Christian Fellowship in God’s Family: 5
Eric Parmenter, Honiton, England
The Power of Fellowship
The apostle is unable to get away from this subject. Love is communion with God embracing all who are objects of His love. It lifts the load that bows down many a heart. Love never gives up, it bears all things and endures all things. Its truth is vast and vitally important for all who belong to God.
We link the fame of John with the title, 'apostle whom Jesus loved'. Earlier in his career, with his brother James, they exhibited a stormy disposition. They wanted to be in the thunder and fire business. The Samaritans refused Jesus and they said to the Lord, 'wilt, thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?' There is a yawning gulf between consuming men with fire and with love. The Lord rebuked their loveless attitude. And of those years spent in company with the Lord, John, completely transformed, exhibited the gentle quality of love. It is not a vast knowledge about the sayings and doings of Christ, but simply, knowing Jesus, the anointed of God. If the simplest soul rests on the precious person of Jesus as the Christ, he is born of God. If God opened their heart to believe, we are to welcome and heartily own and love them as begotten of God. It is not ecclesiastical fellowship that commands a person to our love, but divine life. We are to love, both simply and sincerely because they are born of God. If we love God, we shall love His children. Never allow for a moment the thought that we should not love them. Unpleasant circumstances sometimes arise, differences do appear, but if love prevails, then it will be more to God's praise.
Love is the expression of obedience. John blends obedience with the love of God and love to God's children. The principle of obedience checks the possible abuse of love. To overlook trifling with sin on a pretext of love, is not loving them in sincerity and truth. We cannot separate obedience from love; if it is not obedience it is not love. Obedience accompanies God's love, and 'his commandments are not grievous'. We show our love to God, not by professing it, but by governing ourselves by His commandments.
The apostle assures now that 'all that is born of God overcometh the world'. Is it loyalty to be on good terms with the world? Know ye not that friendship with the world is enmity with God? See the world as God sees it.
We do not fraternise with the world, we overcome it. How? 'He that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God', overcomes the world. Jesus who came down was God humbling Himself in love. He that went up after redemption was Man exalted above the universe, Jesus the Son of God. The power operating in all born of God is 'our faith'. Faith in the Lord Jesus brought us to God. By faith we repel the enemy and get the victory over the world. In Christian experience, it is faith the whole way. Saved by grace through faith, we walk by faith and we are victors by faith.
The Person of Fellowship
The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, is not left without a firm foundation for his faith to stand on. John has spoken of Christ in His eternal being, sinlessness of life, voluntary and propitiatory death, and His position now with the Father. He now tells us of His coming into and presence in the world. There is a recognized difficulty in verses 6-8, but they evidently refer to some characteristic of Christ's mission in this world. Avoiding dogmatism, we suggest a possible meaning that fits in with the context of the letter. The epistle commenced with the apostles reporting, what they had heard and seen concerning Christ the Word of Life. 'This is he that came by water and blood'; the word 'came' used by John, denotes His manifestation to men. The three years of Christ's ministry commenced with His public ministry as Israel's Messiah. Not by water only, but also by blood, His ministry closed with His death on the cross. He poured out His blood at Calvary, as the priest poured out the blood of the sin offering at the foot of the altar. After His death, the order of the words is reversed, 'blood and water' came from His side suggesting there is sin cleansing for sinners and perfect satisfaction for God. His baptism and atoning death gave place to His triumphant resurrection and ascension to heaven. Fifty days later the Holy Spirit came down as the Spirit of truth. He adds His witness to the water and the blood. 'There are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, the water, and the blood: these three agree in one'. The difficulty of verse 7 is removed if we omit the verse! No Greek writer mentions it until the thirteenth century and it does not form part of authoritative biblical inspiration. There is no need of a witness to Christ in heaven, He is in heaven sitting at the right hand of the majesty on high.
The apostle argues, if we receive the testimony of competent, trustworthy men without question, how much greater is the testimony of God! With Him knowledge is absolute, not relative. He witnesses to the truth as He alone knows it. To believe men and not to believe God is human arrogance. Not to believe the testimony concerning His Son, is to make God a liar.
The Prayer of Fellowship
Eternal life is in the Son incarnate. It is in Him essentially. It was manifested in Him at His incarnation and through Him it is available to us. Now that He is at God's right hand, He has secured eternal life for us there. 'For the gift of God is eternal life, in Christ Jesus our Lord'. This life eternal He Has given us, we received it by believing in the only begotten Son of God it is a divine gift, lasting, personal and certain. 'He that hath the Son hath life' and C H Spurgeon when preaching exclaimed, 'H-A-T-H spells GOT IT'.
John coming to the conclusion of his letter, tells why he is writing it. '1 have written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God', V. 13. Preachers often exhorted the saints to go in and possess their possessions. What possessions have been set before us! Life eternal in the Son of God and fellowship with God.
John has spoken of confidence before, now he comes to it again. 'If we ask anything to his will, he hears us: and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions we desired of him'. To know God personally and inwardly, gives freedom in His presence. The deeper our enjoyment of knowing Him, the greater our freedom to ask for what we know is according to His will. Coming like an arrow from the throne, John says, that He hears us. What God has said, He will do. George Muller, clothed, fed, educated and cared for thousands of children without having to advertise a need or beg a penny from anyone. He asked God what he required and drew near to God and boldly asked according to His will.
There is one limitation put on our praying. Here is a family-fellow; he has sinned unto death, sinning under such circumstances that holiness and righteousness require that he must die. God has no favourites. Divine holiness outraged by the kind of sinning that John has before him means, cutting off whoever is guilty. We have no liberty to pray for him; God will not surrender His right to punish sin. We will observe that there are two different words used in verse 16. It is the asking of an inferior of one who is superior when it is a sin not unto death; we can make the. person concerned a subject of our prayer. At the end of the verse we have, 'pray'; it is asking by one on equal terms. This can show that one even enjoying intimate fellowship with God, does not make enquiry of God for a man sinning unto death. All unrighteousness is sin. There are examples of men and women cut off in death because of sin; Achan in the Old Testament, Ananias and Sapphira, and some at Corinth also cut off in the New Testament. Apostates there still are, and they can come within the description of sinning unto death. Whatever is the meaning, the warning is there for all to heed; you cannot sin and win.
In closing, the apostle states a fact, sinning is not characteristic of one born of God. Satan might trip us, but God keeps us. The whole world lies in the grasp and power of the wicked one, but his power no longer captures us. The Son of God is come, we know that He is genuine, and we are in Him that is true. Little children guard yourselves from idols.