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What is the fellowship of the saints?

1 John 4 says

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God. The one who does not love has not known God. For God is love. In this the love of God was revealed in us, because God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation concerning our sins. if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

1John 4:7-11

I wish to answer a question.

1. What is the fellowship of the saints, what should it be.

Read 1 John 3:1-24

Of course having read that passage you’re probably at this moment in time wondering whether your saved or not. The reason for that is because it contains some of the scariest verses in the whole Scripture.

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was revealed that He might take away our sins, and in Him is no sin. Everyone who abides in Him does not sin. Everyone who sins has not seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as that One is righteous. He who practices sin is of the Devil, for the Devil sins from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed, that He might undo the works of the Devil. Everyone who has been born of God does not commit sin, because His seed remains in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.

1 John 3:4-9

It is imperative that you don’t stop reading before this article is fully explained.

What’s interesting about John’s letter is that there are no clues as to who he was writing to; as such this is a letter that has a universal message to the entire church, slave or free, Jew or gentile. What we do know is that it was a circular sent to all churches to read in order that they may poses these great teachings. The crux of Johns message about love, which this letter is about, is its expression in our own lives. How is the love of God which is in us practically showing itself? Especially if the great challenge to all Christians is to reveal more of the Lord inhabiting their lives a little every day. As we decrease so that the Lord, who is and has always been upon the throne of your life, increases and is revealed to be as such to those around you. This is the understanding of the bride preparing her self in described it revelation 19.

So John’s message is exceptionally important because we won’t win people to Christ flying all over the world with tracts; nor will people come to Christ if we sit in our churches and have lovely prayer meetings and bible studies; There is only one way you will win, those work colleagues, that spouse, your children, your neighbours or significant persons to Salvation in Jesus Christ and that is they must see that Christ has made a difference to you.

Have you ever wondered why people do some of these silly fad diets like Atkins? The answer is because celebrities’ loose stones of weight in weeks and people see it and want it for themselves?

John exclaims that the love of God, which is so important to the Lord that we are now called His sons because He bestowed it on us, must be practically outworked. Yet he highlights in verse 2, for all of those sitting in their seats feeling unworthy or even unchanged, that the real change, like the metamorphosis of the caterpillar will only be seen when we are resurrected. Yet like the cocoon which has been spun tells those around about that a change is happening, we too must exhibit an outward cocoon which highlights this change.

But enough stalling lets get back to these terrifying verses.

Is Johns point that the cocoon he thinks we should exhibit to others is one of sinless perfection, and that without an out working of this then we weren’t actually saved. Well if he is we might as well all pack up, because none of us have lived up to this. And that also includes Paul the apostle who declared I do what I know I shouldn’t do and don’t do that which I ought. So the answer has to be a firm no because it would be contrary to Paul’s declaration which is divine scripture and most importantly contrary to the teachings of grace which say

if you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. Romans 10:9

And Jesus writes to the churches in revelation and exhorts and rebukes them, even the dead church, yet the Lord still calls them saints.

So what is John saying because it reads as plainly as we have put it?

Well the answer is that John isn’t talking here of a cocoon item, he’s talking of the full metamorphosis, an outworking which will be completed when we are translated into glory. Now I’m not talking of a second salvation, but I’m talking of what it will be like to fly when we have cast off the flesh as the caterpillar that turns into the butterfly. John’s statements unlike Paul’s are not directly linked to sin in terms of breaking the law in a single act. They aren’t even linked into breaking the law in a habitual sense of sin, something that in truth many Christians do.

Now I’m not excusing sin, friends we must repent, that is to turn away. Some sins are easier for us to stop than others. Some sins are such powerful draws to us that we know we must never be in their presence. But in truth our Christian walk is a battle and one we must remember we have been given the victory in. As with all bullies, and the Devil is their chief, the power they have is the power that we give them.

John isn’t talking of the act of sinning, but the attitude of sin. John shows that the outworking of the Lords transforming love within us is that the desire to be selfish is broken, that when we sin we commit a selfish act, but that our lives are not a daily sense of pleasing yourself as it was when we were dead in them. Why, because we have the great commandments given to us by Jesus,

love the Lord with all your heart all your soul and all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself.

Now although we may not live up to this daily, we are different than before we were saved when we had no desire to do that at all. But now we get into the realm of questioning our motives, well was I selfish, am I behaving selfishly, am I saved, maybe I’m not and then back to terrifying verse. Quick close the bible I don’t like this anymore. Hence why John moves this chain of thought into a genuine practical outworking, which will be seen by others and be an indication that we are born again.

In this the children of God are revealed, and the children of the Devil: everyone not practicing righteousness is not of God, also he who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:10

Now Christ is our Righteousness to choose to follow him is the term meant by practicing. But the second part is not a mental or inward application alone, it is an application which has to be outworked and it is not directed heavenward, but externally towards our Christian brothers and sisters. .

It is so important that John shows in verse 11 that this is the message taught from the beginning. Not just the beginning of the church through Acts and Paul’s teachings. Not just by Jesus through his many teachings and the Sermon on the Mount. But throughout the biblical teaching as the Lord chose a family of in fighters and created a nation to live under Gods law. In which law what you did to your neighbour was considered important. This is central to the Lords plan friends we must love one another because Christ loved us.

