I have uploaded a summary of some of what we will be discussing Wednesday night in our small group on the Expercience God Together tab. Week 2(Koinonia- God’s Love Expressed) information can be found there also.
Kionwnia(coin-oh-nee yah) is one of those words where the old saying ‘CONTEXT DETERMINES THE MEANING’ is crucial. We tend to read the 21st century perspective into a lot of terminology and frame the picture of the epistles. Fellowship is almost (in many cases) relegated to a good dinner gathering, outing on the town, greeting someone in passing. And the undercurrent flowing vividly through the term of partnership, mutual involvement, common, communion, and contribution in unity are missed.
Consider this picture at least as a possibility. Its the first century. You are a recent convert in Christianity. You have come out of the ancient pagan worship which is intertwined into everything you know (your household setup, the way you eat, how you carry yourself, temple worship, perspective on your future, the afterlife, etc.) Or you were Jewish and have recognized that Jesus is in fact the savior that God has promised through your forefathers. The world you live in is distinctly pagan. Not like the picture have today where you learn of Christ and can live (if you choose to) relatively free in your faith. In your household you may be ostracized or rejected by those in the family who do not believe. They may put you out which would dramatically limit your ability to survive, especially as a female, but certainly in general. Getting employment, which would be extremely difficult unless you became a slave is only one of your concerns. If it is around mid 60’s A.D. as a Christian you are associated with the group that allegedly caused the great fire in Rome.
Coupled with this is the fact that you have come to a faith that puts you together with people who are distinctly different from you. And if you are alone or limited in people like you there is no ability to clique up with fellow Christians from the same block, same complexion, socio-economic background. Turning back is not an option, you have recognized the truth and you cannot un-know it. But there is tension from the outside, storming among believers, a lack of resources, the constant danger of persecution, and THEN dealing with your own frailties and sin.
Bibles are not in print. So there is not the facade of feeling comfortable because you just merely read the word for the day…the week. Neither is there a formal church facility, so the fact you have merely attended service is not going to get it either. On your own, alone, cold and clearly recognize your own insufficiency. No naming or claiming anything. No stomping on the Roman government. And to attempt to walk on your own would be virtually impossible. You are not going to be able to do this on your own. Gathering with other fellow Christians is the reminder that God is coming back soon. The present perspective of flying off to heaven is not the focus; rather Christ’s imminent return and regenerated bodies is the hope. Congregating with mutual believers listening to the reading of the epistles and corporate speaking of the truth of God is what encourages you to keep going. Now grace is seen through the perspective that God is not obligated to save you and moreover He could have left you alone with no other Christians to help. Holiness is more about motivation of the heart than rule keeping and righteous behavior in a vacuum. “We” is at least as loud as “I” and “me.”
Everything is in common because what you have alone is not enough for you. You have some of what others need and they have more of what you need. This is not just because it is nice to share, or the Roman government has instilled the precept of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is because mutually you have come to recognize that my Lord is Our Lord. So when Paul reminds you living in Corinth to comfort others with the same comfort you have received, it is not a stretch because you have no claim to be able to do it on your own. No personal achievement, or credentials are sufficient when Domitian or Trajan or Hadrian or Decius attack those who are followers of the way. Or when James instructs that true religion is care for the widows and orphans you are clear that your objective belief in Christ is subjectively demonstrated by your love for others. And when Peter reminds you that WE have an equally precious pledge token (faith) you understand that your making it through this wicked generation is synonymous with our making it.
That is the kind of koinwnia evident in the early saints, who had less bible translations than us at our disposal. These are the shoulders we stand on. These are the saints who in real trouble for the Faith found the Gospel more important than their own lives. This is the koinwnia that Acts 2 tells us it led the Saints to have everything in common, selling their possession so that those in need would have the bare essentials. It is this koinwnia that Paul stressed the reminder that gathering for communion with the intention of excluding others who are not like you is a reason many were sick and many sleep. Fellowship, Communion, Stewards of the Gospel (and all of its implications.) It is this koinwnia that the saints in Philippi would have understood at length that Paul was referring to their mutual support of advancing the Gospel as the noble/good work that God would continue until the day of Christ Jesus and not their individual sanctification.
The question I have is why is it, or how is it that groups of people os distinctly different (in color, in background, etc.) would risk their necks and lively hood for one another? What could bring about such a unity? Is this a case where everyone is getting along because they choose to? Or perhaps the history books were wrong and the suffering was not as bad as it seems? Or maybe they were not dealing with the kind of sin we deal with today?
This seems to show us the clear evidence of what the Spirit does AMONG believers: creating unity (contra the conviction emphasis.) It affirms to us the key request of the Messiah’s prayer in John 17 and the fact that whatever Jesus prays will come to past. It puts texts like Colossians 3 in the right perspective (italics in parenthesis emphasis mine:)
16Let the word of Christ dwell in (among) you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Mutual concern in light of the fact that this world is not our home. Stewardship of the gospel which shows itself in songs (outside of the church facility) of encouragement and thankfulness that whatever we have received is from the Lord. And recollection that whatever we do now is no longer just to pass the time but Our Savior is Lord over our personal clocks too. For His reputation (glory) and our mutual benefit do we live. This is the koinwnia.
Do you see this kind of koinwnia at work in your heart?