By Larry Ray Hafley
From Kentucky: I am, in every sense of the word, a ‘babe in Christ,’ and I have a question on fellowship. I am really confused on this word. Can you tell me exactly what it means?”
The word, “fellowship,” comes from a Greek word which connotes communion, partnership, sharing. God, by means of the gospel, calls one unto the fellowship of His Son (1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Thess. 2:13, 14). This is merely another way of expressing relationship to Christ. Saved ones are said to be “born again,” “Married to Christ,” “fellow citizens,” “fellow heirs,” “members of His body,” etc. These terms are all descriptive of association with Christ. The book of Ephesians is rich in such imagery (Eph. 1:3-14; 2:1-3:6; 4:3-16; 5:23-32). To be in any one of these conditions with respect to Christ, one must obey the gospel. The terminology indicates that one has been saved from his sins and added to the Lord. So, to have fellowship with the Lord, one must obey the truth and continue to walk in the light. Again, these words relate to one’s position or status to the Lord.
Perhaps a negative thrust will help ascertain the definition of fellowship. Paul said, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11). What did he mean? He meant, of course, that one may not share, partake, have communion, or agreement with those works. Suppose Paul had said, “Have fellowship with fruitful works of light.” What would that mean? It would mean that we are to engage in works of that nature. Hence, to have fellowship with Christ means to associate and participate with Him.
Comparison and Contrast In 1 John
Our inquirer wants to know “exactly” what fellowship means. Turn to 1 John. In chapter one, John says he has declared what he had seen, heard, and handled “that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (v. 3). But what does that mean? Compare 1 John 1:6 and 2:4. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1:6). “He that saith, I know him and keepeth not his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (2:4). These verses say essentially the same thing. They define one another. As witness thereto note:
(l) “Walk in darkness” (1:6).
(2) “Keepeth not his commandments” (2:4).
(1) “We lie” (1:6).
(2) “Is a liar” (2:4).
(1) “Do not the truth” (1:6).
(2) “Truth is not in him” (2:4).
Further, compare 1 John 1:7 and 2:3, 5. “But 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” (1:7). “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments . . . .But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (2:3,5).
(1) “If we walk in the light as he is in the light” (1:7).
(2) “If we keep his commandments; if we keep his word” (2:3,5).
(1) “We have fellowship one with another and blood cleanseth” (1:7).
(2) “We know that we know him, and we know we are in him” (2:3,5).
These passages are precisely parallel. They show us that fellowship or communion with God is contingent on obedience to His word. Conversely, they show us that we walk in darkness when we do not keep His word.
Truth Magazine XXI: 39, p. 610
October 6, 1977