Koinonia: Holy Belonging
Updated: Aug 4, 2021
In the Bible, koinonia is more than friendship. It is a divine connection, a holy unity among believers—and between believers and the Lord—involving everything from spiritual oneness in the Holy Spirit, community life, sharing contributions from money to food gifts, and the communion experienced in the body and blood of Christ Jesus. The Book of Acts is the first place we see the word koinonia in the Bible. Here, it is translated to mean a deep community fellowship among believers.
In Acts 2, Peter and the other believers had just been filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, but the Jews watching were bewildered at the disciples’ ability to speak in many different languages; some even thought they were drunk. But Peter brought the gospel to these onlookers, and 3,000 became new believers and were baptized that day. After, these newly baptized believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).
The passage goes on to elaborate about what this koinonia looked like: communal-style living, where they “had everything in common,” sold property to give to anyone in need, gathered regularly in the temple courts, and ate together joyfully in their homes (43-47). Later, when Gentiles began to hear the Good News and also became Christian, we see the concept of koinonia used to include them, too. Back then, Jews and Gentiles did not intermingle and thought poorly of each other. But Christ at work in them through the power of the Holy Spirit allowed these separate groups to dissolve their former boundaries and become as one—true koinonia.
Christians don’t need to live in a communal home in order to live out koinonia today, but it’s far more than chatting over coffee and doughnuts after worship. It’s modeling the love Jesus extended to us. As Jesus told the disciples in John 13:34, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” We can serve each other with our spiritual gifts as a form of love, and we can also offer more practical, concrete love. Consider how you can cultivate Koinonia...
1. Spiritual gifts: Serving each other with our spiritual gifts is one key way we can be the full body of Christ today. As Peter wrote, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). Paul expanded on this, noting, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8).
2. Hospitality: We can be hospitable to each other while offering food, clothing, shelter, and more. We can show hospitality to those in need and others in our communities.
3. Togetherness: We can gather together for worship, Bible study, growth group time, meals, and service opportunities.
4. Acceptance: We can accept and include each other even when we are on very different pathways to becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Christ accepted us--we are genuine disciples when we work together and overcome obstacles to building Christian community.
5. Encouragement: We can encourage and support each other, as well as hold each other accountable when necessary.
6. Service: We can serve each other, whether washing each other’s feet, watching each other’s children, or providing a meal when someone is sick or otherwise unable. We are also called to serve others outside our community. This is one hallmark that makes us attractive to the non-believing world.
7. Sharing our abundance: We can share our abundance with each other and the church through our tithes and offerings so that God’s good work may be done in the world.
By doing these things, we invite God into full unity with us, pushing aside our own selfish concerns to embrace collaboration, generosity, and reconciliation. It is transformational to embrace the concepts of koinonia in such a self-oriented world, but we are called repeatedly to be in the world but not 'of' the world. And we are given an ideal model, both in Jesus and in the disciples. Come join us and see how we practice Koinonia at Willerup.