1 John 1:3-4
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.”
Jesus Christ is the author and giver of eternal life. This Jesus Himself came to this world in the flesh and was seen and heard by many before he gave up his life on the cross, and was risen and ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God. This is what John testifies to in the first 2 verses of his letter. In the 3rd verse, which is also part of the introduction to his letter, he makes the same proclamation once more, by testifying a third time what he and the others have seen and heard. Yet this third time he tells them and us why he is so keen on testifying to the eternal truth of what they had seen and heard from Jesus. Why is it so important that we believe and take root in all the truth that Jesus had passed on to the apostles who in turn passed on to us? This is a good question. Another good question is what sort of truths are these that are so vital to our Christian faith that actually identify us as Christians? Well, we have already seen one of them in the introduction, one of the most important truths that cannot be compromised— the fact that Jesus did indeed come in the flesh. In other words that Jesus came as a man, that he did have a human body, that while he was fully divine he was also fully human. We talked about the importance of this last time when we refuted the false teachings of the Gnostics. Now let us go to our questions. Why is it so important that we believe and take root in all the truth that Jesus had passed on to the apostles who in turn passed on to us?
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 why he is so keen on testifying to what he had seen and heard form the Lord Jesus. He introduces us to the concept of “fellowship” and tells us that he proclaims this vital truth because it is vital to our relationship with God and with one another. He tells us that it effects our relationship with God and with one another. Simply speaking, when John says that their fellowship is with the Father and the Son, he is referring to the common eternal life that they share together through their faith in Christ Jesus. Likewise, then, when John says to his church and to us, that he is proclaiming to us the truth of what he has heard and seen of the Lord, that we might have fellowship with the apostles, he is inviting us to believe this truth. And by believing this truth in faith, to also share in the common eternal life that is in Christ Jesus. So, it is vital for us to believe the truth so that we might share in the eternal life that is in Christ Jesus. In other words, it is vital for us to believe so that we might have fellowship with God and with all believers. So, in a sense fellowship is the sharing together the eternal life who is Jesus our Lord. The Greek word for this kind of fellowship is Koinonia, which means sharing together the things of Christ.
John uniquely introduces the word fellowship in his letter. We need to define the word fellowship in order to better understand the meaning fellowship. In our time, we have really lost the meaning of the word fellowship. Mostly, when most people think of fellowship, sadly even Christians as well think of fellowship as “food, fun and games” and fellowship is no more than a word for entertainment— together. But let me tell you about fellowship in the Biblical context in several ways.
One definition we gather from the word of God is as follows: The Pharisees accused Jesus saying: “He is eating with tax collectors and sinners.” (Mk.2:16) They meant that he was associating with the wrong people. The Pharisees were supposed to have fellowship with God and with God’s flock so that they might bring the flock closer to God. But instead they despised them and cut them off and only fellowshipped with one another. They ended up having “a holy huddle” with one another at the temple. But Jesus was different. Jesus had fellowship with tax collectors and sinners. He did not do so because they were worthy or because he liked to revel with them. He did not do so because he enjoyed the pleasures of sin with them. He did so because they were in desperate need of a shepherd to lead them to God their Father. In Jesus they head the voice of God. In Jesus they accepted the call of God. In Jesus they repented their sins and turned their hearts to God. Jesus embraced them until God worked in their hearts for salvation. In that sense, then, fellowship means to extend the grace of God to those who are helpless and to embrace them with the word of God until they can have fellowship with God. If we do not testify to the sinners and tax collectors about the Lord Jesus, who will! We are the ones who have fellowship with God and with his Son, and we ought to testify to those who do not so that they too may believe and come into fellowship with us. How else will they!
Jesus didn’t only reveal the true meaning of fellowship with those who are lost. He exemplified fellowship with his own disciples as well. He spent much time with his twelve disciples. He did so in order to help them attain to their calling. They were called to be the future shepherds and teachers of mankind. They weren’t easy to get along with. But they didn’t start out with that desire burning in their hearts. They were not always willing to learn. They were not always ready to be corrected. They were not always open for rebuke. They were often arrogant and proud and distant. Some were obnoxious. Others were showoffs. Still others were timid, some were weak, some were strong and were self confident. It was difficult to cope with their problems. Mostly it was impossible to bear with their selfishness. But our Lord Jesus spent more than three years teaching them the word of God, bearing their sins and failings and weaknesses in faith and with much prayer. His fellowship with them over the years finally bore the future leaders of the world. How can we define fellowship? Fellowship means to bear with the growing disciples until the gospel is fully formed in their hearts and attains to its purpose in their lives. We are called not only to evangelize unbelievers, but to raise disciples of Jesus. Raising disciples doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience and love. It takes a heart that is willing to commit to a fellowship of bearing with others until they are fully grown in the Lord.
