Yesterday morning, I began a sermon series through our church’s Identity and Vision statement. The message focused on the first and last phrases of that statement – “community of faith” and “gospel of Jesus Christ.”
A significant part of the message focused on the New Testament concept of koinonia. Koinonia is a Greek word that is usually translated as “fellowship.” However, the word “fellowship” usually has meaning for us that can lead us away from the main idea of the original word koinonia in the New Testament. We usually think of fellowship as food, conversation, and fun. While, Christian koinonia can certainly include those things, the koinonia of the people of God is something far more profound than that.
Koinonia comes from the word koinos, which means “common.” In the life of a Christian community (a local church), all believers in Christ share one thing in common. They are united to the Triune God through faith in Jesus Christ. This union with God through Christ is the koinos of the church; it is the common ground of the people of God. Koinonia, then, is the expression of this common ground. It is life shared together in union with the one true God. In the sermon yesterday, we focused on 1 John 1:1-7 to help us understand the meaning of Christian koinonia. In this post, I want to look at another important passage of Scripture to enhance our understanding.
Acts 2 tells the story of the birth of the New Testament church when the Holy Spirit came in power on the day of Pentecost. On that day, Peter stood up and preached to the large crowd of people gathered in Jerusalem from regions all over the Roman Empire. At the end of Peter’s sermon, many of the people repented of their sin, believed in Jesus Christ, and were baptized. The original New Testament church at Jerusalem was born with 3,000 inaugural members!
Acts 2:42 tells us about what life was like in the community of faith during the early days of the church:
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
The word “fellowship” there is that Greek word we have been discussing – koinonia. For our purposes, I want to note what is listed here as a prerequisite to Christian koinonia – the apostles’ teaching. Koinonia happens as the community of faith lives according to the apostles’ teaching. In those early days, the church had the benefit of the original twelve apostles living and teaching among them. The twelve apostles are no longer with us personally. Today, however, we still have the apostles’ teaching because, by the working of the Holy Spirit, their teaching and eye-witness testimony has been written in Scripture for us. True Christian koinonia will happen at Highland Park (and other local churches) when the members there faithfully hear, understand, and obey the Scriptures together.
Highland Park is a community of faith. It is my prayer that our experience of koinonia as a Christian community will increase as we grow in our knowledge and obedience of the apostles’ teaching, the word of God.
*At some point this week, the sermon from Sunday will be available here.