Scripture Reading: Acts 2:41-47
The term ‘fellowship’ is often used by believers without fully comprehending its meaning, its privileges, and its responsibilities. In Acts 2 we are shown the inception of this fellowship, and therein we find God’s mind as to its pattern—a pattern suitable for all time.
The Greek word translated “fellowship” comes from a root meaning “common”. It simply means having all things common. This is taught, too, in the various other renderings of the word in the New Testament. In 2 Cor. 6:14 it is rendered “communion”, where light is seen as having nothing in common with darkness. In Rom. 15:26 it is translated “contribution”. The Macedonian believers reckoned that their possessions were for the common use of themselves and the needy saints at Jerusalem. In Philemon 6 by the word “communication” Paul refers to Philemon having faith in common with other believers.
The Composition of the Fellowship
Those who compose the fellowship are clearly indicated in these verses. They had received the word of the gospel that Peter preached (v.41); they had repented; they had been baptized as an acknowledgement of faith in Christ; they had remission of sins; they had received the Holy Spirit (v.38); they had believed in Christ (v.44).
Fellowship is essentially being linked with God in eternal life. It is with the Father (1 John 1:3), with the Son (1 Cor. 1:9), with the Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14). All those so linked together are in fellowship one with another. Only these are in the fellowship.
The Character of the Fellowship
Fellowship is defined in v. 44 as having two main characteristics an “all being together,” and an all having things common. Let us see how these were manifested in the early church.
All Being Together
The believers were all together as far as bodily presence was concerned. In v.42 the Revisers omit the word ‘and’ after ‘fellowship’, thus implying that the fellowship consisted in their being together for the Breaking of Bread and the Prayers. Note, too, that the Breaking of Bread and the Prayers (the Prayer Meeting) are intimately linked together. Both meetings are important. The early disciples seem to have attached as much importance to the latter as to the former. For us to-day fellowship means attendance at all assembly functions, the Breaking of Bread, the Prayer Meeting, the Ministry Meeting, the Gospel Meeting. Each demands our presence, if at all possible.
The disciples were all together in one spirit, “of one heart and of one soul” (4:32). Compare 1 Cor.1:10, “perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment.” Thus fellowship requires all believers pulling together for the common good. This makes for assembly prosperity.
Fellowship implies being together in separation from the world. When Peter and John were released from prison they went “to their own company” (4:23). The believers formed a distinct company, known to each other, and preferred above all others. The fellowship of our brethren should be valued more highly than the companionship of the world, for the believer has little in common with the unbeliever (2 Cor. 6:15).
Having All Things Common
To the early disciples fellowship meant sharing all things. They shared each other’s joy, as with gladness and singleness of heart they praised God (v. 46). Does this characterize our fellowship? Are we glad at the success of a fellow-believer, or is there jealousy? Love envieth not, but rejoiceth with them that rejoice.
They shared their material possessions. In the first days of Christianity, to acknowledge Christ as Saviour meant destitution for some who had been disowned by their kith and kin.
Under these circumstances others, well supplied with the things of the world sold them and helped their less fortunate brethren. They did not reckon what they possessed to be their own, but “they had all things common” (4:32). We still have the poor with us, even amongst the saints. We do well to share with them our bounty, that there be no lack.
The members of the early Church shared each other’s sufferings. When Peter was shut up in prison the Church prayed earnestly to God for him (12:5, R.V.). His trouble was their burden. In this fast-moving age there is sometimes a lack of sympathy. Do we feel as we ought for our brother’s sorrows? Do we help to ease his load? Do we remember him at the throne of grace?
Things spiritual were also shared. The apostles, commissioned by the Lord to teach the disciples, sought to fulfil their obligation (6:4). Priscilla and Aquila, appreciating Apollos’ lack of instruction, took him to their home, and “expounded unto him the way of God more perfect” (18:26). It is the bounden duty of all to whom God has given the ability to study His Word, to impart instruction to others, and to seek their edification.
Thus we learn that fellowship brings responsibilites. May we appreciate these, and seek to fulfil them. Let us always be present at the various gatherings of the assembly, unless unavoidably detained. Let us share with others in the fellowship, joys, blessings, sorrows, and the knowledge of the Word of God. If we neglect these things we are not truly “in fellowship”.
The Continuation of the Fellowship
Those in fellowship continued steadfastly, in the apostles’ teaching, and in fellowship (v. 42), and in worship (v. 46).
Their continuance in the doctrine implied an eager appetite for the things the Lord had communicated to the apostles. The maintenance of fellowship today demands a close attention to the Word of God, taking it as our sole guide for faith and conduct. The assembly Ministry Meeting should be well attended.
But the disciples continued also in fellowship. They made much of it. They kept together, rejoicing in the company of those with whom they had been linked in the bonds of eternal life. So should we value more highly the fellowship of saints, meeting together as often as possible, for we have little in common with the world.
The early disciples continued in the worship of God daily in the temple. Worship was spontaneous with them. Their hearts were full of gratitude to God for all He had done for them. At first the temple was the accepted place of worship, but God gradually weaned them from Judaism. Later in the Acts (20:7) the gathering together to remember the Lord was the recognized medium of worship. The continuity of the fellowship is enhanced by the continuing desire to worship.
The Consequences of the Fellowship
Note the results that followed this happy state of fellowship. Great wonders and signs were done by the apostles, and fear came upon all men (v. 43). A sense of the presence of God produced reverence and godly fear. God added daily to their number (v. 47).
If we regarded the fellowship of saints in the same light as the early church we could expect like blessing today. Instead of unbelievers despising our petty bickerings they would respect us and our gatherings. God would work wonders through us. Souls would be saved, and the name of Christ magnified.
Let us then seek to maintain this fellowship; being together in all things; having all things common; sharing each other’s joys, sorrows, and trials. Let us appreciate the greatness of the fellowship into which we have been called, rejoice in its privileges, and accept its responsibilities.
“Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.”