A Theology Of Fellowship -- By: Larry R. Oats

Journal: Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal
Volume: MBTJ 04:1 (Spring 2014)
Article: A Theology Of Fellowship
Author: Larry R. Oats


A Theology Of Fellowship

Larry R. Oats1

Fundamentalism is best known for its separatism, a willingness to separate when biblical truth is at stake. Separation, however, is the flipside of fellowship. If we can fellowship with someone (or something like a church or an association), we cannot separate from him (or it). If we do not have a basis for biblical fellowship, then we will struggle with our basis for biblical separation.

There is not enough space to examine everything pertaining to fellowship in Scripture, so this article will look at the primary passages concerning this topic. Since the author intends to focus on the church age, the discussion will be limited to the New Testament.

The word “fellowship” is κοινονία (koinonia); it refers to association for the purpose of mutual involvement. In the New Testament it routinely carries the idea of religious involvement. This is not the only term that speaks of the unity and fellowship among believers in the New Testament, but it is a significant term. It is translated as “close association involving mutual interests and sharing, association, communion, fellowship, close relationship.”2 The word can be used to refer to a sign of fellowship or a proof of brotherly unity, such as a gift or contribution. The concept can also include activities that accompany the

mutual interests. The definition of fellowship is important. “Fellowship” in the 21st century is a cup of coffee and piece of pie after the Sunday evening service. This is not the biblical concept of fellowship; biblical fellowship is partnership in ministry.

Acts 2:42

One of the early uses of κοινονία is found in Acts 2:42. As a result of Pentecost, the new believers “continued steadfastly” or “devoted themselves” to four practices.

Apostles’ doctrine or “teaching.” διδαχή (didache) refers to both the act of teaching, as well as the content of the teaching. There were no New Testament books in the early church. The disciples were dependent on the apostles to learn what Jesus did and taught, as well as what further revelation would be given to them by the Holy Spirit. The content of their teaching undoubtedly included the Old Testament (while he was not an apostle, Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7 was filled with historical Jewish references),...

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