A Collaborative Kingdom - Part 1
© 2018 Philip M Spence
To collaborate means to “to work jointly with others or together” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). It is also described as to “work jointly on an activity or project” (Oxford Languages). A collaborative kingdom then is one in which its subjects engage together in fulfilling the will of the king. The New Testament term for collaboration is “Koinonia”.
A full understanding of the New Testament concept of ‘Koinonia’ points directly to covenantal relationships as the foundation of Kingdom connections. Koinonia is not simply a casual connection with fellow church members. It is an intimate, committed relationship that is voluntarily entered into and binds the participants together on a Kingdom journey (Acts 2:42-47).
The Greek word used in the original writings means “a band that unifies”. It is used to describe the function of a ligament which is permanently connected and is essential to the function of the muscles and bones to which it is connected. Without the bonds of ligaments, limbs are not able to fulfil the function for which God created them.
The role of five-fold ministries is to bring the people of God to maturity so that they are all covenanted with each other, work together, and produce Kingdom outcomes together (Ephesians 4:11-16).
There are two key components of functioning in Koinonia. Firstly, we are to endeavour to maintain unity in the Spirit, the ligament of peace being the agent for this unity (Ephesians 4:1-3). Secondly, we are exhorted to love one another above everything else. The Apostle Paul says that this is the ligament that binds mature believers together. Obviously, this is not simply a casual connection with fellow church members (Colossians 3:12-14). Here are ten areas in which the early church demonstrated how to collaborate for Kingdom outcomes.
The concept of being co-yoked has been translated in some interesting ways in the New Testament. In writing to the Philippian Ekklesia, the Apostle Paul specifically addresses a person as a “true companion”. Older translations use “legitimate yokefellow” which simple means to be co-yoked (Philippians 4:3).
To be co-yoked means to be united like a team of oxen that are yoked to pull a plough or a cart. In a team of oxen, a mature, experienced animal will be teamed with an immature animal that needs to learn from the older, more experienced beast. Eventually the younger animal learns how to be fully and functionally co-yoked with the older beast.
To be co-yoked means that we are co-joined in a way that leads to completeness in God, and with one another. This union is established for the purpose of working together for mutually beneficial outcomes. It also means that a union has been established for the purpose of working together to produce Kingdom outcomes that bring glory to the King. Being co-yoked means that we have become colleagues together in Kingdom purpose.
This is a clear picture of a very strong and lasting bond between Kingdom people. It is also very clear evidence that Koinonia is covenantal as is our working relationship in Kingdom endeavours.
If we are co-yoked, we are co-learners. We are learning together how to live and function as Kingdom people under the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we are co-yoked, we are fellow disciples, living disciplined lives together, learning from the master together, and together becoming like the master.
Interestingly, the one mention of being co-learners is recorded as being spoken by Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples. Jesus said that He was going to Judaea to raise Lazarus from the dead, however the disciples reminded Him that His life had previously been threatened there. Jesus said He was going regardless of the threats to His life, and Thomas said with an air of resignation that the disciples might as well go with Jesus and die there too.
It is in this context that John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, calls the disciples fellow learners (John 11:16). They had much to learn about Jesus’ heart attitude, perspective, and motivation. It was very important that they learned these things together so that they would be committed to the mission of Jesus in covenant with each other.
As we learn and grow together, we become established together in the Kingdom of God. To be established means to find our place with one another in Christ and be permanently set in place in the Kingdom. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about being co-established in Christ. This shows that our life in the Kingdom is not an individual journey but a corporate one in covenant with each other (2 Corinthians 1:21).
Paul also said that once established together, we are set apart and appointed together for God’s purposes. Being established together and anointed together are keys to being sealed together in Him. We are then promised that the Holy Spirit will be our guarantee of the fulfilment of what we have been anointed for.
The concept of being a co-servant or co-slave means “together serving the same master”. As those who are co-yoked in Kingdom purpose, we are therefore co-servants of the King.
In Matthew’s gospel, the writer records Jesus teaching a parable about an unforgiving servant. This parable has been much expounded regarding forgiveness, but it also contains some relevant insights into the relationships of fellow servants. There were demands, accusations, violent behaviour, and unfair treatment. There was grief amongst the other co-servants who then brought the issues to the master. He stated that love and compassion should prevail between co-servants (Matthew 18:28-35).
I would like to suggest that Jesus was showing that even among the co-yoked there needs to be interpersonal adjustments at times. However, if forgiveness flows there will be reconciliation, and if love and compassion prevail there will be less issues (Colossians 1:7; 4:7; Revelation 6:11; 19:10; 22:9).
Co-workers are fellow workers. They are co-labourers and companions together in labouring for the King. The result of being co-labourers is a joy in serving the Lord together (2 Corinthians 1:24). This word occurs 13 times in the New Testament and is also translated ‘Fellow Helpers’. This term is used 12 times by the Apostle Paul to describe people working together, and with him, in this way.
Paul described Epaphroditus as a brother, a fellow soldier, and a co-worker (Philippians 2:25). When Paul wrote to the Romans, he referred to Priscilla and Aquila, Urbanus, and Timothy as co-workers (Romans 16:3, 9 and 21). Then, when writing to the Corinthians he said that we are God’s co-workers, and that Titus was his partner and co-worker regarding them (1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 8:23). In the short epistle to Philemon, Paul called Philemon, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke his co-workers (Philemon 1:1 and 24). It is obvious that the first century church functioned collaboratively because of the level of Koinonia that had been established.
The final mention of this concept is by the Apostle John. He talks about how we are to receive strangers as well as those we know to be brethren. Our hospitality and fellowship with believing strangers causes us to become fellow workers with them in the Kingdom (3 John 1:5-8).
In Part 2 of this blog, we will discover 5 more ways in which we collaborate in the Kingdom of Heaven on Planet Earth. While we may be reasonably comfortable with the first 5 that have been described in Part 1, we may find the next 5 to be beyond the usual concept of how Kingdom people work together. This is because we are speaking from a Kingdom paradigm rather than a church perspective. I hope you enjoy having your mindset shifted into Kingdom realities!
Philip M Spence
Author – Speaker – Mentor – Musician