Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Test of Fellowship (Part 1)


SERIES: Christian Living in a World of Chaos & Contradiction

SCRIPTURE:   1 John 1:5-7

SUBJ: Fellowship with God

SUBTITLE: The Test of Fellowship (Part 1)

SUMMARY: The Christian life is viewed as a life of fellowship

SCHEME: To desire to fellowship with fellow believers


1B Fellowship is tested on practical grounds (1:5-2:11)

1C Practical grounds of moral like-ness (1:5-7)

2C Practical grounds of confession of sin (1:8-2:2)

3C Practical grounds of obedience (2:3-6)

4C Practical grounds of love for God (2:7-11)

2B Fellowship is tested on relational grounds (2:12-17)

1C The Positive Relationship (2:12-14)
2C The Negative Relationship (2:15-17)

3B Fellowship is tested on Christological grounds (2:18-28)

1C The Contrast (2:18-21)
2C The Christological (2:22-23)
3C The Centrality (2:24-28)


1. Introductory Device – Example from Gilligan’s Island

There were very few episodes of Gilligan’s Island that you could consider emotionally touching. But there was at least one.

Gilligan had gotten his feelings hurt and decided to move away to the other side of the Island to live alone in a cave. Immediately, this became a miserable existence for Gilligan—he was all alone. But also miserable for everyone else on the island—one of their own was no longer among them, in fellowship with them...and there was a terrible void. They missed him at the dinner table. They missed his jokes, his laughter, and his gentleness. They even missed his clumsy screw-ups.

I think at one point in the episode they were sitting around the dinner table taking turns talking about the specific things they missed about him. So what did they do?

Well, I think it began with the Skipper. He decided to leave the rest and go live with Gilligan so he wouldn’t be alone. Then another person did the same. Then another. Until finally, all seven people were together again on the other side of the island in Gilligan’s cave.

2. In true spiritual community, we have built into us by God the desire to have and maintain fellowship with other believers.

3. So, I propose to you that the Christian life is to be viewed as a life of fellowship

4. Our section indicates three tests that prove that the Christian life is a life of fellowship

[So, let’s begin this section that shows…]


John moves from his introduction or prologue without a break in his train of thought into the first major section of his letter. He has laid the groundwork for his purposes. He now moves ahead to unpack the “argument” of his letter.

This first section characterizes the Christian life, what we would call our life in Christ, as a life consisting in fellowship with fellow believers and with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. John touched on this characterization in 1:3:

“…that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3, NKJV)

Now John is going to develop this theme in more detail. John makes it clear in the prologue that fellowship with John and fellow Christians is based on a biblical understanding of who Jesus Christ is.

The only person or persons who have fellowship with God are those persons who confess that Jesus Christ is the incarnate Christ.

Now – the letter seems to be built upon a series of tests that distinguish true or real believers from those who are false or who have made false professions of faith.

This first section of John’s letter centers on and around three main tests which serve as points of reference. These tests are:

A test based on practical grounds
A test based on relational grounds
A test based on Christological grounds

Why is this information important to any one? Why is it important to you? It is important to you for at least three (3) reasons:

It is absolutely necessary to “believe” or “trust” in the incarnate Son of God for salvation

It is absolutely necessary to have a relationship with God through the incarnate Son, and not with the             world

It is absolutely necessary to walk in the light, in order to participate in fellowship with God, Jesus                   Christ, and the HS

So, our Christian life is viewed as a life of fellowship. And this life of fellowship in order to be determined as both viable and genuine is tested on some very practical grounds.

[Let’s dig in and examine this topic or the idea of…]

1B Fellowship is tested on Practical Grounds (1:5-2:11)

Fellowship can only be experienced by those who have something in common.

Motor cycle riders “fellowship” with other M/C riders
Bird watchers “fellowship” with other bird watchers
Christians will fellowship with Christians & with God

It is important to note that the absence of “character” and “practice” that is indicative of “light,” regardless of how passionate or persistent prevents any fellowship with God or those who belong to God.

Therefore fellowship with God can be tested on practical grounds. Our passage describes four tests that prove real or true fellowship with God. These are the tests of moral likeness, the confession of sin, obedience to God, and a love for God.

Our text is 1 John 1:5-7

Our theme is:  Christianity is a life of fellowship

This is a good reminder for us all that there are no lone rangers in the family of God.
This morning we are going to see that our life of fellowship can be tested.

