A Letter From John
Tim Temple


If you were to ask people what was the one thing that would bring real peace and satisfaction and happiness into their lives, you would hear a wide range of answers and probably all of us along the way have heard various things that people have mentioned that would really satisfy them and bring them fulfillment. Many of those answers involve material things—money, clothes, cars, houses and various kinds of possessions. A few of them would probably involve non-material things. There are people who would say that the thing that would make life complete for them would be love or acceptance or popularity or fame or those kinds of things. But there is one possession that lies at the heart of all of those things. Good or bad as those things may be, one possession lies at the heart of all the things material and non-material and without which none of those things would be worth having and with which none of those things really matter. That one possession is joy.

Scripture speaks of joy in several places and one of those places is John's first letter to the early-day Christians. Material things and non-material things may contribute to having joy, but they do not in and of themselves produce joy. In this little obscure book of I John, overlooked by many believers, not often talked about it seems to me, we find the complete and authoritative information about joy and, more importantly, where joy comes from—how we can have joy in our lives.

We have to be very careful at this point. Something that I want us to understand right in the beginning is that there is a lot of misunderstanding about the subject of joy. If we were to trace this subject through the Bible in the various places where it is mentioned, we would find that joy is something that comes from within. Joy is not dependent on outward circumstances. Because that is so, it is possible to be deeply joyful even in terrible circumstances. We talked just a few minutes ago about the Lord Jesus who, because of the joy that lay ahead of Him, went through the difficulty, the horror, of going to the Cross. If we have joy, we are able to go through even unhappy circumstances. We may go through terrible circumstances. We may be in the midst of terrible circumstances and still be able to have joy.

There is an important distinction to be made between joy and happiness. Now those things are very similar, but they are not synonymous. Happiness is always tied in with outward circumstances. If we are well, if we are healthy, if we have enough money, if the circumstances around us are right, if the people around us are right, if all of those kinds of material circumstances of life come together just right, we can be happy. Or at least some of us can some of the time because happiness is tied with outward circumstances. At the same time, those outward circumstances only produce happiness when they do come together; and very often we can get all of those outward circumstances together, lined up just like we want them and find to our dismay that we may be happy but we are still not satisfied, because it is possible to be happy and not be joyful. Joy is something that is produced in the heart, and it is produced because of internal circumstances. That is the thing that we are going to see in this first letter of John.

Because this is true, it is dangerous to try to analyze whether or not another person is joyful. Since joy is something that does show outwardly sometimes, but it is really an inner aspect of the heart, and since it is produced internally from an inward source, it may or may not show outwardly. Be careful that you don't base whether or not another person is joyful just from their outward appearance, lest you be caught red-handed in the act of judging another person.

On the other hand, let me say that as we look through this book and just make a preview of it, we are going to talk about where joy comes from. Many of you are going to discover that you have every reason to have joy in your heart. If you discover today or you already know coming in that you have the joy of the Lord in your heart, don't be afraid to let that show. Don't be afraid to register your pleasure with what God is doing and has done in your life. If you have the joy of the Lord, that is contagious and that is something that other people can be encouraged by and something that may minister to someone else. So don't hesitate to smile or to relax. Don't hesitate to enjoy the joy that God is producing in your life and share that with other people.

Name Of The Book

Today we want to make a survey of the book of I John in preparation for our detailed study of it in the weeks ahead. The first thing I want us to notice is the name of the book. Like so many other New Testament books, the name of this book comes from the name of the author, John, who was the disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the gospel of John, chapter 19, and several other places, he refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved . Some people, analyzing that, have thought that John was being egotistical, that he somehow thought he was better than the others. They think that he is implying that he is the only one Jesus loved. Others have thought that he was just finding a humble way to not use his own name. We don't see it as often in journalism now as we used to, but it used to be that authors would find some way to refer to themselves if they had to without using the personal pronoun. They would refer to themselves as the author or this writer or whatever. It seems to me they are doing this less and less these days. But some people think when John refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved , he was simply being formal and not using his own name in his own writings.

I believe the reason the John refers to himself in this way was that he simply was blown away with the fact that Jesus loved him. He didn't mean to imply that Jesus didn't love the other disciples. He didn't mean to imply that he was any better or any worse than the others; he was just overawed by the fact that this One whom he had come to realize was the God of the universe, this One whom he had come to realize was the Messiah that he and other Jews had been waiting for all those years, that this most magnificent Person in all eternity loved him.

