Summary: This message looks at how we obtain, lose, restore and sustain fellowship in the body of Christ
Preaching Series: The Tie That Binds
The Fellowship of the Church
Text: 1 John 1:1-10
Introduction: In 1773, the young pastor of a poor church in Wainsgate, England, was called to a large and influential church in London. John Fawcett was a powerful preacher and writer, and these skills had brought him this opportunity. As the wagons were being loaded with the Fawcett’s few belongings, their people came for a tearful farewell. During the good-byes, Mary Fawcett cried, “John, I cannot bear to leave!” “Nor can I,” he replied. “We shall remain here with our people.” The wagons were unloaded, and John Fawcett spent the entirety of his fifty-four-year ministry in Wainsgate. Out of that experience, Fawcett wrote the beautiful hymn, “Blest Be the Tie that Binds.” Here are the words to the first verse: Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. AHHH, FELLOWSHIP! WHO DOESN’T ENJOY AND EVEN SAVOR IT WHEN IT COMES ALONG? THE GREEK WORD FOR FELLOWSHIP COMES FROM A ROOT MEANING "COMMON OR SHARED." IT IMPLIES A CLOSE BOND BETWEEN TWO OR MORE PEOPLE. FELLOWSHIP IS THAT SWEET COMMUNION THAT BINDS BELIEVERS TOGETHER IN JESUS CHRIST. It can be experienced as we share a meal or a ministry activity with other Christians. Fellowship means common participation in something either by giving what you have to the other person or receiving what he or she has. Give and take is the essence of fellowship.
Here’s my definition of the word: Fellowship is the blessing of walking closely with Christ and watching as our relationship with Him overflows to others who are doing the same.
Background of passage: In the passage that we’re addressing this morning, fellowship is a key concern for John the Apostle. He wrote this letter to clear up the errors of the gnostic teachers who, through special knowledge not available to everyone, came to believe that all materials things were evil. Thus they either denied the humanity of Christ (Docetic Gnosticism) or distinguished between the man Jesus and the Christ that came on him at His baptism and left Him on the cross (Cerinthian Gnosticism). These leaders had gone out from among the true Christians (See 1 John 2:19), but a sympathetic ear for the teaching still lingered. Given these circumstances, Paul provided instruction about what it meant to fellowship with one another so that the false teachers could be clearly seen for what they were...antichrists (See 1 John 2:18) or those who stood against our Lord.
I. How we obtain fellowship (See 1 John 1:1-4). John makes this clear in the first paragraph. Our ability to fellowship with each other is the direct result of the fellowship that we have with God through Christ. Through firsthand experience that included hearing, seeing and touching "the Word of Life (See John 1:1, 14), they came to believe in Jesus as God in human flesh (as opposed to the gnostics who could never agree with this view--See 1 John 4:2). They acknowledged that He left the Father’s side (See John 17:5) and came to bring life to all who would believe (See 1 John 1:2). This was the source of John’s joy and the basis for his fellowship with the believers to whom he wrote! J. I. Packer says, "Christian fellowship is two-dimensional, and it has to be vertical before it can be horizontal. We must know the reality of fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ before we can know the reality of fellowship with each other in our common relationship to God. The person who is not in fellowship with the Father and the Son is no Christian at all, and so cannot share with Christians the realities of their fellowship." Application: Remember the early church in Acts 2:37-42! First, they accepted the message (i.e. believed the Gospel) that Peter preached. This brought them into fellowship with God. Then they were able to enjoy fellowship with each other. The same is true for all of us.
II. How we lose fellowship (See 1 John 1:5-6). When we walk in the darkness we lose the fellowship that we shared with other believers. Here’s why this is so. The degree to which we are able to fellowship with each other depends on the quality of our relationship with God. As light, He is the source of truth and holiness. When we choose to walk in darkness, or ways that are inconsistent with the character of God, our fellowship with Him is broken (See Isaiah 59:2). John uses this argument to explain why the false teachers could not claim fellowship with God when they lived in denial of the truth and thus walked in darkness. As mutually exclusive environments, you cannot walk with one foot in the light and one in the dark. Illustration: In the 1970s America experienced an energy shortage. One of the ways civic leaders attempted to preserve energy was to turn off the streets lights in our cities. They discovered, however, that as soon as they did so, the crime rate rose dramatically. They had to leave the street lights on in order to hold the dark desires of those who lived there at bay. Application: Anyone who chooses darkness over light is in danger of being overcome by it. Is it possible that you might be walking in the darkness? If you have lost the joy of your salvation, it might be a good place to start to ask God if there is darkness in your life.