Fellowship: Explanation of Fellowship

Even though the word “fellowship,” in its English spelling, occurs only 17 times in the Word of God (KJV), the theme of fellowship occurs many times throughout the Old and New Testaments. As to its meaning, fellowship can be explained as “having something in common,” or “a partnership,” or “sharing together.” It is also translated in various places as “communion,” or “partaker,” or “communication.”

The spiritual application of the term “fellowship” can be described as unity among believers, based on a shared communion with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is expressed in a joint participation with Christ and other believers, accomplishing the purposes of God in the Church and in the world.

We are first introduced to the word “fellowship” in the book of Leviticus (6:2), where instructions are given regarding the trespass offering. There we have the case of something that was delivered to a neighbor to keep (“or in fellowship”). The thought there is that of an agreement between two parties that the one would retain something of value for another for safe keeping. If the person who was entrusted with the item was deceitful and kept for himself that which was delivered to him, when he was discovered he was to restore it in the principal and add the fifth part. Then he was to offer a ram without blemish to make atonement, because he had broken the terms of fellowship with his neighbour (Lev 6:1-7).

You and I, as believers, have entered into fellowship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ and the work of the cross. John wrote, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1Jn 1:3).1  Paul reminds us, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Co 1:9). Under the terms of that fellowship, we have agreed to keep the commandments of God, as expressed in His Word, and He has agreed to keep us until the day of our being presented faultless before the presence of His glory (Eph 5:27; Jud 24). Unlike the situation presented in Leviticus chapter 6, where one party was deceitful concerning the thing that was committed to him in fellowship, we can absolutely depend on the faithfulness of God to honour the terms of our fellowship.

Peter wrote, “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit  the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1Pe 4:19). Paul expressed with extreme confidence that he was “persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2Ti 1:12). Moses reminded the people of Israel of the faithfulness of God: “Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deu 7:9).

Fellowship is an action word, which expresses an inward reality in outward practical ways for the mutual benefit and blessing of God’s people. It is not merely “being together,” but also involves “doing together.” Fellowship can be seen in relationships with one another. Apart from fellowship with God and with other believers, the marriage relationship is one of the best examples of the expression of fellowship. Fellowship in any relationship requires dependence on one another and a mutual care for one another.

The extent to which we can enjoy fellowship with God will depend on the degree to which we enjoy fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We cannot expect to walk in fellowship with God if we do not walk in fellowship with other believers, that is, if we bear any grudge or ill will towards any of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, we see that fellowship with God involves walking in communion with Him. The beloved verses that we use so often in preaching the gospel actually have to do with believers walking in fellowship and communion with God. The Lord Jesus invites, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Mat 11:28-29). Amos asks the question, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amo 3:3).

In his first epistle, John focuses very much on the life of fellowship in the family of God. Each chapter gives insight and instruction regarding fellowship and communion for the believer in relation to God. An outline for the epistle based on that theme is as follows:

Chapter 1 –The Manifestation of the Life of Fellowship

Chapter 2 – The Maintenance of the Life of Fellowship

Chapter 3 – The Message of the Life of Fellowship

Chapter 4 – The Marks of the Life of Fellowship

Chapter 5 – The Mandate of the Life of Fellowship

The apostle Paul also, in his letter to the believers at Philippi, treats the matter of fellowship from a number of different aspects. An outline for the book of Philippians based on the subject of fellowship is as follows:

Chapter 1 – The Fellowship of His Service

Chapter 2 – The Fellowship of His Spirit

Chapter 3 – The Fellowship of His Suffering

Chapter 4 – The Fellowship of His Saints

As we trace the subject of fellowship through the sacred Scriptures, we will learn something of the basis, blessedness, boundaries and barriers related to the subject of fellowship.

1 Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.