“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:3-7).
Fellowship is Rooted in Truth
- “We proclaim to you… so that you too may have fellowship” (1:3).
- “These things we write” (1:4).
- “This is the message we have heard” (1:5).
- “We lie and do not practice the truth” (1:6).
Therefore, fellowship with God and thus with other faithful Christian’s is dependent upon obeying the truth. This means that God’s truth can be understood and practiced by each and every Christian. God has graciously created a very clear message in which we can see His expectations of us (Micah 6:8; Deuteronomy 30:11; Matthew 7:21; John 17:20-21; 1 Corinthians 1:10). His message is so clear that deviations can be seen by those who believe and know the truth. Passages such as Galatians 1:6-9 and 2 John 9-10 would be unworkable and meaningless if we cannot clearly see deviations from the Gospel message.
Fellowship is All About God
“But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship” (1 John 1:7). “Fellowship with each other is inseparably linked to fellowship with God. When we walk with God in the light we walk with (have fellowship with) all others who walk with Him in the light. Defining the parameters and boundaries of fellowship is the prerogative of the Creator and Sustainer of that fellowship. Our job is simply to recognize what God has said concerning entering His fellowship” (The Question of Fellowship, David Diestelkamp, Pursuing the Pattern, General Editor Jim Deason, p. 217). So then God decrees that various attitudes and practices will sever our fellowship with Him (Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:6), or deviations from the truth (2 John 9), then it is not our place to argue with those parameters.
Fellowship is all about Submission
When we became a Christian, we were called into fellowship with Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:9), who is then called “our Lord”. Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Jesus is the head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). Thus, our fellowship is with a Master, the Sovereign of the Universe. “So we don’t start by just trying to have fellowship with another; we start with having fellowship with God by submitting to His authority, and submission involves agreeing with God and not trying to make Him agree with us… This means that fellowship is not an end in itself; it is a product, an effect. So we begin as fellow-learners, fellow-believers, fellow-saints, and fellow-servants of the one true and living God through Jesus Christ. It is on the basis of this fellowship that the possibility of one another fellowship can be established and maintained. Any other foundation is not only false, but also destined to fail” (Diestlekamp, p.219). So any view of fellowship that views the rules and doctrines in the Bible as getting in the way of fellowship, is a completely false view.
Fellowship is only possible with Grace
- “And the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
- “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).
Consider the above passage. Remove the exception clause (“but through Me”) and what do you have? You have a very sad verse, “No one comes to the Father”. That is the reality without the blood of Jesus. Without Jesus no human being has any access to God. Everyone is lost in their own sins (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 59:1-2; Ephesians 2:1-3). Everyone is a million miles away from a relationship with God. No, there are not many ways to God. So Christianity or the Gospel is not a divisive wedge that prevents unity with all the religions of the world. Rather, it is the only path to fellowship with God. So everything connected with being in fellowship with Jesus is essential. Including faith in Him, repentance, confession of Him, baptism into Him, and walking faithfully in His teachings (2 John 9).
Speaking as the Bible Speaks: 1 Peter 4:11
“Our culture thrives on re-inventing and re-defining things. We have to fight against attempts to re-define marriage, divorce, faith, baptism, gender roles, etc. Each time we respond, ‘from the beginning it was not so’ (Matthew 19:8) and ‘have you not read’ (Matthew 19:4). We must let God tell us what He wants. We must let God define His terms. So, we also must let God define the word fellowship” (Diestelkamp, p. 221).
Fellowship is a Personal Question
- “If we say that we have fellowship with Him” (1:6).
- “If we walk in the Light”: (1:7).
- “If we say” (1:8).
- “If we confess our sins” (1:9).
- “If we say that we have not sinned” (1:10).
“Although there is a group aspect of fellowship (Matthew 18:17; Romans 16:17), it begins and ends on a personal level. It is the individual who answers the gospel call to fellowship with God in Christ. It is the individual who chooses to break fellowship with God by walking in darkness. It is the individual who like Saul of Tarsus in Jerusalem, who will ‘join the disciples’ that make up a church in a certain location. And eternal judgment will be personal, even in a church like Sardis where only a few ‘have not defiled their garments’ (Revelation 3:4)” (Diestelkamp, p. 223).
Fellowship is not Partial
Every now and then men attempt to make a list of necessary or essential beliefs for salvation. Yet all such attempts make the same mistake. Such assumes that only a small part of Scripture is necessary or essential. Rather, Scripture says that it is all inspired of God and profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is all truth (John 17:17). “The true disciple wants all of it and begs forgiveness for where he is deficient” (1 John 1:9) (Diestlekamp).
Consider carefully the impact of 1 John 1:9 and 2:1-2. Such verses admit that there are times that we will fall short and need to ask for forgiveness. Thus, fellowship is not, “I am right with God because I am keeping those parts of the Bible that are easy for me to keep”. Fellowship includes, “How am I doing with those parts of the Bible that I find particularly challenging?” Am I seeking to submit? Do I beg forgiveness when I fall short, or do I shrug my shoulders and say, “No one is perfect”?
There are lines of Fellowship
“It is unpopular today to talk of lines of fellowship, but the day we became Christians a line of fellowship was drawn. We are in Christ; some are not. We are forgiven; some are not. Every expression of a Christian’s relationship and blessing in Christ at the very least implies a line of differentiation between Christians and non-Christians” (Diestelkamp, p. 227).
The Action Line of Fellowship
Our fellowship with God demands certain actions from us:
- We are expose evil (Ephesians 5:11).
- We cannot encourage, shield, comfort or help those who are promoting error (2 John 10-11).
- We cannot compromise with sin (Galatians 2:5).
- We cannot continue associating with a brother or sister who refuses to repent (1 Corinthians 5:11).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017