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 1:3
Why is it that some Christians seem to be transformed by contact with Jesus Christ, but others are not? Some Christians, even Christians of long standing, still seem to be very much conformed to the world around them, even deformed in their views and outlooks. Yet all of them stoutly assert that they are Christians, that they too have been born again by faith in Jesus Christ. It is not strange that the world asks,
What is wrong? Why is this condition true? The secret, John says, is fellowship.
What is fellowship? In the Navy we used to say it was two fellows on the same ship, and there is a sense in which that is true. They do have something in common—the same ship. That is the basis of fellowship, for essentially this word means
to have all things in common. When you have something in common with another, you can have fellowship with that person. If you have nothing in common, you have no fellowship. We all have things in common. We share human life in common. Most of us share American citizenship in common. But John is talking about that unique fellowship that is the possession only of those who share life in Jesus Christ together. This makes them one, and this oneness is the basis for the appeal of Scripture: to live together in tenderness and love toward one another. Not because we are inherently wonderful people or remarkable personalities or that we are naturally gracious, kind, loving, and tender all the time—for at times we are grouchy, scratchy, and irritating to others. But we are still to love one another. Why? Because we share life together. We have something in common. We share the life of the Lord Jesus, and therefore we have fellowship with one another.
We must understand the difference between relationship and fellowship. Relationship is becoming a member of the family of God by faith in Jesus Christ. It is established by asking Him to come into your life and heart. John makes that clear at the end of this letter.
He who has the Son has life [that is relationship]; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life [he does not have a relationship] (1 John 5:12). The Christian life starts right there with this matter of relationship. Relationship is accepting Christ; fellowship is experiencing Him. You can never have fellowship until you have established relationship, but you can certainly have relationship without fellowship. Relationship puts us into the family of God, but fellowship permits the life of that family to shine through us. That is what marks the difference between Christians. Fellowship is the key to vital Christianity. That is why this letter, which calls us back to fundamental issues, focuses first on that. The important question is, as a Christian, are you enjoying fellowship with the Father and with His Son?
Father, teach me more of the richness and the glory of this warmth of fellowship with Christ, where everything that I am is made available to Him and I am experiencing all the wonderful joy of everything that He has made available to me.
Do we sometimes wonder at the differences we notice in our experiences with professing Christians? What is a key difference between relationship and fellowship?