THOUGHTS FROM JOHN'S LETTERS

4 CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP

A few years ago an epic movie brought the world face to face with the concept of ‘fellowship’. ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ was the first of three movies based on Tolkien’s book, ‘Lord of the Rings’.

In ‘the Fellowship of the Ring’ we see a group of characters who, despite their different origins, despite their different backgrounds, despite their different personalities, despite their different abilities, are all committed to one belief that transcends all their other beliefs, and are all committed to one purpose that overrides all other goals. Although they are different from each other, they have one common belief, one common purpose, one common commitment. They work together towards that purpose, supporting each other, defending each other, putting aside their own agendas and personal preferences, in order to accomplish their common goal.

In 1John 1:3 John refers to ‘fellowship’:

‘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 and the other apostles had seen and heard Jesus Christ. Having seen and heard him, having believed in him, they were intimately united to him and to God the Father.

Jesus said to those who believed in him:

‘...whoever receives me receives the one who sent me’ (Matthew 10:40).

‘...you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you’ (John 14:20).

‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’ (John 14:23).

On the basis of this common relationship with Jesus Christ and God the Father, Jesus prayed that not only those original apostles, but all who believe in him through the truth they taught, would be united to each other:

‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me’ (John 17:20 – 23).

In the opening verses of his first letter John refers to the truth about Jesus Christ. That truth, seen, heard and believed, had involved John and the other apostles in a unique fellowship with each other, with Jesus Christ, and with God the Father. They proclaimed that truth, so that others, on the basis of that truth, heard and believed, are also incorporated into fellowship with the apostles, with Jesus Christ and with God the Father.

‘Fellowship’ is far more than a feeling of warm friendship with other Christians. It is that, but it is also:

Having a common belief about who Jesus Christ is.
Having a common salvation because of what Jesus Christ has done.
Having a common union with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
Having a common commitment and a common purpose.

It also means sharing a common joy.

Jesus said: ‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete’ (John 15:11).

Jesus prayed: ‘I say these things ... so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them’ (John 17:13).

And so John, reflecting on Jesus Christ as he began to write his first letter, and affirming the fellowship that those who believe in him share, wrote: ‘We write this to make our/your joy complete’ (1John 1:4).

This is the joy of which Paul and Peter also wrote:

‘...we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God ... we rejoice in our sufferings ... we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:2,3,11).

‘Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls’ (1Peter 1:8,9).

This is our fellowship with each other, with Christ the Son of God, and with God the Father: this belief in Jesus the Son of God, this union with the Father and the Son, this salvation, this commitment/purpose, and this joy.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2021