Once when some people were riding in a four-engine propeller airplane over Kansas, three of the engines conked out. Immediately the cabin door opened, and the pilot appeared with a parachute on his back. “Keep calm, folks, and don’t panic!” He ordered. “I’m going for help!”

We live in a “me” first society that makes true fellowship a real challenge. True biblical fellowship as illustrated in the Jerusalem church is rarely seen in the United States.  Which is one reason why our churches lack vibrancy and are not contagious for the cause of Christ.

But right after their devotion to the apostles teaching which I looked at last week we see that they were devoted to fellowship, (Acts 2:42). 

The Greek word for “fellowship” is koinonia. It is derived from the root word – koinos which means common.  Koinonia bears witness to the common life of the church in two ways.

1.  It expresses what we share together. This is God Himself.

“Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ,” (1 John 1:3).  In 2 Corinthians 13:14 it says we have also the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit.”

It is the main thing that unites believers. Because of our common relationship with Christ, we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are all the Body of Christ.

The apostle Paul expresses this in Ephesians as well

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

2.  It also expresses what we share together, what we give, as well as what we receive.

In 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:13 – Koinonia is the word that Paul used for the collection he was organizing among the Greek churches, and koinonikos is the Greek word for generous.  So we are to have a generous spirit – a sacrificial spirit.

So true biblical fellowship isn’t satisfied by “fellowship time” after services with coffee and donuts.  It goes beyond church potlucks.  It is way more involved in that.

And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need, (Acts 2:44-45, ESV).

These verses can be disturbing. Does this passage mean that every believer and local congregation should follow their example literally?  A couple of things to note.

  • Voluntary giving – v. 46 – “breaking bread in their homes” – they still had homes to meet in.
  • “Selling” and “gave” in v. 45 are the imperfect tense in the Greek which indicates that the selling and giving were occasional in response to particular needs, not once and for all.”

This desire to provide for needs within their community had awesome results.

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need, (Acts 4:34-35, ESV).

This type of fellowship could not happen if there was not devotion to the apostles teaching and a desire to be a doer of the word.  The apostle John challenges us as well.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1 John 3:17, ESV).

Our coming along side our brothers and sisters in Christ in their time of need.  Our love for one another, and desire to have fellowship with other Christ followers is evidence of our love for God.  We must not slide in this area because it affects our witness for Christ as well.

John Chrysostom, fourth century archbishop of Constantinople described fellowship in this way.

This was an angelic commonwealth, not to call anything of theirs their own. Forthwith the roots of evils were cast out. None reproached, none envied, none grudged, no pride, no contempt was there….The poor man knew no shame, the rich no haughtiness.

We must not avoid the challenge of this model. Fellowship is sharing of oneself and one’s resources sacrificially. It is spiritual fellowship because of our common faith. It is a preview of heaven.

There is much speculation concerning what heaven and hell will be like. One contrast of heaven and hell tells of a man who had a dream that he was allowed to see both places. He was first taken to hell. He was taken into a room in the middle of which there was a large pot of stew. The stew smelled delicious. But all around the pot there were people who were starving and in desperation. They all held spoons in their hands that had unusually long handles which reached all the way to the pot, but because the spoon handles were longer than their arms, they were unable to get the spoons filled with stew to their mouths. Their suffering was terrible and continuous.

The man was then taken to heaven. Heaven was identical to hell; the rooms were identical, the pot of stew in the middle of the room was the same, the spoons were the same. But the people in the room were well-fed and joyous. The man was perplexed when he first walked into the room. But as he watched the people in this room, he learned the difference. The people had spoons that would not allow them to feed themselves, so they fed each other.

Are you living a sacrificial giving life? Does this describe your church? Is your lifestyle preventing me from living like this?  If we practice true fellowship, it is contagious to those on the outside looking in.

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14 comments
  1. “Are you living a sacrificial giving life?” (Shane)

    I like this idea the most in that passage – it’s all about charity and love for one another…something so central to our Master’s teachings it becomes a central tenet of the very first Christian community in Acts. It’s communalism when you truly think about it – which is somewhat counter to capitalism on some levels (that ‘me’ society you speak of).

    I actually tried to start something like this in a few churches in my city – guess the result? Flat-lined. However, we did help a few people and the results were the greatest gift one could see.

    “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need (Acts 2:44-45, ESV).”

