June 12, 2022
Now that we have moved past Pentecost and the 3,000 who heard the message from all the known world, we begin to examine what these people immediately did once they became followers of Jesus. Once they were added to the Lord, we see in Acts 2:42 that these Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to breaking bread, to fellowship, and to prayers (Acts 2:42).
Today we are focused on how they devoted themselves to fellowship.
But what does that word fellowship mean when it is used in the Bible? Modern thinking has really distorted the meaning of this word from how it was used in the scriptures. People typically think of eating together, watching tv together, shopping together, or something along those lines when speaking about fellowship. The idea of a “fellowship hall” is a misnomer when it is the place that the church eats donuts and drinks soda or eating a meal. Food, potlucks, and barbecues or even spending time together is not the focus of biblical fellowship.
This should make sense to us even if we did not know anything about the scriptures. I mean, If we reread Acts 2:42 and see what this sounds like. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to breaking bread, to prayers, and to food, potlucks, and barbecues. Does that even sound right? This cannot be the meaning of fellowship and it is not the meaning of fellowship.
How do we know that? Because of how the word for Fellowship is used and pictured in other parts of the New Testament. First, listen to what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:9. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Here it is not about gathering for food and drink, clearly the idea of fellowship is something much, much bigger and much more important than spending time together having some fun. Look at what the apostle John writes in 1 John 1:3-7 and as we read, pay attention to the word “fellowship.” 3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:1–7 NRSV)
Biblical Fellowship is something deep and important. What we see is that fellowship is a sharing, a connection, and a partnership that bonds us together. John says that if we are walking in the light, following the apostles’ teaching, then we have participation in the gospel with each other and with the Lord. Paul used fellowship in the same way. We were called into fellowship with God’s Son.
What were we called to? We were called to having a relationship, a connection, a sharing, and participation with Jesus. What I want us to see is that fellowship is a spiritual bond that leads to a working together. Fellowship is an intimate connection with Jesus that leads us to be closely and deeply bound to each other as the people of God.
And that leads us back to Acts 2:42 and they devoted themselves to fellowship. The Greek translation of the word paints a simple picture for us. The word here used for fellowship is Koinōnia –which means Close mutual association. A bible dictionary explains it this way… a company of equals or friends. The picture in Acts of the Church was of a people who were so connected, so living out what Jesus taught… that it pervaded their entire lives…and God blessed it!
The early Church was not about discussions whether to go to Church or not, whether to get involved or not, or whether to be part of small groups or not. The found any excuse they could to get together. That is why the early Church is such a powerful example. It shows us when it was new and functioning well. It shows us some keys for us now and what we can work towards.
And what we read in the rest of Acts 2 is the outcome of fellowship. We see in verse 44 that the disciples were together and had all things in common because of this joint connection and sharing that they had with Christ. The gospel does not focus merely on the individual but our salvation as a community of faith. The gospel produces a new family that is in fellowship with each other. They have a concern for the needs of each other in this new family (this new fellowship) and not for their own stuff (Acts 2:45). The connection and joining together to each other that had occurred by coming to Jesus led these Christians to sell their belongings to help any other Christians who had need.
Their connection in Christ caused them to spend time together, as we see in verse 46. They went to the temple together every day. They ate with each other in their homes. They praised God together. They had favor with the people together. All of these things in verses 44-47 are the outcome of fellowship. When we are joined together and truly become this new spiritual family, then we will care for each other, look out for each other’s needs, spend time in the word together, spend time eating together, and spend time praising God together. But these things will not happen if we do not have a spiritual connection with each other.
If we are not intimately connected to Jesus, we will never be intimately connected together because it is only through our understanding of God’s love and what God desires for us that we will stop acting as individuals and start acting as a family that is stronger and more important than blood. How will we love each other like pictured in Acts 2:42-47? How will we become the Acts 2 family? How will we want to share with each other? How will we want to spend time with each other? How will be see each other as family?
We must devote ourselves to fellowship. We must devote ourselves more to this relationship and connection that we have in Christ so that we will bear the fruit of having fellowship with each other. Our connection and participation with each other will only come as we strengthen our connection and participation in Christ.
And I think there are 3 Keys of what being Devoted to Fellowship looks like
The First Key to Devoted Fellowship is to be A place of Identity I believe we all want to fit in somewhere. We love to say we are individuals but we do things to try and help ourselves be part of the crowd. We buy clothes like someone else. We buy gadgets or toys like someone else. We even try and mold our bodies to emulate someone else. On a natural and sometimes warped level we get it. We understand that we are individuals yes… But we also recognize life just doesn’t quite make sense on our own. We also reflect back on the words from Romans 12:4-5 we first talked about as the Body of Christ In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body.
Here is a truth of the Church…
- We can’t truly function without you!
- You can’t truly function without us!
Whether you like it or not, we need each other. We were designed to be together and grow together. Just like Rick Warren says in his book The Purpose Driven Life, “life is meant to be shared”. And these words from Ephesians 2:19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.
Or going back to 1 Corinthians 12:25 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't, the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
And probably you like I have found that we find fellowship especially when we are hurting and grieving. We seem to be present to each other best during those times. Or maybe Romans 1:12 says it best I want us to help each other with the faith we have. Your faith will help me, and my faith will help you. One of my favorite movies of all time is called The Way…Life is too big to walk it alone. We need to meet with each other. In whatever form our health, circumstances and culture allows. Whether it be worship on Sunday, Sunday school or small groups, or Christian Friends…
The Second Key to Devoted Fellowship is to be a place of Love Galatians 6:10 says When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it. But we should give special attention to those who are in the family of believers. I don’t think God wants us to be religious and just say all the right words. Faith is messy. Our times together are supposed to be about genuine love for each other. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t deep down in their heart want that. It is just some of us today might not feel comfortable because of what has happened in our lives. I am not going to give 3 easy steps on how to love. We have talked a lot about love since Easter. The Bible simply says it is the giving of your life for someone else. And this is how powerful our genuine love for each can be… John 13:35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. It has the power to even help evangelize our world. Love is so much more powerful that words. It demonstrates itself! Doesn’t just talk about itself…
The Third Key to Devoted Fellowship is to be a place of Power. I love the stories in Acts. Like when you keep reading past the Acts 2 scripture we have been talking about today and see what the believers did. Part of the whole point of God pouring out God’s spirit is so that we can minister to each other fully, and have the biggest impact possible on this earth. A key to a Devoted Fellowship is the Power of God. All that cool exciting stuff, where God demonstrates God’s power beyond our mere words. Jesus tells us that will happen in John 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. The Power of God is supposed to be part of Fellowship because it has the power to change lives.
God has a dream for you and me. An awesome dream for Nolensville First and all churches. It is a dream beyond what size our buildings can be or style of worship. It is not about returning to some old glory days. It is not about striving to fulfil some old prophecy from 15 years ago. It is about living this life together as a community of faith. Making sure it is a place of Identity, Love & Power. A devoted fellowship. A Koinonia.
This is how the Message version puts it They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. I am convinced that if we do this, that we all take a chance and connect more with each other…that the blessing of God will be further poured out in a measure we haven’t even dreamed of yet.