarized the law as, 1). Loving God whole heartedly and 2) loving the neighbor as oneself. 27 Fellow ship and Church assembly. Jesus promises to be with us where ever two or three come together in his name, “where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. ”28 This denotes the fellowship – Koinonia between the believers and the Savior.
The criteria required are, 1) gathering in His name, 2) togetherness- oneness of mind. 24 John 15: 1-8. 25 Jeremiah 2: 21 26 John 15: 12 27 Mark 12: 30,31 28 Mathew 18: 20 Fellowship and Missions. Jesus promises to be with us always to the end of the age, “… and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. ” 29 This promise is given at the great commission denoting the fellowship of the savior is assured for the carrying out of the great commission.
The fellowship has a definite purpose, doing the will of God, partaking in his plan of salvation taking the Gospel message to the un reached. Fellowship- Koinonia has a definite Missionary perspective. Fellowship and interpersonal relationship. Jesus gave importance for both the vertical relation ship- relation ship between the person and God and the horizontal relation ship- the person and his neighbor. We see this concept in many of his parables. A beautiful example of the God’s requirement of fellow ship- Koinonia is given in the parable of prodigal son.
30 Here we see the second son went away from the fellowship of his father and his brother and lived a sinful life, wasting all his resources and finally repented and returned to his father. But the loving father was all along waiting for his return and received him whole heartedly and restored him his son ship, and there was joy and celebration in the house hold. But the elder son could not digest this. He could not forgive his brother and was arguing with his father. The father admonished him and states, “… we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again he was lost and is found.
” 31 This parable tells the mind of God. He wants all to be saved and wants his people to cooperate with him in saving people. Thus Koinonia results in gladness. Jesus, in his high priestly prayer prayed to the Father, “…that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know 29 Mathew 28:20 30 Luke 15: 12-32 31 Luke 15: 32 that you send me …”32 Fellowship – Koinonia as envisaged by Jesus is complete unity, unity in purpose, action, witness, and partnering with Christ in carrying out God’s will of saving people.
The birth of the Church is in direct answer to this High priestly prayer of Jesus. The birth of the Church. Church is not a mere organization involving Christians. Church is the mystical body of Christ for carrying out the plan of God in saving the nations. Augustine affirmed that “Church is the mystical body of Christ whose principle or unity is that it is a fellowship of love. ” 33 Church is the body of Christ, in that through the Spirit Christ is ruling inspiring, sustaining and uniting power in the church. … It is the presence and working of the Holy Spirit which makes church the body of Christ.
” 34 In Acts, we see “… the Lord added to their numbers daily those who were being saved. ” 35 So it is clear, Church is the making of God. In the spiritual sense there is only one Church – Church Universal, spiritual, and invisible. But practically we see many denominations- big and small. These are all local assemblies, practicing Christians. The one universal, Spiritual, holy, apostolic, and catholic church comprises of members from all local assemblies, big or small, from all parts of the earth, with out any difference of race or culture or language. Fellowship among Christians
Christians have fellow ship with the father, Son and Holy Spirit and with one another. Possession of the Spirit is the decisive mark of being a Christian. 36 The fellowship with God leads one to fellowship with fellow believers, because “God has poured out his love into our hearts by 32 John 17: 22-23 33 Owen C. Thomas p 233 34 Owen C. Thomas p 231 35 Acts 2: 47 , 36 Owen C. Thomas p 231 the Holy Spirit. ” 37 A. Nygren argues in his book Agape and Eros “The fundamental theme of Christian faith and life is Agape, God’s love for humanity in Christ and in response humanity’s love for their neighbors.
” 38 Surely there exists Koinonia between true believers, what ever be the denominational difference among them. The one sign of the universal Koinonia is the existence of un explainable love towards the fellow Christian of any denomination. The absence of this love is a clear proof of heretical leanings. Koinonia – Fellow ship is the mark of any Christian assembly. The fellowship characteristics expected out of any Christian assembly as listed out in Unger’s Bible dictionary, “Confession of faults to one another with prayer, James 5:16 . Assembly with exhortation and provoking to love and good works.
Hebrews 10: 24, 25. Partaking of Lord’s supper. I. Corinthians11:24, 25. Ministering to the Saints: Acts11:29, Romans 12:13, 15: 25, I Cor. 16:1, 2. II Cor. 8:4, Heb: 13:16. Bearing infirmities of the week and edification, Rom: 15:1. Love for and fellowship with one another is necessary as an evidence to love of God. I John 4:12. Christ prayed that his people might have fellow ship with each other. Fellowship with God is essential to fruitfulness. Jn15:4”. (Unger’s Bible Dictionary 1983, 349) On a look of the early Christian Church, one can easily find the marks of Koinonia among Believers.
We see in Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to Apostolic teaching, Breaking of bread- meaning partaking in Lord’s supper, Prayer, being together, had every thing in common, selling their possessions and giving to the needy, glad and sincere, and praising God”. The immediate effect of the Koinonia among the early Christians was that the other people came to know of this and filled with awe favoring the believers and the Church began to grow as God was adding the new converts. 37 Romans 5:5 38 Owen C. Thomas p 265 It is not out of context to quote a famous Tamil Evangelist, N.
Jeevanandam regarding the Christian fellowship. While he was giving a message on Christian unity and love, narrated a vision that he had. While he was praying, he in his vision, was taken to Hell by an angel. There he saw all in pandemonium. There was a dining table and there were food available on it. People surrounded the dining table and were very hungry and desirous of eating. But they were unable to eat as their hands were stiff and they could not take the food to their mouth. After struggling for some time they got restless and started cursing each other for their plight, accusing one another and were hitting each other.
