For true disciples of Christ, koinonia (fellowship) is essential in our walk with Him in this world. Throughout the gospels we learn that Jesus set for us the example of this during His earthly ministry. The Lord made it a point to spend special time away from the crowds and this world to meet intimately with His chosen disciples for the purpose of sharing love and fellowship (koinonia). It was during these intimate meetings that Jesus would teach, encourage, correct, direct, and bond with His disciples. Before leaving this world, Jesus told His disciples that He would not leave them alone in this world, but would be sending them the promised Advocate (Holy Spirit) to continue to teach, encourage, correct, direct, and bond them together in His love. "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, for He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:15-18).
Furthermore, when Jesus said, "The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him," He was making it clear that koinonia (Greek for fellowship) was an exclusive time between Him and His disciples, and not the people of this world who are spiritually separated from Him. Thus, when we do gather for intimate koinonia it needs to be a time for us "true disciples" to meet in the presence of the Lord for His purpose in our lives. Regrettably, many wrongly believe that "going to church" satisfies our intimate need for koinonia. Traditional church gatherings, no matter how large or small, encompass a mixed population of some who are true disciples of Christ and many who have no real personal relationship with Christ. These are the ones who religiously attend these gatherings based on doing what they believe is the right thing to do to please God or to feel less guilty about their own lives. With that said, the true disciple of Christ must realize that these gatherings are not a substitute for their much-needed koinonia, but can be a place where they can be a light unto others those who remain lost in their sins. In fact, if this is where the Lord is leading you for that purpose, know that this is aligned with our call to go into all of the world and make disciples of all nations.
Accordingly, if true disciples of Christ are called to regularly attend these mixed gatherings, they must remember to have koinonia with fellow disciples for their intimate spiritual needs in Christ. In reality, that is what is the meaning of what the scriptures tell us from the book of Hebrews. "Let us hold resolutely to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:23-25). Thus, here we see plainly that we need intimate koinonia with others in Christ separate from the time we spend those are unsaved, because "they neither see Him or know Him." Additionally, the scriptures tell us that by meeting for koinonia can help us to deal with our weaknesses toward sin. "But exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:13).
Therefore, with this in mind it is not hard to understand why today's church system gets it wrong with the way they quote Hebrews 10:25 concerning gathering together. Many church leaders will use this verse to encourage or reprimand their congregations so they will maintain or in most cases increase their regular attendance to their church buildings. It is true that some may do this innocently because that is what they have been taught to do through traditional teachings and practices, but many are doing this to maintain their congregation size to help meet their budget demands among other reasons. Nevertheless, no matter the reason, this is not what or how Christ has called us to live for Him as His disciples. On the contrary, the Lord never said we should meet together in massive gatherings, He said, "For where two or three gathers in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20). Thus, contrary to popular local church teachings, intimate koinonia (fellowship) is not any of the weekly church events such as "going to church" or attending bible studies. Anyone who has participated in these events knows that these gatherings are typically attended by anyone who wishes to be there.
Consequently, there is a clear and distinct difference between gathering together as part of mixed congregations in a local church and meeting with other true disciples in Christ for koinonia. Local church congregations present a mixed population of both spiritually alive and spiritually dead souls. Thus, the local church gatherings are no substitution for the essential intimate koinonia needed by true disciples of Christ for spiritual growth and encouragement. As mentioned previously, Jesus demonstrated our need for intimate koinonia throughout His ministry here on earth. Moreover, we should never think that simply taking time to mingle with others as part of a local church congregation satisfies our koinonia needs. Consequently, the true disciples of Christ do not have to participate in the local church system at all. Though, they do need to find intimate koinonia with fellow disciples in Christ for encouragement, and all the more as we see the Day approaching.
Hence, the very essence of koinonia is centered on Christ and not a system of rituals, traditions, and doctrines set forth by mankind. The local churches religious practices may cause one to believe that are somehow or other fulfilling some duty that is pleasing to God, but the Lord never told us to join a church or do most of the practices that are taught there. Instead, once we are in Christ, we are part of the one true living Church and if we seek Christ and follow Him, we will be set free of the many manmade rules followed by the institutionalized church system. In doing so, we will live a Spirit led life in Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit to humbly serve the kingdom of heaven. Thus, koinonia is a time for Christ's disciples to share with one another in His love and in turn He will meet our spiritual needs according to His good purpose. Jesus wants His disciples to be physically, spiritually, cognitively, and emotionally healthy. Moreover, He wishes for His disciples to follow Him daily and not follow the local church with all of its worldly practices.
Moreover, koinonia provides the Lord an opportunity to use the spiritual gifts He has given us, and as He sees fit, He will strengthen the Body, the Church. Koinonia is also a time where we can freely praise and worship our Lord through prayer, song, and adoration as we humble ourselves before Him. Finally, koinonia is where we can share our struggles with sin, physical and emotional pain, and joys, in one accord, to lift up and encourage one another. Therefore, although we are called to minister to the lost souls of this world, we should not be deceived to believe that we could ever share true koinonia with those who are lost and spiritually dead as they cannot understand the mysteries of heaven. Moreover, it is important to understand that as new creations, through our spiritual rebirth in Christ, our very belief system and way of life are foreign and unfathomable for those who are slaves to this world.
Additionally, we learn from the scriptures that we must be careful not to be yoked with those who are unbelievers (not in Christ). "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial (the devil)? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?" (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). Therefore, as new creations and citizens of heaven, we must never share the same bond we have with our fellow disciples with those who remain separated from heaven. Nevertheless, this does not mean we should avoid those who are lost in this world. On the contrary, we are in fact the light of this world and must spend our lives sharing the love of Christ with everyone who we meet.
In the gospel of John, Jesus prayed, "My prayer is not for them alone (His disciples who were with Him here on earth). I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message (the true disciples of Christ), that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me." (John 17:20-23). Yet, in spite of this prayer, mankind has done just the opposite by creating the institutionalized local church system with its many denominations, divisions, factions, differing doctrines and teachings, traditions, practices and so forth. This is a far cry from what Jesus established over two thousand years ago.
The early Church, the true Body of Christ, did not practice the many things found in today's local church system. How did they live? "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:42-47). This is truly what Jesus was praying for in His prayer in John 17.
The Apostle Paul wrote, "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:15-20). This is what true koinonia looks like! The early Church had everything in common because of Christ. They did not seek out local churches to listen to hand-me-down messages prepared by mankind to fulfil their koinonia needs. No, they met together with fellow disciples in Christ to hear from Christ Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Consequently, the Church, the One Body of Christ made up of His true disciples, needs to live in peace with one another, yet according to the will of the Lord, "Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you." (2 Corinthians 13:11). "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:15-17).
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