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Koinonia: Greek For Fellowship

  1. Koinonia (pronounced koi·no·nia) is a term commonly used today to describe fellowship opportunities offered through church services or events. However, in my desire to gain a deeper understanding the meaning of koinonia, I began studying the term as used in the scriptures. Much to my amazement, I found koinonia was used in various ways to explain the supernatural bond shared among those who are in the Body of Christ, or as referred to throughout this post, those who are "in Christ." Equally surprising to me was how the true implications of koinonia go far deeper than any basic understanding I had learned while part of the traditional church system. In reality, koinonia is not an event at all, but instead it is essential for the growth and unity of all who are in Christ.

    As a result, the Holy Spirit's movement within the Body of Christ supernaturally produces koinonia in and among its members. Thus, those in Christ will grow spiritually and receive guidance on how to follow Jesus as a result of koinonia. The term Koinónia is a Greek word, and the scriptures use this term in a number of ways to describe how it is experienced by those who in Christ. In short, koinonia is a supernatural experience shared both with Christ and among those in His Body while here in this world.

    Consequently, koinonia is not something shared by mankind, as it is exclusively for those who are born again and have a true personal relationship with Jesus. As a consequence, the way the term koinonia is commonly used within the traditional church misrepresents the true essence of how this term was used throughout the New Testament. As a result, those who are in Christ must understand that koinonia is not an event, but is in the purest sense a spiritual gift from above that can only be experienced by those in Christ. Moreover, it is through this gift the Church (Body of Christ) acquires spiritual growth and guidance by the leading of the Spirit. For that reason, the supernatural result of koinonia is inherent in its very existence, as it is a part of the intended spiritual life of all those who are in Christ.

    Therefore, although the term koinonia is only used nineteen times in the New Testament, it involves practically every work done by the Holy Spirit concerning the Church (Body of Christ) as long it will remain in this world. Contextually, the term koinonia is used in four distinct categorical conventions. These include: the intimate fellowship shared with others in Christ; the shared partnership of ministry performed by the Body of Christ; the acts of love through contributions of time and resources to meet the needs of others; and finally, the intimate fellowship shared with Christ Himself as part of the personal relationship He shares with those who are in His Body (the Church). Accordingly, the remainder of this post will focus on these four categories of koinonia as they relate to those who are in Christ. For ease of recognition, the translated terms used to describe koinonia are underlined and bolded below. Likewise, each usage will be accompanied by a contextual explanation.

    The first example of koinonia comes from the Book of Acts. "They (the early Church) devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (Acts 2:42). In this case, koinonia is translated as fellowship, and in context, koinonia is used to address the early Church's devotion to meet regularly with others who were in Christ. Thus, koinonia was a part of the early believer's everyday life experience as they made time to meet together whenever and wherever they could. "With one accord they continued to meet daily in the temple courts and to break bread from house to house, sharing their meals with gladness and sincerity of heart." (Acts 2:46).

    Similarly, the Apostle Paul used the term fellowship to describe koinonia while commending believers for their generosity and longing to share in the Lord's work. "They earnestly pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints." (2 Corinthians 8:4). Likewise, Paul mentions the same, stating, "And recognizing the grace that I had been given, James, Cephas, and John—those reputed to be pillars—gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised." (Galatians 2:9). Paul's use of fellowship in this verse describes how koinonia is inherent in the shared bond between all who are in Christ.

    Moreover, the Apostle John used the term fellowship in the same way describing koinonia as the shared bond of those in Christ. "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And this fellowship of ours is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3). Going further, John equates koinonia to the spiritual bond shared between the Father and the Son along with all who are in Christ. Finally, "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7). The emphasis here describes how koinonia is experienced within the relationship shared among those who possess the bond of love in Christ.

    Therefore, we must come to a full understanding that koinonia is something supernatural and exclusive for those who are in Christ, and not for those who are not in Christ. This is significant because when traditional churches misuse this term to signify one of their events, how do they know that all who attend are in fact in Christ? Regrettably, most local churches falsely believe that everyone who attends their church must be in Christ, or else why would they be there. Some will say it is alright to let them in, maybe they will become a Christian based on something they may learn. Needless to say, whenever those who are truly in Christ meet for intimate fellowship, they need to make sure all who attend are in Christ. Otherwise, they are purposely setting themselves up for things to backfire by inviting in those who remain spiritually dead. As it says in the scriptures, "A little leaven works through the whole batch of dough." (Galatians 5:9).

