The term ‘fellowship’ is used in a variety of ways, and this factor can either indicate the richness of its meaning or the confusion that is connected to it. A brief survey of some biblical passages will reveal four basic features.
First, we have fellowship with each person of the Trinity: ‘God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord’ (1 Cor. 1:9); ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’ (2 Cor. 13:14). This fellowship can be experienced by us as individuals during our times of private worship; it can also be known by us any time throughout the day or night. We can have fellowship with the persons of the Godhead when we are walking along the road, driving the car or digging in a field. And this fellowship can be enjoyed corporately as well. Congregations are composed of people who have come together to meet with God, and each person of the Trinity should be in our thoughts. In church, we can ask each person of the Trinity to meet with us in a specific way.
Second, we cannot have fellowship with God and engage in wrong practices: ‘Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons’ (1 Cor. 10:20); ‘And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret’ (Eph. 5:11-12).
Third, we cannot have fellowship with God unless we confess our sins: ‘If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:6-7).
Fourth, Christian fellowship involves participation in the spread of the gospel: ‘when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised’ (Gal. 2:9); ‘because of your partnership [fellowship] in the gospel from the first day until now’ (Phil. 1:5).