Summary: The nature and enemies of Christian felloship and the traits that characterize "fellow Christians."
Christian Fellowship I Jn. 1:3
INTRO.: Once at an area meeting, I invited a choir from a congregation of another Church to sing. They did a very good job, but a fellow preacher who attended took exception to bringing in "outsiders" to sing. He felt moved to write me a very strong letter, soundly chastising me. Of course, I wasn’t convinced I had done any wrong and considered it a difference of opinion.
But, he had the right idea in writing a letter. That’s what the Apostles of Jesus did when they wanted to correct an error. The only difference is they were inspired by the Holy Spirit and knew what they were writing about. He didn’t, at least in my opinion.
Today, we begin a study of a letter written by an Apostle of Jesus. It was written to correct errors that were causing a serious disruption in the early Church. It is the first Epistle of John, tucked away very near the end of the New Testament. It was written about 90 AD from the city of Ephesus and was intended to be read to the churches of the surrounding area.
John’s letter deals with subjects dear to our hearts; righteousness, moral purity, eternal life, love for God and man, prayer, and the deity of Christ.
In John’s day, the Church was troubled by the Gnostic heresy. It said all material things are evil and the only thing good is the spirit. This led to a complete separation between religious activities and everyday life. Differences of opinion as to how this was to be worked out in daily life caused quarrels. Of course, they couldn’t accept the idea that God, who is a Spirit, could live in a body, which is evil. This led to arguments as to how the incarnation was to be interpreted.
All this is to say, the Church was divided and John’s letter is sent to unite the Church once again and restore fellowship. So, he begins by addressing the issue of fellowship. Let’s look at fellowship from God’s point of view as expressed through John the Apostle:
I. What is Christian fellowship at it’s very heart? Not the name of a meal, It is sharing in a common life. We are "fellow" Christians. It’s essentials include:
A. Allegiance to Christ: I John 1:3
1. We remain in fellowship with Him if we "continue in Him." 2:28
2. Being confident and unashamed at His return is the goal of our lives and fellowship.
3. There is no fellowship with the dead. Therefore, if one does not believe in Christ, we cannot have fellowship with Him. Our fellowship, like our life, is in Christ.
B. Joy. John is writing to restore fellowship and thus restore joy to himself and those who read and heed his letter. 1:4
1. Have you ever noticed when you worship with a church where there are interpersonal problems, you can sense it almost immediately. It’s because there is no joy. The fellowship has been disrupted.
2. When we have real joy in our fellowship, we can’t help sharing it.
3. The Ethiopian "went on his way rejoicing" after accepting Christ as Savior. No doubt he took that joy to all he met. He had found fellowship with God and Christ. Acts 8:39
4. "rejoice in the Lord!" (Phil. 3:1) It’s a mark of our fellowship.
C. Forgiveness. I John 1:7. Fellowship is coupled with forgiveness that comes to us only through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.
1. If we are honest, we know we need God’s forgiveness all through our lives. It is not a "one time need" met when we accept Christ as Savior.
2. Sometimes we are loathe to accept back a Christian who has sinned and repented.
3. But, we need to remember, we also stand in need of God’s forgiveness. That doesn’t mean we condone sin or act as if it never happened. It means we forgive the truly penitent.
II. The enemies of our fellowship:
A. Worldliness: I John 1:15-17
1. If we allow ourselves to become enamored of wealth, comfort, and power, we will disrupt the fellowship.
2. I know of one congregation that split over whether to put pews or chairs in the new sanctuary. The issues of comfort and preference were so important the fellowship was destroyed.
3. I met a man who was so proud of his business accomplishment he felt no one in the Church was worthy of being called a peer. He left the fellowship because of pride. Worldliness and pride always disrupt fellowship.
B. Rebellion against God: John does not want his readers to sin. 2:1
1. Making the body evil and the spirit good leads to many sins of self-indulgence. That was a problem in John’s day.