What does koinonia mean?

Koinonia is the Greek word for fellowship. It refers to community, one's place in a group, and the representation of fellowship such as a joint gift. It appears seventeen times in the New Testament.

The concept of koinonia is an important one because it is supposed to characterize the church. John says that the purpose of the Gospel is to lead people to have koinonia with others and with God (1 John 1:3, 6-7). Several verses exhort us to have koinonia with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14; Philippians 2:1). And Acts 2:42 (NASB) says of the very young church, "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

Koinonia refers to more than the warm feeling of relationship. In Romans 15:26, which lists churches that have made a contribution to the poor in Jerusalem, "contribution" is the word koinonia. First Corinthians 10:16 says that communion is koinonia. Philippians 1:5 says we are to have an active koinonia with the Gospel. Philippians 3:10 tells us to have fellowship even with Christ's sufferings.

Like many seeming-nouns in the Greek, the natural result of koinonia is inherent in its existence. That's something we should remember: there is no fellowship without action. Our actions are widely influenced by our associations. Fellowship is both the unity of the group and whatever is brought forth out of that association.

For this reason, we are to be careful with whom we have koinonia. Second Corinthians 6:14 says "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" Our associations direct our actions, and to be bound with unbelievers will inevitably lead to wrong actions. To have koinonia with God and other believers, however, is to find our place in the Body and the work of Christ.

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