A reader submitted a question about the Biblical nature of fellowship. She had heard a preacher saying that eating is not fellowship. It led her to wonder what the Bible means by this term.
“Fellowship” is a relationship that people share; that’s suggested by the suffix “ship.” We speak, for example, of two or more people who enter into a partnership. By virtue of their sharing in a common venture, they can claim to be aboard that “ship.” Those who submit to Jesus Christ in faithful obedience automatically enter into fellowship with one another, whether they realize it or not.
John affirmed this blessing of becoming a Christian. In 1 John 1:7, he wrote, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Thus, those who walk in the light of God’s revelation are granted this blessing. It’s not something we initiate; God gives it.
Exercising the fellowship God gives is a choice Christians make. Paul spoke of this in Galatians 2:9. Paul’s work among the Gentiles had caused concern among some brethren. But after hearing his reports of what God had revealed and how God confirmed his work with signs and miracles, “they gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship.” Had this not occurred, there would have been no exercise of fellowship, even though, in Christ, it did exist.
It’s also important to note that sometimes fellowship should not be exercised. We see this in 2 Thessalonians 3:6: “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” Though the word “fellowship” is not used in that verse, the concept is certainly there. To continue to act as fellows while one lives in rebellion to God would be wrong. Withdrawing from such relationships may help awaken the offender to the seriousness of his actions.
But what is this fellowship? Is it the same as eating together?
There are many ways in which we may exercise our fellowship. When we worship together, we are enjoying fellowship; we have a common joy in our salvation. When we serve together, we are practicing our fellowship. Eating together is yet another way in which we may demonstrate that we are brethren. But we should never restrict our use of this blessed word to the act of eating!
It’s obvious that many Christians don’t appreciate the magnitude of the gift of fellowship. John explained his purpose for writing to his fellow Christians: “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
The fact that we can have fellowship with Deity is amazing! The fact that we also have fellowship with saints on earth is a gracious gift. Let us exercise this gift as often as we can.
What exactly is fellowship?