Bible Reading: Acts 4:32~37 & 1 John 1:1~7
Conditions Among the Early Believers
The group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but everything was held in common. With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on them all. For there was no one needy among them, because those who were owners of land or houses were selling them and bringing the proceeds from the sales and placing them at the apostles’ feet. The proceeds were distributed to each, as anyone had need. So Joseph, a Levite who was a native of Cyprus, called by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and placed it at the apostles’ feet.
The Prologue to the Letter
This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched (concerning the word of life— and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us). What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ). Thus we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
God Is Light, So We Must Walk in the Light
Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practising the truth. But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another AND the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
In our last lesson we saw the first church formed by the coming of the Holy Spirit. It consisted of people who had repented, were baptised, and had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. We then began to study the corporate life of this newly created body of people. We found they were a persevering people - "THEY CONTINUED STEADFASTLY."
We also considered the first of those things in which they continued - "THE APOSTLES DOCTRINE" They were people of the Word. They had believed the Word as it directed them into this life, and they continued in the Word as that which instructed them in the ways of the new order of living. We continue now our study of "THE NATURE OF THE NEW LIFE AS A CHURCH."
The Greek word translated "fellowship" ('koinonia') is one of the most beautiful words in the Greek language. It describes any partnership, any fellowship, any activity or experience or relationship in which people come together. The essential meaning of the word is TOGETHERNESS, and always with the idea at the back of it that fellowship is for the mutual benefit and good in the widest sense of the term." So once again we see Holy Spirit using a word which is rich and varied in its' natural background to describe an aspect of spiritual life. It is the common sharing not only of PRIVILEGE but of RESPONSIBILITY. The Greeks used the word to describe the MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP. "Two people take each other for partnership, for fellowship, to SHARE ALL LIFE." It was used in speaking of A BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP, "in which TWO PEOPLE POOL THEIR RESOURCES to work together for this common profit and their common good." THE SOCIAL LIFE OF THE COMMUNITY was spoken of as a fellowship, a "life which people are bound to live when they are members of the same society." To the Greeks it was also a political word, referring to the state as "a fellowship in which certain laws and obligations are accepted in order that life may be fuller and freer for all." This then is the word which Holy Spirit brings into the Christian vocabulary to describe the life of Christians in relationship to one another, and it is so used throughout the New Testament.
We have a practical demonstration of this fellowship right in the first local church itself.
Acts 2:44-45 - "All the believers were together and had everything in common ('Koina'). They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need."
JBP - "All the believers SHARED EVERYTHING IN COMMON; they sold their possessions and goods and divided the proceeds among the fellowship according to the individual need."
Acts 4:32-35 — "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need."
A. THE FOUNDATIONAL FACTORS IN FELLOWSHIP
1) THE APOSTOLIC WORD
1 John 1:3 - "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." Amp. — "What we have seen and (ourselves) heard we are also telling you, SO THAT YOU too may realize and enjoy FELLOWSHIP AS PARTNERS AND PARTAKERS with us."
All that we know about the Lord Jesus Christ is what the Apostles "declared" or "reported." As we learned in our last study, these men were chosen to be the official "witnesses" to the world, and to all time, of the fact of Christ's Person and redemptive work. They were to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15), telling them "how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15;3,4). Men who believe and obey the apostolic word are brought into "the Fellowship"., "There be gods many" (1 Cor. 8:5), and Jesus said "many shall come in my name saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many" (Matt. 24:5). Our protection against this mass of error and deception is to "continue steadfastly in THE APOSTLES‘ DOCTRINE", and in so doing, experience the life of "THE FELLOWSHIP."
2) RELATIONSHIP WITH THE TRIUNE GOD
Amp. - "By Him you were called into COMPANIONSHIP AND PARTICIPATION WITH HIS SON, Jesus Christ our Lord."
Wey. - "...called into PARTNERSHIP"
Phil. 2:1 - "...FELLOWSHIP OF THE SPIRIT"
Way - "...YOUR COMMON SHARE in God's SPIRIT"
Amp - "...PARTICIPATION in the HOLY SPIRIT"
2 Cor. 13:14 — "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the COMMUNION ('koinonia') OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, be with you all."
Amp. - "...(the communion and SHARING TOGETHER, AND PARTICIPATION IN THE HOLY SPIRIT..."