There was utter pandemonium. At the next vision, the angel took him to Heaven. He was taken to a dining room, and the dining table was full of eatables. People came to the dining table and they were all in joy full mood, and started praising God. On closely looking on them, the evangelist found out that these people also could not bend their elbow. But they all started to eat, praising God. They started feeding one another with their stiff hands with out any difficulty, patting each other. They all cooperated with each other, there was happiness and praising.
The message is simple- by helping others one fulfills the Royal law, ‘love your neighbor as your self’ 39. The new law of love cares for one another, honors, accepts, serves, and encourages others. God, as a father wants His children to live at peace and harmony with each other. St Paul Teaches in his epistles, If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:1-5) __________________ 39 James 2: 8 Biblical rationale for small groups We have seen the Church is a Spiritual entity and God is the author of it, it is catholic-means universal, and invisible. The local Christian assemblies, big or small, are all part of the Spiritual Church.
God only knows who all part of the Church are. The one and only qualification needed on the part of the believer to be a part of this Church is faith in Jesus – the shed blood of Jesus Christ effecting “Justification by faith”. Salvation is free and is of the Grace of God. Having justified freely, the believer gratefully obeys the Lord, and is in spiritual union with the Savior, participating with Christ and fellow believers in carrying out the will of God, with the ultimate goal of glorifying God.
The chief end of Koinonia is the glorification God, through worship acceptable and work fruitful. As long as these criteria are met, there is no problem with the size of the congregation, whether big or small. There is often difficulty on the part of one Church group in practicing Koinonia with another group, because of doctrinal differences. It is human to cast doubt about other side. It takes maturity to understand and acknowledge other groups. We find a beautiful example in the life of Moses. The people of Israel were murmuring and complaining against God and Moses.
Moses was much grieved and he prayed to God that he can not take the burden of leading the people single handed and wanted God to take him away. But God told Moses to gather 70 elders so that he will put the Spirit on them and so did Moses. God sent the Spirit to all the seventy elders and when the Spirit came, all of them prophesied. But of the seventy, two elders – Eldad and Medad were not in the company of Moses but were in the camp and they had also prophesied. Coming to know of this, Joshua asked Moses to stop them. Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake?
I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them! ” 40 Here we see a beautiful example of leadership, magnanimity and tolerance on the part of Moses. Joshua, out of loyalty towards Moses, wanted others, who are not in the company of Moses, to be derecognized. But Moses wants all the people to be prophets like him whether they are in his company or not. We see another similar instance in New Testament. John tried to stop another man who was driving out demons in the Name of Jesus, reasoning that he is not of their company.
But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you”. 42 Group loyalties should give way to loyalty towards God. Koinonia should be manifested universally, with out any local loyalty. Heresy and Cults. Another aspect we have to consider regarding small groups is the Doctrinal Purity. Through out the church history, one can find heretical movements. There is a danger of development of heretical tendencies in small groups. , distorting the Gospel message as taught by Christ and Apostles.
The leaders of the small groups may introduce novel doctrines by giving false interpretations of the Bible passages, even to the extent of denying the Lord who has bought them with his blood. The modus operandi of these leaders is to introduce novelty to attract more people. Their motive is aggrandizing themselves. This problem is existing even from N. T. period. Jesus and the Apostles have warned of these people. 43 Numbers 11:29 42 Luke 9:49,50 43 Mt 24:5, 11,24; Acts 20:40; Rom 16: 17,18; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 Tim 6:3-5 Examples of heretics of early Church are, Montanists, Arians, and Gnostics.
Modern day heresy is Jehovah Witness. Cults. Small groups may initially exhibit much cohesiveness and have very close knit fellowship, attracting it’s members to its fold. The members will be totally loyal to the group leader even surpassing loyalty to Christ. These small groups, if with out communion with other Christian communities, may develop into a close circuit community with secret doctrines and dealings. The leader of the cult will exert out right control over the members of the group, almost enslaving them, indoctrinating them, and leading them astray- away from the true doctrine.
The leader may even assume superhuman postures, demanding and accepting allegiance more than that is given to Christ who has shed his blood, bought and redeemed them. Then the group will lose its Christian character and outlook, the members will backslide, losing the grace and Joy of Salvation and get separated from the fold of Christ. A few examples of the past decades are, 1). Sun Moon group of South Korea, 2). Jim Jones group of United States of America, and 3) Paul Asir Laurie group of India.
So it is always safe and advisable for the small groups to have some form of communion with the established major Church groups. Summary Koinonia – fellowship is a divine attribute, a divine creation, and it is alien to carnal human mind. Koinonia is possible only with the participation of Godhead- the Triune God- God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, and any show of fellow ship with out God’s presence is only hypocritical exhibit, concealing the selfish human attribute. Koinonia as manifested in the early church is God’s plan for carrying out his will – taking the message of Salvation to all mankind.
Koinonia exists in the Church and God is present among his people in the Church- The Church Universal, mystic, spiritual – the body of Christ. The prerequisites of membership in the universal Church for humans are; Justification by faith in Jesus, cleansing of sins by the blood of Christ, and sanctification by Holy Spirit. The love of God is shed abroad in the hearts of members by Holy Spirit and this is the bond of fellowship- Koinonia. The local church groups, big or small, are all part of the universal church.
The visible signs of Koinonia in Church groups are: the joyful worship of the Triune God and fellowship with partaking of Holy Eucharist, love and concern for one another, Joy of sharing and caring, helping and lifting the weak, honest and transparent dealing with one another, partaking in the joys and tribulations of one another, taking care of other’s needs, encouraging one another, and considering others better than oneself. BIBLIOGRAPHY Thomas, Owen C. Introduction to Christian Theology. Delhi: ISPCK, 2000. The NIV Study Bible, The Zondervan Corporation, 1985 Unger, Merrill F. Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Chicago: Moody press, 1983,
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