1 John 1:1-10
Key Verse: 1:3
“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
In history, there has always been unions and leagues among the many peoples of the world. But there was never a “fellowship”. Before the coming of Jesus Christ, no one knew of or used the word “fellowship”. But when Jesus came to this world, the word “fellowship” appeared and became one of the many important elements of Christianity. The Greek word for biblical fellowship is “Koinonia”, a powerful word defining the beauty of Christian fellowship. It has within it the meaning of “relationship”. It makes the Christian fellowship more than a human association of sorts, but a divine covenant between Jesus and the believer and then also between believer and believer.
John used the word “fellowship” four times in this chapter (3,3,6,7). He defined some characteristics of fellowship in a unique way— and we will look at them to see what they convey to us as believers. In this chapter we should also consider what John is saying to the early Christians— he addresses some problems the early church was facing. What were these problems— and how does he help them resolve these problems. Interestingly “fellowship” plays an important role in the solution he offers them.
The problems facing the early church weren’t simple. When Jesus established the gospel which calls believers to live the Christian life, Christian faith was pure and simple in the hearts of the believers— and the believers gave themselves completely to a life of faith and mission— faith in Jesus and his gospel— and the mission to tell about Jesus and the gospel. But by the time 1 John was written, cults were sprouting everywhere— corruption on a wide scale, and all kinds of false teachings already found their way into the Christian community. Cultural views and human traditions got mixed with and corrupted the pure Christian faith— turning it into cultural Christianity. There was also another kind of corruption that came into the Christian community— compromise and no commitment— and that’s a huge problem— people claiming to be Christian and claiming to follow Jesus but with no notion of commitment to Jesus— free loaders— and free lancers— and freedom seekers who claimed to believe but never committed themselves to the life Jesus calls us to live. Nor did they commit themselves to the fellowship of believers which was important in strengthening the church and in building up the body of Christ— uncommitted Christians with wishy-washy faith and a tremendous lust for pleasure.
Another kind of corruption which came into the Christian community was the fase teaching of “Gnosticism”. The false teachings of the “Gnostics” are a bit difficult to understand. But at a very basic level, here is what they believed. They denied that Jesus came in the flesh and claimed that he came only in the spirit. Do you know how dangerous it is to actually believe something like this— that Jesus did not come in the flesh but only in the spirit? And do you know how important it is not to believe that Jesus actually came in the flesh? Jesus did come in the flesh, and he gave his life in the flesh and took upon himself our sins in the flesh. But they claimed that the flesh is corrupt anyway and unimportant and that only the spirit is important. And here’s why this was a dangerous teaching— because it gave them a license to give in to the desires of the flesh— that is, to sin freely because flesh is unimportant and will perish anyway. When they denied Jesus coming in the flesh, they denied the very essence of the Christian faith— that Jesus died in the flesh on the cross for our sins. There are more dangers to this false teaching. But from what we know, it becomes clear how such a false teaching was attractive to weak Christians who are having a hard time fighting the lusts of the flesh. That teaching was infiltrating the fellowship of believers and destroying the pure and simple faith in Christ and what he has done. We see the same thing happening today with those who emphasize the Holy Spirit and ignore Jesus’ teaching. They worship in a frenzy on Sunday, and the rest of the week they do worse things than the none believers do. Those who were snared by such false teachings take comfort in the spirit, as they take sin lightly, and drift away from the truth of God.
John begins this letter by refuting that godless teaching. Read verses 1 and 2. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched— this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” Jesus really came in the flesh. We (the human race) beat him, and flogged him. We put nails in his hands and his feet. We raised him up on a cross and watched him slowly bleed to death. He died before our very eyes and was buried. And then on the third day he rose from the dead, and showed himself to us in body and spirit. He was flesh. He suffered in his flesh because of our sins. Those who claim that Jesus did not come in the flesh are liars— they speak for the devil who hates the truth that Jesus gave his life on the cross to save us from our sins.
But when John said, “I have seen him— I have heard him— I have touched him” he was talking about having witnessed Jesus in the flesh. He was also talking about witnessing something else in Jesus, John saw God in Jesus and witnessed the grace of God for a worthless sinner like himself. Jesus once said to his disciples: [If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”] When Philip said, [But Lord] “show us the Father” Jesus [told him] “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:7-10) In Jesus John saw the love of God— he heard God’s truth from Jesus— and received life by believing in Jesus. John saw and heard and touched the precious Savior of the world who came to restore our relationship with our Father God.
John was not only writing them to undermine that sinister false teaching. He wrote to them to strengthen the Christian fellowship among them. Fellowship is the wisdom of God. When the fellowship stands together in the truth, they are strong in that truth and no false teaching can shake it. Then they can hold and proclaim that truth together and bring it to the world. Read verse 3. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” John tells us the importance of proclaiming Jesus’ appearance in the flesh— in other words, the gospel truth of his incarnation (incarnation means that he became flesh), death and resurrection. He tells us that this faith ensures fellowship with God and with other believers.
What does “fellowship” mean? To fully understand “fellowship” you have to look at the life and works of our Lord Jesus.
Once, Jesus was accused by the Pharisees. They said of him, “He is eating with tax collectors and sinners!” (Mk.2:16) They meant that he was associating with the wrong kind of people. The Pharisees were supposed to have fellowship with God and with God’s flock to bring them closer to God. But they looked down on them and ended up having fellowship only with each other. But when Jesus came he had fellowship with tax collectors and sinners. He did not have fellowship with them because they were worthy— he had fellowship with them because they needed a shepherd to lead them to Father God. When Jesus had fellowship with them, they heard the word of God and accepted it. They repented and turned their hearts to God. Jesus had fellowship with them until God could work in their hearts to bring them to salvation. So what does fellowship mean? It means to extend the grace of God to those who are helpless in coming to God, and to take them into your heart and life until they too can see God and have fellowship with him.
