By Charles H. Welch
Fellowship. This word, with one exception, is the translation in the A.V. of koinonia or its cognates. The exception is 2 Corinthians 6:14, "what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?" where the Greek word is metoche, a word better translated "partnership", even as metochos is translated in most places "partaker" .
We give a selection of the occurrences of koinonia, giving place particularly to those passages that have a dispensational bearing.
The "fellowship" of Acts 2:42 was expressed by having all things "common" koinos (Acts 2:44, 4:32).
In the few lines of this last quotation we have compressed that which is expanded in Acts three, four and five. In those chapters we have recorded the prophetically significant mirac1e of healing, and the equally significant mirac1e of judgment that caused "great fear" to come upon all the church. There is also a fuller statement concerning the having of things in common in Acts 4:32-37, which compels us to ask whether the selling of possessions and community of goods was not a real part of the meaning and purpose of Pentecost. There have been companies of believers, who, taking Pentecost as their basis, have sought consistently to follow out its practice, but the having of all things in common does not seem to have captured their mind in the same way as has the gift of tongues. Yet how can one speak of "continuing in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship" without realizing that this koinonia (fellowship) refers to and is expressed by the having of all things in common (eichon hapanta koina)?
Turning to Acts 4:32-37, we observe that there is a re-statement of this "fellowship", and as in Acts 2:42-46, so here, the account of this new state of affairs is punctuated by reference to the witness of the apostles to the resurrection of the Lord. The reader will see that verse 33 of Acts four is, as it were, slipped in and breaks the flow of the narrative. This, however, is as intentional as the equally strange insertion found in Acts 1:15. The resurrection of the Lord, as testified by the apostles, was intimately associated with the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel, and to the time of the restitution of all things which had been spoken by the prophets. No Jew would need to be told that just as the feast of Pentecost with its emphasis upon the word "fifty" was a recurring, annual reminder of the day of Jubile, so the final, prophetic, fulfilment of all that Pentecost stood for would be the real, great Jubile toward which aU prophecy pointed.
Believing therefore the "apostles' doctrine", these believers put their faith into practice. If the Jubile was near, all would receive their own inheritance, all forfeitures would be cancelled, all buying and selling of land and possessions would come to nought; consequently, although no one could sell or buy his , inheritance, he could sell whatever else he had purchased, and use the proceeds for the common good, while awaiting the Lord from heaven.
The case of Barnabas is specially mentioned. He was a Levite, and "having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet" (Acts 4:37). In Jeremiah 32:6-14 we have the case of Jeremiah (who, like Barnabas, was of the priestly tribe). He bought land to demonstrate his faith in the Lord's promised restoration (Jer. 32:15), and Barnabas sold land to demonstrate the same conviction. The law that governed the sale of land is found in Leviticus twenty-five. The voluntary act of Barnabas in selling his acquired land and placing the proceeds at the apostles' feet, is in direct contrast with the action of Ananias. He too sold a possession; he too laid the proceeds at the apostles' feet, but with the difference that he kept back part of the price, while pretending that he had given all. The Apostle makes it quite clear that there was no compulsion about the selling of the land when he says, "while it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?" Ananias sinned in that he lied to the Holy Spirit. The sin of Ananias was the sin of Achan.
The reader will find that the very words used of Achan in Joshua 7:1 are used of Ananias. The LXX reads enosphisanto apo tou anathematos, "appropriated for themselves a part of that which was devoted". Acts 5:2,3 twice applies this peculiar expression to Ananias and Sapphira: "kai enosphisato apo tes times", "and kept back part of the price". This is no place to discuss the passage in Joshua, but the interested reader is urged to weigh over the arguments contained in the article on "Achan, the troubler of Israel", on pp. 37-41 of Vol. XXVI of The Berean Expositor, which show that the word "accursed thing" should be understood as "a devoted thing", i.e. devoted to the Lord. Peter and the apostles stood somewhat in the same position as did Joshua, and wielded the same awful discipline.
Pentecost anticipates the Millennium and has no bearing upon the doctrine and practice of the Church of the One Body. See articles entitled ACTS OF THE APOSTLES and PENTECOST. The passage quoted previously from Galatians two shows that the gospel committed to Paul differed from the gospel that had been committed to Peter, James and John. The structure of the section containing the verses quoted will be found in the article entitled GALATIANS. The R.V. at Ephesians 3:9 reads "dispensation" where the A.V. reads "fellowship". The two Greek words so translated differ very little from each other, koinonia being fellowship and oikonomia being dispensation. The structure of Ephesians three appears to demand this change, as can be seen in the article entitled EPHESIANS. The reference to the olive tree in Romans eleven belongs to the great dispensational portion of Romans, namely chapters 9-11.
The structure and exposition of these chapters are given in the article entitled ROMANS, and the point of the Apostle's argument is revealed in the article entitled OLIVE TREE. These should be consulted. The basis of the word fellowship is something that is "common" like a "common faith" or a "common salvation". The bulk of the references is of a practical nature, manifesting in deed, and by the sharing of expenses, the blessings which all shared alike in grace. The believer should be willing "to communicate" (1 Tim. 6:18), which is used in that passage almost synonymously with readiness "to distribute". The Philippians, not only knew about "the fellowship" of the sufferings of Christ (Phil. 3:10), they had fellowship with Paul in the gospel also (Phil. 1:5, 4:15).