Book Review: True Community - The Biblical Practice of Koinonia, by Jerry Bridges
Pastor Oliver mentioned this book in his message on "The Fellowship of the Church", preached at Grace Baptist Church on 1 September, 2013. To listen to his sermon, click here.
The importance of community has been given much attention by Christian leaders and pastors in recent years. This emphasis is a needed corrective to many believers’ tendency towards an individualistic approach to the Christian life. However, what exactly is biblical community? To answer this question, Jerry Bridges explores the meaning of the Greek word koinõnia and its most common English translation, the word “fellowship”. What exactly is koinõnia? The word has two primary meanings – they are “sharing together” and “sharing with one another”. For the former, Bridges writes, “it is sharing a common life with other believers – a life that, as [the Apostle] John says, we share with God the Father and God the Son. It is a relationship, not an activity”. This fellowship comes about because of our sharing together founded on the gospel (1 John 1:3). Another facet is that of a partnership. Bridges writes that, “whereas relationship describes believers as a community, partnership describes them as a community in action… Just as all believers are united together in a community relationship, so we are all united together in a partnership formed to glorify God” through proclaiming the gospel and the building up of other believers.
Bridges writes that the latter meaning of koinõnia, sharing with one another, further consists of two sub-meanings: the first is communion with one another and the second is the sharing of material possessions. Communion as used here, does not mean simply the observing of the Lord’s Supper, but the sharing of biblical and spiritual truths to deepen our relationships with each other and with God. This understanding of fellowship is not limited to only spiritual things but also the sharing of material possessions with those in need (Acts 2:44-45). Bridges goes on in the rest of his book to elaborate on these meanings of koinõnia and its implications on the church.
There is much to commend in Bridges’ treatment of the biblical practice of koinõnia. He examines all aspects of fellowship in depth and uses simple prose to communicate his ideas. He also works each of the meanings of koinõnia out into the practical practice of church life – his chapter on the use of spiritual gifts within the community is a must-read, capped off by his insistence that the biblical text places emphasis on the primacy of love in both the use of and the relationship contexts in which we use our spiritual gifts. I commend this book to church members and CG Leaders in the church who want to grow in the understanding of what biblical fellowship looks like in practice.
Reviewed by: Oliver "Ollie" Chia
Jerry Bridges. True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012.