Jesus commissioned the disciples to perform three tasks. One task was to preach the gospel to the whole world—the Great Commission—and it’s the most known in the church. The other two are Koinonia and Diakonia, and are not as emphasized as “tasks” in the church. Let’s take a look at why Jesus underscored Koinonia and Diakonia to the disciples.
Koinonia is a Greek word with its English equivalent as “fellowship,” “communion,” or “friendship.” Koinonia denotes goodwill, or harmonious fellowship of persons who share common interests. Koinonia, in the church, goes horizontally and vertically. Horizontally, koinonia extends to people and community. We stand connected to one another in ways that depict us as members of one family. Vertically, koinonia is experienced with God.
Our fellowship should, first, be with God, and then, with people. We cannot have true fellowship with people if we do not have a genuine relationship with God. Vertical fellowship with God grounds the horizontal with people. If our relationship with God breaks down, then the horizontal may not stand. Although some people are inclined to believe that they can have successful fellowship with people apart from God, this isn’t true. The story of Ananias and Sapphira exemplifies this perfectly. They wanted to enjoy fellowship in the church, but not be in one with God. They, unfortunately, found out the hard way that without fellowship with God, they could not have one with the Church.
Diakonia, also a Greek word, has its equivalence in English as “care,” “restoration,” or “overhaul.” Daikonia was the heart of Jesus’ ministry while on earth. Jesus came to repair damaged relationships, restore the broken, and overhaul creation, which Satan broke through sin, and so Jesus asked us to care for one another and for God’s kingdom on earth. When the church cares for people, it reflects God’s care for us and His creation.
The needs of people that the church cares for are both physical and spiritual. Satan exerts physical and spiritual pain on people to dominate them. Physical ills, poverty, or psychological disorders are means by which Satan destroys the good creation of God. Jesus came to stop Satan’s destruction of God’s good creation. Thus, Jesus healed physical and the spiritual ailments that Satan inflicted on people. When Jesus commissioned the church to care for the needs of people, He meant to debunk Satan’s false claim to dominion over the earth. The church shows God’s Lordship over the universe when it exemplifies Jesus care for people’s needs, whether physical, psychological, spiritual or emotional. This, in summary, is the reason Jesus commissioned the church to practice diakonia and koinonia.
Biblical Justification for Fellowship and Service
The first command God gave to Adam and Eve was to care for creation. Sin made Adam not to carry out that commandment. Instead of Adam caring for creation, creation dominated Adam. God told Adam that only by sweat would he get food from the ground. But when Jesus, the second Adam, came to earth, he removed that curse. Hence, we could now care for God’s creation because Jesus restored us to our original status, which returned us to our original duty—first, to fellowship with God and people, and then to show care for people/creation. When the church cares for the world, it proves that God’s kingdom has been restored to the earth and has overcome Satan’s, which came through the work, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Satan, not only slyly turned Adam and Eve from God, but their sin also ruptured the “horizontal” fellowship between the two of them. Thus, when God asked Adam why he ate the fruit, Adam blamed “the woman that God had put in Eden with him.” Rather than refer to Eve as his wife, Adam referred to Eve as “the woman.”
Subsequent events, like Cain’s killing of his brother, Abel, proved the downward spiral of the disrupted horizontal fellowship among men. Instead of a fostered fellowship between siblings, Satan instigated tremendous hatred between them, just as he did between Esau and Jacob so much so that Jacob fled from Esau. The same is witnessed between Joseph and his brothers, who sold him out of similarly inspired hatred. Not limited to just siblings, this is shown in Absalom’s hatred of his father, David, so much so that Absalom instigated and fought a war to kill David. This was and is the degree to which Satan damaged the fellowship between people.
Jesus, however, has restored the vertical and horizontal fellowships. All peoples can form wonderful loving fellowship with God and people because of what Jesus accomplished through the Cross, and Jesus demonstrated wonderful loving fellowship to different peoples that included the Samaritans, Greeks, and the Romans who came to Him. Jesus did not see people through a screen that separated people as slaves, gentiles, or by gender; He saw people simply as God’s children. And even when the disciples asked Jesus to dismiss the famous 5000 to go home and find food, Jesus chose, instead, to perform a miracle that would feed them with just 2 fishes and 5 loaves of bread. And so, to ensure that the church lives in fellowship with and in care for one another, Jesus prayed that the Father would make the church one (John 14). Jesus attests that when the world sees our unity, it would know that the kingdom of God has come on earth. Therefore, if Christians fight one another, they present that they are not members of God’s kingdom, but rather, are like the world. God’s desire for fellowship with us and for us to fellowship with one another is clearly seen in the many festivals (like Pentecost, Passover, Jubilee, etc.) that He instituted in ancient Israel.
