The Perfect Life.
Meditations on St. John's First Epistle.
Part I. The Theme Opened.
THE writer's object in the present series of papers is not so much to present an orderly exposition of John's Epistles—of which indeed the Church of God has no lack—as to touch a few of the salient features of one of them—the first; and so, as the Lord enables, to prepare the ground for an independent study of the Epistle in more detail. Once the scope of Scripture on any subject is apprehended—the general directions of the chart, as one may say, made clear—the rest is plain sailing; though for every advance in divine knowledge, there must be a corresponding renewal of dependence upon God, and a purpose of soul that moves to fresh conquests.
THE GREAT THEME OF THE EPISTLE—
God's nature, Light and Love, manifested in a Person and expressed in the saints—is one of the noblest ever proposed to the heart of man; to the devout Christian, it must be one of urgent, personal concern. In the associated Gospel, the theme is somewhat different. Light and Love are manifested there in the same blessed Person, no doubt; but in every part of it, He is the alone expression of both. Light and love are seen objectively in Him all through, and only when we find ourselves abreast of later conditions—the heresies and delusions which give, as we may say, the shadow-side to the Epistle—and remember, that the dispensation with which it is chronologically connected is a dispensation of the Spirit, only then will the thought of God's nature reproducing in the saints become really intelligible.
WHAT WAS SEEN AND HEARD—
That which the apostles saw and heard concerning the Word of Life, surveying memory-wise the pregnant years of the Lord's manifestation on earth—all the glorious light and love which shone out of Him during His brief sojourn here among men—these divine characteristics are, by the enkindling, transmuting grace of the Spirit, to be reproduced and exhibited in the saints; not in apostles or Church elders merely, nor in a specialized few upon whom "great grace" might thereafter fall, but in the whole family of God—fathers, young men, and even babes—and this, as we are told, in the measure of their spiritual apprehension of certain specific happenings, things known and witnessed of "from the beginning." In other words, there is supposed a taking to heart of those precious unfoldings of divine love which marked the earthly life and lowly gracious service of the Son of God.
A NEW YET OLD COMMANDMENT—
Received at first as "a new commandment"—for it was a love that told out unreservedly the Father's heart, and was therefore unknown to man till the Son came forth to declare it—it became by apostolic transmission "an old commandment," so that half a century later, the apostle could say: "Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment, which ye had from the beginning" (2. 7); albeit, when the time was ripe for this love from Heaven to produce an answering love in hearts that had received it, the terms of its enunciation became a new commandment. "Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you" (2. 8). The old commandment was the word which they had heard from the beginning, those wonderful disclosures of divine love which were proposed for their emulation even before the Cross (John 13. 34; 15. 12, etc.), but which, as now made good in them and presented as the motive power for a walk after the pattern of Christ's own walk, became again a new commandment. Like Christ's own walk! For "he that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself also to walk, even as He walked" (2. 6). Ability to emulate that walk is incidentally inferred here.
It may be helpful to observe that "the beginning" in the opening verse of our Epistle is neither synchronal nor synonymous with "the beginning" in the opening verse of the Gospel. The Gospel's beginning (John 1. 1) carries a long way farther back, even to Creation; at which time, as this verse teaches, the Divine Word had already an existence—evidence, if that were needed, that He Who tabernacled among men in the days of His flesh, is the eternal, uncreated One. In the first verse of the Epistle, however, "the beginning" is rather the beginning of Christianity; that memorable epoch in human history when the Word of Life was "found in fashion as a man" on the earth; an occasion of unique significance, to which official recognition was touchingly accorded when the aged Simeon took the child Christ in his arms, and, blessing God, said; "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace . . . for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation" (Luke 2. 29, 30). Or, perchance, the august event was marked on that other memorable occasion, when, with deeper Church significance, the veil of humanity which concealed the ineffable glory of the Only Begotten was drawn aside, and Peter, speaking by divine revelation and in view of the "great Mystery" yet to be revealed, witnessed the glorious confession: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16. 16).