Have you stopped to think about that? The Scripture tells us that Jesus loves us in the same way that He loved John. Jesus, the man, has been resurrected and sits in His glorified body at the right hand of the Father. Do you know what He is doing there? He is praying for you, praying for me. If you haven't allowed yourself to revel in that thought, take some time to do that. Stop and think about the fact that Jesus loves you. You are the disciple whom Jesus loves, and I am, and all the children are. Apply that to yourself as John did. It is an exciting thought. It is a reassuring thought as we move along through life to think, “I am a disciple whom Jesus loves.”

It is conceivable to me that in a group of people this size, there may be someone who does not know that anyone loves you or who feels, though you may be wrong, that no one loves you. Let me assure you, on the authority of the Word of God, that Jesus loves you. If you can take comfort in no one else's love, you can glory in the fact that Jesus loves you just as John did. I think one of the reasons that the Holy Spirit inspired John to refer to himself in that way was so that two thousand years later we could be reminded of the fact that Jesus loves us just as He loved John.

Another important fact about John is that he is the man into whose care Jesus committed His mother as He was dying on the Cross. That is something else for us to think about because Jesus had at least four brothers and two sisters named in the New Testament. Even though various groups have tried to edge their way around that and say that Jesus was unique in that He did not have any other siblings, the plain truth of Scripture is that Jesus had some half-brothers and some half-sisters. They did not have the same father that Jesus did. Their father was Joseph; Jesus' father was the Holy Spirit. They had the same mother. If you think about it, as Jesus was dying on the Cross and leaving this life, He committed His mother to the care of not of one of those brothers, not one of those brothers-in-law. He didn't commit the care of His mother to any of those blood relationships; rather, He committed the care of His mother to this one who was His spiritual child, His spiritual brother.

I think there is an important lesson in that and that is in God's sight, spiritual relationships are at least equally as important as human relationships. We really are brothers and sisters in Christ. There are some cases where perhaps the family does not share our faith in Christ, cases where the person is the only member of his family who is a believer. There may be those cases in which (as was the case with Jesus and His mother and John) the spiritual relationships may be even more important than our human relationship.

At this point in time, apparently Jesus' siblings didn't believe in Him. If we put all the facts together, apparently they became believers at the Resurrection. At this time, they were not believers in Him and Jesus committed the care of this woman, who was probably from a human standpoint the most precious human being to Him, His mother, to this one who was related to Him in this spiritual sense.

Another important fact about John is that he was a follower of Jesus Christ right to the end. We hear the story of Peter and his relationship to Jesus at the time of the crucifixion and we usually hear about how he denied the Lord and how he was sitting outside in the courtyard of the judgment hall and how he was warming his hands with the enemy; but we usually point out that at least he was there. At least he was trying to a little degree to keep the promise that he made to Jesus that he would never deny Him and he would never fail Him and he would stay with Him.

Just mentioned in passing in John, chapter 18, verse 15, is that fact that one of the disciples followed Jesus into the courtroom. Those who are thoroughly familiar with the original languages believe that that one that followed Jesus into the courtroom was John just because of the uniqueness of the way John wrote things. John followed Jesus not just to the courtyard outside like Peter was doing, but actually went into the courtroom. One of the guards knew him and allowed him to come in. So he stayed with Jesus right to the end. There is no record of what he said or what he did there, but at least he was there—in fact, closer than Peter was. Then he obviously was present at the crucifixion because, as we have just been talking about, Jesus committed His mother to John's care. John was a follower of Jesus right to the end, so the information that John is going to give us about Jesus Christ and about relationship with Jesus Christ comes from the man who was not perfect, but faithful to Jesus Christ to the very end of his life here on earth.

So this is the author of this book and of course the Author behind the author is God the Holy Spirit, Who inspired John to write the things they write in this letter.

