A biblical understanding of partnership
In the world of modern corporations, the word partnership has an explicit meaning. In fact, it is this meaning which is laden throughout the text of the New Testament, when A PRISONER called Paul (who happens to be an apostle of the Church) writes to the various house-churches around the Roman Empire.
The common language was koine Greek, so understandably, Paul, the Apostle prisoner, wrote his letters in that language, and consistently utilised a particular word, koinonia . A few examples from his writings (as recorded in the New Testament) help us understand what he means:
In his letter to the church in Corinth (1 Cor 10:16), it is rendered as participation.
1 Corinthians 10:16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?
In another of his letters to that same church (2 Cor 13:14), it is translated as fellowship – but in rich theological terms referring to the unity of the triune God.
2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
In his letter to the head of a house (Philemon) it is revealed in the clause “active in sharing”, with particular reference to the believer’s faith: i.e. evangelism.
Philemon 1:6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
And in his circular letter to the church in Philippi (Philippians 1:5), it is interpreted as partnership.
Philippians 1:5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,…
Fellowship, participation, partnership, active in sharing; these are but a few prominent examples from which an understanding of what Paul means when he uses the word koinonia.
As stated earlier, koinonia is a word that was commonly used throughout the Roman Empire. As seen, it can be translated many ways. However, its common usage had overt business connotations and was quite literally used to represent business partnerships – joint ventures, if you will.
For example: If two people went into business partnership with each investing 50% equity and accepting 50% liability, it would be fair to say that each partner had a vested interest in the performance of that business. Had you invested your life savings, (at a 50% stake) in a business, then you would want to know intimately the business details; its workings, its profit making ratios and indeed its outstanding liabilities: as a 50% partner in that business. As a partner in a joint venture, you would not be apathetic toward your investment!
In the same way, Paul urges the believers in Philippi and Corinth to partner with him – in a joint venture – of proclaiming the Gospel and seeing the reign of God (his Kingdom) acknowledged by all peoples throughout the earth. To invest not just their money in the Kingdom of God, but their time, talents, treasures, indeed their whole self in the Gospel; in its proclamation, and in living it out in faithful obedience to God.
This is the dominant idea behind koinonia – partnership!
In order to continue this vital service, we are asking people, individuals who are followers of Jesus, who are members of his body: His Church; to have koinonia – partnership, with us.