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What does it mean to have fellowship of the Spirit (Philippians 2:1)?

fellowship of the Spirit

Living and serving together in Christian harmony is the emphasis of Paul’s teaching in Philippians 1:27—2:18. Aware that the church faces a severe problem of division (see Philippians 3:1–3; 4:1–3), Paul urges the believers in Philippi to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind” (Philippians 1:27). Then, using rhetorical language, Paul states that his joy (and their joy) would only be complete as they demonstrate loving, like-minded unity: “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:1–2, NKJV).

The Greek noun translated here as “fellowship” (NKJV), “participation” (ESV), or “common sharing” (NIV) is koinonia. It refers to “the act of sharing together in the activities or privileges of an intimate association or group, especially used of marriage and churches.” The “Spirit” (pneuma) here is God’s Holy Spirit.

Fellowship of the Spirit describes the harmony and community that can exist in the body of Christ because of the gospel—because God, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, has brought believers into a right relationship with Himself (Ephesians 2:18–19). Paul’s words in Philippians 2:1–2 resonate in the apostle John’s writings: “And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. . . . If we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:3–4, 7, NLT).

God the Father, through His Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit, has established, by His grace, a covenant relationship with His people. Those who believe the message of the gospel are united in the fellowship of the Spirit (John 14:16–17) through “partnership with his Son” (1 Corinthians 1:9, NLT) to the Father (John 15:1–17; 17:1–26; 1 John 1:3–7). This relationship is the basis of the communion between humans and God (Hebrews 10:19–22; Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18–19; Colossians 1:20–22).

Those who take part in the fellowship of the Spirit also participate in communion with one another (1 John 1:3; Mark 9:37; John 17:21; 2 Corinthians 13:11). This interconnected reality, this spiritual communion, is koinonia, or fellowship in the body of Christ. It does not initiate with humans but is God’s gracious gift, flowing from the eternal triune fellowship of the Godhead (2 Corinthians 13:14).

The church, the body of Christ, is an intimately associated group of redeemed individuals who share a mutual life of fellowship (Acts 2:44; 4:32). Being part of the fellowship of the Spirit involves living in God’s love, humility, and service to one another (1 John 3:10; 4:10–12; John 13:34; 15:12; Ephesians 5:1–2; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 3:8; John 13:14). For this reason, Paul urged, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:3–6).

Fellowship of the Spirit and dwelling together in unity does not imply total uniformity. Instead, as members of one body, we recognize and embrace different gifts, personalities, and ministries (1 Corinthians 12:4–30; Ephesians 4:11–13).

Christians who participate in the fellowship of the Spirit share in the work of the gospel (Philippians 1:5), worship, pray, and take communion together (1 Corinthians 10:16–17; 14:26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Acts 1:14; Hebrews 10:24–25; James 5:16). They are interested in the lives of other believers (Romans 12:4–5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13). They “let the peace of Christ rule in [their] hearts” (Colossians 3:15), united in purpose and “striving together as one for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27; see also Matthew 18:19–20; 1 Corinthians 10:24). They make every effort to quell division and cultivate unity with their brothers and sisters in Christ (Ephesians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 14:26; Romans 12:16).

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What does it mean to have fellowship of the Spirit (Philippians 2:1)?
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This page last updated: May 21, 2024