    ‘All’ (used 2X) – by all we mean ‘some of the time’ right? I would hold this passage up and say quite simply ‘does any church you know even so much as do this?’. I don’t think this was a ‘some of the time’ event – it was an on-going procedure for the benefit of the whole communal community – so none went ‘poor’ – as you point out. This is like a forgotten art in churches.

    As for the commanality aspect of this – the church has taken this to mean ‘doctrine or statement of faith’ and what we believe – I tend to think otherwise. This passage is very clear on what they all had in common – this spirit of charity and sharing – so they all had a common experience. This aspect of the faith cannot happen in capitalistic societies – and I pray someone fools me very wrong.

  2. “Are you living a sacrificial giving life?” (Shane)

    I like this idea the most in that passage – it’s all about charity and love for one another…something so central to our Master’s teachings it becomes a central tenet of the very first Christian community in Acts. It’s communalism when you truly think about it – which is somewhat counter to capitalism on some levels (that ‘me’ society you speak of).

    I actually tried to start something like this in a few churches in my city – guess the result? Flat-lined. However, we did help a few people and the results were the greatest gift one could see.

    “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need (Acts 2:44-45, ESV).”

    ‘All’ (used 2X) – by all we mean ‘some of the time’ right? I would hold this passage up and say quite simply ‘does any church you know even so much as do this?’. I don’t think this was a ‘some of the time’ event – it was an on-going procedure for the benefit of the whole communal community – so none went ‘poor’ – as you point out. This is like a forgotten art in churches.

    As for the commanality aspect of this – the church has taken this to mean ‘doctrine or statement of faith’ and what we believe – I tend to think otherwise. This passage is very clear on what they all had in common – this spirit of charity and sharing – so they all had a common experience. This aspect of the faith cannot happen in capitalistic societies – and I pray someone fools me very wrong.

  3. “Are you living a sacrificial giving life?” (Shane)

    I like this idea the most in that passage – it’s all about charity and love for one another…something so central to our Master’s teachings it becomes a central tenet of the very first Christian community in Acts. It’s communalism when you truly think about it – which is somewhat counter to capitalism on some levels (that ‘me’ society you speak of).

    I actually tried to start something like this in a few churches in my city – guess the result? Flat-lined. However, we did help a few people and the results were the greatest gift one could see.

    “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need (Acts 2:44-45, ESV).”

    ‘All’ (used 2X) – by all we mean ‘some of the time’ right? I would hold this passage up and say quite simply ‘does any church you know even so much as do this?’. I don’t think this was a ‘some of the time’ event – it was an on-going procedure for the benefit of the whole communal community – so none went ‘poor’ – as you point out. This is like a forgotten art in churches.

    As for the commanality aspect of this – the church has taken this to mean ‘doctrine or statement of faith’ and what we believe – I tend to think otherwise. This passage is very clear on what they all had in common – this spirit of charity and sharing – so they all had a common experience. This aspect of the faith cannot happen in capitalistic societies – and I pray someone fools me very wrong.

  4. Thanks for the post, I appreciated it. I think one of the issues many in the western church face is that we do not actually know anyone in material need. At least not personally anyway. So it becomes a harder question to answer – the first shift then is away from the comfort zone of people who have the same as me to the arena where I connect with people who have less. Of course in Acts 2, this mix of rich and poor are in the same household of faith. For us today, perhaps there should be no one in our churches without medical insurance because the rich have provided for the poor, where no child should have sub standard education because the rich have shared with the poor. Certainly then we begin to create a community that makes the world sit up and take notice.

  5. Thanks for the post, I appreciated it. I think one of the issues many in the western church face is that we do not actually know anyone in material need. At least not personally anyway. So it becomes a harder question to answer – the first shift then is away from the comfort zone of people who have the same as me to the arena where I connect with people who have less. Of course in Acts 2, this mix of rich and poor are in the same household of faith. For us today, perhaps there should be no one in our churches without medical insurance because the rich have provided for the poor, where no child should have sub standard education because the rich have shared with the poor. Certainly then we begin to create a community that makes the world sit up and take notice.

  6. Thanks for the post, I appreciated it. I think one of the issues many in the western church face is that we do not actually know anyone in material need. At least not personally anyway. So it becomes a harder question to answer – the first shift then is away from the comfort zone of people who have the same as me to the arena where I connect with people who have less. Of course in Acts 2, this mix of rich and poor are in the same household of faith. For us today, perhaps there should be no one in our churches without medical insurance because the rich have provided for the poor, where no child should have sub standard education because the rich have shared with the poor. Certainly then we begin to create a community that makes the world sit up and take notice.

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