Words and Their Meanings: What Does "Fellowship" Mean?

Photo by <a href=
We use words all the time to communicate thoughts and ideas. We use words to convey happiness and sadness. Some words in the church we put a “churchy” meaning to them that we do not use outside the church context. We go out with friends, and it is lunch, but we go out with people from church, and we call it “fellowship.”
3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. – 1 John 1:3
From this verse and others like it in 1 John, the Greek word used for fellowship is koinonia. This word is used throughout the Bible but not always is the word translated fellowship.

13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution (koinonia) for them and for all others…” 1 Corinthians 9:13

Paul used the Greek word in a different way here to the Corinthians, and in his letter to the church of Philippi.

10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share (koinonia) his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” – Philippians 3:10

This Greek word catches the entire meaning of Christian community. The community you have with other believers sharing in spiritual and material blessings. The Greek word works in each passage, but the English word focuses on a certain aspect.

What Does the Word Fellowship Mean?

Fellowship should focus on what we all have in common. For followers of Jesus, our new life in Christ we all have in common. Jesus Christ is the foundation in which we all as believers trust in the work of the cross where Jesus paid for our sin, and we celebrate the resurrection.

We Belong Together in Christ

Christ-followers who have submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ belong together. This is the local church of believers you attend, and the believers who are on the other side of the world belong together in Christ. People from different walks of life from different backgrounds can come together and have fellowship because we belong together in Christ.

Fellowship in Suffering

Followers of Jesus have fellowship in suffering for Jesus. Paul says to the church of Philippi:

10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share (koinonia) his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3:10-11

The bond we have together as followers of Jesus that we share in suffering for Jesus. We can gather at church with brothers and sisters in Christ encouraging our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We help carry the burdens of those who are hurting and struggling. We share in his sufferings as we become more and more like Jesus.

What Does that Mean for Today?

The follower of Jesus who reads this article shares with other fellow believers the body of Christ, the service of Christ, the spirit of Christ, the gospel of Christ, the sufferings of Christ, and we share in the life of Christ. Fellowship is more than just going over to a church member’s house to eat some food. Biblical fellowship is sharing what we have received in Christ with other believers. The believers in the early church Luke described them as having “one heart and soul.” The people of God who gather to worship the one true God who sent his son Jesus to live the life we could not live, die the death we deserved, rose from the grave three days later so we could believe and trust in Jesus for salvation. We go and tell others that good news, and we are of one heart and soul in that mission because we share in that fellowship.