I know this might sound strange to say this, but you cannot have genuine fellowship with other professing Christians unless they are truly born again. Unfortunately, because many confuse what fellowship actually is and what it looks like, and even more that will affirm the sinful behaviors of false converts, koinōnia type fellowship has been significantly blurred. Furthermore, some professing Christians seemingly have no problem having all things in common with unbelievers and their sinful appetites, meanwhile, others are starving in their local churches for good, wholesome fellowship. Taking this into consideration, it should be no surprise to say that there can be no true fellowship without salvation in Christ because that is where the foundation of koinōnia is found.
In the introduction to this series I laid the groundwork as to what fellowship is in the context of Acts 2:42. To briefly recap, it involves “sharing, giving, and having communion with one another, actively participating in each other’s lives, praying for one another, persevering in doctrine, and evangelizing while being in unity together underneath the banner of the gospel” (see the article entitled “Fellowship”) Is this something we can participate in with unbelievers? Some would say that we can pray, and share, give and participate in one another’s lives. And I have no problem with Christians doing so. However, in understanding that koinōnia is a mutual exchange between professing believers underneath the foundation of Christ and His salvation, we will soon discover that, oftentimes, what we deem as “fellowship” among unbelievers is a one-way street. Sadly enough, there are many professing Christians whose behavior is marked by the same pattern.
2 Corinthians 6:14 states that we are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, and asks a crucial question as to whether or not righteousness can have fellowship with lawlessness? And whether or not light can commune with darkness? Answer: It can’t happen! Does this mean we cannot have friendships with unbelievers? No. What this means is that it will always be on a level that is superficial, shallow, and unfortunately, fleshly. Unless the grace of God penetrates the hard hearts of those whom we have befriended, there will be no lasting, deep, spiritual fellowship. Because of the lifestyle that some lives, some of us already know that those kinds of relationships involve too many moral restrictions.
This now brings us to an interesting application. Ever visited a local church, or spoke with a professing Christian, and when there was a correct understanding of the gospel, and right mindset concerning the application of salvation in their life, and also a rich sense in which both of you understood the grace of God to such a degree that it seemed like you knew each other a long time? I have experienced this. Unregenerate people have experienced something similar, but when Christians experience this, it is called “the fellowship of the Spirit” (Philippians 2:1-2). This same Spirit connects us together in the body and thus the reason why we have the power to exemplify koinōnia/Acts 2 fellowship with one another. Now, this doesn’t mean that because you don’t sense this when you meet someone else that they are automatically not a Christian. As I stated in the last article, often our fellowship is disrupted by sin, personality traits, and doctrines that cause division among us. But if our main concern is the gospel of Christ, and if there is a consensual agreement in the essentials of the faith, believers have the foundation necessary to have real, lasting, and rich fellowship with one another.
There is one last important point. What people practice in their lives (lifestyle), usually determines whether fellowship will be possible. Thieves hang out with thieves because they encourage one another in their thievery. Murderers, gossipers, gangs, military members, clubs, social classes, etc., come together because there is a common lifestyle they all share. If we are in Christ, our fellowship is not only rooted in Who we believe but the doctrine we profess and walk-in. You see, I have the greatest fellowship with those who share a common understanding concerning salvation, regeneration, justification, fellowship, and evangelism. If we are in the light and walk in the light, without hypocrisy, we will have genuine fellowship with one another. 1 John 1:6-7 states:
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk-in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (NKJV)
Notice, the apostle John points out that fellowship with Christ comes first. If we have genuine fellowship (salvation) with Christ, we will walk in the light as He is in the light. If we say that we are believers, but don’t practice what we preach, we are hypocrites and the truth does not abide within us. But also notice this very important point. It also says that if “we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” Amazing! True and genuine koinōnia is determined by our practice in the doctrine of Christ just as much as Who we profess to know. In other words, it isn’t just what comes out of our mouths that will determine who we will have fellowship with, but how we live our lives among one another. This is one of the greatest reasons why Christians are starving for fellowship among their local churches. Because while there are churches out there that have a creed that is sound on paper, their orthopraxy does not
match their orthodoxy, thus why we often feel alone even though we are surrounded by so many professing Christians. Conclusion: Sometimes our fellowship is stifled by sin, other times it is simply because some professing Christians are not truly born again.
If you have felt alone lately and aren’t sure why? Lord willing you have a church or network of believers that will pray for you, share with you, and participate with you in the common salvation that we profess in Christ. If not, pray that the LORD will give you friends. He is faithful to provide. Also, If you know someone who may not be experiencing fellowship, and desires it, make the effort to reach out by setting aside yourself. Often, the prominent reason why we do not have fellowship with others is because of our own selfishness, self-pity, and pride. Let’s continue to have fellowship in Christ and with one another in the bond of peace and love for the brethren.