The first test that is based on practical grounds is that of moral likeness to Christ. Our passage today reveals three insights about the required moral likeness to God.

[The first insight revealed is that of the fact that…]

1C God is the standard (5)

“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

The principle standard is clearly laid down for us! It is God. This verse describes the nature or character of God. God is light. Therefore the only ones who can fellowship with God are those who “walk” or live in the light.”

Notice first - John says this is the “message” that we heard from him, from who? From Jesus.

The word message is a very simple word it, it actually translated some 52 times as promise and once as message. It is truth from Jesus that God is “light.” This “message” or truth or promise is from God to the people of God.

John’s usage of this word suggests strongly that this message contains a concept of God that men could never know by themselves unless God revealed this information to mankind. This message is a “revelation” about God and not a “discovery” that man made about God.

Second – When did John hear this message? There are no recorded words of Jesus saying these words in the gospels, or anywhere else in Scripture. Now that doesn’t mean that Jesus did not say them. After all John has told us:
“And there are also any other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” (John 21:25, NKJV)

I don’t think this would be stretching it to say that John also meant not only the things that Jesus did, but also the things that Jesus said. So, Jesus at some point in time stated this fact, this truth, this message to his disciples and possible a crowd or multitude of followers.

What is the message? The message is…

God is light (5b)

What did Jesus/John mean when Jesus said that God is light?

First – John lays down the content of his message to his readers.

Second – John does not use an article with the word light. This makes it clear that God is the subject of this message.

This is important, especially in light of the problem of the Gnostics and their teaching, it rules that that “the light is God.”

It describes God’s nature as possessing the qualities of light.

Let’s examine this idea in depth.

First – “Light” is not used in a literal sense. This is what we call an anthropomorphic expression or usage to describe a quality or attribute of God and/or His character.

We see this all the time in the OT where God is spoken of as having:
Arms, or eyes, ears, heart, hands, or he is described as being a rock, a tower, a fortress.
When the Bible uses anthropomorphic expressions it is trying to describe God or something about God in terms that man can understand.

So there is no need to read anything into the word light that exceeds the simple figurative use of the term.

But that means we are forced to dig deep to see what aspects of the light that Jesus had in mind when he made the statement that “God is light…”

First of all – in this context we can see that light is used for illumination. It is the nature of light to illuminate or to make things visible.

It is God’s nature to make Himself known but it is also God’s nature to reveal or make everything else in its true nature. This is what is so sobering, and awesome, as in awe-struck, so frightening.

When God, or as God illuminates such things like our hearts, our motives, our desires, or lusts, he knows them and reveals them as they truly are – despicable, sinful, wicked, evil, horrific, and damnable.

This is why our sin needs to be under the blood of Christ. There is not a person in this room that would want your neighbor or anyone else in this world to know things we have thought, said, or did in its true character or nature.

Second – this word is used to suggest the absolute purity or holiness of God. This is the condition established for anyone who wants to fellowship with God – they must be holy also.

“For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy…” [Lev 11:44, NKJV]

[ Or]

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no man will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14, NKJV)

The next thing that we see about this word “light” is that it pitted against the idea and word “darkness.”

“…and in Him is no darkness at all.” (5b)

What do we know?

This “light” has come into the world
Evil and wicked men hate the light
These evil & wicked men prefer the darkness

“…the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” [John 3:19-21, NKJV]

Men love their sin:

“How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?” [Job 20:12, KJV]

Why boasteth yourself in mischief O mighty man…Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness.”  [Psalm 52:1, 3, KJV]

Most men, and unfortunately many Christians get all upset when you tell them that men are born so wicked and depraved that they are actually God-haters. Men think and often state that they love God or are at least ambivalent about God – but they don’t want anyone to think that they actually hate God.

Before any believer came to Christ they were by nature God haters. They hated the light, the illumination that revealed the deep, dark, dank, depraved, and desolate sin.

Anyone who practices evil, sin or wickedness hates the light, and Jesus said that God is light.

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. [John 8:12, NKJV]

“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” [John 9:5, NKJV]

“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness.” [John 12:46, NKJV]

So, in summary:

the one who practices evil hates the light
The one who practices truth comes to the light
The light is antagonistic to the darkness

God is free from darkness (5b)

“…and in Him is no darkness at all.”

This added assertion that there is no darkness in God, not even the tiniest or minutest speck of darkness stresses the absoluteness of His nature as pure and holy light.

In God’s being there is not a single trace of darkness.

