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Bible Dictionaries

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

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According to its basic biblical meaning, fellowship is concerned not with people enjoying each other’s company, but with people participating together in something. Fellowship is communion – having a share in something.

Fellowship ‘with’ means sharing ‘in’

An example of the biblical meaning of fellowship is the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion. The act of believers in eating bread and drinking wine in the Lord’s Supper is an act of fellowship with Christ, for it is a spiritual sharing in his body and blood. It is a participation in Christ and all that his sacrificial death means (1 Corinthians 10:16; see LORD’S SUPPER). By being united with Christ, believers share in him, have fellowship with him (1 Corinthians 1:9; Hebrews 3:14). Likewise they have fellowship with the Father (1 John 1:3) and with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14; Philippians 1:21; Hebrews 6:4), for through faith in Christ they have become sharers in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

In all these cases the fellowship may involve only the individual believer and God. The believer has fellowship with God, regardless of whether joined by fellow believers. If others join, however, they collectively have fellowship with God. Therefore, when the Bible speaks of Christians having fellowship together, it means that together they have fellowship with God, not that they enjoy being with each other (1 John 1:3). But by having fellowship together with God, they will indeed be joined together in a true and happy union (John 17:21-22; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

Sin spoils the believer’s fellowship with God. Those who think they can sin as they please and still have fellowship with God are deceiving themselves. By contrast those who live righteously will enjoy unbroken fellowship with God, because God in his grace cleanses the sins that they unknowingly commit (1 John 1:6-7).

Fellowship with Christ means not only sharing in the blessings that come through his sacrificial death, but also sharing in the sufferings that he endured (Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:12-14; Revelation 1:9). But if people have fellowship with him in his sufferings, they will also have fellowship with him in his glory (2 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Peter 5:1).

Sharing in a common possession

As Christians jointly participate in Christ, so this fellowship binds them together (Acts 2:42). There is therefore a sense in which they have fellowship with one another, but again this fellowship is usually in someone or something that they have as a common possession (Philippians 1:7; Hebrews 3:14; 2 Peter 1:4). Their fellowship is a joint sharing in a common faith (Titus 1:4), in a common salvation (Judges 1:3) and even in their common sufferings (2 Corinthians 1:7; Revelation 1:9). They share in the gospel by helping those who preach it (Philippians 1:5; Philippians 4:14-18), and share in the financial support of poor Christians by giving money to help them (Romans 15:27; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:11). From this latter example ‘fellowship’ developed the more specialized meaning of ‘financial contribution’ (cf. Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:13).

There are certain things that Christians are not to have fellowship with, not to share in, not to participate in. They are not to identify with others in a way that signifies a sharing in the wrongdoings of such people (1 Timothy 5:22; 2 John 1:10-11). Neither are they to share in marriage with non-believers (2 Corinthians 6:14-15) or in religious feasts where food has been offered to idols (1 Corinthians 10:20-21). They are to have no part, no share, in anything that is sinful (Ephesians 5:11; Revelation 18:4).

Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Fellowship'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​bbd/​f/fellowship.html. 2004.
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