KEY-WORDS OF THE EPISTLE—
Five great ends or objects are affirmed in the Epistle, all of which should command our prayerful attention. First in order is the end announced in the third verse of chapter 1., wherein the writer proposes to associate others with himself in the apostles' FELLOWSHIP, a fellowship with the Father and the Son. Secondly, and as though in ratification of that fellowship, he would bring them into FULNESS OF JOY (1. 4); not merely into a state of modified happiness, but into joy in all its fulness. Thirdly, he desires that, as children of God, compassed with infirmity, they may be KEPT FROM SINNING (2. 1). Fourthly, that, as believers in the Name of the Son of God, they may be ASSURED IN THE POSSESSION OF ETERNAL LIFE (v. 13); and fifthly, he desires that FAITH in that Name may be STEDFASTLY MAINTAINED (ibid). They were in a difficult and hostile world, exposed to insidious influences of every sort and from every quarter, and the Name of the Son of God was as a strong tower, which the righteous might run into and be safe.
Such, then, were the five ends or objects which occupied the apostle's thoughts in this profoundly stimulating letter. Let us run over them again: (1) "That ye may have fellowship with us"; (2) "that your joy may be full"; (3) "that ye sin not"; (4) "that ye may know that ye have eternal life"; (5) "that ye may believe on the Name of the Son of God." Fellowship with God; a joy that none can measure; intrinsic, personal holiness; the knowledge of possession as to God's unspeakable gift; and faith in the sheltering Name of the Son of God—all the changes in the Epistle are rung on those five clear notes; and how satisfying are the resultant harmonies to the heart that listens—and obeys.
LIGHT FIRST, THEN LOVE—
Two of these—fellowship, and the fulness of joy into which it leads—really suppose the remaining three. Light precedes love, and he that would enjoy fellowship with God, must submit to the searchings of the light, a light which exposes whatever is contrary to God, whether in thought or practice. "God is light and in him is no darkness at all" (1. 5); and hence, there can be no fellowship with Him—no communion—if the light is so shunned that we neglect to walk in it. "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in 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 Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1. 6, 7). Sweet and tranquillizing is the thought that we do not come into the light in order to engage the advocacy of Christ on our behalf. Our coming into the light is the precious fruit of that advocacy. He has already been with the Father about the sin which the light exposes, and which, as seen in the light, is gladly judged and abandoned; and for that reason, the communion which the consciousness of unjudged sin has interrupted is resumed, and fellowship is restored. The advocacy is thus seen to be a movement of grace from the Lord's side, producing repentance, and not, as is sometimes supposed, called forth thereby. Affecting is the thought for every member of the blood-bought family that, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father" (2. 1). Not, "if any man repent"; "if any man sin" is the dictum. Nor is advocacy said to be with God, but with the Father. Nothing, blessed be God, can disturb the relationship into which we have been brought by sovereign grace.
THE KNOWLEDGE OF POSSESSION—
The second of the three conditions is linked with knowledge—"that ye may know that ye have eternal life"—for eternal life is regarded as something of present value, a something to be possessed, so that the knowledge is not mental knowledge merely, but a knowledge of experience and joy. Christ is that life, and as our hearts are made His dwelling-place, the movements of divine love act and re-act within us, and fellowship is known and enjoyed. We love God; we love the brethren, and, thus loving, we know that we have eternal life. To love the brotherhood is surely one of the most healthy signs of life; indeed, "we know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren" (3. 14). The sad converse is found in the immediate context: "He that loveth not his brother, abideth in death" (ibid).
FAITH AND THE NAME—
Then as to faith. What becomes of fellowship—what of fulness of joy, if faith in the Name of the Son of God languishes? Communion ceases, the springing well is choked; a state of spiritual dryness supervenes. And as the Name of the Son of God loses value in the soul, the flesh regains dominion, and a spirit of worldliness encroaches. The Christian, as born of God, has a nature which overcomes the world—the new nature, as we say—but this nature functions through faith. "Whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (5. 4). And mark! "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God" (5. 5).
So we may safely re-affirm our premise that holiness of walk, a spiritual indwelling, Christ in the heart and steady continuance in the faith of the Son of God, are all pre-requisites to this fellowship of light and love, the fellowship with the Father and the Son.
