Summary: 1 John 1:1-4. Jesus Christ is the foundation for our relationship with God and our relationships with other people.
1 JOHN | FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD AND MEN
THE FOUNDATION FOR FELLOWSHIP: JESUS, THE WORD OF LIFE
- Relationships are delicate, yet sometimes humorous and laughable things. According to an old forest folktale, two porcupines in Northern Canada huddled together to try to get warm. But their quills kept pricking each other, so they moved apart. Before long they were shivering again, so they cuddled close once more. And like the first time, they continually jabbed each other with their quills. They needed each other in order to be warm, but could not get close enough to each other because of their needles. Author Leslie Flynn describes it this way: “They needed each other, but they kept needling each other.”
- Have you ever felt that way in dealing with people? At times you feel like you need each other and so you begin to try to develop a relationship, only to discover that every time you try to get close you keep poking each other away. The way they do this irritates you; or they way you do that drives them crazy. Most of us can relate to the Peanuts cartoon where Lucy says to Snoopy: “There are times when you really bug me, but I must admit there are also times when I feel like giving you a big hug.” To which Snoopy replies: “That's the way I am...huggable and buggable.”
- Relationships are complicated and multifaceted. Yet they can be immensely rewarding and there is no getting around them. If you're human you must deal with other humans. This is true on an even greater level for those of us who are believers in Christ. If we are Christians we must deal with other Christians. Being a part of the body of Christ is not an option for us; no matter how difficult it may be sometimes.
- You may have heard this clever little line before: “To dwell above with the saints we love, that will be glory; but to live below with the saints we know, well that's a different story.” There is truth to that funny little saying. But however true that is, it is equally true that we cannot simply abandon relationships because of their difficulty. Why is that? What is so important about relationships? Why are relationships a part of life's DNA, so to speak? Because we were created by a relational God.
- The book of 1 John, among other things, is all about relationships. It is about a proper relationship with God and the corresponding relationships with other people, especially other believers. John writes to his readers during a time of confusion over the true nature of Jesus, not unlike our own time. The church had existed for just over half a century and false doctrines had begun to creep in, even as they still do today. The Apostle writes to correct some of those mistakes, to instruct his fellow believers in sound doctrine, and to teach them how that sound doctrine should play out in their lives.
- One of the key words in this letter is κοινωνία and its related forms. This word is translated as fellowship. It is used heavily in the first part of the letter, which we have divided into chapter 1. To have fellowship with someone means to have association and participation with them in something. It means that there is a relationship there. And though the word is not used in the rest of the letter, it is clear that the concept is there. From start to finish John is writing about right fellowship with God and right fellowship with man.
- So let's begin our look at this letter with vv.1-4, where John lays down the foundation for fellowship – Jesus Christ, the word of life:
[READ 1 JOHN 1:1-4]
- John, of course, was an eyewitness to the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth. He describes his experiences in very vivid terms: the things which he heard, the things he saw with his own eyes, the things he touched with his own hands. Things that all had to do with the word of life, who was with the Father and then was made manifest (or revealed) to us – the word of life being Jesus. He is reassuring his readers of the reality of Jesus and his gospel. Then he makes the connection for them that the reality of Jesus allows us to enjoy fellowship with God the Father and therefore fellowship with his people. And the last point he makes is that this fellowship should produce joy.
- Now when he talks about the joy that comes from fellowship with God and with men and women, he uses a very interesting phrase: that our joy may be complete. He is writing this letter so that his joy and the joy of his readers would be complete. Why say “that our joy may be complete”? What would make joy incomplete? Well, within the context of the letter and of the first century culture, incomplete joy would come from a misunderstanding of the true nature of Jesus Christ. John's joy was complete when his readers understood clearly who Christ is. His readers' joy was complete when, by clearly knowing Christ, they experienced fellowship with God the Father and consequently John and the rest of Christ's church.