Jesus spent much time with his disciples in order to help them grow up in their calling to be shepherds and Bible teachers for others. They weren’t always willing to learn. Their sins at times were unbearable. They were selfish and mundane men. But Jesus spent three years teaching them the word of God— three years— bearing with their failings and weaknesses. Jesus did so by faith and much prayer. His fellowship with them over the years finally bore fruit. What does fellowship mean? Fellowship means to bear the flock of God until the gospel is formed in their hearts and they can grow up in their purpose in God.
The early church learned fellowship from Jesus. As Jesus shared common life with his disciples, the disciples began to proclaim the gospel and to build fellowship among the believers. Read Acts 4:32-35. “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” Do you think this is a joke, or unreasonable, or farfetched, or unnecessary, or fictitious? If you do, you will have to argue that with God who created this kind of amazing fellowship and wrote it down in a book!
It is impossible for a thing like this to happen in this world. At times even a family cannot share nor bear with each another. Selfishness, individuality, greed, and ungodly ambition makes this impossible. But the early believers took hold of the beauty of fellowship from Jesus and had common life together. They had one mind— they wanted to overcome the corruption of sin in their own hearts. So they had fellowship together. Some “Christians” do not want to fellowship with or they want to fellowship as little as possible with other believers just to keep up appearances. They really don’t understand the importance of fellowship— through which God pours out his grace to help us together overcome the unwholesome desires of the heart. from day to day. These believers also had one heart— simply they wanted to tell about Jesus and his gospel. They had one goal— they wanted to bring everyone around them to faith in Jesus and salvation. They had one common bond— sometimes they were so different and had nothing in common— but they had one thing in common—the love and forgiveness of Jesus for them. They had a common assurance of eternal life and the kingdom of God. They were one in more ways that can possibly imagine— even though they had many differences and sometimes grievances against each other. But their fellowship was precious and powerful— because they shared a common faith— but also a common brotherhood and the love of Jesus for each other. No one was needy— no one was alone. Everyone knew everyone in the church. Everyone’s home was open for everyone else. How could this be? Because each of them had a personal relationship with Jesus— and that made their hearts big enough to have a love fellowship with one another. What does fellowship mean? In a sense fellowship means the common bond we all have in Jesus which brings us together and makes us one in Christ.
Christian fellowship is too wide and deep to define in one lecture or even in one book. But the examples we see draw a picture of “fellowship” which sets a Christian apart from all other people in the world— and in many ways. But surely in our relationship with Jesus. Our bond with Jesus brings about a “community of believers”, a “communion of the believers” and a “commitment of the believers”— commitment to Christ and to life in Christ. So fellowship is one of the strongest of Christian elements in our lives that make us who we are— “Christians”.
But the strongest definition and evidence of fellowship with Christ and with one another is the fact that believers also participate in the suffering of our Lord Jesus for a world that needs the gospel message delivered to it— by the fellowship of believers. Our life is not easy. Our struggles at times are beyond human ability to endure. Sometimes when we love and serve others in Jesus and for Jesus’ sake, we are used up and abused— sometimes we are even betrayed by those we love. But John tells us that at the same time, our joy is complete (5) because the suffering and pain of serving this world is not in vain. I do it — you do it — for the love of Jesus who loved you and me and whom you and I love more than anything else in this life. The fellowship is happy to share in the suffering of Jesus— so that others may come into the fellowship of eternal life and of the kingdom of God. Fellowship is beautiful and precious— more precious than anything else in this world. So you and I should not be overcome by the hardships and difficulties of life— because we have fellowship with Christ and with one another. No one can understand this— only those who have touched and been touched by the grace of our Lord Jesus.
Read verses 5-7. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” These verses also define fellowship. Christian fellowship for us is a lifestyle and a way of life. God gave us truth. He shed his light upon us through his Word. In his word we find truth and salvation for our soul and rest in the kingdom of God. John tells us that to have fellowship with God— we must walk in the word of God— in the truth and light of God. Outside of this, we cannot claim to have fellowship with God.
The fellowship of believers is the fellowship in the word of God. Some have the fellowship of sin as they sin together and enjoy the world together. Some have fellowship of common ideas. Some Christians have fellowship based on truth but a set of ceremonies and traditions. But if their fellowship is not in and through the word of God, it still darkness. But the Christian has real fellowship when our life and actions are rooted and directed by the word of God. What does fellowship mean? Christian fellowship is a common way of life rooted in the word of God. That fellowship is powerful and influential beyond human comprehension.
Today we look at our own fellowship. We see failings and problems that trouble us because we live in a real world. But we also see a fellowship of believers who have committed their lives to the fellowship of Jesus Christ— to share in his suffering— to sacrifice plans and ideas and many things— and to unite in the word of God — with the prayer to bring the gospel to all people.
Read verses 8 and 9. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” John ends this chapter with a truth that is the health of a fellowship with God and with each other. John urges us to take sin seriously. When we take sin seriously, our hearts open to the word of God to find our sins and to repent of them. We see the grace of God and receive his forgiveness that our hearts our cleansed from sin and we are brought closer to God. What is fellowship? fellowship is an attitude of repentance which we must hold to and proclaim as truth in our Bible studies and prayers. And when we maintain repentance among us, then our fellowship with God and with one another is strong and healthy and we walk in truth to fruitfulness. John teaches us what fellowship is. He tells us the importance of fellowship in our Christian pilgrimage. May God bless and strengthen our fellowship with him and with one another until we bear the fruit of life in this world.