Aim Of The Book

The second thing we want to think about is the aim of the book, and we find that spelled out for us in verses 1-4. Before we look at these verses, let me remind you that the people at whom this book was aimed were a group of people who, though they lived nearly two-thousand years ago, lived in circumstances very similar to our circumstances. The earliest false teaching that we know of after the life of Christ on earth is a heresy known as Gnosticism. The word Gnostic is a word for knowledge , and Gnosticism took its name from having to do with knowledge. The Gnostics believed a number of things that we will talk about as we move through the book, but it was more similar than almost any other false teaching to the current-day heresy of humanism. The Gnostics basically believed that salvation came through knowledge and that if you had enough knowledge, and if you have the inner kind of knowledge about spiritual things and about material things and about life, then everything would be all right. The humanists believe basically the same thing. Humanists believe, as the name implies, given enough time and enough money, humans can solve any problem that may confront us. If we can research it thoroughly enough, if we can think about it hard enough, if we can get somebody to throw in enough money at the problem, it will all be solved. Anything is possible for human beings.

The Gnostics had a general mindset, even though there were some technical differences between Gnosticism and humanism, so that is another reason that it is important for us to understand what God writes in this letter because He wrote it originally to people who lived in a day much like ours. The society they were living in was very much like ours. They lived for the most part in a Roman Empire which was degenerating, which had already fallen far from the basic principles that it had been based on, the principles of freedom and equality and justice for all, many of those principles that our United States government was based on. But by the time John wrote this letter at the end of the first century, all of those principles of the Roman Empire had begun to be neglected and even rejected. It wasn't very long before the Christians would start being thrown to the lions and when serious persecution would take place. So it was a similar society to the one in which we live.

The aim of this book, the purpose of this book, is spelled out in verses 1-4. Notice he says:

I John 1:

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

Here is the basic purpose of this book: “I am writing these things to you,” he says, “so that your joy may be full.” At first glance, it may seem that the subject of the book is fellowship because he talks about that in verse 3: “Our fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.” But John says, “Out of that fellowship, I am writing to you about all of these things about the Lord Jesus Christ, so that ultimately you may have fullness of joy.”

The subject of the book, we could say, is fellowship. In a moment we are going to look at how the book is outlined and we are going to see that the book deals with the subject of fellowship, but the purpose of the book is to understand joy. The real underlying theme of the book is actually the joy that comes from having fellowship with God and with other people. Joy is a by-product of having fellowship with God and fellowship with other believers.

There are some other wonderful benefits of being in fellowship with God and with other believers, but the most important of those by-products is joy.

I John 1:

4And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

As we have already pointed out, there is a great difference in joy and happiness. There is a lot of false teaching these days that says that God wants every Christian to be happy all the time—healthy, wealthy, and wise. That is God's plan and if you are not healthy, wealthy and wise, there is something wrong with you. Because of that, I believe, a lot of Christians go around with kind of a guilt trip because they are not happy, and they think there is something wrong with them spiritually. They may be like a lot of us today who are just about overcome with allergies and feel terrible. They don't feel good physically, so they think there is something wrong with them spiritually; but that is because people get happiness mixed up with joy.

There probably are people who are unhappy who don't need to be unhappy. There probably are Christians who should be happier than they are, and there are people who are happy for artificial reasons. They have ingested something that makes them happy. They drank something or shot up on something that makes them happy temporarily, artificially, or they found some other kind of temporary happiness. Listen, God has not promised us happiness. God nowhere in His Word promises us that we will be happy, but He promises us in a number of places that we can have joy and that we can have the peace of God which passeth understanding. Those things are so similar to happiness that people get them mixed up.

Turning back to our context, the basic source of joy is fellowship with God and other believers. Look at verse 3 again:

I John 1:

3That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

When we are walking in fellowship with God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ, it will be possible then for us to be in fellowship with other believers; and it is that fellowship which brings joy, regardless of our outward circumstances. Notice what He says here: “Our fellowship is with with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ,” and he says, “I am writing this to you that you may also have fellowship with us.”

Human fellowship, fellowship with other believers, comes out of having fellowship with God the Father. So that is the aim—that we might have fullness of joy. That fellowship comes through fellowship with God, and out of that also comes fellowship with other believers. That is what this letter is going to tell us.

Outline Of The Book

With that aim in mind, let's think about the frame of the book or the outline that John follows. We are going to find, as I said, that it is built around this fellowship that leads to joy. In this letter, John deals with five aspects of fellowship, giving one chapter to each of those aspects. We want to just go through these chapters and just hit the highlights of these five aspects of fellowship that we will be talking about in more detail in our future studies.