May the Lord, in His great mercy, lead us into it, maintaining us in lowly trust and unfeigned loyalty of affection to Himself and to one another, that, so each moral feature in us may be in some sense a reflection of His own, and the purpose of our lives may grow at last to this: "Not I, but Christ (that) liveth in me!" (Gal. 2. 20). Then shall we be true disciples of the Master, taking Him in all things as our example, heeding His guiding voice, and, as led by Him, treading with undeviating steps in "the footsteps of the flock" (Cant. 1. 8). Then, too, will the life which we now live in the flesh, be lived, as was St. Paul's, by the faith of the Son of God, the Great Shepherd Who died for us and Who loves us to the end. In His cherished company, we shall find no lack of restful meadows and quiet watercourses; and sitting with satisfied hearts under His shadow, His fruit will be sweet to our taste. Our joy will be full.
Part II. Importance of John's Ministry.
Amid the manifold signs of the Church's waning activities here below—those fitful coruscations as of departing light ere the dispensation closes—everything being evidently in flux and the foundation of the earth as plainly out of course (Psa. 82. 5), the ministry of St. John has a peculiar importance. It is a ministry which carries outside the sphere of circumstances, and which in its essential features survives all dispensations.
There are two other apostles whose ministries are dispensationally significant, St. Peter and St. Paul, and a glance at these may help in considering the characteristic mission of St. John. Dispensationally regarded, the mission of Peter originates in, and flows from his confession of Jesus as the Son of God, and on that confession—the "rock" of Matt. 16. 16—the building of the Church began and continues. His personal service was to the Circumcision, and though, as possessor of the keys, he opened the doors of the Kingdom of Heaven to the Gentiles; his work in this dispensational aspect may be said to have ended with the fall of Jerusalem. Hence, his martyrdom—the abrupt cessation of his ministry during the very infancy of the Church—is recorded, or, at least, inferred.
Paul, the wise master-builder, presents a ministry, the dispensational character of which goes farther, but this also ends abruptly while the building is yet in progress. Death closes suddenly his wonderful career. Alas, the work upon which he wrought so wisely and efficiently—the gathering of the saints into one fellowship as a witness to the world, that the Father had indeed sent the Son (John 17. 21)—Was largely spoilt by others, who added hay, wood and stubble to the precious material which the apostle brought together and thus the fair fabric became irretrievably marred. At the close of labours unparalleled in the history of the Church, he had to admit—with what sorrow and disappointment we may well conceive—that things were not as he had fondly provisioned them. He tells of the inroads of false teachers, of strife within arising out of personal ambitions, and of widespread departures from the faith. "This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me" (2 Tim. 1. 15); and what a world of pathos lingers in those five brief words, uttered within a few months of his decease: "Only Luke is with me" (2 Tim. 4. 11).
THE RUIN AND AFTERWARDS—
All the elements of faithlessness and disruption were already there. Church unity—so potent a witness to the reality of the heavenly mission of the Son of God (John 17. 21) had broken down, and what remained of vital Christianity, took form in most part as personal testimony, in rendering which the "man of God," intelligent in "last time" conditions, purged himself from unworthy associations, so that he might be "a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use" (2 Tim. 2. 21). The day of united Church testimony was over, and a testimony based on personal piety and self-denying service, in which ecclesiastical pretensions had no part and of which pastoral care and evangelical zeal were the outward and visible signs, had taken its place.
And it is just here that St. John's ministry comes in. Scripture contains no intimation of the finish of his earthly course as it does of the life-terms of St. Peter and St. Paul. The dispensation of Peter ended, as we have seen, with the fall of Jerusalem; the dispensation of Paul finished with the breakdown of the Church. These pillar-men, as representative of those dispensations, thereupon pass off the scene (John 21. 19; 2 Tim. 4. 6). But John remains. His ministry really links with that which, continues, and which is also outside of man's responsibility—indeed, in a sense is beyond the possibility of human failure. Hence, his death, though of course it took place, is not referred to. Dispensationally he is the Enoch of the Church (Gen. 5. 24). The keynote of his ministry is life, the life which is assured to all the saints. Every believer is, in Christ Himself "that Eternal Life" (1 John 1. 2). It was John who testified that ''the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ" (5. 20).
THE SCOPE OF LIFE—
As children of the heavenly family, the apostle regards the saints as of another world (3. 1), taken into favour in the Beloved, and only waiting for their translation. They are in Him that is true, and in that sense are beyond failure—yea, beyond death itself. "His seed remaineth in them"—what is that but immortality—and they cannot sin" (3. 9). Sinless life in Christ outside the very sphere of death is the idea. "Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear"—not when we die—"we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (3. 2). Death is not contemplated, but a passing into more abundant life at His coming.
