Tuesday, April 22, 2008

1 John 1:1-4 (3)

John wants his readers to know these things, as we see in the start of verse 3. ‘that which we have seen and heard we proclaim to you’. This is why I love John. I think Luke is probably my favourite Biblical author just because of the way he organises his material, but John comes a close second. He is so keen, desperate even, for his readers to know the truth about Jesus that he makes his point again. There is evidence to slam to Gnostic heresy, there is evidence to back up the claims about the incarnation. They are that John, once again, has seen and heard Jesus. Now it’s time to do something about it. John proclaims these things to be true. And why? Look at the rest of verse three with me ‘so that you too may have fellowship with us; indeed our fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.’

Fellowship is an interesting word in Christian circles. We tend to do the same things with Christians as we do with non Christians and call it fellowship. We have fellowship talking about football before church starts, but when we’re talking about the same things with our non Christian friends we call it something different. We can sit on the sofas and Mondial with our Christians friends and its fine because it’s fellowship, but if we find ourselves with non Christians we need some other reason to justify it. Is that what John means here? No. Fellowship in the Biblical sense means people with a common goal with a purpose. It is a community of interest and feeling. People bound by a purpose and a partnership. When I drive to football matches with my friends, we’re in fellowship with one another. John is proclaiming for partnership.

This partnership is with each other but also with Father and Son. Isn’t that amazing? That through faith in the Biblical Gospel we can have fellowship with God. This is surely what John 17:3 means when it says: ‘and this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ Eternal life isn’t simply about getting into Heaven, the apex of eternal life is fellowship with God. There’s much much more I want to say about this, but if I start, I may never stop!

Now, the reason the Holy Spirit is missing from this equation is that John’s opponents were focussed on denying the Godhood of the Son, and thereby forfeiting the Father. Notice how Father and Son are placed side by side here. One commentator has remarked that this sentence shows us the distinction and equality between Father and Son. It’s certainly no coincidence that John brings them together like this.

So what is being proclaimed is to increase fellowship with each other. A fellowship that exists only though faith in the Son, which brings us to fellowship with the Father, which is eternal life itself.

But why? Is it just so John has more people in his club than the Gnostics? Do we just have mission weeks and run lunch bars so that we can have the biggest society on campus? So that we have more people on our team? I guess that’s often how it looks to non Christians. Well look at verse four with me ‘and we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete’ Some translations say ‘your joy’ instead of ‘our joy’ but it makes little difference to the meaning of the verse. Fellowship under and in the Godhead completes Christian joy. That’s why John writes all he’s about to write. So that his joy may be complete as this church grows in the truth of the Gospel, and so that their joy may also be complete as that happens.

This joy is inseparable from the salvation found in the Son. It’s a gift of the Father as the Son is a gift of the Father. And in the Son, in Jesus, our joy will eventually be complete. We’ll only see an echo of it now, as we learn from John 16:22-24 ‘now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.’

This letter exists for the joy of the Christian reader. This final verse sums up nicely the whole paragraph and sets up the rest of his letter well as we see the links between the strands: Johns proclamation was the historical manifestation of that which is from the beginning, the purpose of this manifestation was salvation leading to fellowship with one another, based of the fellowship with the Father and Son which leads to fullness of joy.

So no, it’s not about getting more people in our club. It’s about declaring the Kingship of Christ for the joy of people everywhere. Did you know that’s what evangelism and proclaiming the Gospel is in essence…Spreading joy? The great English pastor theologian John Stott says that we are cruel to ourselves if we go through life without knowing God. And I guess we’re cruel to our friends if we go through their life not helping them to know God. We can only do that because God has manifested Himself to us in the flesh in the man Jesus Christ. These are the things we must hold onto about the Christian faith, the things that mustn’t be obscured by exams and lazy summer afternoons. That Jesus Christ is God. That He came in the flesh. That these things are eternally important. That people must know about this for our joy and for theirs.

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