Conditions Necessary For Fellowship

First in chapter 1, John writes about the conditions that are necessary for fellowship with God. First, there is the introduction in verses 1-4, which we have already touched on a little bit, which is important because in those verses John says that he was an eyewitness of the things that he is going to write about. In a courtroom, of course, a witness is considered to be the most valuable proof that we can bring into the courtroom. He says in verse 1:

I John 1:

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

Peter, another eyewitness, says: “We did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the majesty and power of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye witnesses of His majesty.” The New Testament was written by people who had seen this for themselves. They had not heard it from a secondhand source; they were eye witnesses of the life and work and teachings and the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and John is saying that same thing: “I am not just making this up. These are things which I have heard, which I have seen with my eyes, which I have looked upon, and which my hands have handled concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.” What better source could we have for our information about fellowship with God than one who has had that personal contact with Jesus Christ?

After that introduction in verses 5-7, John says that one of the conditions for fellowship is conformity to a standard. We will not read all of the verses now, but look down at verse 7:

I John 1:

7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

In verse 5, he has told us what that light is. In verse 5, he says, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” God has given us His Word to tell us about Himself. How can we know the light so that we can walk in the light? By knowing His Word. “If we walk in the light” and not that phrase in verse 7, “as he is in the light.” That is, as Jesus Christ walks in the light. How did Jesus walk? He said, “I do always those things that please Him.” He demonstrated that He always sought to do the will of the Father. That is why these little WWJD bracelets are so popular. They have a very good subject: What would Jesus do? If you are honest with yourself and if you are true to the text of the Scripture, you will have to say that Jesus did the Father's will. If you are going to wear one of those bracelets, I hope that is your standard and your desire and that you are going to seek to do everything in the Father's will because that is what Jesus did. Jesus walked in the light. So as we walk in the light, that is conformity to the standard that is outlined for us in the Word of God.

Someone's immediate reaction to that may be, “Nobody can do that. Nobody but Jesus could completely be obedient to the will of the Father, to the Word of God.” Well, that is where the second condition for fellowship comes in and that is confession of sin, as is brought out in verses 8-10. Probably the best known verse in that section is I John 1:9:

I John 1:

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Verses 8-10 give some of the standard cop-outs that people use about their sins. Look at verse 8:

I John 1:

8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Someone might say, “There is no trouble with me conforming to the light because I don't have any sins,” but that is self-deception verse 8 tells us. We deceive ourselves if we talk that way. Even if a person is sincerely deceived, he is still deceived. Another cop-out is in verse 10:

I John 1:

10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

That is a little different situation. That is not a person who is deceived. That is a person who is rationalizing and is deliberately getting around the truth about himself. Here is a person who has done something that is not conforming to the Word of God and he is saying, “That is okay for me. I don't have to obey the standard of God's Word. To me that is not sin. Someone else might do that and we would call it sin, but for me it is just a habit. It is just something that runs in my family, but it is not sin.” For a person to say that, he is calling God a liar and God's response is a little more harsh in that case. It says, “That is not just lying. That is not just being deceived. That is calling God a liar.” That is the second condition for fellowship—confession of sin.

A second aspect of fellowship is given in chapter 2. We have been talking about the conditions for fellowship and in chapter 2 we find some details about fellowship conduct—how a person in fellowship conducts himself. The definition of that conduct is “obedience” and that is brought out in chapter 2, verses 1-11, but a sample of that section begins in verse 7:

I John 2:

7Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
8Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.
9He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

Fellowship's conduct is a conduct that obeys the Word of God and the Word of God tells us, as we are going to see in more detail in this book, that a very important part of obeying God is to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. He says that a person who does not love his brothers is not obedient to God's Word, and a distinctiveness to that conduct is separation as we find in verses 12-17. Look at verse 15:

I John 2:

15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Here God is telling us that a distinctive feature of fellowship with God is a lack of dependence on the world around us. Here is another subject, I think, which is greatly misunderstood. The subject these verses and others like them in the New Testament refer to we call worldliness, and we talk about how Christians should be very careful not to be worldly because of this reference to “in loving not the world.” Unfortunately, we have decided worldliness was outward symbols: Men's hair is too long; women's hair is too short, women's dresses are too short or they wear too much make-up, this kind of music, that kind of music—all those kinds of outward things. We say that that is worldliness. Well, those things may be symbols of worldliness. They may also not be symbols of worldliness; all they are is symptoms of worldliness. Worldliness that John is writing about here is loving the world.

