Reading: 1 John 1:1-2:1.
John uses the phrase 'This is'
ten times in his brief letter, and the first of his
identification of things is this one in verse five: "This is
the message which we have heard from him". And if you look
to see what the message is, you will see that it focuses upon one
word, a word which is repeatedly used in the first part of the
letter. It is the word 'fellowship'. It occurs twice in verse
three, again in verse six, and again in verse seven; and the
recurrence of this word indicates that here is something about
which the Apostle is evidently greatly concerned in relation to
The main issue with which John
was concerned, in his Gospel, in his Letters, and in his great
Apocalypse - the Book of the Revelation, the supreme, inclusive
issue was this matter of life. I suggest that you read even the
Book of the Revelation with that word in mind, and you will be
tremendously impressed. This is the issue all the way through. It
is the matter of livingness. Early in that book you have the
"living creatures" (Rev. 4:6) and "the Spirit of
life" (Rev. 11:11). The book closes with "the river of
water of life" (Rev. 22:1), "the tree of life"
(Rev. 22:2), and so on.
It is quite evident that the
question, or the issue, with which John was so greatly concerned
for believers, was not that they should have life - that
was the object of his Gospel, but that they should know, that
is, live continually in the consciousness of possessing this
life. So he says: "That ye may know that ye have
eternal life" (1 John 5:13).
Now you may see how he links
these two things together at the outset. He will link other
things with the matter of life as he goes on with his letter, but
right at the outset, in this first section, he links the matter
of fellowship with life. These two things are brought together,
and it is as though he were saying - indeed, he is saying in
other words: 'Life is a matter of fellowship and fellowship is a
matter of life.'
And what is the nature of this
fellowship? Well, it is quite evidently a family fellowship,
because you notice it is: "Our fellowship is with the Father,
and with his Son". And then John says: "My
little children". So it is quite a family
thing: Father, Son and little children; Father, Son and the rest
of the family. It is a family fellowship.
And what again does that mean?
It is, of course, a nice word, a pleasant idea, but a family is
built upon one life; just constituted by one life, isn't it? The
great trust of life has been fulfilled, for life is a trust. It
is something committed for transmission, for passing on, for
reproduction. That great trust of life has been fulfilled, and
the family is the result of the letting go, the giving up of
life, the distribution of life. So that every member of a true
family is a part of one life, all sharing a single life. In every
one there is the same life. It will manifest itself in different
ways, and, of course, that is the mystery and wonder of life. We
cannot stay with that, interesting and instructive as it is, but
in a family you have so great a variety, all from the one source,
from the one life - variety of disposition, temperament, and so
on, all in one family. But it is one life expressing itself in
The Lord's family is like that.
Sometimes we are rather inclined to want all the members of the
family to be exactly alike, to think the same thing and do the
same thing. Really we want them uniform, but the Lord does not do
it like that, either in the natural creation or in the family.
That does not alter the fact that it is His own one life in all
expressing itself in a multitude of different ways, but all
coming from the one source. It is a family life. We all,
therefore, share the life of the Father through the Son, and we
are the little children - and God forbid that we should ever be
more than little children in the family, that is, in spirit!
There is a growing up, there is such a thing as maturity, but it
is a good thing that however old we are in this Christian life
and experience, however much we have learnt, we are still there
where we know that we still have everything to learn, that we are
only at the beginning of things. That is a good mark. It is a
very bad mark when anyone in the family thinks he knows it all!
That upsets the family, doesn't it? It just ruins everything if
any think they know - they have no need to learn anything else,
they have got it all, they know it all. Oh! that spiritual pride
has been the cause of many divisions. However, that is by the
Here we are with this
fellowship, and we want to compress into a short space a little
on two matters in this very connection.
First of all, this fellowship
just dates right back to God's eternal, primary desire to share
His life, and by thus sharing it to have fellowship between His
creation and Himself; just clear, pure, open, unsullied
fellowship between Himself and man, between man and Himself. Is
not that the first picture of the relationship of man with God?
In the garden they walked in the cool of the evening, in blessed
fellowship; God and the man whom He had made. That fellowship was
something very precious to the Lord. We cannot understand why
God, all self-sufficient, so full and so wonderful and so mighty,
and, in a sense, so absolutely independent and sovereign, should
find this in His heart, to have a creation with which He could
have this kind of fellowship, as Father with a family. But there
it is. That is what the Bible reveals as God's desire at the
beginning. And this fellowship of which John is speaking just
dates right back to that. You see, "our fellowship is with
the Father" - that takes up the eternal thought and desire
of God and brings it here right into expression amongst the
Lord's children now.
the Foundation of All
Now then, the very first thing
in the Christian life is this matter of fellowship, union with
God. The strain has gone, the breach has gone, the distance has
gone, the isolation has gone, and everything that kept God and us
apart has gone when we come into what we call 'new birth'. When
we are begotten of God and born of the Spirit, then it is union
with God. That is the foundation of everything. Let it be clearly
understood that that is not only just an act which is carried out
and finished, but it is the very basis and foundation upon which
God is going to do everything. All God's hopes are bound up with
that. All God's intentions are bound up with that. All God's
purposes are bound up with that. All God's interests for time and
for eternity are based upon this fellowship-union between Himself
and His children, and His children and Himself. That is why this
is such a battle, because God has vested in this very thing everything
for which He hopes, and everything that He has
purposed and planned He has just vested in this. It is God's
great investment. And you know, when you come to the end of the
Old Testament you find that the prophets are in a state of Divine
distress because God has lost His family. The great word that
governs those prophetic utterances is that God has been robbed of
something. God has been robbed; something upon which He placed so
much importance, indeed, upon which everything hung, has been
stolen from God. God has been robbed of it. This family
relationship between Himself and His people, has been stolen from
Him. Therefore God in a sense is in desolation until that is
recovered, and His people are also in desolation until that
relationship is recovered and restored and re-established.
