What is the difference between salvation and fellowship?

September 3, 2021
George T. Ferrier

When a young baby is conceived the parents consider that new life to be their child whom they look forward to meeting once the child is born. They have entered into a parent-child relationship that cannot be broken as long as each one lives.

Similarly, when a person trusts Christ as their Savior, the Lord gives them spiritual life (Eph. 2:1) and a new relationship has begun. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” The eternal God has become this new believer’s heavenly Father. This relationship cannot be severed because the spiritual life God gives the believer is eternal life (John 10:27-30; Rom. 8:31-39; Heb. 13:5; 1 Pet. 1:5). Salvation results in a relationship with God that is shared now and for all eternity (1 John 3:2).

Fellowship in the original Greek is “koinonia” (G2842) meaning communion, fellowship, sharing in common.1 Since only the believer shares in the very life of Christ— eternal, spiritual life—unbelievers cannot have fellowship with God because they do not have a relationship with Him and they have no spiritual life (1 John 5:11-12).

Though the believer’s relationship with God is secure, our fellowship or “the joy of salvation” can be broken (Ps. 51:12). When a believer sins, our holy God can have no part in it for He has nothing in common with sin. Therefore, He can have no fellowship with those who have deliberate unconfessed sin in their lives for two cannot walk together unless they are agreed (Amos 3:3). When the believer’s fellowship with God is broken, they cannot worship God in Spirit and in truth; their prayer life disappears; and their service for Him becomes powerless if it exists at all. Fellowship can only be restored by confessing and forsaking known sin, agreeing with God about it.

In 1 John 2:1 we read, “my little children these things I write to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone says we have an advocate with the father Jesus Christ the righteous.” This is written to those who are children of God. Our holy God desires that we do not sin, but when we do the Lord Jesus is our Advocate with the Father. At no point is our relationship to God or status in His family changed or lost. God is still our Father. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ convicts us of our sins so that we will confess and forsake them, restoring fellowship and the enjoyment of our relationship with God.

Sometimes a child will rebel, bringing grief to their parents, bringing great dishonor to the family name. When this happens the parents still consider that child to be their own. It is an unbreakable relationship. But the enjoyment and close intimacy of that relationship is marred by disobedience. In the same way believers are eternally part of God’s family, and though having a relationship that cannot be broken, their fellowship with God can be marred by sin.

To remain out of fellowship with the Lord, deprives the believer of God’s wisdom and guidance that can result in life choices which carry consequences for the rest of their lives, even should they later return to the Lord. God will forgive but the aftereffects of waywardness can sometimes remain. Prolonged broken fellowship can bring God’s hand of discipline. Identified with Christ, believers belong to God’s family and the Lord must protect His family name. Therefore, our loving Father will correct, train, and discipline (teach) His beloved children.

The knowledge of our secure, unbreakable union with Christ should make us thankful to God and responsive to His love. Our love for Him should deter us from sin and motivate us to maintain daily communion with Him. And when the Holy Spirit presses upon us that fellowship has been lost, we must confess our sin so that the enjoyment of our relationship with the Lord is restored.


1. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. Publishers, 1985), p. 233