1 John series: (post #2)
The Bible is clear that no brand of good works can produce salvation. Salvation is a gift by which God bestows His grace (His unmerited favor) upon the individual who has believed in Jesus as Savior. However, in the authentic salvation experience, God the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence inside the believer’s body and creates the “born again” experience inside the person. Inevitably, then, the indwelling Holy Spirit causes certain default behavior patterns to emerge in the Christian’s daily life. In the epistle of 1 John, we find ten of these patterns, and the first one is what I’ll call “Christian fellowship.”
John speaks of this Christian fellowship in two places. First, there is 1 John 1:3, where he says concerning himself and the other apostles:
that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. (N.K.J.V.)
Second, there is 1 John 1:7, where he says:
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (N.K.J.V.)
You’ll notice that in the first reference John speaks of the fellowship the Christian has with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus), and in both references he speaks of the fellowship the Christian has with other Christians. Basically, in the two verses, John is saying to his readers: “I and my fellow apostles have a fellowship with God the Father and God the Son, and this fellowship provides the basis upon which we have fellowship with one another. We now walk in the light, and the blood of Jesus has cleansed us from our sins, and you too have this fellowship with us if you have been cleansed by Christ’s blood and are walking in His light.” The point is that the true Christian innately has a fellowship with not only God the Father and God the Son but also other Christians, and this fellowship will naturally work its way out in everyday situations in regards to those with whom the Christian chooses to align.
This doesn’t mean that the Christian will never talk to an unbeliever or be on the same ball team as an unbeliever. It doesn’t mean that he or she won’t have an unbeliever as a friend, either. But it does mean that the Christian, if presented with a choice, would rather hang around brothers and sisters in Christ than hang around lost people. This makes perfect sense because, after all, Christians fellowshipping with lost people is like light fellowshipping with darkness. It’s the children of God walking with the children of the devil, and that just can’t work long term.
As for where the fellowshipping between Christians take place, the list has to start with church services. Many people, even some professing Christians, have denounced church services, but that doesn’t change the fact that the New Testament heavily endorses such services. For example, Hebrews 10:25 tells us Christians not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Likewise, Acts 2:42 says of the early Christians in Jerusalem: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (N.K.J.V.). So, mark it down: A great place for the Christian to experience fellowship with his or her fellow Christians on a weekly, consistent basis is the local church.
Of course not every Christian attends church, and I’m aware of the reasons why. I understand about Christian shut-ins, bed-ridden Christians, and those Christians who have to work on Sunday just to hold down their jobs. I also understand about Christians who have had bad experiences in churches. Furthermore, I know that you can hear good preaching and singing on t.v., radio, and the internet. What you can’t get, though, at home or at work on Sunday is the fellowship that comes with engaging in corporate worship with your brothers and sisters in Christ at your local church.
Someone asks, “But is a church service the only place that Christian fellowship can occur?” No, it isn’t. Christian fellowship can take place during Christian retreats, Christian camps, in-home visits, hospital visits, or nursing home visits. It can happen when one Christian unexpectedly runs into another Christian at the store. It can happen when a Christian has a conversation with his Christian neighbor over the hedge that separates their lawns. It can happen when Christians sit next to each other at a ball game. It can happen at the workplace when two Christians have a moment to talk.
In all of these instances, as well as others that could be named, what differentiates mere human interaction from actual Christian fellowship is the emphasis upon spiritual matters. Once two Christians turn their conversation and their focus toward the spiritual (i.e., talking about God the Father, Jesus, God the Holy Spirit, the Bible, prayer, worship, church, God’s will, prophecy, etc.), they begin to fellowship in a way that only Christians can. In other words, two Christians sitting beside one another at a football game and talking about how talented the other’s team quarterback is doesn’t constitute Christian fellowship. On the other hand, if those same two Christians sitting at that same game start talking about their Sunday School lesson from the previous week or how Romans chapter 11 should be interpreted, they begin to engage in Christian fellowship.
The Greek word translated in the New Testament as “fellowship” is koinonia. It’s a word that comes from another Greek word, koinos, which means “common.” As such, koinonia can be defined as “a sharing in common.” This sharing is much more than mere friendship, tolerance, or acceptance. It is a community in which the participants share fundamental spiritual commonalities.
With this in mind, what each supposed Christian should do, by way of personal examination, is ask himself or herself: “Do I enjoy being around Christians or do I enjoy being around lost people? Would I rather work beside a Christian or a lost person? Would I rather sit at a ballgame next to a Christian or a lost person? Would I rather live beside a Christian or a lost person? If I have to get in a car and take a road trip, would I rather be in there with a carload of Christians or a carload of lost people?” John says, “If you are a legitimate Christian, you’ll have a desire to fellowship with other Christians.” This fellowship isn’t the only evidence of salvation, but it’s certainly a good place to start.