"IF I WILL"—
Still more striking is the intimation which we get in the last chapter of his Gospel. The Lord had been telling Peter of the death that awaited him, and Peter takes occasion to enquire concerning John. "Lord, and what shall this man do?" Mark the answer. "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" The comment of the Holy Ghost thereon is equally significant: "Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die; yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" (John 21. 21-23). How tersely, and yet with what wonderful accuracy of touch, the mystic character of John's dispensation is here indicated!
THE DWELLING-PLACE OF LOVE—
The importance of these considerations can hardly be overstated. In a day of ecclesiastical breakdown and abounding worldliness, the thought of recall to a ministry which has life for its theme, the very life of God, is full of comfort, for here, as nowhere else, we see the mind of Heaven in its simplest expressions—light and love; a light that illuminates the unfathomable depths of knowledge, and a love that links with the heart of the Infinite. What can be more stimulating to faith, or more profoundly rest-giving in a day of ambitious Church pretensions, than the thought of a life emancipate from all earthly conditions and nourished by a fellowship with Divine Persons? for here we find ourselves at the very centre of things—the innermost shrine of the affections—in a word, in John's own place, the bosom of the Beloved (John 13. 25).
A FIVEFOLD CHAIN—
And as we trace the interlocking movements of light and love in this Epistle, we find that they group readily under five chief heads, which answer to and, broadly speaking, are co-extensive with these five avowed ends of the Epistle to which allusion has been made. They are easily remembered, for they follow in the main, the order of the chapters.
Thus chapter 1. gives us Fellowship, a fellowship of light, having for its key words, "that ye may have fellowship with us" (1. 3). The second gives us Consecration—discipleship and its responsibilities; in other words, the believer's walk with God and how it is to be maintained. For this, the complementary text is: “Let that abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning" (2. 24). Chapter 3. is Relationship; and here the family traits are brought out as well as the moral consequences of being born of God. "We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren" (3. 14). The fourth head is Knowledge; a knowledge peculiar to the new nature and which supposes spiritual discernment. The command to "try the spirits" (4. 1) indicates the nature of this knowledge, which, moreover, is intimately associated with dwelling in love. In chapter 5., we get Faith, a faith centralized in the Son of God and operating by love; elsewhere defined as "the substantiating of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11. 1, N.T.). That way lies victory—victory over the world—so that John exultingly asks: "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God"? (5. 5).
LOVE'S PURPOSES DISPLAYED—
The connection between these subject-headings and the five great objects of the Epistle is clear enough, and will be followed here, though anything like a detailed consideration of the links must be left for a future occasion. The thought of Fellowship in chapter 1 suggests of course the gracious purpose of verse 3: "that ye may have fellowship with us"; Consecration, which is another name for abiding in Christ, necessarily supposes joy, for the Lord's own words as to continuing in His love are crowned with the touching declaration: "these things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15. 11); and this has its parallel in John's: "these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full" (1 John 1. 4). Knowledge, that unction from the Holy One by which all things may be known (2. 20)—evil things as well as good things—and by which we may be kept ever on our guard against seducing spirits, links readily with John's third purpose: "that ye sin not" (2. 1). Relationship, our calling as children of the heavenly family, hinging as it does upon possession of life in the Son (5. 11), answers also to the fourth head of our Epistle: "that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (5. 13), while Faith, connecting with the fifth purpose, has for its appropriate portion: "that ye may believe on the Name of the Son of God" (ibid).
Part III. Fellowship.
There is no greater event in the history of man, than the advent of Light into this world in the Person of the Son of God. At the Fall, moral darkness may be said to have closed around the human race; a darkness that waxed denser as the centuries rolled by, and though, in the sovereignty of His goodness, the Lord lifted up the light of His countenance from time to time on many an Old Testament saint, the condition of humanity at large, till the coming of Christ, was one of unrelieved darkness.
