The fellowship. That word is still pressing on my heart even after preaching it last night. I can’t shake it, I am unable to ignore it, I feel a searing conviction. Growing up in the Southern Baptist culture I was baptized into the weak waters of mere social fellowship. For most of my life I have equated fellowship with that: once in a blue-moon meal in the basement of the church where you only sit with the people that you actually like in your church. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not fellowship. It’s socializing with your friends after church, it’s easy and everyone likes it; but it’s not fellowship. We learn this when we dare to plunge into the mindset of the early church which Luke observes in Acts 2:42-47. The true meaning of fellowship both arrests and convicts my soul. The Greek word we use for fellowship is koinonia, which is defined literally as partnership. However, the root word is koinos which is the word found in verse 44 which we translate as common and can actually be translated as sharing. This is what I believe Luke is teaching us: the fellowship that the early church was devoted to was being together and having all things in common (see verse 44). I see a two-fold definition there, let’s unpack it for just a moment.
One is the part of the fellowship that is being together. Am I allowed to say that there is a difference between meeting together and being together? True fellowship is more than just meeting three times a week (even less for some of you!) and conversing after church for a few minutes. Fellowship, for the early church was a “day by day” life that extended beyond the walls of the church building and into their very homes. Yes, they went to the temple together but they also broke bread in their homes together and not just on Thanksgiving but “day by day” (see verse 46). I think we struggle with this. Most people would rather socialize for a few minutes after the sermon and chalk that up as fellowship. That’s not fellowship, that’s socializing after the sermon for a few minutes. But it’s not surprising. In a country where we are driven mad with the concept of building up the border it’s not shocking that the same idea would begin to take root in our homes. Is it not true that the front door we once used to let people in we now use to shut the world out? Let’s be honest for a moment, no need to lie to yourself as you read this. There are two primary reasons for why you don’t like this idea of the fellowship that Luke was writing about in Acts. 1) You don’t like for people to see your mess. That’s why you freak out when people show up unannounced. Give the house a quick once over to make it presentable, right? You really want people to think you have it together and the moment you let them in is the very moment they have the opportunity to see your mess. You quickly admit you’re not perfect to anyone who asks, but your just not keen on people seeing your imperfection in full display. 2) You don’t like messy people. On the days that you do have it together you would rather people not bring their messiness into your lives. Either you don’t have the time or the energy, but just keep your messiness outside. Pride is exhausting, isn’t it? In a closed-door culture, I think the Gospel is calling us to an open-door policy by freeing us from the pride that so enslaves our souls. A basic belief in the Gospel is that you are flawed and so is everyone else. We are all sinners. Nobody has it together. There was only one perfect one, Jesus Christ, and He willingly and joyfully exchanged His perfection for your imperfection at the cross. You don’t have to be perfect, Jesus already was and died in the believer’s place. You should love the messy people too because Jesus loved you.
Two is the part of fellowship that has all things in common (see verse 44). If you thought being together was tough just try selling your possessions with the purpose of helping each other out (see verse 45). That’s exactly what the early church did. They saw a brother or sister’s need and they found a way to provide. Sometimes that meant selling whatever they had in order to pool money together so that everyone could eat. No, this is not a pre-dated form of communism. There is a strong difference: Communism is the government forcing your hand to give, Christian fellowship is the love of Christ moving you to give. Christian Fellowship is giving out of love, not out of law. Sharing because you care, not because you “have” to. Luke is not prescribing a Christian law here, as we can see later in Acts, he is just making an observation: the early church was so moved by the Gospel’s message that Jesus the Son of God would come down to Earth and die in their place, that the Lord of glory would come to make poor sinners into rich saints. They were so captivated by the love of Christ that they gave to their brother or sister in need. The love of Christ had such an effect on them that they gave out of their abundance because they could not watch their brother or sister go in need. I thought to myself this past week: why would I not give what I have in abundance with the sole purpose of helping my brother or sister who is in need? The answer was arresting and convicting: Pride. The reason people don’t share from their abundance with the needy isn’t because they are afraid of communism. It’s because pride whispers into their hearts that: I want this more than they need it. Pride is the true enemy of all fellowship. I ask you the same question: Why do you hold back what you have in abundance instead of giving to those who are in need? I pray the answer is as convicting for you as it was for me.
So this is the fellowship. And in case you didn’t notice God blessed this. Luke concludes this momentous chapter in Acts with: And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. I’m a nerd and I read all types of studies and articles on what grows a church. There are a lot of good ideas out there. Build a pallet wall, have a good band, be relevant, where suit or your pajamas. I am trying to use all those ideas but I know there is only one way to grow a church biblically: devotion to the fellowship. Teach people to not just do Sunday’s together, but to do life together. To be together and to have all things in common. That will grow a church in maturity and numerically, I am sure of it. That is certainly more than the once in a blue-moon meal in the basement of the church where you only sit with the people that you actually like in your church. Yet I am convinced that while numerical and mature growth is appealing only the love of Christ will compel you to such a fellowship as this. Paul once wrote, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, ESV) Christ Jesus came down from the divine throne and was nailed to the cross for you, this Jesus died for your sins and in your place. This Jesus came to you when you were at your messiest and in your greatest need and has made those who trust in His name rich, clean, and free to live. May that love of Christ so move you that you devote to the fellowship…being together and having all things in common. Doing life together and sharing with those in need out of love for Christ and His people.