We have slowed down our study in the book of Acts to examine what these people immediately did once they became followers of Jesus. Once they were added to the Lord, we see that these Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to breaking bread, to fellowship, and to prayers (Acts 2:42). In our lesson today we are going to notice that they devoted themselves to fellowship.
Unfortunately, when we use the word “fellowship” we do not all come to the same thinking. Modern thinking has really distorted the meaning of this word from how it was used in the scriptures. People typically think of eating together, watching tv together, shopping together, or something along those lines when speaking about fellowship. The idea of a “fellowship hall” is a misnomer when it is the place that the church eats donuts and drinks soda. Eating a meal or spending time together is not the focus of fellowship and it is a tragedy that this is what the word has come to mean in the religious world. Food, potlucks, and barbecues are not the idea of fellowship. This should make sense to us even if we did not know anything about the scriptures. Reread Acts 2:42 and see what this sounds like. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to breaking bread, to prayers, and to food, potlucks, and barbecues. Does that even sound right? This cannot be the meaning of fellowship and it is not the meaning of fellowship.
Fellowship in the New Testament
But let us consider some New Testament passages where we see the use of the word “fellowship” and see what is being pictured. First, listen to what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:9.
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV)
Does gathering for food and drink fit what fellowship looks like in this text? Clearly the idea of fellowship is something much, much bigger and much more important than spending time together having some fun. Look at what the apostle John writes in 1 John 1:3-7 and as we read, pay attention to the word “fellowship.”
1 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:1–7 NRSV)
Again you see that fellowship has nothing to do with eating food together or something like this. Fellowship is something deep and important. What we are seeing is that fellowship is a sharing, a connection, and a partnership that bonds us together. John says that if we are walking in the light, following the apostles’ teaching, then we have participation in the gospel with each other and with the Lord. Paul used fellowship in the same way. We were called into fellowship with his Son. What were we called to? We were called to having a relationship, a connection, a sharing, and participation with Jesus. What I want us to see is that fellowship is a spiritual bond that leads to a working together. Fellowship is an intimate connection with Jesus that leads us to be closely and deeply bound to each other as the people of God.
The Outcome of Fellowship (2:44-47)
You see the outcome of fellowship described in the rest of Acts 2. We see in verse 44 that the disciples were together and had all things in common because of this joint connection and sharing that they had with Christ. The gospel does not merely produce individual salvation. The gospel produces a new family that is in fellowship with each other. They have a concern for the needs of each other in this new family (this new fellowship) and not for their own stuff (Acts 2:45). The connection and joining together to each other that had occurred by coming to Jesus led these Christians to sell their belongings to help any other Christians who had need. Their connection in Christ caused them to spend time together, as we see in verse 46. They went to the temple together every day. They ate with each other in their homes. They praised God together. They had favor with the people together.
Please notice that fellowship is not these things in verses 44-47. These things are the outcome of fellowship. When we are joined together and truly become this new spiritual family, then we will care for each other, look out for each other’s needs, spend time in the word together, spend time eating together, and spend time praising God together. But these things will not happen if we do not have a spiritual connection with each other. If we are not intimately connected to Jesus, we will never be intimately connected together because it is only through our understanding of God’s love and what he desires for us that we will stop acting as individuals and start acting as a family that is stronger and more important than blood. How will we love each other like pictured in Acts 2:42-47? How will we become the family that is pictured in this text? How will be want to share with each other? How will we want to spend time with each other? How will be see each other as family? We must devoted ourselves to fellowship. We must devote ourselves more to this relationship and connection that we have in Christ so that we will bear the fruit of having fellowship with each other. Our connection and participation with each other will only come as we strengthen our connection and participation in Christ.
So what is the problem? The problem becomes easy to see because of the nature of our culture. We have so many distractions and so many responsibilities. But the distractions are a great problem, keeping us from having the fellowship with God and with each other that we are supposed to have. In particular, we live in a world of extreme individualism. We are connected to nothing. Western thinking declares that the individual is supreme and is in need of no one. Eastern thinking is much more about thinking about the group, thinking about the family, and thinking about the good of the whole over the good of the one. So we take our culture that tells us to think about yourself and we add it to the fact that have so many distractions and time wasters, and multiply it with the busyness of our schedules and we can see why fellowship is shallow or non-existent. We do not see the need for each other. We do not see the need for coming together because I have my job, I have my devices, I have my entertainment, and I no longer need others.
The death of the local church will be our strong individualism and our shallow fellowship. I want us to think about what the text says in Acts 2:46. Every day they met together in temple. Their fellowship was together on a spiritual plane, connecting to each other by connecting to Jesus. They did this every day. They desired to do this every day. They did not want to be by themselves. They did not see their walk with God as merely individual. They saw the necessity of connecting with each other because that is the essence of the gospel. The gospel changes us from thinking about ourselves to thinking about others. If we want to be alone and do not desire to be with the people of God, connecting to each other through the scriptures as we grow toward Christ, then the gospel has not transformed us at all. We are still selfish. We are still thinking about ourselves. We are not thinking about each other. We are not thinking about their faith. We are not thinking about their needs. We are only thinking about what we need.
This also speaks to the danger of technology today. We cannot be the people of God as we are reading about in Acts 22:42-47 by staying home and watching worship online. There is no connection with others that way. There is no joint participation. There is no sharing together. The church is not something you watch. The church is fellowship, connection, sharing, and participation together. Friends, fellowship is worth fighting for. The church is the opposite of privacy and individualism. We cannot use technology to encourage people to not be together and to not have all things in common. Online and digital worship communicates that church is about you getting what you want out of the church. So if you want singing or sermon, it is there for you. But the church is what you are giving to each other as you connect with Jesus. This is what they are doing every day in Acts 2:42-47. They are spiritually connecting their lives to each other as they devote themselves to connecting to Jesus with the outcome of sharing their lives with each other, spending time together, praising God together, and being the family of God.
Let me state the point in this way. If it does not kill us to miss gathering ourselves together, then our connection to Jesus is not right. If we do not want to be with each other for spiritual things as much as we can, then our fellowship with Christ is messed up. Properly connected to Christ will mean that we will desire to connect with each other spiritually. If we are content missing worship or Bible studies, then there is something wrong with our faith. If we are content to stay home, something is wrong with our faith. If we are content to watch online as other people gather to worship, something is wrong with our faith. If we groan when we have a gospel meeting because we actually try to meet together for 4 or 5 days straight, something is wrong with our faith. If we would rather go home then spend time with each other, then something is wrong with our faith. What I want us to think about is that our connection to Jesus is not right. We are not seeing him clearly and we have not been transformed by him in the right way. Our faith is never pictured as being practiced in isolation. The words of Acts 2:46 should be jarring to us in our age of individualism, distractions, and isolation. They wanted to be together. Do we want to be together? Would we sacrifice to be able to be together?
In short, when you read about fellowship, do not think about food and fun. Fellowship is about being connected to Jesus that leads to a joint participation with each other. These Christians in Acts 2 devoted themselves to making those spiritual connections to Christ and to each other. They became so connected to Jesus that they built connections to each other as the family of Christ that could not be broken. This is why withdrawing was a powerful tool God used to help bring back those who are sinning. They saw each other as such a family that they sold property and possessions to help each other. Their concern was not what they got out of the church, but what they could give to the church. They were seeking to give themselves to each other, not seeking what they wanted out of others. Let us work against our individualism and against a culture that encourages self-sufficiency and look to connect deeply as God’s family.