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 very much to say about…

how Scripture answers "What is Christian fellowship?"

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

A commenter suggested these two ‘case studies’ on local church fellowship:

  • 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”.
the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1
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).
How does it inform?

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

Does it apply? Yes

2
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).
How does it inform?

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”.

Does it apply? Yes

3
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.
In this his third letter (13:1), 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.

How does it inform?

Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, implores them to have no fellowship with unbelievers. After his “don’t do this” instruction, he eventually tell them what to do – “cleanse ourselves” and bring “holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (7:1)

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

4

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).

How does it inform?

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

Does it apply? Yes

5

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.
How does it inform?

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

Does it apply? Yes

6
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).
How does it inform?

A general proverb from God (through Amos) stating the principal of fellowship.

Does it apply? Yes

7
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 Cor 4:1
). 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.

How does it inform?

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

Does it apply? Yes

8
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.
How does it inform?

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.

Does it apply? Yes

9
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. 

How does it inform?

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”.)

Does it apply? Yes

10
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).

How does it inform?

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

Does it apply? Yes

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