Word Smith: Koinonia
The word Koinonia showed up in the reflections today and I wanted to dig deeper into its origins and meaning. I found the best source on the “Got Questions?” website. I have paraphrased parts of it to fit the meaning in scriptures.
Koinonia is the Englicized pronunciation of a Greek word (κοινωνία). Koinonia’s primary meaning is “fellowship, sharing in common, communion.” The sentiment and refinement of that fellowship and communion shows up 20 times in the New Testament. One finds the first occurrence of the word koinonia in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:42) “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Christians can be alone, but they are also encouraged to engage in fellowship, which is a key aspect of the Christian life. Believers in Christ are invited to come together in love, faith and encouragement. That is the essence of koinonia.
St. Paul in his letters declares to Christ’s followers in Philippi, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”
Koinonia is being in agreement with one another as a community, being united in purpose, and serving alongside each other. The spirit of koinonia is based on the common belief that all people should share in koinonia with Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of St. John, he says, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Christians today can find a powerful example of what koinonia should look like in their communities by studying the phrase “one another” and the verbs that accompany that phrase in the New Testament. Scripture commands all of us to be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10), honor one another (Romans 12:10), live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8), accept one another (Romans 15:7), serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13), be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32), admonish one another (Colossians 3:16), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13), spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24), offer hospitality (1 Peter 4:9), and love one another (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11; 3:23; 4:7; 4:11-12).(1)
Devotion, honor, live in harmony, accept, serve, be kind and compassionate, admonish, encourage, spur on on toward love and good deeds, offer hospitality and love one another, indeed! That is what true biblical koinonia should look like.