Friday, October 4, 2013

Rethinking KOINONIA

I am currently preaching a series called 'What Church Is' (a Study in 1 Peter).  Last Sunday, I preached on what it meant to be a koinonia people. As part of that study, I came across a fascinating use of the word koinonia in 1 Peter.   I'll get to that in just a minute.

I've shared with you before how the word shalom is a word so rich in meaning that it really can't be translated well without using a hyphenated definition (peace-prosperity-wholeness-completeness-wellness-health).  It's the same with koinonia.

I had always assumed the word koinonia was translated 'fellowship'--a one-for-one translatable word. But in 1 Peter 4:13, I read this:  "Rejoice that you participate (koinonia) in the sufferings of Christ."  Say what? 

I quickly discovered that the word koinonia also needs to be viewed as a hyphenated definition.  Koinonia does define a relationship, but in a much more expansive way than just 'fellowship'.  A good definition would be: a partnering-sharing-fellowshipping-stewarding-partaking-companionship relationship.

The implications of this become mind-boggling. For example, in 2 Peter 1:4, we "participate (koinonia) in the divine nature."  We share in the very nature of God through Christ!  The essence of the Church, the Body of Christ, is found in this word koinonia. We partner with God in His activity, share in His nature, and steward that which He has given us.  The koinonia relationship that we are to have with each other is literally the practical expression of God's agape love (love in action)--the koinonia that He wants to have with us.

John put it this way in 1 John 1:7: "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship (koinonia) with one another..."  Do you see that?--the evidence that we truly have koinonia with God is demonstrated by our koinonia with one another!  Another way of saying this: If we are not experiencing koinonia with another believer, we are not in koinonia with God (i.e., walking in the light as He is in the light).  It is impossible to have a koinonia relationship with God and not share it with the rest of God's people.

Understanding koinonia puts a whole new light on commands such as 'love one another deeply, comfort one another, carry one another's burdens.'  It is more than just ministering to another person--it is partaking, companioning, stewarding, etc. life together.  Our koinonia relationship with God lived out in koinonia relationship with other believers.

If what Scripture says is true about a break in koinonia relationship between believers causes a break in koinonia with God (see Matthew 6:14-15), how many Christians are sitting in a church today with broken koinonia relationships in their past?  They've left their previous church because they were upset with the music, or the pastor, or the direction of the church, or the change in programs, or the color choice of the new carpet, or...  Whatever the reason (good or bad), there was a break in the koinonia relationship.

Many churches starting today arise as a result of these kinds of beginnings--precipitated out of a koinonia break. I'm part of a denomination that starts a lot of churches as a result of church splits/disagreements.  I even got caught up in one of these 'new starts' many years ago.  But I wonder...
  • I wonder...if we can really expect God's fullest blessing if we ignore broken koinonia with each other?
  • I wonder...if so much of the spiritual apathy and complacency we see in the American church is because of us not living out the reality of koinonia?
  • I wonder...if why we see a lack of distinctiveness (holiness) amongst so many of God's people is because it is the natural outgrowth of being out of koinonia with God?
  • I wonder...if churches really understood the koinonia of believers, would there be a greater unity among churches in a community?
  • I wonder...if churches really walked the talk about koinonia and unity, the words of Jesus' prayer would be answered that the world would believe (John 17:21-23) because of our unity and koinonia?
  • I wonder...if our prayers for revival (which always must start with repentance) should be refocused on praying for restored koinonia?
Just wonderin' as I sit here musing...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this practical and thoughtful message. God bless!