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Word Study: Koinonia 3

Categories New Testament

This past weekend I watched portions of the Saddleback Civil Forum, where Rick Warren interviewed the two presidential candidates.  The one who really impressed me was the interviewer himself.  I have always respected Rick Warren but was encouraged how wise and thoughtful "America's Pastor" really is.  The questions he asked were much more intelligent than the answers either candidate gave.

This led me to look in his book for this week's study of the word koinonia.  He published a book called Personal Bible Study Methods a while back (which a small publishing house has since taken over).  In this book, Dr. Warren shows the reader 12 ways to engage the Bible with 12 different study methods.  One of these is the "words study method" which I wanted to apply today.

First, we write the English word  - fellowship.

Next we find the English definition - "an association of people who share common beliefs or
          activities."

Third, from a specific passage of Scripture, we do a comparison of translations. We'll look at Acts 2.42
- "fellowship" - NIV, KJV, ESV, NASB
- "life together" - The Message
- "were like a family to each other" - CEV

After that, we list the original word and a short definition:
- koinonia: "generally means fellowship, communion, participation, sharing."

Using a concordance, we look up how many occurrences the word appears in the Bible. When not used as "fellowship offering" it is used 12 times according to Strong's. Ac. 2.42; Ro. 15.26; 1 Co. 1.9; 5.2; 10.16; 2 Co 6.14; 8.4; 9.13; 13.14; Gal. 2.9; Eph. 3.9; Php. 1.5; 2.1; 3.10; Phm 6; Heb. 13.16; 1 Jn. 1.3; 1.3; 1.6; and 1.7

The sixth & seventh steps are to use some reference books and find the root meaning and origin, and the word's usage in the Bible. I looked up fellowship in a Bible word encyclopedia and found the following:
"Fellowship is a particularly significant concept in the NT. There it expresses shared participation in Christ and the bond that Christ creates between believers. "Fellowship in the NT. The Greek word translated 'fellowship' is koinonia. It is variously translated 'fellowship', 'sharing', 'partnership', and 'contribution'. Although not often used, koinonia is a theologically significant term.
"Ac. 2.42-47 gives us a beautiful picture of participation in the life of the believing community at Jerusalem. It portrays a mutual commitment to God that helps us sense the deeper meaning of fellowship....The Greek philosophers chose the word koinonia....to depict the ideal of a harmonious secular society. But such a utopia has never been realized. Sin always twists the reality of interpersonal relationships, leaving mankind hungry for the realization of its dreams. There is hope only in the NT and the church.
"Paul uses koinonia fourteen times in his epistles. Paul's usage does not echo the philosopher's dream. Instead, the NT affirms a new reality. God has called us 'into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ' (1 Co 1.9). We are drawn into a relationship with God and participate in a unique fellowship won for us by the blood of Christ (1 Co 10.16). Everything in life is an expression of our mystical but real participation in all that Jesus is. This mystical union is what overflows into our relationship with other believers. Recognizing that others are also in Christ, we extend to them the right hand of fellowship (Gal 2.9), sensing a partnership in the gospel (Php 1.5). Even Christian giving must be understood in the context of fellowship. In the context, financial gifts become sharing, not 'giving' (Ro 15.26).

Last, we write out an application. Dr. Warren says this about the application step - "Be especially careful to keep your goal of 'application, not interpretation only' in mind when you do a word study. Remember that you are doing a personal Bible study, not just an academic exercise. Discovering the full meaning of a biblical word is not an end in itself, because a word study without application has little spiritual value. In doing this study, constantly ask yourself, 'How can understanding this word strengthen my spiritual life?'"

Next week I will put my application here on the blog. In the meantime, I am asking you to think about the application of this word study in your life. If you wouldn't mind, share this application by commenting on this blog post or next week's post. I'm sure the application you draw out of the word study will be of benefit to someone, if not many people including yourself! -Chris Fann

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