What does it mean to love another person? Well, love of another person is bound up in dependence on that person and a relationship with that person of servitude to another person, wanting to serve that person we love. He says, “Love not the world,” and what he is talking about is a dependence on the world system for our satisfaction in life. He summarizes that world in terms of the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life in some of those verses we didn't read. There are many people, even Christians, who seek their satisfaction in the way things look. It is very important for them to have the right image and they spend a great amount of time and money and effort and thought in trying to maintain the right image. John says that that is what the world does.

We don't need to do that. Your satisfaction can come from God if you will take it from Him. Other people seek their satisfaction in what they can accomplish, what their own strength and ability can do. John calls that “the lust of the flesh.” Look at me. Look at what I have done. Look what my ability has produced. John says as a believer, don't seek your satisfaction in what your abilities can produce; rather, use those gifts and abilities and strengths that God has given you to honor Him and to serve Him and to bring other people to know Him. Find your satisfaction in the way you use those abilities, not in what you have or want to accomplish in those things.

Other people seek their satisfaction in what John calls “the pride of life,” and that is what they have already accomplished: titles, positions, possessions, those kinds of things. If we as Christians begin to depend on those things for our satisfaction, then we are not ever going to know what real fellowship with God is all about because fellowship from God comes with our dependence on Him.

There are believers who have all of these things. They are believers who have the right image and have a lot of material possessions and they have a lot of accomplishments. God is not saying that we should not have those things. What He is saying is, “Don't make that the basis for your satisfaction in life. That is the way the unsaved live. That is all they can do.” But we know the God of the universe. We are personally acquainted with the One who produced all of those things. We don't have to stop at the level of what those things can produce. We know the provider of those things. Fulfillment doesn't come from those things. It comes from the fellowship with the God Who made those things. That is what is distinctive about fellowship with God.

Then verses 18-29 talk about the doctrine by which that conduct is regulated. Look at verse 18:

I John 2:

18Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

That is certainly more true of our day than in John's day. Skip down to verse 22:

I John 2:

22Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

Here is one of the places where John tells us what the test of salvation is and that is the Deity of Jesus Christ. Notice that he doesn't say, “Who is a liar, but he who doesn't baptize people the moment they are saved. He is a liar is one who is not a dispensationalist.” It is so amazing the stuff we Christians separate ourselves over. Look what he says: “He is a liar who does not recognize the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is the test around which fellowship is based. That is the doctrine.

There may be other reasons we may not be able to cooperate with some other Christians. There may be emphases that they have that we don't believe are biblical. We may disagree about several things, but the place where we break off fellowship with others is in what they believe about the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the conduct that characterizes fellowship with God.

Characteristics Of Fellowship

In chapter 3, we find fellowship's characteristics, some of the things by which we can recognize fellowship with God. The first characteristic is purity, in verses 1-3. Look at verse 2:

I John 3:

2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Notice that phrase, “everyone who has his hope in Him.” What is that hope? The hope that he mentions in verse 2 that someday we will stand in His presence. What is the result of having that hope? Purifying ourselves. Do you realize that before this day is over, you could stand in the presence of God? Do you realize not only that, but that God Himself lives within us? For us to understand that, for us to have fellowship with God, ought to produce purity in our lives. There are things that we could not let Jesus Christ see or make Jesus Christ have to look at. There are places that we should not have to make Jesus Christ go. But if Jesus Christ dwells in us as the Scripture tells us He does, every time that we go to some impure place or look at some impure thing or fellowship with people who are living impure lives, we are subjecting Jesus to that. Having that realization that He is with us and that someday we will stand in His presence ought to bring purification in our lives.

In verses 4-18, he says that another characteristic very similar to that is love and righteousness. A third characteristic of fellowship is prayer in verses 19-24. The person who is in fellowship with the Lord is a person who is going to be praying a lot, not so he can be in fellowship with God, but because he is in fellowship with God.

If you had a direct open telephone line to the White House, if you had a direct open line to the President of the United States, don't you think you would use that line? Probably in our present circumstances we might be using that line to straighten something out or to give some corrections or to register some disagreement, but we would use that line. If we knew that we had a direct open line to the President that he would answer anytime it rang, we would use that, wouldn't we? That is what John is going to tell us in this chapter—that fellowship with God is characterized by prayer. If you can talk to the God of the Universe, if you really believe that, why not do it? That is another characteristic of fellowship.

