INTRODUCTION

Pages 110-114 of The Salvation Meter book describe the “A Believer has Biblical Fellowship” test of salvation.  This article at https://thesalvationmeter.com website is a revision of the earlier discussion and questions in the book that pertain to this test of salvation.  There are two basic reasons I wrote this revision.

First, a sermon is never finished, merely preached.  In the same way, there will always be ways to revise and improve the discussion of the “A Believer has Biblical Fellowship” test of salvation.  Second, I hope this revision will assist anyone who reads, teaches, preaches, or merely considers the substance of this test to appreciate better the principles taught by this test of salvation. 

The “A Believer has Biblical Fellowship” is an important test of salvation that indicates a person’s spiritual condition.  Actions that demonstrate biblical fellowship emanates from the menō (i.e., abiding) relationship between God and a believer.  This means that the existence of an abiding relationship between God and a believer fosters biblical fellowship.  It seems, therefore, that the “A Believer has Biblical Fellowship” test falls within the scope of the “A Believer Abides in God” test.  Even so, if a person does not have biblical fellowship, it is indicative of a lost spiritual condition.  On the other hand, if a believer displays evidence biblical fellowship, it is persuasive evidence of salvation.

One important point to note is that a demonstration of the absence of biblical koinōnia can exist in the case of a person who claims to be a believer being in partnership with something that falls within the scope of “iniquity” or “darkness.”  

REVISED DISCUSSION

1 John 1:3 and 1 John 1:6-7

1 John 1:3 (ASV 1901, which presents the “A Believer has Biblical Fellowship” test of salvation, reads:

3 that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, that ye also may have fellowship with us: yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ:

This test teaches that a believer has “fellowship” with other believers and with God the Father and with God the Son.  1 John 1:3 (ASV 1901) resides within the block of 1 John 1:1–4 (ASV 1901), which reads:

1 That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life 2 (and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us); 3 that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, that ye also may have fellowship with us: yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ: 4 and these things we write, that our joy may be made full.

The Apostle John reinforced the “test” nature of biblical fellowship when he wrote 1 John 1:6–7 (ASV 1901), which reads:

6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

One cannot have biblical fellowship if they walk in the darkness.  Yet, to walk in the light, demonstrates the presence of biblical fellowship. 

The key word to understanding these verses is the meaning of the Greek noun koinōnia, which the ASV 1901 translates as “fellowship.” The word koinōnia means an association involving close mutual relations and involvement—‘close association, fellowship.’  See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 445).  United Bible Societies.  Arndt et al. (Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). In A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 552). University of Chicago Press) describes koinōnia as a close association involving mutual interests, sharing, communion, close relationship attitude of good will that manifests an interest in a close relationship, generosity, fellow-feeling, altruism, proof of brotherly unity, and contribution  of gifts. 

Another way to look at koinōnia is it represents a sense of brotherhood.  One analogy is the bond of fellowship between soldiers who have been through war together.  It is a “Band of Brothers” mentality.  There is a sense of partnership in the proclamation of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.  One translation handbook (Haas, C., Jonge, M. de, & Swellengrebel, J. L. (1994).  A handbook on the letters of John (p. 18). United Bible Societies) suggests descriptions for koinōnia such as friendship, unity, being together, eating together, “eating out of one dish,”being of the same heart, and being of the same mind. 

Koinōnia has a spiritual component and a temporal component.  The spiritual component pertains to fellowship between God and a believer.  The temporal component concerns mutual fellowship between believers.

Guidance from “Little Kittel”

The Little Kittel theological dictionary (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume (pp. 448–450). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans) helps expand upon the concept of biblical fellowship.  Takeaways from discussing the usages of the relevant word group in the New Testament are below.

First, koinōnia with God comes only by faith.  Faith is a present possession of a believer, and is something that will reach consummation per 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 (ASV 1901):

16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; 17 then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Second, taking of the Lord’s Supper is a demonstration of fellowship.  1 Corinthians 10:16 (ASV 1901) reads:

16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ?

Third, koinōnia with Christ means a life that experiences suffering.  It is also a life that expectantly awaits  sharing in Christ’s glory per Philippians 3:9–10 (ASV 1901):

9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith: 10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death;

Fourth, fellowship includes sharing with other believers over a wide range of things.  For example, Romans 15:27 (ASV 1901) identifies sharing of material things:

27 Yea, it hath been their good pleasure; and their debtors they are.  For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they owe it to them also to minister unto them in carnal things.

Sharing, especially material things, requires a mindset that esteems others above oneself.  See Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New & Old Testament Words, (2016), at p. 247, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. 

According to Philippians 1:7 and 4:14 (ASV 1901), fellowship includes sharing in each other’s sufferings and each other’s grace:

[Philippians 1:7 (ASV 1901)] 7 even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as, both in my bonds and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers with me of grace.  … [Philippians 4:14 (ASV 1901)] 14 Howbeit ye did well that ye had fellowship with my affliction.

Philippians 1:3-10

Paul used the word koinōnia in the sense of partnering in the proclamation of the saving gospel of Jesus when he wrote Philippians 1:3-10 (ASV 1901).  The ASV 1901 translates koinōnia as “partnership” in verse 5.  This passage (verses 3-10) reads:

3 I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy, 5 for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now; 6 being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ: 7 even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as, both in my bonds and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers with me of grace.  8 For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus.  9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; 10 so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ;

            Indicia of koinōnia between believers includes loving one another, praying for one another, helping one another proclaim the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, encouraging one another to grow in spiritual insight and discernment, and having a heartfelt concern for the sanctification of one another.  For this passage, the Logos 9 sense of koinōnia is the act of sharing in the activities or privileges of an intimate association or group such as, for example, marriage and churches. 

