The idea of Christian fellowship may seem obvious. After all, the word “fellowship” is commonly understood. Merriam defines it as “companionship” or “community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience.” So Christian fellowship is simply a group of Christians getting together, right?

The Bible never speaks of “Christian fellowship” per se. Yet the Greek word for “fellowship” (metochos or koinos) is found many times. It is not always translated into our word “fellowship”. Two examples would be in Luke 5:7 where Peter is with fishing “partners” or in Revelation 1:9 where John introduces himself as a brother and “partner” (or partaker, companion) in the tribulation and kingdom.

Partner, partaker, and companion are all relatable words to what most would consider fellowship in the secular sense. However, applying the article “Christian” to an otherwise common word propels us into the Spiritual realm. To define Christian fellowship is to define Spiritual fellowship. This is a concept the Bible has much to say about…

How Scripture answers "What is Christian fellowship?"

Christian fellowship is established by two or more agreeing6,12,13 to obey (e.g. “fear of3) God’s word1,2,3,4,5,7,8,9,10,13 – to be “in accord with Christ”12.  It is not only the basis for an individual’s fellowship with God1,2,10,11, but also extends to Christians with other Christians. This applies to a local church2,3,4,7,8,9,10 and, by extension, the universal church/brotherhood5,7,11.

There are several practical examples, or case studies if you will, of Christian fellowship in the Bible that often revolve around the local church:

  • Acts 9:26-30 – Saul (later Paul) has just been converted but not before his great persecution of the church and Christians.
  • Galatians 2:7-9 – Paul recounts the “right hand of fellowship” that was extended to himself and Barnabas after they (James, Peter and John) saw that Paul had been “entrusted with the gospel”.
  • 2 Corinthians 8-9 – Paul writes to the Corinthians encouraging them in their giving efforts that they have been engaged in for about a year, ever since Paul wrote to them the first time with the initial request (1 Corinthians 16:1-9).  They were “taking part (e.g. fellowship, partnership) in the relief of the saints” (8:4) back in Jerusalem.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:16 – Paul instructs that partaking in the Lord’s Supper is “participation (e.g. fellowship) in the body of Christ”.
  • Philippians 4:14-20 – Much like Paul opens within his letter to the Philippians8, he notes that “no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only” (vs 15) and for that they “shared” in his trouble (vs 14).

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The word of life was from the beginning, what we heard, what we saw with our own eyes, what we comprehended and touched with our hands – that life was revealed to us.  We saw it, testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life that the Father revealed to us.  It’s what we have seen and heard and proclaim to you in order that you may have fellowship with us – a fellowship that includes the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

The Apostle John’s opening in a letter written to Christians encouraging them to love each other (as God loves) and resist false teaching.  His instruction appears to be to individual Christians (not a particular church).
Scripture-block application to this question

John establishes the “word of life” as the fundamental and sole basis for the fellowship of a Christian (his audience) to himself and fellow apostles (collective “we”) as well as God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
Don’t let anyone trick you with vain words, since they are what brings the wrath of God.  Those that speak them are sons of disobedience, so don’t join yourself to them.  You used to be like them – in the dark – but now you are light thanks to Jesus.  Behave that way, since the deeds of light are good and right and true.  Make every effort to judge what is pleasing to God.  Don’t join yourself to the destructive deeds of Satan, but expose them.
After urging the Christians in Ephesus to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit” (4:3), he encourages them to be “imitators of God” (5:1) and to “walk in love” (5:2).
Scripture-block application to this question

Paul instructs Christians to not be “partners with” (e.g. have fellowship with) those that are speaking “empty words”. The encouragement or what to do instead is found a little later in vs 17, “but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is”.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?
Don’t be connected with unbelievers.  Righteousness doesn’t partner with lawlessness. Light doesn’t associate with darkness.  Christ isn’t unified with Satan.  A believer doesn’t share with an unbeliever.

Paul has dealt with numerous issues that have sown division and discord among the Christians in Corinth. In this chapter/section he is addressing yet another problem — apparently, unbelievers have had a negative influence on the church to the extent that they were false teaching. He continues and concludes the contrasts by drawing yet another distinction between the “temple of God” and idols and further supports why they are not to do this since it is perfectly consistent with Old Testament teaching as well (vs 16-18).

The full context points to this instruction being applied to “believers” in the plural,  congregational sense.  This is the more natural application in the immediate context as well as the general tendency of application in both of the recorded letters to Corinth.

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, implores them to have no fellowship with unbelievers.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

After his “don’t do this” instruction, he eventually tells them what to do – “cleanse ourselves” and bring “holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (7:1)

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Christians were devoted to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship (collective) activities of breaking bread and prayer.

