Fellowship With God,
Studies in I John
Every one not in fellowship with God is in fellowship with Satan. Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matthew 12:30). Does that not make this extremely important to every rational being? With whom are you in fellowship now — God or His arch enemy, Satan? There is a way to know the answer to this question and hopefully, we will find that answer in this article. We will also learn how to establish and maintain fellowship with God as we continue these studies in the wonderful letters of the apostle John.
The passage we study today reads, “If we say we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). This is a hypothetical statement beginning with “If we say ...” Fellowship with God is walking in the truth, the light of divine revelation. To say, “I am in fellowship with God,” yet walk in darkness is a lie. Walking in darkness is living a life dominated by Satan and sin. Fellowship with God is based. not on pious claims, but on the kind of life one lives.
“Walk” refers to “the whole round of the activities of the individual life,” when used figuratively, according to W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, page 664. Christians walk “in the newness of life” (Romans 6:4) because they have buried the old man of sin in the watery grave of baptism. Paul said, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:3-4). Sin and walking in God’s fellowship are mutually exclusive. No one can continue serving Satan and maintain any legitimate claim to being in fellowship with deity.
John’s denial of the possibility of fellowship with God, while walking in darkness, is based on the fact that there is no darkness in God. He is absolute light, complete purity and sinlessness. The one basis upon which a mortal may be in God’s gracious fellowship is being free from the domination of sin. Freedom from sin, walking in the light, and fellowship with God are combined in one comprehensive blessing and received on this fundamental principle. Walking with God, is walking in the light and in freedom from sin’s control.
Fellowship with God is a mutual fellowship with others who walk in the newness of life, the truth of God. John R.W. Stott wrote of fellowship, “‘Fellowship’ is a specifically Christian word and denotes that common participation in the grace of God, the salvation of Christ and the indwelling Spirit which is the spiritual birthright of all Christians believers. It is their common possession of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which makes them one.” (The Epistles of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries.)
Baptized believers walk in “the newness of life.” Once baptized, they are walking in the light. Water baptism is their introduction into the way of light where they become “children of light” (1 Thess. 5:5). All who walk in the light of a new life in Christ are expected to serve the Lord and shun sin. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” The old man is the man enslaved and imprisoned by sin. That part of a sinner’s life is destroyed in obedience from the heart. “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). Not only does an alien sinner change his life, he also changes masters. He denounces Satan and confesses Christ and the dominion of sin is broken. He begins the new life in Christ, walking in the new life of truth.
Fellowship with God is manifested in the relationship established by Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ gave His word (the truth) to the apostles, and through their word, the bond of communion between God and all who are His children is sealed. Jesus prayed, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:20-23). This fellowship is entered by believers in Christ when they are baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:26-27). This fellowship centers in God Almighty and His Son, Jesus Christ and extends to fellowship with all who are in Christ.
In the inspired writings of John, the word fellowship often has a modifying preposition. It is not mere fellowship, but “fellowship with.” B.F. Westcott noted: “The preposition (meta) emphasizes the mutual action of those who are united. Koinonia is also used with a genitive of the person (1 Cor. 1:9), as in the case of things (1 Cor. 10:16; Phil. 3:10), when the thought is of a fellowship in the person or of a fellowship springing from the person (2 Cor. 13:13). The word is also used absolutely in Acts 2:42.” (The First Epistle of John, B.F. Westcott. Fellowship with God is no equal partnership. Fellowship with God is shared equally by every Christian. However, God does descend to man’s level to bless us. God is in Christ (2 Cor. 5:18) and those in Christ are where God puts salvation and all spiritual blessings (2 Cor. 5:18; Eph. 1:3). He hears prayers and providentially cares for his own. He strengthens and supplies Christians with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Paul, by the Spirit, confidently affirmed, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
Walking in light is fellowship with God; walking in darkness destroys it. God’s people are also taught to imitate God. “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1). To the extent Christians follow God in establishing their conduct and values, fellowship with other Christians is realized. Through the cleansing received from Christ’s blood, little by little, the allurement of sin is purged from those who have chosen to walk in light. This chosen rule of life expresses itself in deeds. John says first “If we say we have fellowship with God and walk in darkness -- we lie.” He followed with, “But if we walk in the light...”
All who are in fellowship with God, are in fellowship with each other. The ideal fellowship with God Almighty becomes a practical fellowship among Christians. Thus, true fellowship with God is never real unless there is scriptural working relationship among all who profess to walk with God in His light. The demands of such a walk are simple:
1. All must believe the same things. God reveals a “common faith. Paul wrote, “To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, [and] peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Titus 1:4). The common faith is the one faith of Eph. 4:4. Fellowship in Christ is never possible when believers have their own faith, believing a multitude of contradictory doctrines.
2. All speak the same things -- Paul wrote to the divided Corinthian church, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). Many erroneously think it is impossible to believe alike and speak the same things. However, for all who accept the same source of faith, and use it to regulate what is preached and taught, there is no difficulty at all. Just “speak as the oracles of God” (I Pet. 4:16).
3. All must have one common practice -- “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample” (Phil. 3:15-17). The rule is the standard by which performance is regulated and that is the divinely inspired word of God. Walking by the same rule is walking in the light.
The ideal fellowship with God and practical fellowship with others is the fellowship where all believe alike, speak alike, and practice alike. There is no such thing as “your faith,” or “my faith,” or “my doctrine,” or “our church teaches.” There is but one standard of faith and practice -- the divine light of God, radiating in great splendor through the Bible. Will you follow it my friend? Will you commit now to never accepting anything other than things you read in clear and plain language from the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of Truth? I sincerely hope so.
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