Opposites Cannot have Biblical koinōnia

            Paul made it clear when he wrote 2 Corinthians 6:14 (ASV 1901) that biblical fellowship cannot exists between opposites:

14 Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity?  or what communion hath light with darkness?

The ASV 1901 translates the Greek noun metochē as “fellowship.”  It means a relationship involving shared purposes and activity.  See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 446.   A shared purpose or activity cannot exist between righteousness and iniquity which are opposite in their very natures.  Note that the ASV 1901 translates the Greek noun dikaiosynē as “righteousness,” and it means the act of doing what God requires.  See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 743).  The ASV 1901 translates the Greek noun anomia as “iniquity,” meaning to behave with complete disregard for the laws or regulations of a society—‘to live lawlessly, lawless living.’ See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 757.

The ASV 1901 translates koinōnia as “communion.”  There is no way koinōnia can exist between light and darkness, which are completely opposite concepts.   The ASV 1901 translates the Greek noun  phōs as “light,” and it means light, in contrast with darkness (σκότοςa, σκοτίαa, 14.53), usually in relationship to some source of light such as the sun, moon, fire, lamp, etc.  See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 172. The ASV 1901 translates the Greek noun skotos as “darkness,” meaning a condition resulting from the partial or complete absence of light.  See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 175.

A demonstration of the absence of biblical koinōnia can exist in the case of a person who claims to be a believer being in partnership with something that falls within the scope of “iniquity” or “darkness.”  The scope of such a “partnership” can be broad to encompass people, social activities, business activities, and the like. 

Conclusion

The “A Believer has Biblical Fellowship” is an important test of salvation that indicates a person’s spiritual condition.  Actions that demonstrate biblical fellowship emanate from the menō (i.e., abiding) relationship between God and a believer.  Such a menō relationship results in biblical fellowship. 

Therefore, the “A Believer has Biblical Fellowship” test essentially falls within the scope of the “A Believer Abides in God” test of salvation.  It is strong evidence of a lost condition if a person does not have biblical fellowship.  On the other hand, it is persuasive evidence of salvation if a person demonstrates biblical fellowship.

One important point to note is that a demonstration of the absence of biblical koinōnia can exist in the case of a person who claims to be a believer being in partnership with something that falls within the scope of “iniquity” or “darkness.”  

QUESTIONS

The “A Believer has Biblical Fellowship” test of salvation raises the following questions for you to answer.

Question 5-11:  Do you have or have you had any relationships with other believers that you consider to be within the category of biblical koinōnia?   Would you please explain your answer in detail?  In formulating your response, please keep in mind the following characteristics of koinōnia: close associations involving mutual interests and sharing, association, communion, partnership, friendship, unity, being together, eating together, “eating out of one dish,” and being of the same heart, and being of the same mind, loving one another, praying for one another, helping one another proclaim the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, encouraging one another to grow in spiritual insight and discernment, and having a heartfelt concern for the sanctification of one another, or other close relationships.  

Question 5-12:  For those relationships with other believers that you characterize as koinōnia, were they centered on a specific event or happening, or was it a continuous and steady relationship?  Describe the duration of your koinōnia kind of relationship with other believers.  Please explain your answers.

Question 5-12A:  For your koinōnia kind of relationships with other believers, would you say you esteemed other believers above yourself?   Please explain your answer.

Question 5-13:  For koinōnia kind of relationships with other believers that have ended, were you disappointed they ended?  Do you still keep in contact with one or more of those other believers?  If so, is that something you enjoy or dread?  Please explain your answers.

Question 5-14:  Explain how you felt when you experienced koinōnia kind of relationships with other believers?  Please explain your answer.

Question 5-15:  Have you grown spiritually due to your koinōnia kind of relationships with other believers?  Please explain your answer.

Question 5-16:  Do you have or have you had any relationships with God the Father and God the Son that you consider to fall within the category of biblical koinōnia?   Please explain your answer in detail.  Please include in your answer the factors you believe help define those relationships as comprising biblical koinōnia.  These factors are along the line of those set out in Question 5-12. 

Question 5-17:  For those koinōnia relationships with God the Father and God the Son, were they long-term or short-term, or somewhat in between?  Were they centered on a specific event or happening, or was it a continuous and steady relationship? 

Question 5-18:  How do you feel when you experience the koinōnia kind of relationship with God the Father and/or God the Son?  Are there any other kinds of activities in which you feel the same sense as you did with your koinōnia kind relationships with God the Father and God the Son? 

Question 5-19:  Would you say that you grew spiritually due to experiencing your koinōnia kind of relationships with God the Father and God the Son?  Please explain your answer.

Question 5-20:  Has a koinōnia relationship you had with God the Father and God the Son ever ended?  How did you ascertain it had ended?  If so, were you disappointed it ended? 

Question 5-20A:  Do you have or have you had partnerships with people or that involved activities that you characterize as “iniquity” or “darkness?”  How do you feel about those partnerships?  Did you sense you were unequally yoked in these partnerships?  Please explain your answer.

Question 5-20B:  In reference to Question 5-20A, if all of those partnerships were in the past, over the course of such partnerships, please describe your spiritual condition? 

Question 5-20C:  In reference to Question 5-20A, if any of those partnerships still exists, do you have any plans to remove yourself from them?  Please explain your answer.

Question 5-21:  Do you believe you satisfy the “A Believer has Biblical Fellowship” test of salvation?   Please explain your answer and include evidence that supports your answer.  Do you strongly agree, moderately agree, moderately disagree, strong disagree or are neutral about the statement that you satisfy “A Believer has Biblical Fellowship” test of salvation?  Please record your answer at Indicator 5-B of your Personal Salvation Assessment in the Appendix.

Copyright © 2021, 2022 Stephen T. Belsheim All Rights Reserved

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