    With that said, you can see why those who are in Christ cannot mingle with non-believers to experience koinonia. Thus, the following verse uses the term fellowship and partnership in a way that leaves no doubt as to why this is so. "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership can righteousness have with wickedness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14). Thus, this single verse confirms that koinonia is only meant to be shared among those who share partnership in Christ. In the same way, this same verse introduces partnership as another use of koinonia. Paul wrote, "Is not the cup of blessing that we bless a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" (1 Corinthians 10:16). In this example you can see that Paul is clarifying how supernaturally, through koinonia, those who are in Christ partake in the sacrificed body and blood of Christ.

    Moreover, Paul wrote, "Because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:5-6). Thus, Paul is informing those in Christ that Jesus will continue to do His good work in their lives through koinonia (partnership) shared with Him. Likewise, Paul wrote, "I pray that your partnership in the faith may become effective as you fully acknowledge every good thing that is ours in Christ." (Philemon 1:6). As a result, sharing in deep spiritual partnership with others in Christ is an aspect of koinonia. Similarly, koinonia is experienced each time those in Christ contribute time and resources to minister to others who are in need. In Hebrews we read, "And do not neglect to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (Hebrews 13:16). Hence, when true believers perform Spirit-led acts or sacrifice in the service of the Lord they are sharing koinonia with one another.

    Likewise, Paul wrote, "For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem" (Romans 15:26), and again, "Because of the proof this ministry provides, the saints will glorify God for your obedient confession of the gospel of Christ, and for the generosity of your contribution to them and to all the others." (2 Corinthians 9:13). Accordingly, as those in Christ partake in Spirit-led opportunities to serve one another they are experiencing koinonia in Christ.

    Similarly, koinonia is experienced as a part of the intimate personal relationship that those who are in Christ share directly with Jesus just as they share with others in Christ. Paul wrote, "God is faithful, by whom you were called into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:9). Accordingly, it is Christ who calls His disciples into koinonia as part of the supernatural personal relationship He shares with them. Paul said, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death." (Philippians 3:10). Thus, another result of the shared koinonia those in Christ have with Jesus is He continues to conform them into His own image.

    Finally, "Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and compassion. Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose." (Philippians 2:1-2). Thus, when those in Christ experience true koinonia there will be one-mindedness in spirit and purpose free from the divisions as seen in the world outside of Christ. Regrettably, this mindset is missing in today's traditional church system. Moreover, even though the traditional church claims to follow Christ, there is little or no proof they do. This is evidenced by the countless divisions and different mindsets found within this institution. As a result, these s Christian establishments demonstrate outwardly a form of Godliness through their traditional teachings and practices, but inwardly they do not resemble what Jesus established with the early Church.

    It is interesting to note, Philippians 2:1-2 captures most every aspect of koinonia as it relates to one's life in Christ. Those in Christ experience koinonia through fellowship, partnership, participation, and all while sharing a Christ-centered focus as they serve the kingdom in one accord. We also find the term fellowship used in the following verse to describe koinonia as it applies to fellowship with the Holy Spirit. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you." (2 Corinthians 13:14).

    In brief, koinonia is essential to all those who are in Christ for their spiritual growth, to bond with Christ, and to connect with others in His Body (the Church). Nevertheless, I cannot emphasize enough that koinonia is not something that is experienced with or by those who are outside of Christ. Therefore, for those of you who are in Christ, you must seek out koinonia with others who are in Christ and do so separate from those who are not in Christ. "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership can righteousness have with wickedness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14).

    In conclusion, be warned, "If we say we have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." (1 John 1:6). Therefore, do not walk in darkness, but instead walk in the light of Christ and experience His true koinonia as you serve His kingdom. Remember, those who are in the Body of Christ (the true Church) must allow the Holy Spirit to move in their midst whenever they meet in the name of Jesus. As a result, they will experience koinonia as they enjoy unity, spiritual growth, and like-mindedness. Thus, I encourage all who are in Christ to ask the Lord to lead them towards others in Christ to share true koinonia as long as they are in this world.

    Hen Soma Ministries meets twice each week, online, to share koinonia with others who are in Christ. We do so each Sunday afternoon and again on Thursday evenings. These intimate small group meetings offer fellow servants from around the world to share in Spirit-led koinonia. If you are interested in joining with us, please send me an email to [email protected] so we can connect with you.

    You can download the complete free E-book this post was extracted from at: Koinonia: Fellowship in Christ, an Ebook by Dr. Steven J. Bassett, and Koinonia: Fellowship in Christ - Kindle edition by Bassett, Dr. Steven J.. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

    About Author

    I grew up in New York as one of ten siblings. Once graduating high school in 1976, I entered the United States Air Force. On June 6, 1982 I personally met my savior Jesus Christ. In spite of my many shortcomings, the Lord has continued to shape my life to serve alongside others who have experienced spiritual rebirth and are part of the Church, the Body of Christ. I now reside in New Jersey and am blessed with a beautiful family, wonderful fellowship, and best of all eternal life found in Jesus.


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