What Does John Mean by Knowing God in 1 John, Part 3

January 14, 2016 at 9:29 AM 1 comment

1johnEven though we kind of jumped into the middle of 1 John, I think it’s best to start over, don’t you? We’re missing things from the first section of 1 John that are relevant to what John says later in this short epistle.

Like the gospel account also written by John, this epistle we call 1 John emphasizes the deity of Jesus. It also emphasizes the active nature of our believing in God. It is belief that has traction and is evidenced by the life that the true Christian (as opposed to the professing Christian) lives out. The actual date of the writing of 1 John is very difficult to pin down. Most conservative scholars believe that the book was written somewhere between AD 65 and AD 95.

There is a great message in 1 John and one that emphasizes fellowship with God in Christ.

If I were to boil down the message of this epistle into one sentence, it would be this: “Fellowship with God is the essence of eternal life.” Paul wrote in Philippians 3:7-14 that his relationship with God was the most important thing in his life—by far. John wrote this epistle to enable believers to appreciate their “fellowship with God,” and he wrote to deepen that fellowship. [1]

John repeatedly points out that salvation grants to us the ability to actually fellowship with God in Christ. Without salvation, we have no chance of fellowship. With salvation, the privileged opportunity is there but all too often, ignored by too many Christians. The whole of 1 John is John encouraging believers to appreciate, explore, and enter into a vibrant fellowship with God Almighty to sustain us, guide us, empower us, and change us. As we submit ourselves to fellowship with Him, He is glorified because of the things He can do in and through us.

John really points out that salvation – eternal life – is found in Jesus. Eternal life is Jesus and those who have Jesus have eternal life (cf. Romans 6:23; John 3:36; 5:24; 6:47; 11:25). John gets very specific in John 17:3 when he says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent,” (emphasis added; ESV). Those who have Jesus have eternal life because He is Eternal Life. Let that sink in for a moment or two.

John is really trying to impart knowledge to his readers regarding the idea of fellowship with God. Again, this can only take place with people who have authentic salvation. No unbeliever can have fellowship with God as they must first receive salvation. However, there are multitudes of Christians who do not have fellowship with God even though they have salvation. The reasons for this include:

  • lack of knowledge
  • rebellious attitude
  • sin
  • lack of concern

Most Christians have little to no fellowship with God because they simply fail to understand that we can have fellowship! They’ve either never been taught that concept, have never learned it in their own study of God’s Word, or both. They simply are not aware that fellowship is something they should strive to have and maintain so they are missing out.

Christians can also suffer from a loss of fellowship because of a rebellious attitude they harbor (think the Prodigal Son), which keeps them from truly understanding who God is and what He expects from us. Of course, sin will shut the door to fellowship with God too. Beyond this, many Christians become content to live their lives as they do, neither hot nor cold, but simply content. God is not happy about that though and He will often allow persecution or pressure into their lives in the hopes of trying to move these Christians toward Him for fellowship. For many of these Christians though, they tend to rebel at persecution or pressure and will even ask “why God?” instead of seeing that God is using something outside of themselves to push them onto Him.

God wants to give us salvation. That is certain. But He also wants us to enjoy fellowship with Him because without it, we become lukewarm, milquetoast Christians who stand for nothing. If we stop to consider that we are here behind enemy lines, doing the will of the Father, that alone should help us realize the true nature of our existence. Satan is not going to allow us to walk through this life unmolested. He will do whatever he can to thwart us and keep God from working in and through us. The best way he seeks to accomplish this is by keeping us from entering into fellowship with God. Without fellowship, we have salvation, yes, but little else.

We can be victorious in Christ, literally going from strength to strength (Psalm 84:7), rising up on wings of eagles (Isaiah 40:31), flying spiritually higher than all of the problems we face. Yet, that will only happen as we fellowship with God. This is what John is attempting to point out to his readers and provides practical applications for it as well.

John’s purpose in writing was to motivate his readers to cultivate greater intimacy with God. The greater the intimacy, the greater our “fellowship,” the better we “know” God experientially, and the closer we “abide” in Him (cf. John 14:21-24). The greater our intimacy with God, the more we will experience the life that is eternal. All Christians possess eternal life, but not all experience that life as God intended us to enjoy it (John 10:10). Similarly, all living human beings have life, but not all live an abundant life. [2]

In short, 1 John is doctrinally deep and strong, practically speaking. He doesn’t just deal with what we might call ethereals, but presents important spiritual imagery while showing us how that should look in a person’s life. He doesn’t just tell us to “fellowship” with God, but shows us how that is done and what the results of fellowship with God look like in the life of the Christian.

I’m not sure how fast we will go through this epistle, but we’re in no rush. We’ll take our time because there is a great deal to stop and consider and meditate on. Brothers and sisters, the time is long past to live lives that fail to bring Him glory. Please know that I am talking to myself as well. I can now see that without fellowship with God in Christ, we are powerless. We will live defeated lives that do not bring Him glory.

I’m not saying that if we get serious about fellowship with God, America will turn around and God will once again make her a great nation. That’s not the point at all to 1 John and frankly, I believe we have passed the tipping point there long ago. God wants us to fellowship with Him because He wants to use us in the Great Commission. A time is coming when things will be exceedingly dark and even though I believe the Rapture will occur prior to the Tribulation, I have absolutely no idea when the Rapture will occur or specifically how dark and evil things will get before that event. We cannot count on it whisking us away to the safety of heaven though it will happen before things get really ugly and dark. It’s coming, but we have no idea when or how bad things will get in this world before it does.

What is important is how much and how deep our fellowship with God is and whether or not we continually pursue that fellowship. If we do not pursue it, then we can count on living lives of defeat, frustration, and spiritual emptiness. If we do pursue it, then we can look forward to the opposite in spite of the roadblocks, temptations, and snares the enemy of our souls throws up at us.

As we move through 1 John, we will learn what John means by fellowship with God and how to enter into it. He is very practical and longs for us to fellowship with God in order that we might be found in Him so that His strength flows in and through us. If we are not in fellowship with Him, it cannot do that.

Thanks for joining me on this journey through 1 John.


[1] Dr. Thomas L. Constable’s Notes on 1 John (2015 edition), p. 4
[2] Ibid, p. 5

Entry filed under: christianity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: , , , .

Can Authentic Christians Deny Jesus? Part 5 What Does John Mean by Knowing God in 1 John, Part 4

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