By Bill Cavender
“And this is the message which we have heard from him and announce unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).
Understanding the meaning of words we use in speaking and writing is always a great part of the task we have in correctly conveying our thoughts to others. God conveyed His thoughts to us (revelation) in words chosen by the Holy Spirit (inspiration) that His will and truth might be adequately and accurately transmitted from His mind to ours (2 Pet. 2:20-21). Paul said, “But unto us God revealed them through the spirit . . . which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words” (1 Cor. 2:10-13).
Three key words above are worthy of our definition and study. They are “walk,” “light” and “fellowship.” Understanding them in their use here, and in other Scriptures, will contribute to our comprehension of God’s truth and aid in recognition of various errors taught by men contrary to God’s revealed will.
Our first word is “walk,” defined by W.E. Vine as “signifying the whole round of the activities of the individual life of the believer.” Paul, by the Spirit, wrote, “As therefore ye received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and builded up in him, and established in your faith, even as ye were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6-7). The believer arises from immersion for the remission of sins, having crucified our old man and destroyed the body of sin in baptism, to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-7). Our faith in our Father, leading to obeying the gospel of Christ, is produced by hearing the word of God (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 18:8; Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17). We then spend the remainder of our life walking by faith and not by sight (2 Car. 5:7; Heb. 11:1-6).
The Christian is to walk in the truth, after the commandments of the Lord. John wrote to the elect lady, “I rejoice greatly that I have found certain of thy children walking in truth, even as we received commandment from the Father. . . and this is love, that we should walk after his commandments. This is the commandment even as ye heard from the beginning, that ye should walk in it” (2 John 4, 6; John 14:21). Walking in God’s truth is “walking in the light” and “walking by faith.” Faith in God is produced only by the word of God, His truth. Any departure from the revealed truth of God, any addition to or subtraction from the truth, and any substitution of error for the truth brings upon one doing such things the disapproval and anathemas of God and separation from Him (1 Tim. 4:1-6; Heb. 3:12; Rev. 22:18-19; Gal. 1:6-10; 2 John 9-11). One cannot please God and walk in error, in sin, in craftiness and in the wisdom of men (Heb. 11:6; Eph. 4:17; 2 Cor. 4:1-7; 1 Cor. 3:3).
Our second word, “light,” is defined “to give light, expressing light as seen by the eye, and, metaphorically, as reaching the mind . . . light is a luminous emanation, from certain bodies, which enables the eye to discern form and color. Light requires an organ adapted for its reception. . .” (Vine). The organ of the body designed by God to receive physical light is the eye (Matt. 6:22). The spirit of man, created in God’s image, is that part of man designed by God to receive spiritual and moral instruction, which is the light and truth provided by God, revealed in the Scriptures (Gen. 1:26-27; Heb. 12:9; 2 Pet. 1:12-21; Psa. 119:105).
Jesus Christ, our Savior, the only begotten Son of God, came into the world to dispense spiritual light and life. Life in the material universe does not exist apart from the light God has created, and spiritual life cannot exist separate and apart from Jesus, “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:8-9). “God . . . hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son” whose original and rightful abode is to dwell “in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see. . .” (Heb. 1:1-2; 1 Tim. 6:15). The Son of God is “the way, the truth and the life,” “the light of the world,” and to all people who sit in the darkness of sin and the shadow of death is He that great Light which “is sprung up” (John 14:6; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36, 46; Acts 13:47; Matt. 4:12-16).
Light, truth and life in God through Christ are coextensive (Col. 3:1-4). There is no forgiveness, salvation and fellowship with God except through Jesus and the truth He taught, which truth was completed by the Spirit-directed apostles of Jesus (John 8:21, 24; 14:26; Eph. 1:3-7; 2 Tim. 1:9-I 1). To abide in the revealed truth of God is to “walk in the light,” and to depart from the truth in any particular is to “transgress, and abide not in the doctrine of Christ.” Such a one “hath not God” (1 John 1:6-7; 2 John 9-11). There is no such thing as believing in Christ, walking with God, being approved of God, etc., if we are not strictly and sincerely doing His will taught in His word (Luke 6:46; Matt. 7-?1-23; Jas. 1:22-25).
The third key word of our text is “fellowship,” defined by W.E. Vine as “communion, sharing in common, communicate, partaker, partnership,” etc. It is through the word of God, the gospel, the truth, that we are called into fellowship with God through Christ. Paul said, “God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). The method of this calling was “through our gospel” (2 Thess. 2:13-15; 1 Cor. 4:15; Jas. 1:18). Our souls are purified, we are born again, we are saved and have become God’s children through faith when we believe the truth and submit to its demands in obedience (1 Pet. 1:22-25; John 3:3-5; 3:36; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 1:3-14; Jas. 1:21).