The Christian life is nothing less than a vital, living relationship with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let us put these words together — "COMPANIONSHIP, PARTICIPATION, PARTNERSHIP, COMMON SHARING!" This fellowship is not just a sharing of privilege, it is a participation in the very life of God.
2 Pet. 1:4 - "by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers ('koinonoi') of the divine nature."
Wey. — "Become SHARERS IN THE VERY NATURE OF GOD."
Way - "TO SHARE IN GOD'S ESSENTIAL NATURE."
3) WALKING IN THE LIGHT
1 John 1:6,7 - "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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."
Amp. — "If we say we are PARTAKERS TOGETHER AND ENJOY FELLOWSHIP with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are (both) speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth (of the Gospel). But if we (really) are living and walking in the Light as He (Himself) is in the Light, we have (true,unbroken) FELLOWSHIP WITH ONE ANOTHER, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt - keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations."
It has been said that "fellowship is two fellows in one ship." This is a catchy way of inferring a partnership of intimacy, activity, and common concern. Christians are in fellowship or partnership with God and with one another. The practical success of such a partnership depends upon the proper participation of each partner. The rules of fellowship are clearly stated in the Gospel. God, who is Love and Light, has "called us unto fellowship" with Himself. In our repentance, faith, and obedience, we have acknowledged that we want to relate to Him in "the Light". This is "the agreement" of the Gospel.
"Darkness" speaks of "evil" (John 3:19). "Light" speaks of the nature of God and righteousness, as manifest in Jesus Christ who is "the Light of the world" (1 John 1:5; John 1:4; 8:12; 9:5). Christians are those who have been "CALLED" out of DARKNESS into His MARVELLOUS LIGHT" (1 Pet. 2:9) and are become "the CHILDREN OF LIGHT, and the children of the day, and are not of the night, NOR OF DARKNESS" (1 Thess. 5:5). "For once YOU WERE DARKNESS, but now YOU ARE LIGHT IN THE LORD: WALK AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT - lead the lives of those NATIVE—BORN TO THE LIGHT" (Eph. 5:8 Amp.). It is then, as we "walk in the light" (keep an unbroken relationship with God and each other) that our fellowship is realized.
B. SOME FURTHER FACTORS IN FELLOWSHIP
1) "THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS"
Phil. 3:10 — "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS, being conformed to His death."
1 Pet. 4:13 - "but rejoice to the extent that you partake ('koinoneo') of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy."
'Darkness' will never love 'light'. As we "walk in the light" we shall experience "sufferings" as He the "True Light" experienced when He walked among men. Jesus said it would be so. "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also." (John 15:18-20). Be sure you are suffering "for righteousness' sake", then "rejoice", for it is a token of coming glory!
2) "THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE MINISTERING TO THE SAINTS"
The church in Jerusalem was in great material need. "The churches of Macedonia" even though under pressures themselves, sent aid. This is "fellowship" in a most practical form.
2 Cor. 8:4 - "Imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift, and THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE MINISTERING TO THE SAINTS."
JBP — "In fact they simply begged us to accept their gifts and so let them SHARE the honours of supporting their brothers in Christ."
Rom. 15:26 - "For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution ('koinonia') for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem."
Heb. 13:16 — "But do not forget to do good and to share ('koinonia'), for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
JBP — "Yet we should not forget to do good and TO SHARE OUR GOOD THINGS WITH OTHERS, for these too are the sort of sacrifices God will accept."
3) "FELLOWSHIP IN THE GOSPEL"
Phil. 1:5 — "For your FELLOWSHIP IN THE GOSPEL from the first day until now." Amp. — "(I thank my God) for your FELLOWSHIP — YOUR SYMPATHETIC CO-OPERATION AND CONTRIBUTIONS AND PARTNERSHIP - in advancing the good news (the Gospel) from the first day (you heard it) until now."
It is understandab1e, that if our fellowship is sound, it will extend to God's redemptive concerns and His servants who preach His Gospel. The Philippians shared with Paul in "a joint-participation in a common interest and activity."
4) THE FELLOWSHIP MEAL
1 Cor, 10 16 - "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the COMMUNION ('koinonia') of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the COMMUNION of the body of Christ?"
STUDY QUESTIONS FOR LESSON #6