Immediately following the mass conversion (3,000) on the Day of Pentecost, the saints began meeting together and established what became known as the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1, 11:22).

Scripture-block application to this question

The first local church was devoted to each other through/by the apostles teaching and certain congregational activities.

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,

Brethren, you who are holy and share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the messenger and high priest of our faith,

Letter to Jewish Christians that is calling on them to “hold fast” in spite of persecution.  The main argument is the “better” things that exist for them through Christ Jesus. Chapter three deals specifically with Jesus’ superiority to Moses himself (vss 1-6) and goes on to compare the followers of Moses to those of Jesus.

Scripture-block application to this question

The writer’s “brothers” are those with whom he shares (e.g. partnered, fellowship) in “a heavenly calling”.

Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?
Two don’t come together unless they are in agreement.

God is presenting His case (via Amos) to the northern nation (Israel) – even “the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt” (vs 1). This verse is a core proverb that was violated by the people in their disobedience (e.g. disagreement) and “iniquities” (vs 2).

Scripture-block application to this question

A general proverb from God (through Amos) that states the principle of fellowship.

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

This mystery is that the Gentiles jointly share [with us Jews] the promise of Jesus Christ in the gospel.  Because of this we are all members of the same body.

Paul is discussing the gospel message in terms of a “mystery” that’s been “made known” to all (vs 5 and other places like 1 Corinthians 4:1 – “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”). It was given to him to preach, bringing “the light to everyone” and carried forward by the church (vss 9,10), and here highlighting the inclusion of the Gentiles.
Scripture-block application to this question

It is [belief or walking together6 in] the gospel of Christ that forms the basis of fellowship between Jews and Gentiles.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
I [Paul] thank God in my recollection of you – making all my prayers for you joyous – the partnership you have in the gospel from the first day until now.
Paul’s opening to the brethren at the church in Philippi, of which he has found memories and great love.
Scripture-block application to this question

Paul’s commendation to the Christians in Philippi is in their partnership (KJV: fellowship) “in the gospel”. It is the thing in which they share.

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.
For how can I [Paul] judge outsiders? Is it not your own members that you are to judge? God judges those outside [the local congregation]. Purge the sinner from among your congregation.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he is specifically dealing here with a problem of very public (Paul found out about it) and unrepentant sin of a member.

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul is instructing the members of the church in Corinth on their duty and obligation to judge each other according to the gospel (the standard by which they would determine an “evil person”.)

If we say we have fellowship with him while we 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 his Son cleanses us from all sin.

We are lying if we say we are partnered with God when we walk in worldly ways and ignore the truth.  However, if we walk in righteousness, as he is righteous, we have fellowhip with each other and the blood of Jesus washes away our sins.

The Apostle John’s opening in a letter written to Christians encouraging them to love each other (as God loves) and resist false teaching.  His instruction appears to be to individual Christians (not a particular church).

Scripture-block application to this question

John directly links fellowship with God and “each other” with practicing the truth and the cleansing of Jesus’ blood.

It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
It is worldly people that do not have the Spirit that cause divisions. But you, brethern, keep yourselves in fellowship with God until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ leading to eternal life by building yourselves up in faith and praying in the Holy Spirit.

Jude’s letter to Christians warning them of false teachers that have “crept in unnoticed” (vs 4).

Scripture-block application to this question

Jude encourages Christians to remain “in the love of God” in the face of opposition from those wanting to “cause divisions”.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

May the God of endurance and encouragement enable you to live in harmony with fellow Christians in a way that agrees with Christ Jesus, so that together you might be one in glorifying the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  As a result accept one another as Christ has accepted you, all for the glory of God.

Paul has made the case that the gospel is for all – Jew and Gentile – and that all are in Christ through the “obedience of faith,” a phrase that bookends his letter (1:5, 16:26).  Their “obedience of faith” here relates to those that are weaker in the faith and the responsibility one has toward them, not doing “anything that causes your brother to stumble” (14:21).

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul encourages Christians, much like Jude11, to remain/live in harmony/fellowhip with one another that is “in accord with Christ Jesus”.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

I [Jesus] am the good shepherd. I know those who know Me, just as I know the Father and He knows Me. I sacrifice My life for the sheep, including other sheep not of this fold. They will listen to My voice and join as one flock, with one shepherd.

Jesus has just healed the man blind from birth and gives His great dissertation of the good shepherd.

Scripture-block application to this question

Fellowship exists between all those that “listen to my [Jesus’] voice”, which by extension is the Father’s voice/word. It is the only basis for fellowship with God.

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David Norfleet

Some other verses that point to or comment upon fellowship are Amos 3:3; Hebrews 3:1; and Ephesians 3:6.

I think a case study would be Acts 9:26-27 and Galatians 2:9.