Our God is not like the gods of the Heathen, an impersonal God, detached from His creatures and dwelling in solitary loneliness. The heart of our God yearns for the fellowship of the redeemed. The Father in the Old Testament came down to walk with men as the history of Enoch and Noah proves. In the New Testament the Son came down to dwell with men and declare the heart of the Father. He chose His disciples that they might be with Him. The Holy Spirit came down to dwell in men and make them partners with Himself in the work of God.
Through the work of the Cross we are brought nigh to God in a righteousness that enables Him to enjoy us, and endowed with a new nature that enables us to enjoy God. So near are we to Him that the Word of God says we are in His hand for security (Deut. 32:2); on His shoulders for succour (Luke 15:6); at His feet for training (Luke 10:39), and on His bosom for communion (Isa. 40:11). Thus we are called unto the fellowship of the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3) as well as to the communion or fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14).
The place of this fellowship is in the light (1 John 1:7). All believers have been translated into His marvellous light and are therefore walking in the light, albeit not all believers walk according to the light.
The atmosphere of this fellowship is love (1 John 4). The one who hates his brother is in the line of Cain with no claim on God whatsoever. The instinct of the new nature is to love the brethren (1 Thess. 4-:9-10). He who is devoid of this instinct is outside the family of God.
The law of this fellowship is truth (1 John 4:1-6). Not only doctrinal truth but moral truth — truth in the inward parts, manifesting itself in absolute honesty and integrity of character.
The principle of this fellowship is faith (1 John 5). The faith of God’s elect is expressed in three ways in this chapter: in God who is Supreme and worthy of our trust; in Christ who is eternally Son. God bears witness to this fact in three ways: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; or His birth, His baptism, and His crucifixion where Heaven acknowledged Him as the Son of God. Then it is also seen in the infallibility of the Word of God. Four times over in the Epistle we read, “These things have I written unto you,” … that we might be satisfied (1:5), sanctified (2:1), secure (2:26) and sure (5:13).
Out of this fellowship with the Divine Trinity springs fellowship with one another. Christians are not independent units. They are children in one family, members of one Body, sheep in one flock, stones in one building, branches in one Vine and sentences in one Epistle. The cry of the Bride is but the echo of God’s dear people in every generation, “Tell me, O Thou whom my soul lovest, where Thou feedest, where Thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon, for why should I be as one that turneth aside (or be isolated)?” God has made us for fellowship. It is the instinct of the new nature to seek our brethren, whom we need as they need us.
The thought of fellowship is that of partnership or joint-participation. Those jointly sharing are said to be partners (Luke 5:7). It is rendered communion in 1 Corinthians, 10, partakers in 2 Corinthians 1:7; and companions in Hebrews 10:33.
Ours is a fellowship of life, light and love. It is manifested both in the sanctuary and in the field of service. Both these aspects of fellowship are seen in Psalm 133 where it is called both good and pleasant. Good, like the oil that descended from the head of Israel’s high priest to the skirts of his garments, filling the sanctuary with the odour of a sweet smell; and pleasant, like the dew that was wafted from Hermon’s lofty peaks to the lesser hills of Zion beneath, resulting in precious fruits in abundance. Good is this fellowship of saints for like the anointing oil on the head of Aaron it is sacred, precious, fragrant and diffusive, and pleasant too, for like the dew of Hermon it is refreshing, invigorating and productive.
Unity in the sanctuary is not only desirable but obligatory so that we may with one mind and one mouth glorify God (Rom. 15:6). Unity in the field of service is no less important for there the Lord commands the blessing even life for evermore.
A quarrelsome and unsubdued spirit inserts a discordant note in the volume of praise, and robs God of that which is His due. Petty jealousies and a lust for power and pre-eminence have cursed many a testimony for God and robbed both saints and sinners of blessings God meant to flow to them.
There are many aspects of this one fellowship. We are fellow-communicants in the worship of God (1 Cor. 10); fellow-labourers in the field of service (Phil. 1:27); fellow-soldiers in the field of battle (Philemon 2); fellow-sufferers in a world of reproach (Philemon 23); fellow-givers in the support of the work of God (2 Corinthians 8:4).
Individual believers are to maintain the joy of this fellowship by endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This can only be done by the cultivation of lowliness, meekness, long-suffering and forebearance which is the formation of the Christ-life (Ephesians 4:1-3).
The churches of the saints are to maintain the joy of this fellowship by the acknowledging of each other, not in any formal confederacy, but as God’s beloved people (1 Corinthians 16:19); by receiving one another to the glory of God the Father (Romans 15:7), and by the recognition of God-given gifts that go in and out among the saints for their mutual edification and profit.
The opposite of all this is pictured for us in the melancholy scene in Third John where the ungodly were within and the godly were without. Rather, let us beware of such a possibility among us and give heed to John’s exhortation, “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.”