For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
Fellowship is the lifestyle that the Trinity has had in eternity.
"...and report to you the eternal life, which was with the Father, and has been manifested to us: that which we have seen and heard we report to you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is indeed with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:2-3). "God is faithful, by whom ye have been called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:9). "...all that is mine is thine, and all that is thine mine… I in them and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one" (John 17:10, 23).
Fellowship is something exclusive to Christians. The external world knows nothing about fellowship, since the whole world is under the evil one and fellowship is something that came from God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. The world is God's enemy, although God has given everything to reconcile the world to Himself without taking their sin into account; however, whilst the people in the world don't come to Him to receive life, they will be excluding themselves from the privilege of fellowship.
Fellowship is something heavenly; it is the lifestyle that the Trinity has had for all eternity. It is something unique and exclusive to God amid the whole universe; it is perfect, wonderful and eternal.
However, God, in His eternal purpose, wanted to share His own life with man; His own heavenly life, that life of fellowship which He has lived out in His plurality of persons through eternity, that life which is intensely corporate and interdependent; a life that one lives in both authority and subjection at the same time; life that is characterized by the capacity to give oneself over to others, giving preference to them before oneself; life, therefore that is able to go through death and to emerge in resurrection. This is the type of life that God has imparted to the church. What is the church? It is the continuation of the life of heaven, the life of God. It is the same life of fellowship as that which the Father and the Son have eternally enjoyed in the Holy Spirit; now it is in the church, and that is what makes the church, the church; and if this is not the case, then it may be many things but it is not the church.
Fellowship came to us from the life of God
Could anything be more glorious than the type of life that the Father and the Son have experienced from eternity? First, let us consider what this life consists of: it is life in fellowship. To say this seems simple, but it implies something wonderful, something beautiful, something unique in the universe. God the Father has eternally shared what is His with the Son (fellowship means to share the same things). The Father, being recognized by the Son as greater than He, gave all things, the whole universe, to the Son. He was constituted Heir of the Universe.
In Satan's rebellion, things in heaven and on earth were lost; the usurper had come to kill, to steal and to scatter the things of God in order to appropriate them for himself, degrading them to the point of making all things hideous. The Son came to save and seek what had been lost, including man. After the redemption, these things became the Lord Jesus Christ's by merit, because He recovered them. However, when finishing His work on the earth, He said: " all things that are mine are thine, and thine are mine " (Jn. 17:10). This is the Son of God's beautiful quality regarding fellowship with the Father.
Satan had caused chaos in the heavens; his intention was to go against the fellowship of the blessed persons in the Trinity. He could never enter into that circle; he only served from outside it. When he knew that God had a plan to share that fellowship with men; that He would open that intimate circle to other creatures of another gender, whom the angels would serve, he was filled with jealousy, and could not withstand it. He was filled with envy and wanted to destroy the work of God. He dared to tempt the Son of God in the desert, offering him the kingdoms of this world. That was nothing other than an attempt to destroy the unity of God, to break the circle of the trinity. He thought that if he was able to destroy that circle, he would end the Father's fellowship with the Son, and thus ascend above God.
Thankfully, the Son of God didn't give in to the rebellious creature's whims. God's unity remained unharmed, indestructible, and the plan of God was completed by sharing the lifestyle of God with men. With the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the hundred and twenty, the hour in which the life of God entered into the church arrived, baptizing that plurality of people into one body, so that they were no longer individualistic, but an extension of the life of heaven on earth.
The Father gave us the most beautiful thing that He had; He gave us His Son and in Him He gave us all things. God in Christ was made "edible", because all that which is of sustenance in eternal life is in the Son of God. He is the Bread of life, and that's why the Lord's Supper is of importance, as we remember the divine fact that God was given to us in Christ in order to satisfy us with all the goodness that exists in God. In the Supper we remember how we were introduced into this quality of life in fellowship, and we do it by symbolically receiving the fellowship that came down from heaven, represented in the bread and the wine. Although the Lord's Supper is something external and symbolic, we all know however, that it represents something real that is among us, and that is fellowship. Fellowship with God, whose center is the Lord Jesus Christ's person, and fellowship among the brothers and sisters.
Fellowship is to share the same things, to have all things in common. This was what happened in the church in Jerusalem. When the hundred and twenty received the fellowship from heaven, none of them claimed their possessions as belonging to them, because they had all things in common. They learned how to leave everything behind, to give and to give everything that they had. Nobody was in need. He who had gathered least had no more need than he who had gathered most. This is the essence of fellowship between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.
Today there are brothers and sisters who won't give money to the work of God. Based on strange teachings, they argue that tithes do not belong to this dispensation. Many are caught in the system of this world, getting in debt with the latest televisions or anything that the consumerist market offers; but there is no money to share with the brothers and sisters in the fellowship of heaven on earth.
The brothers and sisters responsible for receiving money wonder: "Could it be that we need more teaching in this respect? Could it be the lack of an intensive stewardship?" I don't think this is where we are failing; I think that we Christians have drawn too close to the world and the things of the world. The Lord warns us that at the end of times, " and because lawlessness shall prevail, the love of the most shall grow cold " (Mat. 24:12).
I want to say that the Father gave everything to the Son, without keeping anything for Himself, and that the Son likewise gave everything to the Father without keeping anything for Himself. The measure, then, is not a tithe, but everything. When a mean mind begins to calculate and to justify its expenses, it may be that it has reasons for re-routing the Lord's money toward other ends, from the point of view of the earthly life; but never from the point of view of the heavenly fellowship. The only thing that those calculations demonstrate is that your love for the Lord has grown cold.