John shows us through Cain and able how we might really know if we are thinking selfishly or righteously. Do we look at others gifting or prayer life or bible knowledge and act with jealousy? Do we act as Elisha and say can I have a double portion, because it’s not wrong to desire greater Spiritual gifts and to look to those who are older in the faith as examples as Paul said follow my example as I follow Christ’s. However, it is wrong to wish evil to that person and try to bring them down to make you look or feel better. That is how we know we have the love of God, do we hate or do we wish to emulate and surpass, maybe you don’t hate you just dislike, friends any form of despise lets us down. We must be like Abel, who just desired to serve God and get closer to Him. What is funny about it is that even though the purpose is that our light may shine, John warns us to expect, from the people we want to show Jesus to, hatred.

Now previously when we discussed loving your neighbour as ourselves, I showed you that our neighbour literally means the other person and that the outworking of this command, is to project on to all people a humble and dedicated love based on actions we would like done to us, if we were that other person. That applies to everyone, including the ones we don’t like. But what we are talking about here is the brothers

Now the word brothers is alde fe os, It means the term family both practically and figuratively and in the terms of Christianity it means both, because we are both, spiritual and blood brother, as our unity is based on no other fact than we were all saved by the same blood of the Lamb, have the same heavenly Father and are all called His sons and heirs. So we are discussing here our outworking to each other within the Church and the purpose of this outworking of the Love of God, towards each other in fellowship, is so that those who will hate us for it, outside of the Church might actually see the Lords love and desire it. That’s not really that complicated

The remaining part of the chapter highlights how we might then outwork our love for one another as a fellowship and what the rewards of this are. This is the difficult part I think because often we are challenged by one another, the people you meet at church are not the people you would choose to be there, they are the people God chose to be there, so we really ought to shut up and get on with it. If we cant then we are in trouble because what John does now is summarise to us three ways in which we internally think about each other.

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brothers. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Everyone hating his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has everlasting life abiding in him. 1 John 3:14-15

John shows you either, hate that person (this is bad and if you hate someone its as murder). a Christian has no place hating any of their brothers, no matter what they have done. Why, because Christ loved us and we needed Him to be crucified. If you don’t hate them, then you’re probably just neutral towards them. However John teaches us here that’s not good enough either.

It’s the third state which we must exist in as church to one another because this is the significance of our salvation, this is how we will show others we have moved from death to life we must love the unlovable. When in church next look to your left, then look to your right, then look all around you. That’s right they are the people you’ve got to love. Yet the word for love that is used is agapeo, it means a sacrificial love, where someone preferred another. Its use in this term in scripture is written agapeo to mean a love that is given sacrificially to others but from God. So the Love we must have is sacrificial, but let’s not worry, because it is the Lord who supplies the Love to us in the first place, so we must love one another with the same love that Christ gave to us. The way we outwork this is given to us in the next verses,

By this we have known the love of God, because He laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But whoever has this world's goods and sees his brother having need, and shuts up his bowels from him, how does the love of God dwell in him? My children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

We are now given two ways to outwork it, one a pretty big sacrifice, the other a fairly small one. Are we willing to give our lives for one another? Now that’s a pretty big sacrifice and at the time John wrote this, such a thing was becoming more common. Yet He knew to make a statement like this was simple because it wasn’t to be outworked every single day. Instead it was a promise that would or could be outworked in the future and in the mean time they could be saying “good morning, how are you” when they mean “ I hate your rotten stinking guts”, there was only one way it could be tested and the Church wouldn’t last long if we all had to die for one another just to prove the love of God was in us.

So the second is more practical and yet much harder. If we see a brother in need and can meet the need, then we should. Now let me be clear, if the words that just formed in your mind are yeah they should give me ……, then you don’t understand. Communism says all you have is mine. The communalism of Christianity says, all that I have is yours. You can’t tell me what I should give you, but you can tell me what you’re going to give me. In essence the significance is we aren’t being self centred, or selfish. Now people will get to know about that. Not that’s that church that gives you stuff for free. But that’s that church where I get to help other people out. Because ultimately the only person you can hope responds to this message is you.

What John finishes with is to tell us that this is how we can know if we are saved. Simply by the way we treat each other in Church and not by waiting for that fuzzy washing machine feeing. And he even warns us that even if your heart is condemning you even now, saying you didn’t do this. Well the heart deceives and Christ is greater than the heart.

The remaining verses teach if we were to act in this none selfish way, our prayer life will be revolutionised, our spiritual lives would be revolutionised and our hearts would be changed, because we come to God with the right attitude. that’ is simply, others first.

Now if your thinking that’s to hard, I can’t do that, or I don’t want to do that then lets finish with the last two verses

And this is His commandment that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment. And he who keeps His commandment dwells in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He gave to us. 1 John 3:23-24

I’m afraid to say its not optional, but at the same time its not that it’s a requirement, rather that it’s the outworking of your salvation, a tree must be fruitful, otherwise its only useful for burning. Don’t say you can’t or won’t, instead make sure you do.

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