It might have been thought that the appearance of Christ on the earth, according to ancient promise, would change all that; that the shining forth of the Light of Life would instantly dispel the darkness, but this was not the case. When the Light appeared, the darkness comprehended it not (John 1. 5). Steeped in unbelief and wedded to their sins, the deluded nation to whom the promise had been given had no use for a light which exposed them to themselves. They loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil (3. 19), and when the witness of Christ came to them, “I am the Light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the Light of life" (8. 12) they would not follow; they clung to their sins; their choice was for darkness, not light.
Yet were there some who received Him; some who realized their darkness and to whom the revelation of this life-evolving Light was as the Day Spring from on high. The reception by faith of this revelation brought answering light, according to Psalm 119. 130. To as many as received Him, He became the Light of life, and to them gave He power to become the sons of God (John 1. 12). The apostles, Judas excepted, were of this number. They were they who had been with Him from the beginning; who had listened to the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth; who had gazed upon that sacred face; who, in familiar intercourse, had touched His holy Person; and to them was committed the special message as to Him, which was to link up all believers in one common fellowship of life, the fellowship of the Father and the Son (1 John 1. 1-3). The things concerning Himself, learnt in His blessed company, became the theme of that wondrous message, but they were things done in fellowship with the Father, whence He came and whose grace and truth He expressed.
It was a message that led to the very Fountainhead of grace and truth—to God as Light—here presented as the basis and touchstone of all true fellowship. "This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1. 5).
Few things in Christianity have been so misunderstood, few New Testament terms so misapplied as Fellowship. The Greek equivalent of the word is "koinonia," and the verb is "koinonéo," which means to have a thing in common, to have a share, to partake with; thus conveying the thought of partnership, whether in things material or spiritual. Both uses of the word are found in Scripture. Where the apostle speaks to the Corinthians of "the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Cor. 8. 4) the former is inferred, that precious fellowship which he elsewhere speaks of as "distributing (koinonountes—the participial form of koinonéo) to the necessity of saints" (Rom. 12. 13). The "contribution" made for the poor saints at Jerusalem by their brethren of Macedonia and Achaia, expresses the same character of practical fellowship, and the word translated "contribution" in that passage is "koinonia" (Rom. 15. 26). Also in the exhortation "to do good and to communicate," a form of self-denial well pleasing to God, the word translated "to communicate” is "koinonoias" (Heb. 13. 16). The giving is itself an act of fellowship.
But there is a thought of communicating higher than alms-giving. Wholesome as is the exercise, the care of the needy is only a small part of Christian fellowship. "The apostles' fellowship," to which all believers are called and in which the first Christians are said to have "continued steadfastly" (Acts 2. 42} goes farther than helping the necessitous or "serving tables" (Acts 6. 2). It conveys a spiritual thought, and the fellowship is a spiritual fellowship. It takes us right out of nature and material things and places us in the holy light of God, a light in which the efficacy of the blood of Christ persists eternally. How affecting it is to note that the blood is linked with walking in the light in verse 7. If He who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4. 6), we need to be maintained before Him; and what maintains is the blood, which by virtue of the worth and dignity of the Offerer has an abiding value. "In Heaven, the blood for ever speaks before and on the throne." Once cleansed by that precious blood, we do not need, as some would teach, a re-application of the blood should failure supervene. Having been sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once, we are for ever sanctified. The work of redemption cannot be repeated. Having offered Himself without spot to God a sacrifice for sins, the Offerer entered the Sanctuary in the power of His own blood and sat down in perpetuity at the right hand of God. The sitting down and the perpetuity of the session both express the completeness of the work (Heb. 10. 12). "By His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption"; and it is to that "holy place" we are brought and there in the blessed light of God where the blood for ever speaks, we are fitted to walk (Heb. 9. 12).
So walking, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1. 7). It is a continuous, automatic operation. Precious witness to the value of the blood of Jesus! Wondrous fellowship established on so immutable a basis!
Needless to say, this fellowship with one another supposes a condition in which oneness of thought is wedded to oneness of action; a moving together in the intelligence of light and love. The exhortation, "Let him that is taught in the word, communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things" (Gal. 6. 6) suggests the expression of this fellowship in daily life. The word translated "communicate" in the quoted passage is "koinonia" again. Everything which the teaching grace of God imparts as light and encouragement is the property of all, and it is the privilege and responsibility of one taught of God to communicate of his good things to others. What is this but having fellowship with one another?
