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Theology > Church > The Purpose of the Church > Fellowship with Believers

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ . . . fellowship,
in the breaking of bread,
and in prayers.
Acts 2:42

In Acts 2:42 the word “fellowship” is koinonia, which means “common,” “sharing,” or “participation”; fellowship is what believers have in common and what they share in common. It speaks of a commonness which believers have together because of what each believer has from the Lord and because of what each believer is in the Lord. Each believer is “in Christ”; therefore, each believer is in Christ with every other believer who is also in Christ. Because of Him, we are together and have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3).

What exactly do believers share—literally, we share everything. Believers share in worship, share in growth, share in struggle, share in sorrow, share in victory, that is, the Christian life is not lived in isolation but together with other believers. Without fellowship there is no Christian life.

Not only do we share with each other, but we also give to each other (Acts 4-5; II Cor. 8:5; Gal. 6:10). This is surely not an absolute concept that is required of all believers in all places at all times, but the foundational idea is absolute. We give to our brothers in Christ, helping them as needed and as is appropriate.

The “fellowship” in Acts is spoken of immediately following reference to “the apostles’”; so it would appear proper to relate the two—an instructive emphasis. What is the meaning? It would appear that the fellowship is determined and defined by the apostles’ doctrine; in other words, the fellowship is understood, and the understanding of the fellowship increases, as knowledge of true teaching increases. As the believer grows in knowledge he increases in his understanding of the nature and meaning of the fellowship that exists among believers. So the fellowship must be defined in terms of Truth or “the apostles’ doctrine”; it must not be defined in terms of social or psychological needs. The fellowship does not exist merely to meet individual needs but for the individual believers to grow together in their knowledge of God and His ways in order that together they may better live before the Lord even while worshipping Him. All of this is to affirm that the fellowship is spiritual not humanistic.

Within the larger understanding of the meaning of fellowship, there is the breading of bread and prayers (Acts 2:42). Braking of bread includes the observance of the Lord’s Supper, but it appears that this observance was in connection with and part of a larger celebration, a meal shared by the believers. Two verses speak of breaking bread (Acts 2:42, 46). Other terminology, some Biblical and some from individuals and institutions, is also used of this celebration by believers:

the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42, 46).

the Lord’s Table (I Cor. 10:21).

the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 11:20).

Eucharist – from the Gr. word eucharistia (I Cor. 11:24), meaning “giving of thanks” or “thanksgiving”; speaks of Jesus giving thanks before He gave the bread and the wine (Matt. 26:27; Mk. 14:23; Lu. 22:17, 19); term used by Orthodox, Roman Catholics and frequently by Episcopalians.

Communion – from the Gr. word koinōnia, (I Cor 10:16), meaning “sharing” or “fellowship”; speaks of sharing fellowship with Christ and with other believers; term is mostly used by Protestants; also called Holy Communion.

Sacrament – from a Latin word meaning “sacred”; the word generally refers to an act that communicates or is the medium of grace for the one who performs the act.

Mass – term used by the Roman Church; specifically it refers to the elements becoming the actual body and blood of Christ; the appearance of the elements is unchanged but the essence becomes different; Orthodox prefer the word Mystery.

Of the early believers the Scripture informs us that “they continued steadfastly . . . in prayers” (Acts 2:42); and in Acts 3:1 the Scripture states that “Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer.” Thus, the image from the early Church is of the believers giving themselves continually to prayer and observing set times of prayer. Their prayers were both private and public, both individual and corporate. And in the times of prayer the deeply spiritual meaning of the fellowship was manifest.

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