True Fellowship with God
The True Fellowship with God that Leads to Fullness of Joy – 1 John 1
Anyone can go off to a mountain or cave for a time and come back claiming to have had an experience or vision from God. But when a number of people witness and then testify to similar experiences that becomes more reliable and likely to be truthful. In John’s opening inspired words of this epistle he begins his message with a starting point of validation that includes his as well as an allusion to other’s eyewitness accounts of fellowship with the Father and with Jesus. It is that context and that basis which separates these inspired words of John from just another “story” of a holy man or seer of visions. John’s words are inspired and they are based in fact. We should prayerfully receive them as such.
In this opening chapter of 1 John we will see the truthful aspect of fellowship with God and consider the joy it produces in those who experience such fellowship with God. Let’s dig right in.
True Joy Producing Fellowship with God
1 John 1 (NKJV)
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—
When John uses the word “beginning” (Greek arche) he is using a word that means from the commencement, first, the principle. This is a word which speaks of origins. When John uses it he is pointing us to the beginning. He is speaking of the person or thing that commences something, that which is the active cause of something, the extreme beginning. Here John is referring to his experience with Jesus, but he also may be alluding to those familiar with the opening words of his gospel account where he was inspired to write, “In the beginning [Greek arche] was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning [Greek arche] with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-5 and 14). John is speaking of Jesus as incarnated; as God in the flesh.
And it is this Jesus, God in the flesh which John experienced. This experience of Jesus by John is validated as real, not fake, physical, not immaterial, but saying first that it was experienced by more than just himself. What he is saying is not merely his own individual account or witness. No, John uses the pronoun “we” to allude to the other apostles and upwards of at least 500 disciples who walked with Jesus and testified to His resurrection (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:1-8). One eyewitness is good, but more than one, numerous eye witnesses are reason to eliminate all doubt. That is what John is doing here. He is speaking something that is certain because it is based on numerous eyewitnesses.
John says, “we have heard. . . we have seen with our eyes. . . we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life.” John is speaking of their interaction with Jesus. They “heard” (Greek verb akekoamen of akouo: Present/Active/Indicative) with their ears what Jesus said and taught. The idea is that they heard and actively kept on hearing. What Jesus said stuck with them and resounded in them.
They have “seen” (Greek verb heorakamen of horao: Present/Active/Indicative) which means they not only saw with their eyes but there is also implied with this word the idea that they discerned clearly what they were seeing; they perceived; they contemplated; they took heed of what they heart. And they did this as they saw and kept on actively seeing and contemplating what they were seeing. This is not a glance at something but they saw something and it impacted them deeply. They saw not only with their eyes but understood with their mind and experienced in heart.
John says they used their “eyes” upon (Greek noun ophthalmois) which refers to the actual eye. The idea is that what they saw was not a vision or something mysterious but they actually saw Jesus with their very own eyes. This is John’s way of discounting the idea presented by Gnostics of Docetism or that Jesus only appeared to be in bodily form. John is saying that Jesus actually was in bodily form because they saw Him with their very own eyes. Jesus was not a fantasy or mystery. Jesus was and is REAL.
John says they “looked” upon Jesus (Greek verb etheasametha of theaomai) which means they looked on, gazed at, beheld, contemplated in a way that made an impact on them. What they saw of Jesus made a lasting impression on them. What John is writing to them is based on what he saw of Jesus and what made a lasting life impression on him.
John says he and others with their own hands “handled” (Greek verb epselaphesan of pselaphao) which speaks of actually physically handling something, touching something, feeling something, groping for something and finding it. I can picture John’s words as alluding to the hugs of fellowship with Jesus. I can picture Jesus’ hand on the shoulder to comfort and guide. John is again using words that speak of no apparition but of a Jesus who was physically there and real.
John refers to Jesus as “the Word of life.” The word of Jesus produces eternal life in people. John’s contact with Jesus brought him life. And John no doubt saw how Jesus’ words brought life to others. The actual literal phrasing here is the Word of the life (Greek tou logou es zeos). So John is not merely speaking about physical life but is speaking of a certain quality or type of life; “the life” in Christ that is based on the word of Jesus.
2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—
Again John speaks of “the life,” the particular life found in Jesus. He says this life was “manifested” (Greek verb ephanerothe of phaneroo: Aorist/Passive/Indicative) which means manifested, revealed, disclosed. This disclosure from God was again “seen” (Greek horao) by more than just John (“we”) and those who have seen the Word of the life.
