Wednesday Words: Fellowship

Fellowship is a very Christian word. We use it all the time for all sorts of things. We use it for organisations. The CUs are part of the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship. And for doctors there’s the Christian Medical Fellowship. Many local churches even call themselves fellowships. Now, fellowship exists and is of great importance in all those places, yet sometimes we mistakenly think of the structures and organisations as fellowship. But that’s not what the Bible means.

We also talk about fellowship a lot in terms of activities. There are fellowship meetings, times of fellowship after the service, and fellowship over tea and coffee. But again, the temptation can be for us to equate fellowship with the activity. We can end up thinking of fellowship simply as talking to people or drinking tea. Yet, in the Bible, fellowship isn’t something we do, but rather something we have.

A verse that might help us understand a bit more is 1 Cor. 10:16, which speaks about how, in the Lord’s Supper, we have ‘participation in the blood of Christ … participation in the body of Christ.’ The word participation there is the same word as fellowship or communion. All three words mean the same thing. So fellowship is about participating in something, about sharing in something. That means that fellowship isn’t about structures or activities, but about good relationship.

1 John 1:1-4 speaks of the reality of true fellowship. There John explains that he’s writing of the Incarnation of Christ so that we can have fellowship and so that our ‘joy may be full’. So, what John makes clear right at the outset is that our fellowship is through the Incarnation. Fellowship doesn’t come through shared ideas, or interests, or likes, or dislikes, or anything else. Fellowship comes only through a Person. And that Person is Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God.

You see, the Incarnation isn’t just for Christmas. It’s not just a preparation for other things. In the Nicene Creed we confess that Jesus ‘for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man’. The Incarnation was for our salvation! Athanasius put it like this: ‘He became what we are that he might make us what he is.’ Eeek! That sounds a bit odd! Well, maybe – until we think about what He is. He is the Well Beloved Son of the Father – and that’s what He makes us, well beloved sons of our heavenly Father. Through Jesus we have been adopted as sons in the Son.

That means we’re welcomed into the family of God. And so, we don’t just have fellowship with Jesus, but with the Father and the Spirit too. So, our fellowship is with the Trinity. And that’s not just a nice bonus for super-Christians – that is the Christian life (John 17:3).

And then, through our fellowship with the Triune God through the Incarnate Christ, we have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:3). Our fellowship with each other relies completely upon our mutual fellowship with the Father and the Son in the Spirit.

Now, our fellowship is only with other people who also have fellowship with Christ. It’s not that we’re being picky about who to associate with. It’s simply the nature of what fellowship is. There’s a difference between friendship and fellowship! Our fellowship is with Christ, and then through Him with those who also have fellowship with Him. And so, apart from Jesus, there’s no fellowship.

Jesus is at the centre of all true fellowship. You see, we don’t create fellowship. No, fellowship exists in the Trinity and we’re brought into that fellowship by Jesus. Our fellowship with each other rests in our fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s all down to sharing in the love of Christ. If we have Jesus in common, we have fellowship. And as we grow together in Jesus, we grow in fellowship.

So ultimately, Jesus is our fellowship. He is our good relationship with the Father. In Him we are part of the family. In Him we are sons in the Son. In Him we know the love of the Trinity.

[P.S. Here's a recent sermon from 1 John 1:1-4 on Joy, Fellowship and Jesus.]