Do you know what you are saying? When you open your mouth and words come out, do you know what they mean to the person listening to you?
Those of us who are trying out Korean words can easily say something we didn’t intend to say. Anyone speaking a second language runs this risk. It also can be a big problem when reading something written a long time ago, say by William Shakespeare.
For example, do you know what ‘naughty’ means? You think you do. If you were living many years ago and you were ‘naughty’, it meant you had ‘naught’ or nothing. Then as the years passed it came to mean ‘evil’ or ‘immoral’. Many more years passed and now it just means you are badly behaved.
‘Nice’ used to mean silly, foolish, simple. ‘Silly’ changed in the opposite direction. In its earliest uses it referred to things that were worthy or blessed. From there it came to refer to weak and vulnerable people. More recently the meaning shifted to those people who are foolish.
This can be a serious problem when we are reading a book that is thousands of years old. The other issue with understanding what we are reading is being able to understand what the writer meant when they chose a particular word.
In our Scripture reading today we had one particular word that I want to pay special attention to this morning. It is the English word ‘fellowship’. The Korean word 교제. This raises the first problem. Acts was not written in Korean. Neither was it written in English. Doctor Luke wrote in Greek. So the word he used in verse 42 was not fellowship or 교제. It was koinonia.
This word appears 19 times in the New Testament and is translated variously as contribution, participation, sharing and fellowship.
When we use the word fellowship today we are inclined to think of a party or a barbecue. We tend to think of getting together and going to the cinema or bowling as fellowship.
Perhaps you will have noticed that we call this meeting a fellowship. You are all members of the Jinju International Christian Fellowship. Why did we choose that word?
Dr Luke helps us by describing what he means by the word koinonia.
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 그들은 계속 사도들의 가르침을 받고 서로 교제하며 성찬을 나누고 기도하는 일에 전적으로 힘썼다.” (Acts 2:42)
In the following verses (43 to 47) he gives us our definition of the word fellowship.
We find from Luke that fellowship means common participation in something either by giving what you have to the other person or receiving what he or she has. Give and take is the essence of fellowship, and give and take must be the way of fellowship in the common life of the body of Christ.
Luke says “all the believers met together in one place.” That they “shared everything they had.” He says “they worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people.”
Fellowship is not just getting together. It is something very intimate. It is centered on God.
Christian community, or fellowship, in the church immediately after Pentecost meant sharing everything. Do we have fellowship by that definition? It meant worshipping together every day. Do we have fellowship by that definition? It meant not only eating together but also having holy communion in their homes with joy and generosity. Do we have fellowship by that definition? It meant praising God. How are we doing so far?
Christian fellowship is two-dimensional. It has to be vertical before it can be horizontal. We must know the reality of fellowship with our heavenly father, God, and with his son, Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit before we can know the reality of fellowship with each other in our common relationship to God (1 John 1:3). The person who is not in fellowship with the Father and the Son is no Christian at all, and so cannot share with Christians the realities of their fellowship.
1 John 1:6 says, “We are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness.”
What would it look like if we really had fellowship? If this meeting were really a fellowship according to Doctor Luke’s definition, what would it look like?
What would the experience of true fellowship be like for us? Luke says that for those first Christians, “A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 사도들을 통하여 놀라운 일과 기적이 많이 나타나자 사람들은 모두 하나님을 두려워하게 되었다.”
Don’t you want to experience that kind of fellowship? Doesn’t it excite you?
There is no reason why we shouldn’t have that kind of fellowship today. We can have signs and wonders and awe inspiring things in our church today, if we devote ourselves to true fellowship.
There are some familiar words in these verses. Do you see ‘together’, ‘common’ and ‘sharing’? Do you remember the definition of the Greek word koinonia? Here it is again in the form koinos, which is the root of koinonia and means ‘common’. It means deep relationships. It means together and caring.
Does this mean we all must sell our possessions and come together and live in a commune?
That is what some people will want to do. That is a great thing to do. I don’t think these verses command us to do that. They sold their possessions as a means to an end. That end is revealed the last phrase of verse 44 – “those in need”.
One thing this means is that in true fellowship we meet each other’s needs. When we care for each other, we feel something emotional. In fellowship we put those emotions into action.
Verse 46 also says we must be of one mind. Our translation says ‘together’, but the Greek uses a very special word. It says homothymadón, which means ‘with one mind’.
The first Christians had as their top priority serving God, and they all agreed on that. Just as we all have agreed to pray at 12:15 every day for God’s will to be done in our lives and in this fellowship. It also meant that they had it as a priority to serve each other.
We can say that this means our motive is nothing else than to put God first in every part of our lives, from morning to night. We live to please God. This is the way to experience true fellowship.
Have you heard the quote about true humility. It is not to think less of yourself, it is to think of yourself less.
Guess what will happen when we do this. We shall see Jesus words in John 13:35 in the flesh – “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
It isn’t just having meals together. Our hearts need to be in a certain condition for fellowship. Luke says we should have a state of joy and generosity as we eat together. Food is important.
As part of fellowship we sit around together. We share about our lives. We talk about our joys and our pains, our struggles and our triumphs. We learn to bear one another’s burdens. We start to celebrate with each other and cry with each other. We can only pray for each other if we share with each other. Our sharing time every Sunday morning is part of this, it is an important aspect of building fellowship. It’s why it is important for you to share something.
You cannot be a Christian on your own. You cannot experience fellowship alone.
We need to attend services on Sunday morning. We need to see that as just a part of the fellowship. Eating lunch together after the service is an important part of fellowship.
Another important thing is our daily prayer. If you aren’t doing that, I encourage you to start.
Meeting together with a cell group during the week is yet another part of developing fellowship. If you aren’t in one yet, you really should seriously consider joining a cell group.
Let’s learn together how to be a fellowship.