Meditations on 1 John: Believing to Belong

By Colton Corter

[1] That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—[2] the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—[3] that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. [4] And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.  (1 John 1:1-4 ESV)

Fellowship. Fellowship is a word that is thrown around a lot but is rarely defined. Our churches have men’s fellowships, women’s fellowships, we get together to fellowship and we even have fellowship in the fellowship hall! But biblically, what does it mean to have fellowship with one another?

John is writing these things so that these people will have fellowship with them (v.3). He longs to share with them in the gospel. Christian lives, Christian churches are characterized by a “compelling community.” The world will know us by our love for every man to be sure, but it is our love for one another that Jesus says will uniquely testify to the gospel before men (John 13:35). Nonbelievers can have friendships by God’s common grace. But they cannot have biblical fellowship!

Fellowship is rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of the “these things” that John is writing refers back to verses 1-2. John says that the words the apostles are writing, the authoritative Word of God through the mouths of men, are not a list of timeless principles for a better life. What they proclaim is “from the beginning,” that which they “heard,” and that which they “looked upon and touched” with their own hands! In other words, these things actually happened. It doesn’t matter if we think they did or not!

Jesus promised that his disciples would be given the Holy Spirit who would take what was God the Father’s and teach them, leading them in all truth (John 16:13). This apostolic witness if found in the written Word of God: the Bible. It is this Word that Peter says is “more sure” than even their eyewitness experience itself! (2 Peter 1:19) The Bible is the only inspired, inerrant, sufficient and authoritative Word of God. This is a firm foundation “concerning the word of life.” The Bible has its focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ. The apostles’ testimony is our only means to know God as He has revealed Himself.

This is the source of all truly Christian fellowship. John longs for them to have fellowship he and the others. And he says that the fellowship that he and the others have together is with God the Father and with His Son Jesus. Fellowship, at least in its biblical sense, is focused on God. It talks about God. It is had by those saved by God and satisfied with God. Christian fellowship shows the sufficiency of Christ and testifies to the power of the cross to bring together those who have nothing else in common save the righteousness of Christ.

It is common to say that someone has to belong before they can believe. It is thought that fellowship comes before doctrine. Deeds lead to creeds. But John would say that we have it backwards! Fellowship is only had with those who believe in the same Christ. Who defines this Christ? He Himself does! That which was from the beginning and has been made manifest to us in the Word is Himself our peace (Ephesians 2:14). The only ground of Christian love is that we have come to know God as He is. God has showed us His glory, turning us from our sins and compelling us towards His Son. Fellowship is had by those for whom God has done this. This type of fellow testifies to the world about God. When people are showed that they do not belong, they wonder just what these people believe so that they would belong together. Christian fellowship, fueled by and sustained by sweet affections and conversations about Christ, adorns the gospel and is attractive to a looking world.

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