1 John 1:3
That which we have seen and heard declare we to you, that you also may have fellowship with us…
I. THE BELIEVER'S FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD IS AN ACTUAL AND LITERAL THING, an unfigurative fact, a reality; it is not an idea, an imagination merely, Between God and the believer there is an intercourse of spirit, an interchange of spiritual thought, a community of spiritual feeling, actual, though unseen; a communication on the one hand, and a reception on the other, of positive spiritual influences, comforting, strengthening, and purifying. The mode of this spiritual intercourse we do not profess to describe. But our inability to do this affords no presumption against the fact. We know not even how our own spirits operate upon each other; much less, therefore, how the Divine spirit acts upon ours. Nor do we profess to demonstrate even the fact of this fellowship by any sensible evidence or logical proof; it is a matter of pure consciousness, concerning which we can only testify.
II. WHEREIN DOES THIS FELLOWSHIP CONSIST? The most prominent idea of "fellowship" is that of mutual sympathy, reciprocal affection. Yea, just in proportion to the affection of the one party will fellowship be disabled, and anguish increased, by the apathy of the other. In order to be fellowship there must be interchange — a reciprocity of thought and affection. Nothing can constitute fellowship but this: nothing can compensate for the lack of it: not even the most familiar knowledge of God. Take the man who knows Him best, who has come nearest to God in the sense of understanding His works and ways; if he have no love for God, however minute and accurate his knowledge, he has no fellowship with Him. To give then a practical application to this thought, you see the great and only requirement for your individual fellowship with God. You cannot doubt affection on His part, and therefore the only necessity is a reciprocal love on yours. Would you but love God, an instant and intimate fellowship with Him might even now commence.
III. ON WHAT GROUNDS MUST SUCH FELLOWSHIP OF SINNERS WITH A HOLY GOD PROCEED? Will the holy God advance to sinful man? or must sinful man advance to the holy God? In other words, must God compromise His holiness and accommodate it to the moral degeneracy of man? or must man abandon his sinfulness and render fellowship possible by a conformity to the holiness of God? and in either case, how is the common character and sympathy to be produced? And here we point to the Saviour's mediation as the indispensable means of our fellowship with God. "In Him we have access with confidence through the faith of Him." And it is easy to see how, through Him, this fellowship is rendered possible. Before there can be fellowship there must be peace, reconciliation. But how is this to be accomplished? "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself." But still the question returns, How shall man have fellowship with God? Here is reconciliation and pardon; but there must also be congruity of disposition; a reciprocal affection; a common sympathy. Here then is the remedy, the Holy Spirit renews our moral nature, gives us new principles and new dispositions, the possession of which assimilates us to God, and thus enables communion with Him.
IV. HOW IS IT TO BE CULTIVATED? We see that all preventing hindrances have been removed, now point out the appropriating means. It is evident that all our intercourse with God must be by faith; we have no sensible vision of Him; we come into no palpable contact with Him; He is the invisible, the spiritual God. Faith therefore is the only faculty by which we can recognise Him and lay hold upon Him — "the life that we live in the flesh is a life of faith in the Son of God." We believe, and through our faith we realise, the thoughts and feelings which conscious presence produces and which constitute fellowship; fellowship is nothing more than the interchange of thoughts and feelings; and that which produces them, which makes the intercourse real, which distinguishes it from mere imagination or sentiment, is faith. But while the holy feelings which constitute fellowship with God are exclusively dependent upon faith, they are capable of various excitements. To produce these is the purpose of the various means of grace. Constituted as we are, we are peculiarly susceptible of sensible impressions; and the means of grace are intended to aid or to occasion holy thoughts, by appealing to our senses. We have the Bible to supply by its teachings material for our communion with God. It is the record which furnishes all our ideas of God, and which faith believes, and by believing which gratitude and love are excited.
V. THE ADVANTAGES AND ISSUE OF THIS FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD.
1. Perhaps the most obvious is the promotion of holy affections. It is the peculiar characteristic and glory of Christianity that it provides for the right adjustment and balancing of our feelings. The emotions excited by its truths and privileges are alike removed from fanaticism on the one hand, and from indifference on the other. And this cannot be said of other religious systems. The believer's fellowship, while it is the intimate intercourse of the most endeared friendship, is not a rude familiarity. The solemn and subduing sense of God is inseparable from it. It alone exhibits the compatibility of the profoundest reverence and the most trusting confidence; it is reverence, but without dread — it is confidence, but without familiarity — it is awe, but without coldness — it is warmth, but without freedom.
2. Fellowship with God will tend to soothe our anxieties, and to inspire our confidence in the arrangements of His providence. Fellowship implies mutual confidence, and it necessarily ceases when we begin to distrust. Again: Fellowship supposes sympathy, interest in our well-being, and, assured of this, we can communicate our sorrows and unburden our hearts; and who can tell the inestimable advantage of this?
3. Fellowship with God is a most eminent and essential preparative for heaven. It is in part an anticipation of its blessedness: and who shall say that without such foretaste of heaven the soul, new burst from its mortality, would not be dazzled and overpowered by it?
(H. Allon, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: That 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.