This is what John, by the
Spirit, is talking about, saying that God has done something in
us in bringing about a union. But it does not end there. All
God's investment is in that union. He has invested all His hopes,
all His purposes, all His expectations, all His interests in this
union, this fellowship-union with Himself. All that we are ever
going to come into, dear friends, of those great purposes and
designs of God is going to be on this basis of our fellowship
with God, our maintained fellowship with God. God works on that
basis. Get out of fellowship with God and everything comes to a
standstill. We know that quite well. If anything cuts across our
fellowship with God, well, all has gone. It is as though
everything is lost, and we know quite well that there is no going
on, no getting on, no hope whatever until we get back and have
that relationship put right and the way clear with the Lord. How
much there is, then, bound up with this relationship!
Now, how is it to be? John
tells us: "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another". With Him, of course;
"our fellowship is with the Father, and with his
Son..." "if we walk in the light... we have fellowship".
Fellowship rests, then, upon
walking in the light, "as he is in the light". John
says: "This is the message... that God is light, and in him
is no darkness at all... If we walk in the light, as he is in the
light, we have fellowship".
What does that mean? It means
far more than I can put into few words, but let us look at the
Lord Jesus because this is what John is saying: 'This is what we
have heard from Him; this is what we have seen in Him;
this is what we have handled of Him - the Son.' And he
is saying. 'This is what the Son did.' He walked in the light
with the Father. How did He do it? What did that mean to Him?
Well, in the case of the Lord Jesus He always raised one question
about everything in His life - His movements, His goings or
comings or stayings, His not moving, His doing this or not
doing that; everything with Him was governed by a question - 'Is
this in the Father's interests? Or is it in My own interest? Or
am I governed by some other influence - ideas, policy, for
instance? Is it politic to do this? Or how does it affect the
Father? Is it in My interest or is it in the Father's interest?'
He subjected everything, even His physical, quite legitimate
physical requirements. He hungered, as we hunger in body - and it
is not a sinful thing, is it, to take food when the body needs
it? But there were times when Jesus said, 'That is secondary.
There are interests of My Father to be served, so even those
legitimate things in which there is nothing sinful or wrong must
just stand aside while I attend to My Father's business.'
That is what He said at
Sychar's Well, to the disciples. They came and said: "Rabbi,
eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know
not... My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to
accomplish his work." (John 4:31,32,34). Well, He hungered.
He sent them to buy food because He was hungry and they were
hungry. When they brought it back - 'That can wait. There are
other interests. My Father's interests come first, before even My
legitimate needs can be met.'
In the wilderness, with the
Devil: "Command that these stones become bread"
(Matthew 4:3). His question was: 'Where does this come from? From
the Father or from another source? Is the Father's interest going
to be served supremely by My doing that?' He decided 'No'. For
the time being, after forty days of fasting, He hungered.
Nevertheless - wait - 'I am in a spiritual battle, and it is the
spiritual interests that have to be established before I can
allow these perfectly legitimate things to have their place.'
You see what I mean? His life
was like that. He was walking in the light with the Father.
'Father, is, this Your pleasure? Is it of You that I go here,
that I do that? If I have not the witness that it is of You, then
it must wait. It must be set aside.' There may be nothing wrong
in a thing in itself, but nevertheless there is something higher
than a life of 'Oh, there is no harm in it'. Many Christians are
governed by that! 'Oh, you know, there is no harm in it. Other
people do it. There is no sin about that - it is quite a natural
thing.' But there is a higher standard than 'no harm in it'! That
is negative! The positive life of the Lord Jesus is: 'What about
the Father? What does He think about this? What is His mind on
in the Light
The Lord Jesus would not allow
a shadow to come in between Him and His Father, not one bit of
darkness to break in upon that relationship. He knew that the
only way and the only ground for the fulfilment of the purpose
for which He had come was by walking in the light with His
So John says here that we ought
to walk as He walked. Note it in chapter two: "He that saith
he abideth in him ought himself also to walk even as he
walked" (1 John 2:6). "If we walk in the light, as he
is in the light, we have fellowship one with another".
Fellowship demands that you and I shall be walking with God. If
one is not walking with God, not walking in the light, fellowship
is interrupted. If some are walking in the light and others are
not walking in the light, fellowship is arrested, and our
fellowship, which, as I have said, means so much to the Lord and
to us, requires that we are all keeping an open Heaven with God,
that we are all walking in a transparent fellowship with Him,
that we are all so committed to Him that any other interests, no
matter what they are, come second to this: 'What does the Lord
want in this situation? How does the Lord look at this? That is
the thing that governs and I am going to walk according to that,
God helping me, as the Spirit bears witness in me to the Will of
God, I will walk in the light.'
If we all do this, oh, how
wonderful the fellowship will be, and how the Lord will be able
to take us on in all the fulness and purpose of His desire, and
fulfil Himself in us and through us!
Now, there is very much more,
but that will be enough for us to get on with for the moment.
First published in "A Witness and A
Testimony" magazine, May-June 1963, Vol 41-3