Portraits in Fellowship, Part 2

February 17, 2016 at 5:53 PM

1john2_15Throughout the entire epistle of 1 John, John emphasizes the need for fellowship with God. Yet, too often, many of the verses from John’s first epistle are used in an attempt to prove that Christians can lose salvation. John talks about being “in” and “out” of relationship with God and God being either “in” or “out” of us. The implication to these folks is that John is speaking of salvation and they say John testifies to the fact that salvation can be lost. They believe this is what John’s first epistle is largely about.

If you were to read 1 John in its entirety at one sitting, you might begin to question whether or not John is speaking of a potential loss of salvation. The reason is due to the fact that John often points to our relationship with God, which he classifies as fellowship. He also uses the term “abide” in connection with our relationship with God.

For instance, in 1 John 1:6, we read the following statement.

If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth (NET).

Let’s look at this same verse from a number of translations, shall we?

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth, (KJV).

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth, (ESV).

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth, (NIV).

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth, (NASB).

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth, (RSV).

We could keep going, but I think you get the picture. In each of the examples above, regardless of the translation used, John uses the word “fellowship” with reference to our relationship with God. The word “fellowship” implies something beyond salvation (though it obviously is part of the picture). Fellowship is a two-way street, unlike salvation, which is a gift of God that is received by a person and nothing is done to earn it or maintain it. But fellowship is different.

In fact, John emphasizes fellowship throughout this epistle of 1 John, but if he actually meant salvation, wouldn’t he have used that word or something similar?

Instead, John uses the word that is translated fellowship and it makes sense then that the points he makes throughout 1 John support his claim that we can have (and should seek), fellowship with God. John becomes very practical as well in how he defines gaining and maintaining fellowship with God.

The Greek word translated “fellowship” (koinonia) here means sharing things in common by two or more parties. It does not mean sharing salvation, which is individually experienced. [1]

John tells us point-blank that if we are to enter into and have fellowship with God, we must NOT do the following:

  1. Walk in darkness (i.e., continue to live a lifestyle of sin) (1 John 1:6).
  2. Say and believe that sin has no real significance in our lives (1 John 1:8; cf. Romans 7:14-25).
  3. Claim we have not sinned (1 John 1:10; cf. Romans 3:23).

The above items are based on John’s statements made in 1 John 1:5-10. It should make sense that a person who actually has salvation should not continue deliberately living a life that is what God calls “darkness,” meaning sinning as a lifestyle. Verse 6 quoted above explains that fellowship and walking in darkness are mutually exclusive and should be treated as such. It is either one or the other, but not both. We cannot walk (as in ongoing) darkness (sin) and think that we actually have fellowship with God. Unfortunately, there is a growing multitude of people within Christendom who actually do believe this and many Christians who are even questioning the very definition of sin itself.

If we jump over to 1 John 2, there, John provides even more practical insight into what it means to be in fellowship with God. Let’s look at 1 John 2:15-17.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever (RSV).

In the above section, John tells us a number of extremely important things that we need to unpack, understand, and embrace. Doing so will help us walk in fellowship with God.

First, John says we should not love the world or the things in the world. Anyone who falls prey to the allure of the world is not loving God. Simply put, it’s because the world and its system are opposed to God and His children. If we love the world, we will naturally be inclined to chase after the things of this world and that will mean moving away from God, just as the Prodigal Son moved away from his father (Luke 15). The son couldn’t remain home at live riotously with his friends. He did that away from his father’s presence. It is the same with us. We are either moving toward God in fellowship or away from Him in rejection.

We live in a world with a system that has been fully corrupted and crafted by Satan. He has designed this system such that its main goal is to pull people away from God by snaring them with all sorts of baubles and riches, which will ultimately perish. Satan has created this world system, which will one day become a globally united system of governance headed up by his spiritual son (Antichrist). He does this in order to achieve greatness and fulfill his own promises found in Isaiah 14. He seeks to be like the Most High (Isaiah 14:14) and God is allowing him to try to achieve that end. That is Satan’s goal and he has designed a world system that he hopes will get him there. He needs absolute control of this planet and God will allow it for a short period of time in the future. That is called Daniel’s 70th week of Daniel 9 (see also Revelation 6 – 18).

It’s one thing to gain decent employment to provide for yourself or your family. It’s another to climb the corporate ladder of success by stepping on as many people as possible because of potential riches. If you live your life by chasing after the things you see regardless of their real need in your life, you are being guided by a form of lust connected to the world’s system.

As John states in verse 17, this world is passing away according to God’s timetable. In fact, God will replace this earth and heavens with new ones (Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:1).

John tells us that even though this world is passing away completely, the person who does God’s will “abides” forever. The use of this word “abides” is reminiscent of the gospel of John, chapter 15, where Jesus talks about “abiding” in Him because He is the Vine. It is only as we remain “in” Him we are in fellowship. Certainly, without salvation, we cannot enjoy fellowship with God. However, as I’ve stated before, salvation does not guarantee fellowship. It simply opens the door to it and each Christian must daily enter into that area of fellowship with God.

John was not saying we attain eternal life by our obedience. However, we also abide (i.e., enjoy an intimate relationship with God and abundantly experience God’s eternal life) now, not just after death, when we obey God. [2]

If we have salvation, this should create within us the desire to fellowship with God. It will require sometimes hard decisions on our part and it may be very difficult at times to flee, deny, and resist the lusts of this world. If we want to enjoy fellowship with God, there is no other way.

 

[1] Dr. Thomas L. Constable’s Notes on 1 John (2015 edition), p. 14

[2] Ibid, p. 36

 

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

Transformed to Have Fellowship It’s Political Season in Case You Aren’t Aware


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