We have already seen that the incident of the feet-washing in John chapter 13 was a parable in action, pointing to the present ministry of the Lord Jesus on behalf of His own, specially having in view the enjoyment of fellowship with Himself. We considered the basis of fellowship, the washing of regeneration which happens only once, and the daily cleansing which needs to take place continuously. Then we thought of some of the barriers to fellowship indicated in the chapter. There was the refusal of the disciples to undertake the feet-washing, and the refusal of Peter to submit to the feet-washing. It remains for us to consider some of the blessings which come to V us through fellowship with Christ, again as indicated in our chapter.
What then are these blessings? It is probably attempting the impossible to try and answer this question, because the blessings which flow from ; fellowship with Christ are far more than can be enumerated. However, keeping to our chapter, we have indicated at least three cardinal blessings which we might profitably consider. These are the blessings of His love; the blessing of His knowledge; and the blessing of His desire. His love towards His own; His knowledge of His own; and His desire for His own.
Love is perhaps the most important feature of our fellowship with Christ. It is above all else a fellowship of love. It is not surprising therefore to find that love has a prominent place in the John 13. In verse one we read, ‘Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end (to the uttermost)’. The Lord Jesus was about to show the full extent of His love for His own by going to the Cross and laying down His life on; their behalf. But first He provided them with a proof of His love in an act of humble service, when He undertook the lowly task of washing the disciples’ feet. How He loved them in spite of all their failures.
Later on in the chapter the Lord gave to the disciples the new commandment of love. He pointed to His love for them and exhorted them to love one another. ‘A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another’, v. 34. We can only express our love for one another as we appreciate and enjoy His love for us. How comforting are His words, ‘I have loved you’. In John chapter 15 He links His love for His own with the Father’s love for Himself. ‘As the Father hath loved Me so have I loved you; continue ye in My love’, v. 9. The measure of the Father’s love for His Son is the measure of the Lord’s love for His own. It is limitless; it is eternal; it is unconditional. In spite of what we are He pours out His love upon us. To be loved by Him is the most priceless privilege of all.
The Lord said, ‘Continue ye in my love’. The word ‘continue’ is the same word as that translated ‘abide’ in the same chapter. There is a close link between this word and the word ‘fellowship’. One of the great blessings of fellowship with Christ is that it enables us to enter into a fuller appreciation of His love for us, and it begets in us a deeper love for Him in return. Love and fellowship always go together. Fellowship is really continuing (or abiding) in His love.
Another of the blessings of fellowship with Christ is the realization that He knows all about us, yet loves us just the same.
It is remarkable how the knowledge of Christ is kept in view in John 13. It is a knowledge which is comprehensive and all-embracing. In verse 1 He knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father. In verse 3 He knew that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God and went to God. In verse 11 He knew who should betray Him. In verse 18 He knew whom He had chosen.
As we have already seen, this knowledge is a clear indication of His eternal deity. Because He is God He possesses the attribute of omniscience. As God He is all-seeing and all-knowing. David the psalmist wrote of this in Psalm 139. ‘O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off… . For there is not a word in my tongue, but, Io, O Lord, Thou knowest it altogether… . Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it’, vv. 1 - 6.
We can echo these words of the psalmist. The knowledge of the Lord stretches far beyond our finite understanding. It is too wonderful to grasp, and yet for us it is wonderful. How comforting it is in times of failure to be able to do what Peter did when the Lord challenged him as to his love. He fell back upon the Lord’s omniscience and took refuge therein. He cried, ‘Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee’. John 21. 17. He knows all about us, our weaknesses, our failures, our disappointments, our troubles and our trials. Others might misunderstand us, but there is no possibility of our being misunderstood by the Lord. He knows us better than we can ever know ourselves. He knows all that we need and all that is best for us. Fellowship with Christ enables us to appreciate His knowledge of us, and gives us the opportunity to get to know Him ourselves. It is the means by which we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 3. 18.
His love for His own, His knowledge of His own, and His desire for His own. Only through fellowship with Christ can we become acquainted with what He desires for us and from us. After the example of humility in the feet-washing and the explanation of it, the Lord Jesus expressed a twofold desire. He wanted His disciples to serve one another and to love one another.
He wanted them to serve one another. ‘For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you’, v. 15. He had engaged in lowly service on their behalf. He had washed their feet. They should be prepared to do the same, not just in feet-washing, but in any kind of needful service. As Paul put it to the Galatians, ‘By love serve one another’, 2. 5. 13.
There is nothing selfish about fellowship with Christ. Our enjoyment of the same is not merely for our own benefit and blessing. Being occupied with Him will lead us to be occupied with the needs of those who belong to Him. We shall fulfil His desire that we engage in service on their behalf, and as we serve them we shall find ourselves actually serving Him. As He said elsewhere, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me’. Matt. 25. 40.
The Lord Jesus also wanted His disciples to love one another. In this also He was their example. ‘A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another’, v. 34. We have seen that fellowship with Christ enables us to appreciate and enjoy His love for us. It will also lead us to express that love in the way that He desires. Indeed, His desire becomes His command, a new commandment. Later on He said, ‘And this is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you’. John 15. 12.
The word for ‘love’ indicates not so much an emotional love as a caring love, having a concern for the needs of others. It is a love which is willing to express itself in giving, even to the point of sacrifice. It is the giving of ourselves as well as of our substance. Just as the Lord Jesus loved us and gave Himself for us, so in a lesser sense, we must love and give ourselves for the blessing of others.
So we come to the end of these meditations on the theme of fellowship with Christ - its basis, its barriers, and its blessings. As we close may we remind our hearts of the words of the Lord Jesus in verse 17 of our chapter, ‘If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them’.
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