If we read 1 Corinthians only in a superficial way, we may think that it is a book which deals merely with outward matters. Actually, this Epistle is one of the richest books in the New Testament. First Corinthians is rich in Christ, the Spirit, the church, and life. The first two chapters contain a profound revelation of Christ. The Spirit is also clearly revealed in this book in many aspects. More aspects of the Spirit are revealed in 1 Corinthians than in any other book. Furthermore, in this Epistle Paul has much to say about the church in a very practical way. This Epistle is also rich in life.
Many of the chapters of 1 Corinthians are deep and profound. However, the most rich, deep, and profound chapters in this book are the first three chapters. In these chapters Paul uses a number of unique and significant terms and expressions.
In 1:9 Paul says, “God is faithful, through Whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Do not make the mistake of thinking that the expression “the fellowship of His Son” is insignificant. Many Christians today use the word fellowship in a very common way. But in the Bible fellowship denotes a matter of great significance. In the Old Testament there was not such a thing as fellowship. At most, there was the unity of the brothers spoken of in Psalm 133. Verse 1 of this psalm declares, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” This unity, however, is outward, whereas fellowship is inward. It is possible to have a certain kind of unity without life. For example, those who are members of a labor union may have a particular kind of unity. But such a unity is absolutely devoid of life. Fellowship requires life. Without life, we cannot have fellowship. Fellowship is an inward matter which we may describe as the intercommunication of life.
The word fellowship is used for the first time in Acts 2:42, where we are told that those who were saved and added to the church on the day of Pentecost continued steadfastly in the teaching and the fellowship of the apostles. The apostles had preached the gospel to them, and this gospel preaching brought them into something which the Bible calls fellowship.
I doubt that there is in any language an equivalent of the Greek word for fellowship, koinonia. This word implies oneness and also a mutual flowing among the believers. When we enjoy fellowship with one another, there is a flow among us. Although electrical current is not living, it can be used to illustrate what we mean by a flow in fellowship. The flowing of electricity produces oneness. The flow, the current, we have in our spiritual fellowship involves both oneness and life. Our fellowship is a flow in oneness; it is an intercommunication among us as believers in Christ.
In the New Testament fellowship describes both the flowing between us and the Lord and between us and one another. First John 1:3 says, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” In 1 John we have life (1:1-2) and then fellowship. There is a flow, a current, vertically between us and the Father and the Son and horizontally between us and other believers. Praise the Lord that on earth today there is something called fellowship, a fellowship among the children of God and a fellowship of the children of God with the Triune God!
Since the day of Pentecost a current has been flowing horizontally among the believers. This flow crosses space and time. As far as time is concerned, this fellowship has been flowing from generation to generation. As far as space is concerned, this fellowship is worldwide; it flows among believers throughout the globe. Because we are in this one flow, we cannot be separated by space. No matter where we may be, we are all in the flow; that is, we are all in the one fellowship.
According to Paul’s word in 1:9, we all have been called by God into this fellowship. Perhaps the best illustration of fellowship is the circulation of blood in the human body. Right now the blood is circulating throughout your body. In a very short period of time the blood makes one complete circuit. Life depends on this circulation. Just as there is the circulation of blood in the human body, so there is a spiritual circulation, called the fellowship, in the Body of Christ. It is a very sad thing that among a great many of today’s Christians, this circulation is either neglected or is altogether lacking. Thus, it is crucial for us to realize that in the Lord’s recovery we are being brought back into this flow, into this fellowship.
From 1:9 we see that through the faithful God we have been called into the fellowship of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This indicates clearly that we have not been called into the fellowship of any denomination, practice, or theological doctrine. The unique fellowship into which God has called us is the fellowship of His Son. This means that He alone must be our fellowship.
The word fellowship in 1:9 means participation. This can be proved by considering this verse in its context. Verse 10, a continuation of verse 9, says, “But I beseech you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be attuned in the same mind and in the same opinion.” Verse 10 stands in contrast to verse 9. In verse 9 Paul says that God has called us into the fellowship of His Son. Then he begins verse 10 with the words, “But I beseech you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Through the name of the Lord Jesus Paul beseeches that there be no divisions among the saints. Divisions are contrary to fellowship. They are against the fellowship into which God has called us. In verse 11 Paul continues, “For it was made clear to me concerning you, my brothers, by those of the household of Chloe, that there are strifes among you.” The strifes mentioned in this verse are also contrary to the fellowship.
In verse 12 Paul goes on to say, “Now I mean this, that each of you says, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ.” Because the Corinthians said such things, they were out of the fellowship. To say, “I am of Paul,” is to be outside the fellowship of the Son of God. Even those who said, “I am of Christ,” were not in the fellowship.
The Corinthians were divided by their preferences and choices. Paul, however, wanted them to realize that they had been called into one fellowship. This means that they had been called into one participation, one appreciation, one enjoyment, one preference, one choice. Those who said, “I am of Paul,” appreciated Paul and enjoyed him. The same was true of those who said that they were of Apollos or of Cephas. But the fellowship in 1:9 is our participation in Christ; it is our enjoyment and appreciation of Him and our preference for Him. In these verses Paul seems to be saying to the believers at Corinth, “Don’t say that you are of this person or of that person. You all must realize that you have been called into one enjoyment, appreciation, preference, and choice. You have been called into one fellowship, and this is the Son of God as our portion. We all are in the fellowship of Christ.”
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