This is a study of the word “fellowship” in Acts 2:42. Let’s begin with reading the verse in context. It’s the day of Pentecost; the church has grown from 12 to 3012 on the same day. How did this new church cope with the explosive growth?
41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.
42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship [koinonia], and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43 And fear came on every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia. This word has multiple meanings but in this instance it means “intimate joint relationship”. This means a two-way deep sharing of heart issues. It’s easy to share positive things in your life: engagement, pregnancy, birth, new job, promotion, weight loss, etc. It’s the uncomfortable things that transcend a relationship from shallow to deep. This requires vulnerability by sharing bad decisions, unfortunate circumstances, your fears, your concerns, your worries, your anger, your disappointment, or any of your weaknesses. This does not give you permission to gossip because that is a sin. Intimacy requires somebody to take a risk by exiting their comfort zone. Intimacy is sometimes pronounced in-to-me-see. This accurate assessment is about letting somebody else to see inside me.
Andy Stanley said “They will admire you for your strengths but they will relate to you through your weaknesses.” Andy’s statement is a gem. To be influential you need to share your strengths and weaknesses. The apostle Paul talked about his weaknesses in 2 Corinthians.
9 And he [God] said to me [Paul], My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Paul said that God’s strength is made fully mature in his weakness. He gloried in his weakness that Christ’s power may abide on him. Then he boasts “When I am weak, then am I strong.” Acknowledging our weaknesses and dependence on God is humility and releases Christ’s power.
Acquaintances engage in safe conversations. Talking about sports, politics, current events, pop culture, church, school, work, weather, cars, or clothing is not koinonia. Attending church and exchanging pleasantries with a few people is not koinonia. Meeting somebody for lunch is not koinonia.
Koinonia not only requires an intimate sharing but also an intimate receiving. It requires the ability to love somebody unconditionally regardless of what is shared. The receiver needs to be sensitive to the vulnerable trust being extended. Be worthy of the trust by being a good steward. Ensure that the information is safeguarded. Also take the risk of going from receiver to sharer.
In 2013 I was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Cancer is one of the most devilish words in the English language. Very few words invoke such a strong reaction. Many people endeavor to hide their disease due to this fear. God told me the day after I was diagnosed to not hide my disease. This became a relief as I shared with workers, family, and friends. (We did limit the audience for the first couple of weeks because I felt a need to have an understanding and a plan before sharing with my children.) This sharing exposed my helpless vulnerability. The treatment was going to be brutal unless I was healed miraculously. There was a shift in intimacy after sharing my challenges and my families challenges (Cancer is not a solo disease). God showed his strength and power in my utter weakness.
There is nothing easy about koinonia. It requires learning to express uncomfortable things, listening to uncomfortable things, extending love and patience, being inconvenienced, showing emotions, and safeguarding information. However, the rewards of an intimate relationship and knitting of hearts is invaluable. Take a risk today.