Few questions continue to perplex the thoughtful believer of present-day Christendom as much as the age-old inquiry into the relationship between faith and works. This perplexity seems to be augmented by the tendency of one segment of Christendom to divorce the Christian life from the “fundamentals” of salvation, and by the inclination of another to become so preoccupied in the search for the ethical implications of the Christian faith that its proclamation of the Gospel has often degenerated to the extreme minimum of a bland humanitarianism. Both tendencies are highly unfortunate departures from the historic Christian faith and both betray a misconception of the relationship between the divine and human aspects of the Christian life. The former position does not sufficiently take into account the spiritual character of the horizontal Christian fellowship and the value of Christian actions in witnessing to divine truth. The latter tends to lose sight of the vertical divine fellowship and the foundational truths upon which ethical experience is based.

A theological study and interpretation of the biblical Greek term koinonia offers a corrective for the erroneous tendencies already cited; for this word, by definition and usage, has both divine and human implications. The term koinonia in the various New Testament versions and translations is rendered primarily as fellowship, communion, and participation. A brief review of the koinonia concept will help us gain greater clarity on the issues involved in the relationship between the divine and human aspects of the life in Christ.

The Divine Aspect

Koinonia is the God-initiated and God-effected participation of the Christian believer in the divine nature, through his sharing in Christ’s ...

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