Christ links repentance with the Kingdom of God and believing the gospel. Once one hears the true gospel and believes it, he begins to change the way he thinks. Peter ties repentance with forgiveness of past sins and God's giving of His Spirit. Once the Ethiopian eunuch heard Philip's explanation of the Bible, he changed his thinking (repented) and was baptized. Initial repentance includes recognition, acceptance, and belief of the true gospel and making changes in one's life to conform to the new way.
Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance
Two key ideas are important if we are to grasp the biblical teaching on "fellowship." The first is that, in the New Testament, what we have in common is shared, to begin with, because of a common relationship that we all have together in Christ. We can have fellowship and share with each other because we have a relationship with Christ; we share Him in common.
Paul writes in I Corinthians 1:9, "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." The Revised English Bible translates I John 1:3 as, "It is this which we have seen and heard that we declare to you also, in order that you may share with us in a common life, that life which we share with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ."
Fellowship is first the sharing of a common life with each other through a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We were all individuals with little in common until the Father's calling separated us from everyone else in this world, and we became part of Christ's body through His Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13, 27). In this, we can see that true Christian fellowship is primarily a relationship rather than an activity.
In Acts 2:42, the young church was not merely devoting itself to common activities but to a vital, spiritual relationship. It was this relationship that produced an active sharing in other ways. Many of us have gotten this backwards—that the activities produce the relationship. Not so! The relationship comes first, then the common activities follow.
It is so important that we grasp this. Fellowship means that we belong to each other in a relationship because we share with one another the common life and grace of Jesus Christ. From this flows additional sharing of our time, experiences, wisdom, and many other things.
The second key idea derives from the fact that both New Testament Greek words for "fellowship," koinônia and metochos, mean "to share together" in the sense of a partnership. As sharers together with Christ, we are automatically copartners with Him and with our brethren in His enterprise here on earth. His work is our work.
A business partnership is always formed in order to attain a known objective, such as providing a service to the public at a profit for the partners. In the same way, the concept of a spiritual partnership implies that it is created with godly objectives, the most important one being glorifying God. Just as we are united in a relationship, so we are all united in a partnership formed to glorify God by completing His work.
Paul writes about Christian unity in Romans 15:5-6, explaining that its aim is to glorify God: "Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Peter also states that our service for God is ultimately to bring Him glory: "If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (I Peter 4:11).
Thus, fellowship also means that we have been brought into partnership with our Savior and with each other to fulfill God's will and glorify Him.
To summarize what true Christian fellowship is, relationship describes what we are, a community of people bound together by our common life that we share through our union with Christ. Partnership describes how we interact within that relationship—we are partners in a calling and an enterprise in which we are to work harmoniously with a shared purpose to achieve mutual objectives to glorify God and to do the work of Jesus Christ.
While many today consider it to be of little importance, fellowship in the body of Christ is certainly no side issue. In Acts 2:42, as one of the four activities to which the early church devoted itself, it was listed alongside Bible study and prayer. God has called us and put us together as His Family to accomplish His purpose in us and ultimately in all of mankind. We should not forget that when we fellowship, we are sharing and working together toward a common goal, the Kingdom of God.
Devoting Ourselves to Fellowship
God sent true ministers to the people, who believed His words from their mouths and obeyed the true doctrines. Seeing God's promises, they adopted the way of life that leads to their fulfillment. By their daily actions, walking in the footsteps of the apostles and Jesus Christ, they expressed living faith toward God, were baptized, and received the earnest of His Spirit toward salvation.
Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Faith Toward God
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
There was a time, signified by this day of Pentecost, when the church was unified—perhaps as unified as it ever was in its entire history. These verses reveal two elements of the time when the unity of the church was at its very peak.
1) They were devoted to the apostles' doctrine. In the first century, that was "the faith once delivered." It means they were constant. They were resolute. They were single-minded. They were determined in learning and following it. They did not drift. They did not swerve from it, and it produced what it is supposed to: faith in God; faith in His way; faith in His church; confidence and trust in putting these things into practice. They were deeply convicted.
