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Bonds of Fellowship and Love (1)

C Logan, Botswana

Fellowship is something that all men and women crave: a relationship with another; a sense of belonging; a mutual understanding and sharing of values; a two-way flow of consideration and care. Mutual respect makes a relationship work, but on a higher plane it is love that holds a relationship together. Without love, fellowship is only a sham, a convenient but often temporary arrangement of self-interest.

These bonds of fellowship and love are the basis of marriage and family life. As such they are the very foundation of a society’s stability and strength. They can be easily broken, however, by selfishness and unfaithfulness, or even sheer neglect. When people start to believe that love is an optional feeling rather than an obligatory action, then a multitude of reasons are dredged up to justify ending a promising relationship. As a consequence, not only do the relationships disintegrate but also the individuals themselves fall apart.

Those who have come to know God through faith in Christ have been brought into a spiritual relationship more wonderful by far than mere earthly bonds. They enjoy fellowship with divine persons, the Father and the Son. As a result of this fellowship with God and with His Son, believers also enjoy a special fellowship with one another that exceeds natural human affection. (In the New Testament two words, "fellowship" and "communion", are commonly translations of the single Greek word koinonia.)

As regards our salvation, the silver chain of eternal redemption in Christ Jesus is unbreakable. Nothing can sever it. Those who have experienced the new birth are the children of God forever and nothing can separate them from His love. Their eternal security does not depend upon their own strength or faithfulness. It rests upon the immutability of the purposes of God, the abiding efficacy of the work of Christ, the irreversible sealing and earnest of the Spirit.

As to our communion, it is the golden thread of daily fellowship, however, which is fragile and needs to be carefully maintained. If we cannot lose salvation, we can easily lose the joy of it. Sin, pride, laziness, and a host of other ills can rob us of the sweetness of communion in a daily walk with God. Our reading of the Scriptures can become a rushed and sterile ritual deriving little benefit. Our prayer life becomes much the same. We have no joy and no confidence in either. We know that if we are not taking heed to what God is saying to us, there is little reason why God should listen to what we are saying to Him.

Communion is a two-way relationship. God speaks with us through His Word. We speak to Him through prayer. The two can be closely combined, much in the way that George Müller found helpful: "I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God…and that thus, while meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord…The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer".

The apostle John, more than any other writer, takes up the themes of fellowship and love. We will focus our study on his writings. It is noticeable that, in keeping with his own particular style, he moves forward in sweeping and recurring circles of truth, thereby making a strong and indelible impression.

John states clearly his reasons for writing. In the Gospel, his desire is to encourage faith in the Son of God leading to the possession of eternal life: "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (Jn 20.31). In his Gospel, John records the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. We are indebted to him for recounting the special teaching Christ gave to His own in the upper room and the unique prayer the Saviour uttered (Jn 13-17).

In his first Epistle, John uses his own words, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. His principal reason for writing to those who have already believed in Christ is to promote assurance: "These things have I written unto 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" (1 Jn 5.13). As well as seeking to give assurance, he writes also so that they might be both joyful and holy (1 Jn 1.4; 2.1).

John was well aware of the conditions of his day when the swirling dusts of erroneous doctrine were threatening to obscure the vision of the saints and disturb their confidence, peace, and joy. Gnostic teachings denigrated the Person of Christ, denying His essential deity and true humanity. Their philosophical and legalistic ideas produced proud followers of rules and regulations who despised others they regarded as less enlightened. Theirs was a loveless and critical (although often self-indulgent) creed.

In both his Gospel and his first Epistle, John will mingle the truth of fellowship with that of abiding, and the truth of love with that of obedience. It is both difficult and unnecessary to completely separate these truths.

We shall look at three spheres of fellowship and love:

In a final article we will illustrate the strength of these bonds and encourage ourselves to be true to our Saviour’s words and commands as we live for Him in an ungodly world.

To be continued.


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