The “Koinonia” Principle

“…that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge…” Ephesians 3:17b-19a

Koinonia, the Greek word translated “fellowship” in the New Testament, is an extremely important concept. It means literally, “sharing in common.” It is also translated by the terms “communion, communicate, companion, contribution, distribution, partaker, and partner” in the New Testament. Christian fellowship is a matter of two or more people sharing, that is, giving and taking, the blessings each has received from the Lord, whether those blessings take the form of knowledge, encouragement, or material assistance.

The person and work of Jesus Christ is the common basis for fellowship. Believers are bound together by their common faith (Titus 1:4), their common experience of salvation (Jude 3), and their common conviction and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their fellowship is “in the gospel” (Phi. 1:5). People who would otherwise have little in common by virtue of their various backgrounds, personalities, preferences, and social circumstances, find common ground in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is “what they have in common.” When a common love for the Savior prevails – when the common basis of our involvement with one another is our mutual agreement concerning the cross of Christ and a consensus for the glory of God, fellowship is sweet. Any other “common ground” of interaction among believers is not Biblical koinonia.

The principle of koinonia is simply this: It is only in the corporate body of the saints that any believer can live the Christian life. There is no place for a spiritual “Lone Ranger.” The three little words, “with all saints,” in Ephesians 3:18 indicate that outside of the fellowship of other believers, no one can come to the level of understanding that he should. With the exception of the apostles who received “direct” revelation, God does not give all the truth on every subject to any one person. He made us to need each other. Through the practice of giving to others what He has taught me, and taking from them what He has taught them, I grow toward spiritual maturity. God’s blessings upon me as an individual are not intended to be “consumed upon my own lusts,” but to be passed on to others. Both the self-absorbed mentality that hesitates to give to others and the proud spirit that refuses to take from others are contrary to the principle of koinonia. The Christian life is not a solo-flight.

– Michael L. Gowens