2) They took care of each other. They were very much concerned for their brother's welfare. This was not communism, where they sold all their goods and turned them over to the administration of the church to distribute equally to all. But, rather, it indicates they voluntarily looked out for each other personally (individually), striving to meet the needs of each other.
This is the epitome of "feeding the flock"—and ALL of the body is participating, not just the ministry. Everybody is nurturing everybody else. The whole body participating in two major things, pursuing the faith once delivered and taking care of each other.
The New Testament epistles make it very clear that later, when the first century church was splitting, the people were counseled to get back to the faith once delivered—which means that they had drifted from it. They were no longer doing the things they were doing in Acts 2. Again, why? Why counsel them to get back to the apostles' doctrines?
Putting this together, asking where faith arises from, there are two major components. The first is God and what He does (I Corinthians 2). He opens up our mind. He predisposes it for us to receive something. The second is expounded upon by Paul in Romans 10. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the word of God." Those two work together. What God does, by a miraculous act of His mind, of His will, of His Spirit working in our minds, is combined with the message He gives to the person He sends. It is to be the basis and foundation of our conversion and our faith. From that point on, it becomes a matter of learning more specifically the things that are contained within the message that was delivered to us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)
Godly unity produces joy because it overcomes the sorrow of self-seeking and fulfills the true love of outgoing concern for others. Joy through unity comes when God's people have all things in common—the same beliefs and desires working toward a common goal.
Martin G. Collins
About 3,000 people responded to Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost. They listened intently, and due to God's inspiration of Peter's message, drawn entirely from the Old Testament, linking Jesus personally to the events mentioned in the sermon, they responded. They were, in a way, reliving prophesied events that were vitally important as a foundation for their times and most especially, for their nation's future and ours.
However, the newest converts were still not as spiritually well-prepared as the apostles, not having had the advantage of the close companionship the apostles had had with Jesus during the three-and-a-half years of day-and-night experience with Him. Nonetheless, despite the intensity of the activity on the Day of Pentecost and the rising persecution of the church by the Jews that followed, each person called into the church received the Father's careful scrutiny. He was not calling them to failure. Their calling was not a wild scramble to see who might grab the fabled brass ring. From God's point of view, everything is done in love and given due deliberation, so He therefore does everything judiciously.
The apostles moved rapidly to organize the people into local congregations so the called would have as much contact with them as possible. They wanted to ensure that, through Sabbath sermons and Bible studies, they could teach God's way most efficiently. Jesus essentially followed this procedure, and the apostles imitated Him.
What subjects dominated this early teaching? Since the apostles alone were truly close to Jesus, they likely began—as Peter did in his Pentecost sermon—with His personal fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, adding that He was their Creator as well as their Savior and King. Even as a human being, Christ was literally God in the flesh, and though He was now at the right hand of the Father in heaven, by faith they were to answer to Him and give Him their loyalty. It makes sense that this would be among the first thoroughly covered teachings to firmly establish His importance to their salvation and the outworking of God's purpose.
They would also pass on to them what they had witnessed of how He conducted Himself during the time they were with Him. Like us, they would have desired to know about His personal characteristics, including His way of dealing with the apostles as well as with the ordinary “man on the street” regardless of the reasons and attitudes of those who came into His presence.
They surely must have studied into the fact that He was the God of the Old Testament, the LORD, the One who personally entered into the covenant with Abraham, the human father of Israel. He was the One who dealt with Moses and the Israelites in Egypt and at Mount Sinai, making the Old Covenant with the descendants of Abraham. This teaching would naturally lead to studies about the gospel of the Kingdom of God and the ongoing creative labors of the Father and Son, who are making sons and daughters in Their image.
This study would lead to a major area of life-changing instruction. Following the coverts' baptisms, each of them, upon receiving the Holy Spirit, became a vital part of the spiritual Body of Christ. They would need to know their behavioral responsibilities as sons or daughters of God.
Most of the early converts were not being called to duty on the front lines, that is, to preach the gospel to large crowds as the apostles did. God was calling them to support the apostles by continuing their personal growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and by making a witness through their conduct in their communities. Thus, the apostles would have addressed Christian behavior early. Their personal witnesses were important to the ongoing process God directed through Jesus Christ, though on a narrower scale than that of the apostles.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Four)
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