Fellowship involves various facets of worship, work and service as authorized by commands, approved examples and necessary inferences in the New Testament. Believers engaged in true worship to God through Jesus have fellowship with Christ and with each other (John 4:23-24; 1 Cor. 10:14-22; Acts 2:42). Those who are taught the truth are to have fellowship with those who teach the truth (Gal. 6:6; Phil. 4:15-18; 2 Cor. 11:8-9). Brethren who are able are to supply the needs of the poor among the saints, thus having fellowship one with the other (Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:16; Rom. 15:25-33). We have fellowship with the Holy Spirit by abiding in the truth He has revealed from the mind of God through the apostles (2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Cor. 2:6-16; Phil. 2:1). We have fellowship with Jesus when we suffer for the truth’s sake (1 Pet. 4:13; Phil. 3:10; Rom. 8:16-17).
We have no fellowship with God in Christ when we walk in the darkness of sin and error; when we are jointpartakers in human denominationalism, Catholicism, and/or any churches and institutions of men, originating in the wisdom of men; when we are eating, drinking, partying, engaging in recreation and social activities; and when we are participants in any venture, program or project unauthorized in the New Testament. Religious people are freely mis-using and abusing the word “fellowship” in trying to make it authorize and give respectability to many fads, fashions and fancies being promoted by and participated in by people who know not the truth of God revealed in the New Testament.
For over thirty years now, many churches of Christ have been rushing headlong into sectarianism and denominationalism. They are leaving the faith, the light of God’s word, for the darkness of the errors of men. They are walking in the wisdom and foolishness of men rather than in the revelation of the wisdom of God. They are forsaking the fellowship taught and established in and through God’s truth for the communion of the devil, of denorninationalism, of worldliness, sin, and the modernism of the social gospel.
Of all people who ever lived, our brethren in this century should have been the last on earth to accept again the centralizing of churches, their work and funds, under such centralized agencies as “sponsoring churches,” “overseeing elderships,” and “boards of directors.” We who have taught and been taught the growth and development of organized Catholicism through the centuries until a Pope ruled in Rome; we who have been taught of the development and growth of the Christian Church of the nineteenth century; we who have been taught the errors of denominational organizations, conventions, synods, associations and councils; we who have been taught the autonomy, independence and equality of each congregation of Christ under its own elders, to do its own work, to carry on its own worship, to attend to its own members by way of teaching and discipline, etc. (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; Phil. 1:1; 1 Pet. 5:2-3); we should have been the last religious people on earth to accept missionary and benevolent societies supported by churches, such programs of centralization as The Herald of Truth and World Radio, and church-subsidized centralized agencies as Boles Home, Tennessee Childrens’ Home, David Lipscomb College, Freed-Hardeman College, etc.
The problem was and is basicly threefold: our brethren were not that well taught, having their faith in the wisdom and preferences of men; most of them did not and do not really care (as has generally been the case, Lam. 1:1-12) whether a practice was scripturally authorized or not; and many of the preachers, elders and teachers who spoke strongly on congregational autonomy and independence were hypocritical, did not really believe the truth, and sold it out for the sake of personal gain, glory, self-aggrandizement and advantage.
The host of problems faced by churches of Christ at the present time is the result of brethren of a generation ago not walking in the light, in the truth of God’s word. Only the truth can keep us from error if we respect it, and only the truth can sanctify and save us as we walk in it. Centralized programs, church-maintained institutions, the charismatic-tongue-speaking movement, divorce and remarriage, immorality, worldliness, the introduction of mechanical instruments of music into worship, the gracefellowship-unity movement of Ketcherside and Garrett and Fudge, the affiliation and association with human denominations, the social gospel with its church kitchens and parties and ball teams and joy buses, are all the doctrines and commandments of men, human traditions and opinions exalted to matters of “the faith” by their advocates. Brethren and churches have drifted and are drifting away from God’s light and truth, and the pattern of things divine made known to us in the New Testament.
Each of us should dedicate ourselves anew to walking with God in the light of His word and truth. Our fellowship with Him in Christ is not in darkness but in light and truth. Our fellowship with each other is in His kingdom and truth (1 Pet. 2:5-9; Col. 1:13-14; 1 John 1:5-7; 2 John 9-11). Those who abide not in the truth eventually “go out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 John 2:19; 2 Thess. 2:10-12). When brethren are not of the same mind, heart, mouth and faith, division is inevitable (1 Cor. 1:10; Phil 2:1-4, 14-16). Truth divides and separates those who do not abide in it, just as it unites in loving fellowship those who walk by faith, in the light of God’s revealed word.
- How do we have fellowship with God and the cleansing of the blood of Christ?
- How did God reveal His mind and thoughts to the apostle?
- How do we walk in the light, in the truth, and by faith?
- When we arise from baptism, in what do we walk?
- What is the result in our relationship with God when we depart from the truth?
- Who is that true Light who lighteth every man in the world?
- Can one have light and life in Christ separate and apart from the word of God?
- How are we called into the fellowship of God through Christ?
- What are some scriptural areas of fellowship taught in God’s word?
- What are some areas of false and unscriptural fellowship?
Guardian of Truth XXV: 14, pp. 219-221
April 2, 1981