They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; (Acts 2:42-43a)
Remember Luke's sentence tells us what they were devoted to.
They were continually devoting themselves
to the apostles' teaching
to the breaking of bread
Today's questions are:
What does Luke mean by fellowship? (We often use Christian jargon little knowing what it actually means.)
Is there a difference between "being together” and "having fellowship”?
I must confess that this word Fellowship is one that puzzled me when I first became a Christian. What on earth does it mean? I confess also to being troubled by the way some Christians use the word. I have been in church when the service has finished and we all moved to the exit and then outside as we encountered a couple before we got into our car we had a brief conversation about nothing in particular. As we parted, the comment was made how much the couple enjoyed the fellowship at church that morning. Oh really, which part? The part when we all stood in church and gazed at the back of the people in front of us? Or when we had a brief “greet one another period” during which I shook hands with maybe eight people in a two minute period? Or was it when we said some fleeting "Hi’s” to the people we encountered on the way out? Or was it the deep, brief conversation with the couple before getting in the car? Forgive me, but I don’t think any of these momentary experiences meet the criteria for Christian Fellowship.
I have been a part of another church fellowship where it had been described as "such a friendly fellowship" and the church was called "The XXX Fellowhip". I must confess I hadn’t "realised” it was such a friendly fellowship. So I decided the next week to test the friendliness. Up until that time I had been the one to initiate any personal "fellowship” encounters after the service. I decided the following Sunday in response to the comment made on the friendliness of the Fellowship, to test it. I stood by the wall with a sad look on my face and waited to see who would come and “fellowship” with me. You guessed it, not one person stopped to talk with me, ask me how I was, ask if there was anything wrong. But as I watched, I noticed the active fellowshippers among the people went to their group of fellows to ship with them while other ships "passed in the night” - well, midday actually. I further noticed a number of people like me who were standing around against the walls or sitting on the seats provided but not talking to anyone. I soon abandoned my experiment and went to talk with one of those unconnected fellowship people. I am sure you get my point by now. Let’s explore the word and then let’s investigate the quality of fellowship in this early church.
What does the word [koinonia] “fellowship" mean?
[Κοινωνία koinōnia] Pronunciation - koy-nohn-ee'-ah
partnership, that is, (literally) participation, or (social) intercourse, or (pecuniary) benefaction: - (to) communicate (-ation), communion, contribution, distribution, fellowship.
- fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse
- the sharing which one has in anything, participation
- intercourse, fellowship, intimacy
- the right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship (in fulfilling the apostolic office)
- a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship.
New Testament Communion (Fellowship)
1. The terms “communion” and “fellowship” in the English Bible are variations of the words κοινωνία, koinōnı́a, and κοινωνέω, koinōnéō, or their related words. The acts of fellowship observed among the early Christians express the unique sense of unity and fellowship.
Read again the passage in focus for us and this time read between the lines to see what sort of fellowship this early body of people had.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
Can you read between the lines to see that this "first church” had a very different sense, feeling and experience of fellowship than what I described above? This group knew the reality of fellowship. Theirs was a unity and sense of participation that most of us can only dream about. I believe all human beings are looking to belong. All people want to find that place where they are loved unconditionally, no matter who they are or what they have. We want to know that people care about us and will do anything for us. I have told a number of people that Tania and I have five principles or requirements that we look for when we are looking for a church to call our home church. Believe me, we have had lots of practice because we have moved a lot. One of those requirements is to be a part of a caring body of people who demonstrate biblical belonging. A place of safety and refuge where we know we belong. Where people are concerned and care for those who are part of the body. Those who embody true Christian fellowship. People who love to hang out together and care for one another. Who care enough when someone is in need to help meet that need. Of course it goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, that on occasions you may be the recipient of the caring and find your needs met as a result, but mostly you will be a part of the answer as you meet others needs in preference to your own.
That is true Christian fellowship. I will draw your attention now to the fact that these people in the "first church" were feeling a sense of awe over the teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayer. Yes, that is right! What led to the sense of awe was all four elements, not just one. The feelings of awe came primarily from the teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer. The signs and wonders were tacked on to seal the deal. I can understand when these people find fellowship and teaching like they had, then they get excited. It is not because of signs and wonders, they are only the icing on the cake. When the basics of the Christian life are functioning well, people are cared for and have their needs met. I could say more about fellowship but I think I have said enough. Next Gemz we will look at that sharing that took place to the point where their needs were met. Still part of Fellowship but also part of the breaking of bread and what that meant.
It’s an oldie but a goodie: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
People start to heal the moment they feel heard. Chery Richardson
You are the most like God when you are good to those who don't deserve it. Joyce Meyer
Anyone can stay true to your face, it's the people who stay true behind your back that really count. Nicky Gumbel
When someone truly cares about you they make an effort, not an excuse.
It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into the doing that matters. Mother Teresa
Don't be afraid to start over. It's a brand new opportunity to rebuild what you truly want. (On this last day of 2014)