What is so important about “Koinonia”?
What language is this?
Koine Greek – the language that most of the New Testament was written in.
For a list of all the verses where this term is found visit: http://www.studylight.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=2842
What does it mean?
It is typically translated in English as “fellowship”. (see below for a more thorough definition)
Why is this term important for building biblical, multi-ethnic community?
Koinonia is our “target” – is what the early Christians shared with one another and what we should work towards.
For further study:
Bob Gillam provides a good explanation of the meaning of koinonia in his article “The Importance of Fellowship in a New Testament Church”. Here is an excerpt…
As we go back into history and dig deep into the original languages of the Bible, we will discover seven significant facts that help us to understand God’s intended meaning of the word, fellowship.
The first fact concerns the meaning of the Greek root. Our English word, “fellowship” is the translation of the Greek word, “koinonia.” This Greek word is derived from the root, “koinos,” which was a prefix in ancient Greek. If you were to add this prefix to words meaning “living,” “owning a purse,” “a dispute,” and “mother,” you would get words meaning “living in community together,” “owning a purse in common,” “a public dispute,” and “having a mother in common.” So we see that the root of the word, “fellowship,” means “to hold something in common.”
Our second fact relates to the usage of the word, “fellowship.” The Greek word, “koinonia,” was used to describe corporations, labor guilds, partners in a law firm, and the most intimate of marriage relationships. From the usage of the word, we can conclude that fellowship is a word denoting a relationship that is dependent on more than one individual. It is an interdependent relationship.
A third fact is that “fellowship” was never used to describe man’s relationship to God before the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell the church. It is an exclusively post-pentecost relationship.
A fourth fact about the meaning of “fellowship” can be gleaned by comparing it to its New Testament synonyms. These are words which have overlapping but not the identical meaning of koinonia. The four synonyms of koinonia in the New Testament are philos, which means “related by love for outward characteristics”; hetairos, meaning a sharer in a common enterprise; sunergos, meaning a fellow-worker; and metochos, a participant. Each of these words denotes a unity which is expressed outwardly. This is true of fellowship but by contrast, fellowship is also an inner unity. This inner aspect of fellowship may be seen in verses such as 1 Corinthians 1:9:
God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Here, fellowship primarily focuses on our spiritual unity with Christ, an inner relationship. I suspect that Philemon.6, 2 Corinthians 13:14 and Philippians 2:1 also emphasize the inner relationship which is at the root of fellowship.
Fifth, however, we must note that fellowship does not stop with being an inner unity for it is primarily an action word! Koinonia is used nineteen times in the New Testament and in addition to being translated as “fellowship” it is also translated by the words, “contribution,” “sharing,” and “participation.” A close study of the usage of this word shows that action is always included in its meaning. Fellowship, you see, is not just being together, it is doing together! This is a point almost universally ignored by Christian groups today.
Our sixth observation concerning the meaning of “fellowship” is that it is a unique relationship with Christ. We have a relationship of being “in Christ.” We also have a relationship of being “a part of Christ’s body.” Fellowship is neither. It is not “being in” or “being part” but it is “doing with” Christ. It is our partnership with Christ in fulfilling God’s will.
Our final observation may be gleaned from the last and it is this: that fellowship is not just doing anything together. It is only doing God’s will together. Quite obviously, our fellowship with others is only as good as our fellowship with Christ, our unity. And we can only participate with Him in doing God’s will, for that is all He ever does! For this reason we must quit thinking of Christian fellowship as primarily doing things such as having pot luck dinners or watching football or playing basketball with other believers. These have their place but they are only fellowship to the extent that rest, exercise, and eating are doing the work of the Lord. Fellowship involves actively doing God’s will. The things we usually think of as fellowship are certainly not the primary meaning of the word!
The Biblical Definition of Fellowship
Now, with these seven observations, we should be able to give a biblical definition to the word, “fellowship.” We can say that: “Fellowship is a relationship of inner unity among believers that expresses itself in outer co-participation with Christ and one another in accomplishing God’s will on earth.”
So, we have seen that fellowship in its New Testament sense is an inner unity expressed outwardly. It is not just being together but doing together. It is not just doing anything together but it is working together to accomplish God’s will.
Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
This is one of the most powerful words used in the
“Fellowship is a relationship of inner unity among believers that expresses itself in outer co-participation with Christ and one another in accomplishing God’s will on earth.”