The New Testament deals extensively with how we should relate to other Christians and with issues vital for the life of the church. Amongst the most prominent themes are the need for unity and love. Fellowship is another important concept that we need to grasp, with it being involved in a number of aspects of church life.
[Paul, to the Corinthian church:] A person’s body is only one thing, but it has many parts. Though there are many parts to a body, all those parts make only one body. Christ is like that also. … 27Together you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of that body. 1 Corinthians 12:12, 27 NCV™
The term “the body of Christ” figuratively depicts the spiritual union of Jesus Christ with his people. Moreover, it points to the unity Christ’s people have together in their relationship with him. While the worldwide church is the whole “body of Christ”, each local church is a form of “the body of Christ”. And in each case the many members together make one body.
[The writer, to believers:] Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:25 GNT
The men who were sent by the church went through Phoenicia and Samaria, telling how the Gentiles had turned to God. This news made the Lord’s followers very happy. 4When the men arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, including the apostles and the leaders. Acts 15:3-4a CEV
This passage includes segments which illustrate churches functioning as one body – i.e. as a unit or cohesive community. The concept represented by the term “church” involves believers meeting together and functioning as a community or one spiritual body. As such, they worship God together and cohesively further the cause of their head, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, they live in relationship with each other, in which they minister to each other.
The group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but everything was held in common. Acts 4:32 NET
[Paul, to the church in Corinth:] I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose. 1 Corinthians 1:10 NET
In the last clause, Paul urges his readers to be united by having the same Christ-centered thinking and objective/s.
[Paul, to the church in Rome:] Therefore, let’s keep on pursuing those things that bring peace and that lead to building one another up. Romans 14:19 ISV
[Paul, to the church in Ephesus:] Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21 GNT
[Paul, to Timothy:] Stay away from foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they grow into quarrels. 24And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, a good teacher, and patient. 2 Timothy 2:23-24 NCV™
The concept of “fellowship” involves sharing and participating in a partnership concerning a mutual interest or purpose, which for believers is their common faith and life in Christ. This is shown in the Greek word translated as “fellowship” (“koinonia”) which emphasizes participation. Believers participate in Christ and church activities, and in each other’s lives.
[John, to believers:] What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ). 1 John 1:3 NET
This shows that the fellowship believers have together is not only based on their mutual relationship in Jesus Christ, but is also a fellowship with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.
They [the disciples] gathered frequently to pray as a group, together with the women and with Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers. Acts 1:14 GNT
[Paul, to the church in Corinth:] I urge you 16also to submit to people like this, and to everyone who cooperates in the work and labors hard. 1 Corinthians 16:15b-16 NET
Church members should participate together in God’s work, cooperating with each other.
[Paul, to Timothy:] So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord or be ashamed of me, his prisoner. Instead, by God’s power, join me in suffering for the sake of the Good News. 2 Timothy 1:8 GW
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 NET
Fellow believers may well be primarily in view here.
[Jesus, to his disciples:] My commandment is this – to love one another just as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13 NET
Jesus disciples were to love each other as he had loved them, a love which he would show to be unsurpassed by laying down his life for them.
[Jesus, to his disciples:] “I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 NET
[John, to believers:] Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. … 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. … 16God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:7, 12, 16b ESV
Love is the essence of God’s nature – “God is love” (v. 16; cf. v. 8). Everyone who loves exhibits God’s nature, demonstrating that they have been “born of God” (v. 7b). In addition, loving one another shows that we know God (v. 7), and that we live in God and he lives in us (vv. 12, 16b).
[John, to believers:] Suppose someone has enough to live and sees a brother or sister in need, but does not help. Then God’s love is not living in that person. 18My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring. 1 John 3:17-18 NCV™