Those who have seen the life “bear witness” (Greek verb marturoumen of martereo: Present/Active/Indicative) which is a legal term to refer to a witness in a court of law. The idea is to testify to what one has seen. The grammar of the verb means always be active to continually bear witness of or on behalf of. “Declare” (Greek verb apangellomen of apangello: Present/Active/Indicative) means to always be actively report, announce, make known, relate to others.
What is it that they bear witness to and declare? “Eternal life” (Greek zoen ten aionion) the life that is eternal. This “life” “was with the Father and was manifested to us.” John isn’t merely speaking of an abstraction here. The life he is speaking about is really The Life of Jesus. Jesus is the One who was manifested and was with the Father (cf. John 1:1-3).
3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
John now explains the purpose behind declaring what they have seen and heard concerning Jesus – “that you also may have fellowship with us.” “Fellowship” (Greek koinonia) means communion. It can include the idea of partnership, sharing, contribution, association as well. John is sharing the life of the Jesus so that those who read or hear can be brought into this fellowship of Jesus too.
This fellowship is not just any fellowship. John isn’t speaking of some Kiwanis or Lions level civic group. John is speaking of a particular fellowship that is “truly” fellowship. The word “truly” is based on the context of the use of the Greek conjunction de which can be translated in fact, indeed, truly. John uses this conjunction to emphasize the distinct nature of the fellowship he is speaking about.
John further distinguishes this fellowship as “with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” John has no problem mentioning the Father and Jesus in the same sentence. There is an equality of deity communicated here. The Father and Jesus His Son are distinct, but they are equal. John expresses no qualifier related to Jesus. The Father and the Son Jesus are the ones with Whom John and those who respond to the declaration of Jesus as the Word of the Life.
John has very concisely but very clearly been inspired to use words that emphasize the physical nature of Jesus and His equality with God. He has spoken of the fellowship, the wonderful fellowship available to those who respond to this declaration with faith. But one further incentive to respond is communicated by John.
4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
John writes of this fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ for the expressed purpose “that your joy may be full.” “Joy” (Greek noun chara) means joy, delight. It was a word associated the feelings associated with the experience of such events as a king ascending to the throne, a wedding, or a holiday. John wanted such joy to be full.
“May be full” (Greek verb pepleromene from pleroo: Perfect/Middle/Participle) means having been fulfilled, having been made full having been accomplished, or having been supplied. Joy is found completely fulfilled in Jesus.
Interestingly “joy” is only found here in this epistle. John does not use the word elsewhere in this epistle. Therefore, what follows in John’s letter is what provides us with a definition of what such “joy” is like. An overview of 1 John provides us with the following aspects of what makes fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ so joyful:
- That God is light and in Him is no darkness at all – 1:5
- We can walk in His light and have fellowship with God – 1:7a
- When we walk in His light the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin – 1:7b
- If we confess our sins God is faithful to forgive our sins – 1:9
- It’s possible not to sin – 2:1a
- If we do sin Jesus is our Advocate – 2:1b
- We can know that we know Jesus and have eternal life – 2:3
- When we abide in God’s light we love – 2:10
- Our sins are forgiven in Jesus – 2:12
- We can know Jesus – 2:13a, 14
- In Jesus we overcome the wicked one – 2:13b, 14
- God gives us an anointing so that we can “know all things” and can discern between good and evil – 2:20, 27
- God promises us eternal life – 2:25
- We can be “born of Him” – 2:29
- God loves us incredibly – 3:1
- When we focus on Jesus it purifies us – 3:3
- Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil – 3:8
- Love is an indication we have passed from death to life – 3:14
- Whatever we ask in Him we receive – 3:22
- Follow His command to love one another – 3:23
- We know we abide in Jesus and have eternal life by the Holy Spirit Who was given to us – 3:24
- Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world – 4:4
- His love can be perfected in us – 4:12, 17-18
- Jesus is the Savior of the world – 4:14
- Whoever believes in Jesus is born of God – 5:1
- We can keep His commandments and they are not burdensome – 5:3
- The Holy Spirit bears witness that Jesus is the Christ – 5:6
- We can have eternal life in Jesus the Son – 5:11-12
- We can know we have eternal life in Christ – 5:13
- We can pray in confidence when we pray according to His will – 5:14-15
- There is a sin not leading to death – 5:16
- Whoever is born of God does not live in sin – we are freed from sin – 5:18
- In fellowship with God we are freed from the sway of the wicked one – 5:18-19
These are some of the reasons why we can experience fullness of joy in Jesus. This is only a cursory summary. As we study through 1 John we will discover many more reasons to be joyful I’m sure.
