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Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus ChristMalcolm Webber
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)
In the beginning of the first chapter of his first epistle, John sets forth his principal motivation in preaching the Gospel. And it was not his motivation only, but it has been that of all true servants of God, then and since.
What could this motivation be to cause these men to endure hardships, persecutions, beatings, stonings, imprisonments, journeys, perils, shipwrecks, misunderstandings, betrayals, weariness, painfulness, watchings, hunger and thirst, fastings, cold and nakedness? What could this passion be that those consumed by it would forsake all worldly fortune, pleasure and pursuit in seeking to take the Gospel to others? Surely it must be their concern for man’s deliverance from an eternal hell? Surely no other purpose could justify such sufferings as the true servants of God have experienced historically? But, no, this was not their primary motivation.
Stated here in First John is the reason why these men proclaimed the Gospel to us; namely, that we may have fellowship “with them”, meaning that we may have the same fellowship that they had, and that “is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ”. Please notice that John did not say that his fellowship “was” with God, but that his fellowship “is” with God. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, John experienced a vital union and communion with Christ long after Jesus had physically left the earth, and his objective was that we know that same fellowship.
Here was their passion, their all-consuming obsession, and the deepest desire of God’s true servants in this our day: to bring men to the personal knowledge of Jesus Christ and the Father.
Furthermore, please notice what the fellowship is that John wants us to experience. Is it a purely theoretical knowledge of God that we should have? Is it simply an academic appreciation of the Biblical doctrines about the Son of God that we need strive after; merely an accurate understanding of the legal, judicial implications of the teachings of the New Testament that we must endeavor to achieve? God forbid!
John says that we should pursue the same fellowship with God that he experienced. And what quality of fellowship was that? Listen closely as the apostle himself tells us about his own relationship with God, which level of relationship he desires that we all experience: “That which was from the beginning (i.e. the eternal God), which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched.” Here was the reality of John’s experience of God: he heard Him, he looked upon Him and he even touched Him! This was John’s fellowship with his Lord. It was real. It was tangible. It was a deep experience of fellowship with his Master.
John touched the eternal God, his hands handled Him! He rested his head upon God’s bosom. Obviously John had no physical contact with eternal, infinite, transcendent Spirit, yet he did touch God. Great is the glory and the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, and dwelt among men. The eternal God whom no man can look upon and live; the great infinite Spirit who dwells in light unapproachable; the unchanging, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Creator of the universe was born of a woman and tabernacled among us. This is the glory and the wonder of the Incarnation. The invisible God now has an Image. The Father whom no man has ever seen is now revealed (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3; John 14:7-9; 15:24).
Emmanuel – the Hebrew word for “God is (personally present) with us – walks among men. Man once again can have personal fellowship with his God.
This is why John preached the Gospel: that we might be restored to fellowship with God; and not just to a legal, theoretical relationship with God, but to a fellowship as solid and as “tangible” as the close friendship that John himself enjoyed with the Saviour.
In fact we have been called to an even deeper inward fellowship with God than what Jesus’ disciples enjoyed while He was on the earth:
…it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:18)
We may be tempted to be jealous of the companionship the disciples had with our Lord, but really we are not offered anything less than what they had. The communion we can experience with Jesus through His indwelling Spirit, is more abiding and deeper than a mere physical closeness. “Christ in you” is our new life (Col. 1:27).
This is what we are called to. Our summons from the Great Eternal King is to know Him, to experience Him, to enjoy Him, to possess Him.
God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor. 1:9)
This is what the Christian life is: restoration to fellowship with God. The experience of this should be our highest aspiration. And this is the source of true Christian leadership.