I received the following question:

In Acts 2:42 “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  What is “the fellowship?” is it the same as the church/ekklesia? did it come before it? Why did they devote themselves to the breaking of bread?  Was it the same bread breaking as the Jews would do at their feasts, or does that just mean they ate food together? …

The word “fellowship” here is the Greek word koinonia. It is used twenty-one times in the New Testament, although one of these is of questionable manuscript authority. The meaning is along the lines of participating together, or sharing together in something. A few key verses:

Romans 15:26. “For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.” Here, koinonia is translated “contribution.” You can see it has to do with sharing money, or participation in financial burdens.

I Corinthians 1:9. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here, the fellowship is in God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We are participants and sharers in Him.

I Corinthians 10:16. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” Here, the word occurs twice, and is translated “communion” both times. This is a participation or sharing in the body and blood of Christ.

Philippians 1:5. “for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,” You can see that they had participated and shared in the gospel. One would assume Paul means from the first day he communicated it to them, until the time when he was writing. These people had both shared in it by believing it, as well as participated in the spreading of it by their consistent financial support of Paul.

I John 1:6. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” It is clear that we are not sharing and participating in Him if we walk in darkness. In other words, this is not an active thing in our lives if we are in darkness.

These are just five of the other occurrences, but I think you see what I mean.

The term “breaking of bread” here only occurs one other time in the New Testament, in Luke 24:35, speaking of the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus. “And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.” The term does seem to have to do with eating. Their bread was hard, and needed to literally be broken. It seems that “breaking of bread” was a term that was used figuratively for eating. I do think that Acts 2:42 literally means eating. Remember that they had all things in common according to Acts 2:44-45. “44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” Such an arrangement would necessitate having food in common as well, as we learn they did in verse 46. “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,” Here, the word “breaking” is a different word from verse 42. However, I believe this means the same thing. They were sharing together all things in common. This was fellowship, koinonia, participation in one another’s needs and sharing together in one another’s burdens. They also ate their meals together. This was “breaking of bread from house to house.”