Keep this in mind, that John never implies that the darkness is simply the absence of light. John believes that darkness has a moral quality. This moral quality that defines darkness is in direct opposition to the moral character and quality of God.
This might not mean much to you but to the pagans and especially the Gnostics, this was a startling statement.

George G. Findlay wrote:

“They [he means the Romans and Greeks] had gods that could cheat and lie, gods licentious and unchaste, gods spiteful and malignant towards men, quarrelsome and abusive toward each other. They had been accustomed to think of the Godhead as a mixed nature like their own, only on a larger scale-good and evil and cruel, pure and wanton, made of darkness and light.”

When men create their own god they create them in their own image. So the gods of men condone evil or allow them to live as they please and might eve participate in sin also.

But the truth of the matter is God cannot have fellowship with anything or anyone that does not share a moral likeness to Himself. God cannot condone or have fellowship with anything that is contrary to His nature.

So, John makes it very clear from the beginning of His letter that there exists two, completely separate spheres or realms that cannot be mixed in any way shape or form. Light and darkness are two distinctly separate spheres that cannot be mixed. They do not overlap.

The Christian life is viewed as fellowship.

This claim to fellowship is tested on practical grounds.

The first test by practical grounds is that of the necessity of moral likeness.

The first truth that we learn about this moral likeness is that:

God is the standard.

Our theme is:  Christianity is a life of fellowship

This is a good reminder for us all that there are no lone rangers in the family of God.

[The second truth that we learn about this moral likeness is that:]

2C The Standard is Absolute (Vs. 6)

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

John says that fellowship with God is based on one’s practice.

John is not saying that by our practice or our works alone make us righteous or “children of light.” Don’t get me wrong.

John is saying that a failure to recognize the sinfulness of sin will prevent fellowship with one another and with God.

The problem lies in the obvious inconsistency that exists between the profession and the practice of an individual.

First – let me say that this statement by John is hypothetical. He is not saying that any of the Christians that he is writing to is either saying this or practicing this.

Secondly, he assumes that the probability of this claim actually being made is possible, especially by the Gnostics and false teachers plaguing these Christians.

--the words, “if we say…” indicates that this is an open assertion by someone or a group of someone’s.

--what are “they” whoever they may be saying?

--they are saying, “We are having fellowship with God.” Of course the false teachers were saying this, they were plaguing the believers with the accusation that only they had true access and fellowship with God and that John’s readers didn’t and only thought they had fellowship with God.

--But against this claim is the reality that their claim was contradicted by their practice.

--they said they had fellowship

--but they walked or conducted themselves in darkness

--resulted in them really lying and not practicing the truth that they claimed to practice.

John is saying what you and I should know to be obvious. Merely claiming to be a Christian is not enough.

A profession of faith is not a guarantee of salvation. Salvation is not limited to what we say, is accompanied by what we do.

What we do is the natural outcome of who we are. If we are in darkness then what we do as a practice or a habit or a lifestyle is the works of darkness or works of the flesh which results or ends in both physical and spiritual death.

Constant practice of sin demonstrates that regardless of what one thinks or says, that one is not a believer.

Constant practice of holiness or righteousness, or the obedience to the standards and command of God demonstrates that one is more than likely a believer.

The present tense in this verse shows the continued practice vs a slip and fall now and then. We, even as believers will sin. We will fall. We do not live perfectly. The verbs are used to comfort saints and convict sinners. So, what are you practicing?
The Christian life is viewed as fellowship.

This claim to fellowship is tested on practical grounds.

The first test by practical grounds is that of the necessity of moral likeness.

The first truth that we learn about this moral likeness is that:

God is the standard.

The second truth that we learn about this moral likeness is that:

The Standard is absolute

Our theme is:  Christianity is a life of fellowship

This is a good reminder for us all that there are no lone rangers in the family of God.

We need to wrap it up. So we are going to stop here and pick up the third insight next week. So be sure to tune in next week when we will look see that the Standard produces assurance for the believer.


[I leave you with this thought…]

On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is a portrait with the following inscription: "James Butler Bonham--no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom.”

No literal portrait of Jesus exists either. But the likeness of the Son who makes us free can be seen in the lives of His true followers

Exhortation:  Examine your claim of fellowship by the means of practical grounds. Test your life carefully and take note of what is in your life that depicts a moral likeness to God.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An excellent post Gregg and thought provoking. I have a few family issues going on in my head at the moment I hope what you have written may help. Thank you.