The God of Joy Producing Fellowship
You can’t have meaningful fellowship with someone you don’t know. Therefore John not shares a bit about the nature of God as well as the means by which we might enter into this joy producing fellowship with Him.
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
John uses the imagery of light versus darkness to describe God. Light is representative of holiness, purity, the absence of any and all darkness of evil. Anything and everything that is good and holy is found in God purely and undiluted. Really, in our fallen state we cannot conceive of the pure holy light of God. All John can do is use such terms to try and convey the incredible nature of God as light.
When we consider God we need to understand that there is no evil in God. God is faithful and true. He is Holy and just as well as gracious and loving. God is Perfect. There is no darkness at all in God.
That should give us a great deal of comfort. We don’t have to wonder if what God says is true or reliable because God is not out to trick us or abuse us in any way. When He instructs us about something it is for our best interests as it relates to His holy plans. We can be completely and totally vulnerable before God. We need not fear Him and as we learn of His love we won’t fear Him (cf. 1 John 4:17-19).
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
But there is a problem, a condition expressed by the particle “if”. The problem arises when we claim something verbally that is not backed up practically in life. It’s a question of honesty. The following words of John tell us that we can be self-deceived. We need to own up to our sinfulness. If a person claims to be in fellowship with the God of light, and walks in sinful darkness, then that person is lying and not practicing the truth.
A “lie” (Greek verb pseudometha from pseudomai: Present/Middle/Indicative) means a continual deceiving, lying or not telling the truth. John is speaking about a “practice” (Greek verb poiomenen from poieo: Present/Active/Indicative) meaning to make, do, create, produce, work, accomplish, perform or act in some way. John says we ought to practice living truthfully but we do not.
“Truth” (Greek noun aletheian from aletheia) means truth, dependability, freedom from error, integrity. Truth means something is what it says it is. Our practice should be to live by the truth of God’s word, be dependable, and people of integrity.
But since we have this problem what is the solution?
7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Again the conditional participle “if” tells us this is a possibility. It’s a choice that needs to be made on our behalf. We need to choose to walk in the light as He is in the light.” We need to follow Jesus footsteps (compare 2:6). When we walk close to Jesus “we have fellowship with one another.” This can refer to the fellowship we have amongst other believers. But more importantly it speaks of the fellowship we have with God by walking with Jesus in life.
As we walk in the light of God’s goodness “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” “Cleanses” (Greek verb katharidzei from katharidzo: Present/Active/Indicative) means to keep on cleansing, to keep on making clean, to keep on purifying. As we walk with Jesus His blood keeps on cleansing us. The Father sees the blood of His Son Jesus when He looks at us. The blood of Jesus is always applied to us when we are walking with Him. Hallelujah! Thank You Lord!
This is the only way we can come close to the God Who is light and in Whom is no darkness at all. That we can have fellowship with God is incredible. That the blood of Jesus cleanses us from “all” sin is magnificent and beyond words.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Who might be so bold as to claim they are without sin? The Gnostics of John’s day who believed in dualism, (that matter is inherently evil and only the spiritual immaterial is holy) used that belief to say that it wasn’t really them that sinned but their body. It was a convoluted way of thinking that was disguised in a proud self-elevating appeal to high knowledge.
Gnostic comes from the Greek term gnosis which means knowledge. Gnostics created an entire system of belief that refuted Jesus as God in the flesh and instead claimed He was merely one of many emanations from a Higher Being. The Gnostics in reality worshipped knowledge and claimed to have the knowledge necessary for a person to experience salvation. Their salvation wasn’t based on the redemptive work of God incarnate in Christ, but instead was based on acquiring certain knowledge that would unlock what needed to be known about salvation and eternal life. That they believed in such a way that led them to deny their sin exposes how far their belief system caused them to depart from reality.
Sin by nature is deceiving. Sin will tell you that sinning is no big deal. Sin will tempt you to excuse yourself or minimize the sin in your life. Sin will deceive you so that you dismiss its seriousness in your life.
