Fellowship. In Christian circles this may evoke memories of potlucks, all church holiday gatherings, or ice cream socials. While these kinds of social events are an important part of the life of a local church, is this the kind of fellowship that those early disciples were devoted to?
As great as organized fellowship is, the kind of personal bond or “koinōnia” (in greek) that the writer, Luke, is describing that is happening among this community of believers would be closer to a bond of deep friendship. The language that Luke is using to describe this bond of community would have been familiar among the Greco-Roman world through the writings of Plato and Aristotle, some of the great greek philosophers. In short, they believed that the ideal society or the virtuous person was not possible without a friendship that always considered the benefit of the friend over your own and benefiting your friend should never be done out of the motivation of the self-interest of recognition or reciprocity. Although it seems that Luke is describing this new community of believers as attaining this idealistic network of friendship, even still what is described here elevates above even the most idyllic philosophical bonds of friendship. As forward thinking as Plato and Aristotle might have been they still understood that this kind of ideal “friendship” is only possible within the particular social class the individuals find themselves in.
The fellowship that was being created among this spirit-filled and Jesus centered community of believers transcended the binds of the cultural strata. Land owners and beggars developed selfless bonds of friendship not factoring in what each other can bring into the relationship.It was a community where those who had land they could sell (which was their inheritance and directly tied to their social status) would sell it so that their friends in the fellowship would have their needs met. Why would they do this though? Why be so devoted to this kind of, in some people’s eyes, costly fellowship?
Because that is what Jesus did. They were devoted to the Apostle’s teaching, meaning, the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus modeled the example of this when he said that he does not see his disciples as servants but at friends. (John 15:12-15) Jesus himself broke the social strata by humbling himself and elevating his disciples into a bond of friendship that is created in a love for one another that would lay down their lives for each other. The kind of fellowship that these early disciples were exhibiting was simply living in the way that Jesus lived, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Did they have organized gatherings? Of course, but what is more true is that they devoted themselves to the fellowship. It wasn’t simply to gathering but to people, they devoted themselves to one another and devoted themselves in such a way that not only people were attracted to but created a transformational community.
- What do you think a community, like one those early disciples had, would look like in our age and culture?
- What are some first steps individuals can make to contribute to the formation of such a community?
- What do you think a church would need to do in order to foster this kind of community?
- Begin praying for those in the fellowship (your church) and ask the Holy Spirit to form your heart to love them.
- Commit to gathering with people in your church community. It is hard to build a bond if we do not spend time together.
- Show an act of generosity and friendship to someone in your church community.