When you think of the word “fellowship,” what comes to mind? Do you think of church events, or do you think of relationship with one another? Fellowship is about sincere relationship with one another. Fellowship is not about church picnics, potlucks, or conducting small talk in the “fellowship hall” before and after church while snacking on some doughnuts and sipping on orange juice. These can be used for fellowship, but it goes far beyond that. Fellowship is about real people—real Christians—meeting each other’s real needs and coming together to fulfill the Church mission. The key passage to understanding Christian fellowship, I believe, comes from Acts 2:42-47:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And we came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Let’s get a little context here: On the day of Pentecost, St. Peter stood up and proclaimed in the presence of thousands of people that God had risen Jesus Christ from the dead, the same Jesus they had demanded to be crucified under Pontius Pilate. On that day, 3,000+ people repented of their sins, and this was the beginning of the first church. These 3,000 people are who “they” are in the above passage. St. Luke, the author of Acts, writes that they had devoted themselves to fellowship. I will be identifying what fellowship is in a moment, but let’s first identify what the mission of the church is.
Jesus gave us the Great Commission, commanding the apostles and all Christians to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). That is our duty as Christians. People often complain we are “pushing” Christianity onto them. The truth is, they don’t feel forced at all; they just don’t want to hear what we have to say because it opposes their way of living, hence what Jesus says in John 7:7, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” The truth is that we’re simply doing what we were commissioned to do over two millennia ago; not sharing the news of Jesus Christ and teaching what He has commanded us to do is doing the opposite of what He has commissioned every one of us to do. Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). This language He used with Peter and Andrew was significant because they were fishermen. But what did He mean by this? I understand this to be a metaphor of the Christian duty. Jesus commanded and taught the apostles to teach people everything they need to know about Him and the will of His Father, our God. Therefore, it is our duty to cast out the bait of the Good News of Jesus Christ and pull people in. So really, unbelievers aren’t being “pushed” upon by our beliefs, for the action of pushing forces you away. Rather, we are attempting to reel them in—attempting to pull them in, which is to draw someone near. Like a large fish on the hook (bloated with arrogance), they fight really hard to escape from the reality of Jesus Christ.
All that being said, what is true fellowship? Well, first, we’re not called to witness alone. If you read 1 Corinthians 12 you’ll read that St. Paul describes the Church as one body with many members—the body of believers working together for our common mission. The early Christian Church is often viewed as the high point of Christianity, and it’s because of the intense devotion to fellowship they had with one another. Going back to Acts, it says they were devoted to the apostles’ teaching, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. These early Christians were devoted to the teaching of the apostles—there were no divisions, no disagreements on doctrine because they “had all things in common” (v. 44). When we Lutherans confess in the Nicene Creed that “we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church,” we are declaring that we follow the apostles’ teachings, allowing God’s Word to speak for itself without putting human reason above it (which is called the magisterial use of reason rather than the ministerial use). Sadly, in the American Church, Christians often practice the magisterial use of reason by putting their rationality over the Word of God—human authority over the authority of God’s Word. (Also, “catholic” in the true sense of the word means all Christians worldwide at all times—past, present, and future.) Although divisions did come a little later (as Paul addresses in the beginning of First Corinthians), nowadays there is even a wider division and there is a lot of enmity among Christians when it comes to doctrinal details, placing their identity in their denomination rather than Christ alone. If all denominations were sola Scriptura, sola fide, and sola gratia (Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone), then there probably wouldn’t be so many denominations in the first place.
The early Christians also practiced the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper regularly. Nowadays, some denominations don’t practice it on a regular basis and some are even misinformed of what the sacrament is. Some believe it is only a sign. It is more than that, however. It is for the forgiveness of sins as well, which is exactly what Jesus meant when He said in the distribution of the wine and bread, “For this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”(Matthew 26:28).
The early Christians were also devoted to the prayers, meaning they had a prayerful life. It was just a regular part of their daily life. Because of their prayerful life, it is highly likely they were praying for one another frequently, which I honestly don’t see a lot of today. People often say to me, “I’ll pray for you,” and I wonder: Do they really? I’m sure many of you can relate. How often have you told someone you’ll pray for them, but never followed through because you “forgot”? If you tell someone you’ll pray for them, keep that promise! I must admit I’m guilty of forgetting to pray for someone when I said I would. This is why I’ve developed the habit of having a prayer journal where I write down the person’s name and what I’m supposed to pray for, that way I don’t forget. If I don’t have it on me, I have a smartphone so I use that easy technology to use the Reminders app to jot it down. I highly recommend that every Christian get into this habit, because what good is it if you say you’ll pray for someone but never follow through?
Garrick Sinclair "Ricky" Beckett first started his Christian writing on a blog titled "The Lutheran Column" where he hires proficient Lutheran writers to convey biblical truth. Along with the blog, he also writes poetry, string quartets in music composition, enjoys doing photography, reading, and playing video games. Ricky is a graduate from Concordia University-Ann Arbor from the Pre-Seminary program with a major in Christian Thought and a minor in Theological Languages. Currently, Ricky is a seminarian at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis as he works on his Masters of Divinity to become a pastor in the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).
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