Christian fellowship gives us the chance to agree on what to ask of God. When the church agrees about a thing (under the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit), there is the promise that heaven will agree with it too. Christian fellowship also offers the wonderful chance of worshiping God together. Since God inhabits the praise of His children, when Christians worship God together, God dwells among them. It is interesting to observe that the energy and enthusiasm that may otherwise be absent when worshipping alone, could be inspired when praying and worshiping God with others!
Theological Justification for Communion and Fellowship
In the first prayer that Jesus taught His disciples, He instructed that they ask for God’s kingdom to come on earth. If the kingdom of God came on earth, the will of God would be done on earth as is in heaven. The kingdom of God is best seen in Christian fellowship and selfless service to others. In heaven, the saints (the triumphant church) and the holy angels are in constant and uninterrupted fellowship with God.
For this reason, Paul told the church to always fellowship with God and one another, because it announces God’s victory over Satan. God has spoken the last word about sin and us, namely: God holds us sufficiently righteous to be in His presence eternally. Indeed, God is with us (Immanuel) forever and ever, and so, we can now care for one another because Jesus has effaced the curse of sin from the world. The blessings of God’s kingdom have come to us in Jesus, who invited all who are hungry and thirsty to come to Him for bread and living water, where He will meet our needs. Therefore, Paul prayed above all things that we prosper in spirit and in body.
What Care Connotes
Christian care connotes that we challenge one another to love and grow spiritually. Unless you care for a person, you cannot genuinely challenge the person to grow. Outside of a loving fellowship with a person, such a challenge may be met with contempt as the person may assume that you are assaulting them. Challenging a person to grow (especially spiritually) does not involve gossip and cheap chat about a person. It is engaging in godly and holy fellowship to uplift each other’s spirit.
To show care is to affirm the good in the other person. You cannot have a loving fellowship with someone you see no good in. Whatever positive thing you notice in a person, encourage them by telling them. A phone call, email, or text telling them how well they have exhibited these qualities go a long way.
To show care is to respect the feelings and opinions of the other person. The basic way to respect the other person is to listen attentively to them. Do not dismiss their opinions as valueless. In a congregational setting such as the church, the avenue to listen to others is in activities like Bible studies, prayer meetings, etc. Let the other person share their view or opinion, whether it’s on a Bible text or otherwise. In public prayer, let them say to God what is on their mind. No one wants fellowship with a person prone to dominate. Do not be quick to speak, but be quick to listen and make good judgment.
To show care is to encourage them to be the best God wants them to be in life. Give generous compliments to someone for a wonderful job done in the church. If all you do is find fault in others you will destroy Christian fellowship. Even a minister who always sees sin in others would drive them away from the church. When a person gives negative vibe, it drives people away. Say a word of encouragement for the good things that people do. I could be a word to a friend or to the person sitting next to you in church. Try it this week. Praise a friend or a staff or a co-worker or the organizers of a conference that you attended.
Finally, to show care for others, remember that the Bible describes Satan as the accuser of the brethren. We have overcome Satan by the testimony of the blood and of the Word. A good word from you to a brother or a sister can defeat Satan’s accusation against them in their heart.
Satan’s relentless attack on humanity such as carnages in the middle-east, the genocides that happened in Rwanda and Darfur, rebel warfare in central Africa, terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan, drugs in Columbia, sordid sexual scandals in America, herdsmen killings in Nigeria, etc. These events are making it hard for some people to believe that the Prince of Peace has come to the earth. But when Christians enter into loving fellowship with one another and do selfless service unto one another, the world would know that the Prince of Peace is here with us. So, serve joyfully in God’s kingdom to show the world that God’s love is real and that Satan has been defeated. We are already seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm, so let’s serve God and our neighbors with heavenly compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and long suffering. Amen.
About The Contributor
Tersur Aben is a reverend, author, and missionary currently teaching philosophy and theology at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN), Bukuru, Plateau State, Nigeria, where he resides with his wife and children.