Part IV. Fellowship (Cont.)
“FELLOWSHIP in the Gospel" may serve as another illustration. The work of an evangelist is strenuous and exacting; but those who are not evangelists may co-operate by their prayers and practical sympathy. The remembrance of his beloved converts at Philippi, who supported the apostle in this way on various occasions, was very fragrant to the great missioner (Phil. 1. 5): and was not that a worthy instance of practical fellowship when Peter, James and John, pursuing their own special service among the Jews, gave to Paul and Barnabas "the right hand of fellowship" on their going forth to evangelize the Gentiles? (Gal. 2. 9). To Paul was specially committed "the fellowship of the Mystery," the unique revelation that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel (Eph. 3. 6), a Mystery which had been hid from ages and generations. The declaration of this Mystery was the top-stone of the Christian revelation; but it also involved the reproach of the Cross. Public association with a rejected Christ became inevitably the recognized status of the "fellow-heirs"; insomuch that the same apostle could speak of "the fellowship of His (Christ's) sufferings" (Phil. 3. 10); albeit this was a fellowship so highly esteemed that another apostle could write: "Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers (komoneite) of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy'' (1 Pet. 4. 13). Partakers of—participators in—the very sufferings of Christ, confronted with the same difficulties and tribulations as were His in His earthly pathway—what a fellowship! The sufferings here are of course His non-atoning sufferings; those which He accepted in patient, lowly grace at the hands of man; not those which constituted the cup of sorrow in Gethsemane's dark hour, or which He drunk to the uttermost dregs at Calvary. In that suffering, He was alone.
Fellowship in giving; fellowship with one another; fellowship in Christ's sufferings, and still the most fragrant, precious and touchingly intimate thought of all remains.
FELLOWSHIP WITH THE FATHER AND THE SON—
Nothing in Christian experience is comparable to it; nothing could go deeper; nothing carry the soul higher. It is essentially a family thought and what a thought! "Beloved, now are we the children of God" (1 John 3. 2); and as children, we have fellowship with God as Father, and with the Son of God whose dwelling-place is the Father's bosom.
There are some lines of a hymn which express the nearness:
"Now the Father's Name Thou tellest,
Joy is in Thine heart;
In His love in which Thou dwellest
We have part":
and are there not His own words, better than all paraphrases: "I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it, that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me, may be in them, and I in them" (John 17. 26). He was going back to the Father; to that abode of love from whence He came; Himself the ineffable Object of that love, and this was His parting bequest. He prayed that the same love might be in them, and He in them. What is this, beloved, but holy fellowship—the fellowship of the Father and the Son?
Doubtless the supreme expression of this fellowship is the Lord's Supper, the communion of the body and blood of Christ. Partaking of the bread and wine, we feast upon His dying love, and so have fellowship in His death. When the apostle speaks of "the communion of the blood of Christ" and "the communion of the body of Christ," the word is still "koinonia," for the thought is still that of fellowship; and as gathered in this holy fellowship, it is His great delight to lead our over-flowing hearts to the Father
Here we close. The importance given to fellowship in the Word of God is evident from what has been before us, as well as from the many New Testament references to the subject. Scripture speaks, indeed, with no uncertain sound. Divine fellowship has its practical and its spiritual side, ranging from Love's lowly offices, to walking in the Light. The ecclesiastical element does not enter into the teaching at all. To give the word an ecclesiastical meaning is to make it a battle ground of controversy, than which nothing could be farther away from the mind of the Spirit—Himself the gracious Promoter of fellowship. The essential thought of fellowship is communion with God, whether for personal intercourse with the Father and the Son, or for intercourse with one another, or again for service among men, and as this fellowship is maintained, the heart is kept steady, joy irradiates the soul, the saints are held together in love, and the fruits of love are seen in spiritual ministry and good works. To the subject mind, nothing can be clearer than that fellowship, divinely understood, lies quite outside ecclesiastical tests and formularies, which, indeed may lead to strife and bitterness and every evil work. Let us not forget that fellowship existed before the Church was set up and will continue when men's little systems have had their day. The terms of it are learnt in the light of God, and the bounds of it are the measure of His own love. Blessed be God, it is into this fellowship that John's ministry brings us!
“Threshed Wheat” 1929