The word koinonia is translated fellowship, communion, or participation. But let's see it in practice in the early church.
(Acts 2:42-47, 1 Cor. 10:14-17)
A. “Failure to thrive syndrome” is a medical term that has roots in the underdevelopment of an infant. The question becomes what causes these infants to be so underdeveloped. There are some health issues that doctors feel can be the culprit, but there are also environmental issues. We saw that in the orphanages of Romania after the fall of communism. While many of the babies had their physical needs met, there was no nurturing, holding and TLC. Some of these babies simply died because of a lack of love and touch.
B. Doesn’t your heart go out to these children who so desperately need someone to love them simply to survive? Some tried to adopt babies after hearing the news. But I want us to take this understanding to this congregation.
C. Remember our text from Acts 2. 3000 people were baptized into Christ on the day of Pentecost. Salvation had come. But with that was a separation from family members or devout Jews who saw this new movement called “The Way” as a threat and false teaching. They did not see Jesus as the Messiah and rejected the teaching of the Apostles. When some of these Jew turned to Jesus as the Messiah they were cut off from their family and treated as dead. What had to happen in order to survive was to form a new family unity, a new fellowship of believers and to share. Let me remind you of the text read last week (Acts 2:42-47).
I. Defining Fellowship
A. It is interesting to follow the Greek word that is translated “fellowship” in this passage. The word itself is “koinonia.” If you tried to define fellowship based upon what you see in many places you might think it means a meal that is eaten together after the morning worship, or a time of socializing before class or worship. I don’t disagree that those things are fellowship, but I believe the idea presented by what the early Christians devoted themselves to, was far more than food. We will see in a moment the idea of table fellowship and the joy of eating together as a bonding of Christians. But it is more than eating. Eating is the byproduct.
B. The idea of the word is rooted in the idea of “community” “participation” and “partnership.” The idea is communism but seeing what I have that can be used for the common good. These new Christians needed one another. The needed each other spiritually and sometimes financially. When the Jewish community abandoned them, their Christian family welcomed them.
C. In order to have this fellowship it requires a shared faith. Here were people who shared their possessions and goods. They met together in the temple courts, probably to hear the apostles teaching. And they ate together with glad and sincere hearts. They were bonded, they were family, they were in fellowship. Can you be in fellowship with God and not be in fellowship with other Christians? When John would write his letter, he says (1 John 1:3). Now keep reading this passage, because word is used again (vs. 4-7).
D. How do we get to this depth of fellowship? “We” don’t, “I” do. This is not a church problem. It is a personal problem. Fellowship requires action from me. I know that there may be times when people push me away or refuse to let me in to worship, but I don’t believe that to be the case in this congregation. There may be personality clashes, but fellowship seeks to overcome them. It’s me seeing you as important and desire that we can have more in common than we have had in the past. Let me encourage you to share in the common gatherings of this family. Be here every time the doors are open. Come back tonight and worship with your family. Attend the singing that is getting started today at Overlook Green Assisted Living this afternoon, take part in small group classes like the seniors, Berean, Nichols study, ladies class or other groups. If I intentionally make time to spend with you in study, in worship, or in social activities, I am seeking to be in fellowship with you.
E. We can turn Pittsburgh upside down when we are devoted to God’s word and to each other. People are longing for fellowship. People crave being loved and included. With dysfunctional families all around us, the church family can be a beacon of light to the world and place for healing and love. Think of what could be done if we as a church mobilized for the ministry of fellowship. Let’s be so devoted to one another that we “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those weep.” Let’s be the family of God at Whitehall.
II. Breaking Bread Together
A. This phrase is not as easily understood as one might think. Some would say that it is dealing the common meal and others say it means the Lord’s Supper. Coming on the heals of fellowship, I can’t see how it could simply be a common meal. If that were idea it was already talked about in the word “fellowship.” This appears to have something deeper than dinner and caused devotion.
B. There are some who see it as a combination. That early church had their “love feasts” each time they came together and incorporated the Lord’s Supper into that time. There may be truth to that, but I still believe Luke is talking about the idea of worship and the center of worship being the fellowship we have at the Table.
C. I had read for us 1 Cor. 10 this morning. Let’s go back to that text. Look at verse 16. The word “participation” in the NIV, “communion” in the KJV, and “sharing” in the New Revised is the same word we just talked about as fellowship moments ago. You see, the Lord’s Table is for you and me a fellowship with both God and each other. We are one body as break bread together at the Table of Jesus. The idea being devoted is not to a practice of eating crackers and drinking grape juice. It is the idea of worship to God in a community of faith. That is something we can devote ourselves to.
D. We who are many are one body for we all partake of the one loaf. It is Jesus that binds us together. Being devoted to this family of God is seen in my devotion to worshipping God and remembering what Jesus does for me week after week.
E. The Lord’s Supper has been used by churches over the years to make it into some type of sacrament that spiritually heals you. That simply is not biblical. People want to take it at weddings, funerals or when they are sick like a magic pill, but that is not the Lord’s Supper. 1 Cor. 11:17. What a sad statement. Vs 20-29. The point of the LS is a communion with God and man. It is not a Sunday act, it is unity with my church family and remembrance of my new covenant with Jesus. We do this when we come together. It is offered both morning and evening. It calls me to this family. It calls me to a reflection of my spiritual life. It calls me to fellowship.
A. These early Christians affected their community and drew people to Christ because they were devoted to the Apostles teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer. They were the church and help us to see what that means. They had all things in common. They were devoted to one another.
B. This year I choose to grow in my devotion. God can use us to touch lives starting with our own. When we have the same devotion these new Christians had, change and growth will come. Are you ready to touch the world around you as God touches you?