The term “fellowship” is used regularly in the context of the church (do non-believers use the word?).  Often the word is used synonymously for “food” or “feast,” as in, “be sure to bring enough food to the fellowship (feast)…” or “come Wednesday evening as we enjoy fellowship (a meal) together…”

While fellowship can take place at a meal, the biblical term means so much more than that.  It has the idea of partnership, unity, intimacy, and a common sharing.  There is an identity with another person because of the closeness of the bond that they share.  The concept is easy to see in the relationship between God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ — the Son was with the Father (1 Jn. 1:2) prior to the incarnation, enjoying fellowship with Him.  The Father and the Son are so intimately united that they are One (Jn. 10:30).  And into that unity of fellowship they invite those who believe in Christ (Jn. 10:21-24).

holding handsIn fact, our unity with one another in the church is based on our unity with Christ.  It is because we have unity with Christ (and only because we have unity with Christ) that we have unity with each other.  This is the essence of salvation — we have fellowship with the Father; not only do we receive pardon for sin and freedom from the coming wrath of God against that sin, but we get God — we have union and fellowship and intimacy with Him.  We are no longer alone.  We are in partnership with Christ and one another.

Steve Lawson draws out some of the implications of that relationship when he writes:

Salvation is entering into fellowship with the Father and Jesus Christ. “Fellowship” (koinonia) means partnership. More than a mere social contact with another person, it is the formation of a joint venture together between two or more people. Originally it pictured several men entering into a business together and working side by side, such as when john participated with Andrew James, and Peter in a fishing business (Luke 5:7). They were “in the same boat together,” casting the same nets, pulling in the same fish, sharing the same profits, weathering the same storms. That is what it means to enter into fellowship with Jesus Christ. It is entering into a partnership with Him in which we share our lives with Him and He with us. Having entered into intimate association with God through Christ, life is now lived as a joint venture with the Father, the Son, and the one who is genuinely converted.

This is remarkable! As wretched sinners, we have nothing in common with a holy God-absolutely nothing. We are unable even to come into His presence because of the defilement of our sins, and yet the blood of Christ cleanses us of all our sins (1 John 1:7, 9) and provides us access to Him. Because of the Cross, we may enter into partnership with God and daily live in closest fellowship with Christ. By taking on humanity Jesus was able to take upon Himself our sins at the cross (1 Peter 2:24). He came to earth that we might go to heaven. He was born of a virgin that we might be born again. He became the Son of Man that we might become sons of God. Through faith in Christ, we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and receive His imputed righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), life (John 14:21), peace (John 14:27), love (John 15:10), and joy (John 15:11). What a partnership! [Absolutely Sure, 52-53.]

To have fellowship with God also implies a number of things about the way we live, as Pastor Joey Newton points out:

First, a life of fellowship with God that reflects His glory is a life that is very conscious of indwelling sin and confesses it constantly.…

Second, a life of fellowship with God that reflects His glory is a life lived in submission to His commands.…

Third, a life of fellowship with God that reflects His glory is a life lived in sacrificial love for the brethren.…

Fourth, a life of fellowship with God that reflects His glory is a life that loves Him, longs for Him, His presence more than the things of this world.…

Fifth, a life of fellowship with God that reflects His glory is a life that perseveres in faith.…

Sixth, a life of fellowship with God that reflects His glory is a life that remains in the truth, in sound doctrine.…

So how do you live a life that marks fellowship with God and glorifies Him? By confessing sin, yielding to God in loving obedience, sacrificially loving others, longing for and finding more joy in things eternal than the things of this world, by persevering in faith, by remaining in the truth. In other words, by “walking in the light as He himself is in the light.” These are the test of fellowship with God and a life lived to His glory. I pray it is how you test your own life and how you measure a life that glorifies God! [Read the entire post at The Cripplegate.]

So to be in fellowship with one another we must first be in fellowship with God through salvation, and that fellowship means we are possessed by God and possess God ourselves, in the most intimate communion imaginable.  And because we have that union and common relationship, we live in particular ways with and for Him.