What the Bible says about
Basket of Summer Fruit
(From Forerunner Commentary)
On the day of Pentecost in AD 31, Peter preached an inspired sermon to Jews and proselytes from around the Roman world who had gathered in Jerusalem for the holy day. When he finished, three thousand of his listeners stepped forward to be baptized and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior (Acts 2:41). Just that quickly, the church—a sizable one, at that—was inaugurated.
Suddenly, three thousand people, who may have had little else in common, were thrown together as brethren. Things could have gone very badly very quickly, but to their credit, as Acts 2:42 in The New English Translation Bible (NET) informs us, "They were devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
Among the four things to which these early converts devoted themselves was fellowship. Fellowship immediately became an important part of their reasons for meeting together. It was one of their prime objectives.
What is fellowship? We talk about fellowship, and we often tell one another that what we need is more fellowship. However, our modern ideas of fellowship may have become so watered-down that the word no longer carries the same meaning that it did during this infancy stage of the church, which is highly praised for its unity (see verse 44; 4:32-33; 5:12; etc.).
We are not surprised to read that the early church devoted itself to "the apostles' teaching" and "to prayer." These two—essentially, study and prayer—are the most important means of growth and effectiveness in the Christian life, and this is everywhere evident in the rest of Scripture. Yet, Luke records that these early Christians also devoted themselves to fellowship. They just did not have fellowship, going through the motions of being with each other; they devoted themselves to it.
This means that fellowship was a priority, and one of their foremost objectives in gathering together. To them, just being with one another was not necessarily fellowship. Instead, it was something that they devoted themselves to accomplish when they were together.
We often view fellowship as what we do. We have casual conversations and common activities. This is not wrong and can contribute to fellowship, but it falls far short of fellowship according to biblical standards, as well as falling short of the meaning and use of the Greek words that underlie the English word "fellowship."
We may be thinking, "My view of fellowship is much richer and deeper than mere social activity. True fellowship involves getting together for spiritual purposes: for sharing needs, for prayer, and for discussing God's Word to encourage, comfort, and edify one another." And we would be right. These things are certainly aspects of Christian fellowship, but even they do not comprise the full meaning of Christian fellowship in the New Testament.
God connects the basket of summer fruit (Amos 8:2) with its lesson of remembrance in Deuteronomy 26:1-10. We should note several factors.
The Setting: The Israelites, having endured decades of Egyptian slavery and wilderness wanderings, are poised on the threshold of the Promised Land. Moses instructs them: "And it shall be, when you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground . . . and put it in a basket" (verses 1-2).
The Symbol: a basket of the woven, wicker sort, filled with summer produce. We might visualize a cornucopia. God instructs the Israelite to bring the basket "to the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide" (verse 2b), and there he is to make two declarations, the first to the priest, the second to God.
The Ritual: To the priest, the offerer briefly declares, "I have come to the country which the LORD swore to our fathers to give us" (verse 3). The declaration succinctly affirms that God has honored His promise to the patriarchs. After handing the basket to the priest, who places it before the altar (verse 4), the offerer makes his second declaration, this one to God. This affirmation recognizes God's faithfulness to carry out what He has promised: "My father was a Syrian about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous" (verse 5).
The declaration also rehearses Israel's "affliction and our labor and our oppression" (verse 7) in Egypt, and mentions God's deliverance "with great terror and with signs and wonders" (verse 8). Then comes that timeless characterization of the Promised Land:
"He has brought us to this place and has given us this land,'a land flowing with milk and honey': and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O LORD, have given me." Then you shall set it before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God. (verse 9-10)
The basket of summer fruit served as tangible evidence of God's faithfulness to deliver them. Its existence stood firm proof that He was "able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). Remember, God promised the patriarchs land (Genesis 12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18-21; 17:8). But what He actually gave His people was so special, so grand, that only "a land flowing with milk and honey" could properly describe it.
The "worship" mentioned in Deuteronomy 26:10 was praise and thanksgiving to God for His works "exceedingly abundantly above all that [Israel could] ask or think." Yesterday or today, the basket of summer fruit teaches the same lesson: Remember your God in the midst of His blessings to you. Do not neglect Him.
A Basket of Summer Fruit
Because we read the Bible in English, puns and other wordplay are lost in translation. Understanding this vision depends on a play on the Hebrew words translated "summer fruit" and "end." Amos answers God's question by saying he saw ripe fruit. But, when God responds, He uses a similar sounding word to suggest the time was ripe for His people.
The fruit represents people. If ripe, they were ready either to be used or to rot. God says the time is ripe for picking Israel. God had tried to get the people to repent, but in their hardheaded and hardhearted way, they would not. John the Baptist uses a different metaphor for the Jews of his day: The ax is about to fall (Matthew 3:10). God's patience had run out. He would "not pass by them anymore." In their spiritually oblivious state, disaster would take them by surprise.
Could we be taken by surprise?
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. (I Thessalonians 5:1-6)
This passage sounds strikingly similar to Amos 8. Could we be lulled into complacency? Is God's hand involved in world events, while we think we have plenty of time before the end? Are we motivated to make use of the time left to us? God says the time is ripe. He gives us time to repent, but that time grows shorter daily.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)
In order to grasp what it means to devote ourselves to fellowship, we need to understand two Greek word groups: koinônia and its derivatives and metochos, a word that will become important because of its spiritual relationship to koinônia.
Before we consider the Greek words, we need to take a look at "fellowship" from an English dictionary to see what it might add to our understanding. According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, it means: a) companionship, company; association; b) the community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience, i.e., a unified body of people of equal rank sharing in common interests, goals, and characteristics, etc.; c) partnership, membership. The last definition has become an obsolete usage, but it is an important one, showing how our ideas of fellowship have changed over the years.
Three key ideas come out of this:
- Fellowship means being a part of a group, a body of people.
- Fellowship means having or sharing with others certain things in common.
- Fellowship can indicate a partnership, which involves people working together.
But what about Christian fellowship according to the Greek words for "fellowship" as used in the New Testament?
Koinos is the root word, which means "common, mutual, public." It refers to that which is held in common. For instance, the common Greek spoken across the Roman Empire is called Koine.
Koinônia is the primary word that is translated as "fellowship." Two main ideas are contained in it: a) "to share together, take part together" in the sense of partnership or participation, and b) "to share with" in the sense of giving to others. The New Testament usage emphasizes that what all parties involved share in common is in some way a relationship.
Koinônos is the noun form of the word, though used less often in the New Testament, meaning "a partner, associate, or companion." A similar word, synkoinônos, meaning "one who shares with" or "a partaker of," is used in Philippians 1:7: "For it is right for me to think this about all of you, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel all of you became partners in God's grace together with me" (NET, emphasis ours).
It is easy to see that "sharing" and "partaking together" are central to fellowship.
The same idea is found in the other relevant Greek word, metochos, an adjective, along with its verb, metechô, and its noun, metoche. The basic notion in all of these words is "to have with" or "to have together." Specifically, metochos means "sharing in, partaking of," and thus its noun form means "a partner, associate." The verb, metechô, means "to become a partaker of" or "to have a share in."
We can observe these two Greek word groups in II Corinthians 6:14, where the apostle Paul uses them in parallel fashion: "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship [metoche] has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion [koinônia] has light with darkness?" Obviously, these questions are rhetorical. We know that these concepts are polar opposites; they share nothing in common.
Devoting Ourselves to Fellowship
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