The early church also learned the meaning of fellowship from Jesus. As Jesus shared common life with his disciples, so also the disciples themselves began to proclaim the gospel truth and to build fellowship among the believers. If we reflect on the early church found in Acts 4:32-35, we find a beautiful example of Christian fellowship. It is nearly impossible for such a thing to happen in a world like ours. At times, even a family cannot even share something together nor bear with one another. Selfishness and individuality, greed and ungodly ambition make it impossible for a community to coexist together in the manner that the early church existed. But the early church went beyond all these things and did exist in a beautiful community of common love and sharing in spite of the world around it. The early Christians grasped the beauty of fellowship from Jesus himself and they had common life together. They had one mind to overcome the corruption of sin. They had one heart to proclaim the gospel. They had one goal to bring all people to the knowledge of salvation through faith in Jesus. They had one common bond through the love of Jesus for all of them. They had one assurance of eternal life and of the kingdom of God. Surely they were one fellowship even though they had many differences and grievances against each other. But their fellowship was precious and powerful— as they not only shared the common faith but also the common brotherhood and love of Jesus among each other. No one was needy— no one was alone. And all this because each of them had a personal relationship with Jesus which made their hearts big enough to embrace God and one another in fellowship. How beautiful it is to be in fellowship with God and with each other. To have a common bond in Christ Jesus through faith, sharing that wondrous eternal life together, having the same Lord. We are all a family, sharing all things, we are no alone, we are not needy, we are not without a home because we all share each other’s homes. Yet how sad it is that sometime we do not take full advantage of this blessing God has given us because of pride and self consciousness. What else can we ever want or need! What then does fellowship means? Fellowship means the common bond we all have in Jesus which brings us together and makes us one in Christ Jesus.
It isn’t easy to define fellowship in one lecture. John uniquely uses the word fellowship in his letter in relation to God the Father and Son as well as the believers. It is a relationship that goes far deeper than what today’s simple perception of fellowship may be. As I said earlier it is a fellowship rooted in the eternal life we share through the common faith we have in Christ. But one thing is clear about the word fellowship, it sets the Christian apart from all other people in the world. It sets the Christian apart in many ways. But mostly in your relationship with Jesus. The bond Christians have in Jesus brings about three things: (1) a community of believers, (2) a communion of believers and (3) a commitment of believers, and these three: community; communion; and commitment; are to Christ and to life in Christ. Therefore, we can say that Fellowship is one of the strongest of Christian elements in our lives that makes us who we are— Christians. We cannot ignore this great element in Christian life. John emphasized fellowship with God and with one another. He explained that his testimony, his message of what he saw and heard of Christ, and faith in it, brings us into fellowship with them, and their fellowship is with God and his Son. In other words, as they have eternal life through fellowship with Christ, we too have eternal life through fellowship with Christ. Our Christian fellowship is our identity as Christians. Without fellowship we are not Christians at all. I say this because there are many who want to be in Christ but do not want to have anything to do with fellowship. They want to enjoy the benefits of Christ, but they do not want to join the fellowship of believers. They prefer to be alone, to do things alone, to worship alone, to struggle alone, to study alone. They care nothing for fellowship. They want to do things in their own way, apart from other Christians, apart from the fellowship of believers. But let me emphasize that fellowship is an identity for Christian faith. We are a community, a communion, a commitment of believers for Christ and for one another. Without it, we cannot identify as lone Christian.
Yet another evidence of fellowship with Christ and with one another is to participate in the suffering of our Lord Jesus. We participate in the sufferings of Christ in many ways. Our lives are not easy at all. We are to be different from the world. We are to raise our children to be differently from the world. When we do, we are criticized by the world, and misunderstood by our own children. We are to be gentle and kind to everyone, even to those who are hostile and bear animosity to us. As such we are considered weak and spineless. We are to love our enemies. We are not to be greedy but to be rather generous. We are to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness rather than the things of this world. In that sense, even our own relatives think of us as strange and eccentric. We study the Bible diligently and offer up prayers to God for all things. We do not engage in revelry or enjoy the things of the world. Rather we grieve for the world that engages in such things and prays for it. We are like strangers in this world, losers to outsiders who observe our lives. We seem to be suffering. But our sufferings are joyous to us, because they are not really suffering when we consider that we are sharing them with the Lord for his sake. But our greatest participation in the suffering of Christ as a fellowship, we consider to be in the sharing of his gospel with those who are perishing. For that, we are willing to suffer anything. We are willing to lose money, friends, family, anything if it might bring one person into the family of faith and turn them to Christ. That suffering is welcome and joyous to us. Yes we suffer when we are rejected, disliked, criticized, and alienated. But as long as we are in the fellowship with Christ and with one another, we are joyous because all our suffering is meaningful and precious. There is no suffering as a fellowship that we suffer that Jesus has not gone through. He suffered on our behalf that we might have fellowship with him, and so we suffer for him that others might have fellowship with us.
Read verse 4. “We write this to make our joy complete.” Yes we suffer as a fellowship of believers many times and in many ways. But at the same time, our joy is complete, as the apostle says, because the suffering and pain of brining others into the fellowship of life is glorious and rewarding. It is for the love of Jesus that we fulfill the purpose of “fellowship”, which is not only to share eternal life with one another but also to bring others into eternal life with us. It is for the sake of Jesus who loved us and whom we love. The Christian fellowship is happy to share in the suffering of Jesus so that others may come into the fellowship of eternal life and the kingdom of God. Therefore, let’s believe and experience the truth that the Christian fellowship we have is beautiful and precious— more precious than anything else in this world. For this reason we are not troubled by the hardships of life because we have fellowship with Christ and with each another. No one can confess such a thing— only you who have been touched by the grace of our Lord Jesus and are in the fellowship of the God the Father and His Son. Amen. Read verses 3-4