‘Fellowship’ is a very common word in Christian circles. We use it to describe something casual, a chit chat, an informal gathering etc. Is that what it is supposed to mean? I am afraid that we have been very much mistaken.
The Greek word – the original language of the New Testament, for ‘fellowship’ is ‘koinonia’ which has a very rich meaning. It means ‘partnership’, ‘communion’, ‘contribution’. Generally speaking, it means sharing.
The apostle Paul enjoyed a very cordial and fruitful relationship with the Philippian Church. The kind of relationship between them can be used to illustrate what Christian Fellowship is supposed to be. We can learn a great deal from the Epistle of the apostle Paul to the Philippians, in which he shared much about his fellowship with the Church.
The Fellowship in the Lord
In the beginning of the Epistle, Paul introduced himself as ‘the servant of Christ’ and his recipients, the Philippians as the ‘saints in Christ Jesus’. He made it very clear that they were related to each other on the basis of their relationship with the Lord. If it were not because of Him they would never have come to know each other. Neither would they enjoy the sort of relationship that they were experiencing. It is Jesus Christ who had brought us together and it is through Him that we fellowship with one another. Apostle John, in his first Epistle, also made it explicitly clear that his fellowship with the Christians in Asia Minor was an extension or outshoot of his relationship with the Father and the Son.
We would do well to bear in mind all the time as we think about Christian Fellowship that it is not just a natural human relationship . Without Christ, there will be no real fellowship, so we cannot have real fellowship with anyone outside Christ. On the other hand, the secret of establishing good Christian fellowship lies in a good relationship with Christ individually.
The Fellowship in the Gospel
Apostle Paul must have had a very strong feeling for the Philippian Christians, for he was filled with joy whenever he remembered them in his prayers. His fondness was not due to the human and natural attraction they had for each other, but a spiritual one – the common love in the Gospel which developed into a partnership in the Gospel later on. The Philippians were brought to know the Lord through Apostle Paul during his second missionary journey. Since then they have joined hands for the furtherance of the Gospel both in Philippi and elsewhere. Paul could count on them as partners in his missionary endeavours. How wonderful!
The Fellowship in the Suffering of the Lord
We all know that Paul suffered much for the Lord and for the sake of His Work. But most of the time he suffered alone, for not many Christians could understand him and would like to stand by him when he was undergoing persecution and suffering. The Philippians were the exception. They supported his ministries all the way. Even when he was imprisoned in Rome, they sent Epaphaditus to minister to his needs on their behalf. Paul was much encouraged and comforted by their fellowship. In fact, one of the main reasons for writing the Epistle was to express his gratitude to them for their kindness. The Philippian church truly fellowshipped with Paul for they shared his sorrow and pain in the time he needed most.
The Fellowship in Prayer
Paul was not only a great preacher but a great pray-er. He prayed for all the churches that he had established and for the people he had come to know, but he never hesitated to ask others to pray for him.
To the Philippians he had not only enjoyed their partnership in the Gospel but their partnership in prayer. He had absolute confidence in their prayers for him and could count on them to pray for him and was sure of the outcome of their prayers. He told them he was sure of his release due to their prayers for him.
Praying for one another is a fellowship that transcends all other relationships and surpasses all hindrances. We will do well to establish this relationship with one another.
There is much more that can be shared from this wonderful Epistle of Apostle Paul but I think what have been mentioned above will be sufficient for us to learn for the time being. Christian Fellowship does not confine itself to fellowship meetings. We may have ‘fellowship meetings’ but no real fellowship among ourselves. May the Lord show us His way and let us be committed to each other as Partners in the Gospel, in the suffering of the Lord and in Prayer, that we may truly fellowship with one another.
Huang Ee Yuen