Like Satan sin is deceptive (cf. John 8:43-44). “Sin” (Greek noun hamartian from hamartia) means sin, a sinful deed, sinfulness, miss the mark, err, wander from the path, and refers to a willful transgression against a known law of God. Sin by nature is deceptive. That is why John says “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves.” “Deceive” (Greek verb planomen from planao: Present/Active Indicative) means to constantly lead astray, mislead, deceive, seduce, go astray, be deluded, err, deceive oneself, sin.
If someone tells you they don’t have any sin they are self-deceived and the truth of God is not in them. Now in Christ we are completely cleansed from our sin and no sin is counted against us. But in reality we still do sin. We can gain victory over sin, but if we are going to be truthful, we have to admit that we continue to struggle with and even at times sin in our life.
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
But if when we sin we “confess” (Greek verb homologmen from homologeo: Present/Active/Subjunctive) means if we agree with, if we confess, if we admit, if we acknowledge. The idea is if we see our sin as God sees it and admit our sin. This is not mere acknowledging our sin but seeing it as God sees it, as darkness that needs to be removed. Our role is to confess our sins.
God’s role is to be “faithful” (Greek adjective pistos) meaning trustworthy, faithful, trusting, reliable. He will be “just” (Greek adjective dikaios) meaning just, righteous, impartial, upright. God will “forgive” (Greek verb aphiemi: Aorist/Active/Subjunctive) meaning let go, leaven, disregard, dismiss, divorce, cancel, pardon, remit, forgive, abandon. And He will cleanse us from all “unrighteousness” (Greek noun adikias) or injustice, wrong, wickedness, wrong doing, unjust.
One commentary states:
Rather than denying sin, believers are asked to acknowledge it freely. When we admit our sin, we find, paradoxically, that God removes it. "Confess" (Greek, homologōmen) implies we must acknowledge that our sin is sin and admit that we committed it. The plural "sins" shows that confession includes specific acts of sin.
Once we confess sin, the character of God guarantees forgiveness. He is a faithful God who can be trusted to keep His promises (cf. Jeremiah 31:34). He is a righteous God who will forgive our sins because the death of Christ has already paid the penalty for them.
God's character leads to forgiveness and cleansing. He forgives sin, as one might release a debtor from his obligation to pay. And He cleanses from all unrighteousness, not only by imputing righteousness to the sinner's account but by gradually producing holy character in daily life.
God’s forgiveness of our sins is done on the basis of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross to pay our debt of sin. Sin is freely forgiven, but the cost of forgiveness was not cheap. If we remember that it may cause us to resist a little bit more.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
God’s only requirement for forgiveness of sin is to own up to it and not try to excuse or rationalize it away on our own. No, we must admit our sinfulness. God says we are sinful. If we say we are not sinful we “make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” God is not a liar. We are sinful. The Bible from Genesis to Revelation is evidence that all humanity except for One Person Jesus Christ, has proven to be full of sin. The first three chapters of Paul’s inspired letter to the Romans establishes beyond doubt that both Jew and Gentile are all guilty of a great deal of sin. In Romans 3 he is moved by the Spirit to conclude:
Romans 3:10–18 and 23 (NKJV)
10 As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
13 “Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Romans 3:23 (NKJV)
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
That is the sinful state of all humanity for all time and for anyone to claim that they are without sin or that they have never sinned exposes them as delusional and contrary to God’s revelation that all humanity is sinful. To deny our sin is to call God a liar. That’s a fellowship breaker.
Jesus ‘ sinless life is a glaring contrast to sinful humanity. His bright blameless sinless life shines a holy light on our dark sinfulness. The closer we come to the God of light through Jesus, the more clearly we will see our sinfulness. But glory to God, along with the realization of our deep rooted sin is the power of the blood of Jesus to help us deal with that sin. The atoning blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin when we trust in Him as Savior. And as we walk and live with Him as our Lord it leads to true deepening fellowship with God and joy in life.
All of this is available to us as we walk in fellowship with Jesus. Now that is good reason to be joyful over the true fellowship we have with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. This fellowship with God is true because it is real. It is true because it requires us to be real and true about our own sinful condition. It is true because the shed blood of Jesus on the cross is the effective means by which God forgives sin in a faithful, just way. To all of that we should rejoice. And we will rejoice! Praise the Lord.
 Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.