Cautions To Keep In Mind

In chapter 4, he is going to tell us some cautions that we need to keep in mind as we fellowship with the Lord. Verses 1-6 caution us about false teachers, and it is interesting that even in those first few years after Christ was on earth, there were false teachers on this earth. We don't have time to look at even an example of that, but the subject is there and we will be talking about it in detail.

In verses 7-21, he cautions us about false love. Look at verse 10:

I John 4:

10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

The Scripture tells us in Colossians, chapter 3, verse 2, that we should set our affections on things above, not on things of the earth; and when we look at I John, chapter 4, in detail, we are going to see that there is a false kind of love. We should set our affections on God and the things of God and the things that we hate will fall into place. Certainly there are things that the Scripture tells us we should take a stand against, things that we should be opposed to, but there are a lot of Christians in the world, a whole movement of Christians, who determine faithfulness to God and closeness to God by how much you hate something and what you are against and what you are opposed to and what you take a stand against. We are going to see that there is a false kind of love because the true love is love that sets our eyes, our hearts, our obedience on God. It is not what we hate; it is what we love. If we love the right things, the things that we are against will take care of themselves. We will know what we ought to be opposed to if our true love is where it is supposed to be.

Fellowship's Cause

Finally, the last chapter in the book gives us fellowship's cause. Why is all of this important anyway? Why is it important enough for us to understand fellowship that God would have John write a letter to early Christians and furthermore preserve it for Christians 2000 years later? Because fellowship is very important. The foundation of fellowship is in faith. Look at chapter 5, verse 1:

I John 5:

1Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

Then look down in verse 4:

I John 5:

4For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

The basis of the Christian life is our fellowship with God. The foundation of our Christian life is fellowship with God. Then in verses 6-12, we see that that fellowship is the foundation for our witness. Look at verse 11:

I John 5:

11And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

That is a very bold statement in verse 12, but what this tells us is that a person who does not know Jesus Christ, no matter how sincere he may be, no matter how kind he may be, no matter how pleasant he may be, no matter what kinds of good things he may support, a person who does not know Jesus Christ does not know God.

The foundation for our witness is to know that other people need to know Jesus Christ with Whom we have fellowship. So having fellowship with God gives us a foundation for courageous witnessing for Jesus Christ.

Verses 13-17 show that fellowship is the foundation for confidence. Look at verse 13:

I John 5:

13These 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.

John says as he wraps up the letter, “I've written this to you so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Let me ask you: Do you know that you have eternal life? There are Christians who say, “Well, I certainly hope so, and I think so. If I can keep everything together, I believe I'll have it.” The Word of God, and particularly I John, was written so that you may know that you have eternal life. That is the foundation for our confidence, not just our confidence in witnessing to others, but our confidence in living, our confidence in coming to God in prayer, our confidence in fellowship with each other.

Verses 18-21, show us that fellowship is the foundation of knowledge. As we have fellowship with God, then we are in that position where He can teach us about Himself.


This is a survey of a lot of information and we have gone through it quickly, but I hope that maybe it has whetted your appetite for the details that we want to look at in the weeks ahead. As we close, the gospel of John in the first part of the New Testament written by this same writer, tells us how to have a relationship with God, how to become a Christian, how to become a believer in Jesus Christ. It tells us all about who Jesus is and gives us all that we need to know to put our faith and trust in Him, but this letter, though it does talk about Jesus Christ, tells us how to have fellowship with Him. It is very important that we keep that in mind. That order is important, because it is not possible to have fellowship with Him without first having a relationship with Him. This is the basis on which we come to this book and to which we anticipate studying it together in the next few weeks. The fact that we know Jesus Christ as our Savior, the fact that we are children of God because of our faith in Him, gives us so much more beautiful opportunity to have fellowship with Him.

I hope that if you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are not just like the servant maybe or the neighbor who looks in from another room or across the street and says, “Oh, what a wonderful family that is. What a beautiful situation they have, and how much love they have for each other,” but you yourself are not enjoying any of that. John tells us that if we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we have fellowship with Him—fellowship with the Father and fellowship with each other. That is the privilege that we have as believers. That is the gift from God to us, and I trust that if you are not participating in that, that you won't be afraid to come to God as His child, as one who can be in complete fellowship with a member of the family with all of the privileges and blessings and rights that come with that.

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