Fellowship in John's Epistles
When John wrote these letters, it was between the year 95-98 DC. The churches had lost their sense of fellowship; they were confused regarding who it was necessary to receive in the fellowship of the brothers and sisters and who they should exclude. There were many false teachers, whose doctrines were circulated throughout the churches; the confusion was great. To correct these errors, John wrote these three epistles using "fellowship" as the central topic. He establishes the basis for true fellowship in them, and these are: that fellowship is based in the life that came to us from heaven (in the first epistle), that the subsequent fellowship of that life has as its characteristic love and truth (in the second epistle), and that hospitality is the expression of that fellowship (the topic in the third epistle).
1st Epistle of John
In the first epistle John introduces the topic of fellowship on the basis of the life that is light- words that he had already used in the Gospel that takes his name. God is light, like the Son of God who is the light of the world. We have been called to fellowship with the Son of God: " God is faithful, by whom ye have been called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (1Cor. 1:9). From this comes the apostolic announcement that the gospel of eternal life doesn't have man's salvation as the final goal, but rather man's fellowship with God, for which purpose, man first needs to be saved.
Fellowship is a "walk in the light". Here it is not the light or understanding of the Word, nor is it the light of the confession or opening of the heart, but the light that is characteristic of the eternal life which dwells in us. However, this light, characteristic of the life of God which is in us, is that which impels us to confess our sins. In the New Covenant nobody would say to his brother: "Know the Lord", because all will know him. Each one has the light of the life, and it will guide us in all circumstances of the life in this world. Fellowship can grow if we are growing in the character and nature of the eternal life; the practice of fellowship is firstly to synchronize with the nature of the life that dwells within us. If we are walking on that path, then the horizontal fellowship, among the brothers and sisters, will be a natural consequence.
Fellowship can be hindered by sin. Sin separates us from God and from brothers and sisters. However, there is a way out and that is "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (Jn. 1:9). It is imperative that we obey the light of life that is within us; if we don't obey, we will lose fellowship with God and with our brothers and sisters, because there is no fellowship between light and darkness. The only thing needed for anyone who, having walked in the light of life, and has been detained by the darkness, is to come and obey the voice of the light of life that is within us. If this is your case, run to confess your sin! Run to ask for help from Christ's body! God reestablishes us by His grace and His mercy; nothing else.
John's statements are categorical and absolute: "If we say... he who says... everyone who... he who denies...". This is to identify who's who. Who are the true brothers and sisters? "He who has the Son has the life", "He that loves his brother", "whosoever shall confesses that Jesus is the Christ", "He that knows God hears us", "Whoever does not practise righteousness is not of God, and he who does not love his brother.". These are the distinctive signs of true and false brethren. This solves the issue as to who to include and who to exclude from fellowship.
2nd Epistle of John
The situation in the church today is the same as that at the end of the first century: many heresies, many divisions, emphasis on diversity, scandals and stumbling blocks of bad testimonies among those who claim to be Christians. Amid all this, it is difficult to have fellowship. We are filled with fears about approaching other brothers for fear of being contaminated with doctrines or customs that are not according to our paradigms. John, in his second epistle, teaches us that love and the truth, as fruits of the life of God that dwell in us, are the foundations for true fellowship.
Many Christians emphasize love, as something separate from the truth, as a foundation for fellowship whilst others emphasize the truth as something separate from the love. This is problematic because if you only emphasize love then you run the risk of allowing anything that comes along into the church. If you only emphasize love, you won't accept anybody who corrects you nor allow yourself to be disciplined, because in the name of love, everything is allowed. On the other hand, if you emphasize the truth without considering love, you become a grumpy, moody, legalistic, self-righteous, implacable Christian without any affection toward others.
We must understand that love and truth are inseparable; they are inseparable because they are part of God's character. The life that God gave us has the intrinsic character of love and truth, such that John tells us that God is love and that the Lord Jesus Christ is the truth.
The problem is that many Christians who emphasize the truth, understand this to mean the interpretation that they give to the Scriptures. This is an error, because the truth is Christ Himself. We have received fellowship from God which is based on life and not on the understanding that we have of the Scriptures. We receive one another by virtue of the fact that Christ dwells in us and not by virtue of biblical orthodoxy.
It was necessary to establish the basis of fellowship, since it is inclusive and exclusive at the same time. It includes all those who belong to Christ and at the same time excludes those that do not. So John, as distinctive sign, said: " whosoever goes forward and abides not in the doctrine of the Christ has not God. " (v. 9) How many of us here have the life of God living inside them? Tell your brother sat next to you that you have the life! Christ's doctrine is to have His own person inside us in fellowship with the Father. In the first epistle he had said: " He that has the Son has life: he that has not the Son of God has not life " (1 Jn.5:12).
So then, who will we include? All who have the life! Are you sure you have the Son of God's life? Tell your brother! This is the true basis for fellowship. Many times errors are made as to who we receive and to who we exclude, because we don't have a clear understanding of the foundation for receiving one another. If Christ received us, we have to receive those who He has also received; we cannot exclude somebody because he thinks differently regarding some biblical interpretation of a truth.
When the church loses its spiritual vigor, the love of many grows cold. We must strengthen ourselves in these days. It doesn't matter how many fronts we are facing the enemy on, it doesn't matter how many wrongs or abnormalities we are seeing, we must abide in the truth and the love that is the expression of the life of God which we have inside us.
In the third epistle, John develops the topic of hospitality as a fruit of the life of God which is in us; that which is also a distinctive quality of true brothers and sisters who are in fellowship.