Can we really have a growing and deepening fellowship with God Himself? There is a pair of truths about the living God we must keep in balance. Our God is transcendent. He is great and powerful, He is infinite and unapproachable. He goes beyond all things. At the same time our God is immanent. He is close at hand and walks in fellowship with His covenant people. Isaiah gave us a great glimpse of this truth in Isaiah 40:10-11. “Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.” In verse 10 the Lord our God is majestic, great and powerful, far greater than we can even comprehend. In verse 11, He is our caring shepherd who even carries the lambs in His bosom. He makes provision for those with special needs. This is the God who is approachable and near at hand. Which is our God? He is both at the same time. If we only see one side of God we do not see Him as He truly is. We must understand that He is both transcendent and immanent at the same time.
Let’s ask the question again. Can we really have a growing and expanding fellowship with the living God? One of my favorite books is The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer. The premise of Tozer’s book is that God wants us to walk in fellowship with Him. Tozer did not invent this concept. The Psalmist in several places talked about the fellowship he enjoyed with God. In Psalm 62:1-2 David wrote about his waiting for God alone. “Truly my soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation. He only is my Rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.” David also wrote in Psalm 63:1, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You. My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.”
In our text today, 1 John 1:1-10, the Apostle John tells us that we can have a real and growing fellowship with God. This fellowship is built on three realities. First, this fellowship is made possible by the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, it grows out of God’s self-revelation, and finally, it is enabled by our own confession.
“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—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—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. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:1–4).
We can really know and fellowship with the Living God even though we are sinners if we come through the Lord Jesus Christ. John begins his letter with an extended discussion of the evidence of a physical incarnation. He writes about seeing Him, hearing Him, examining Him closely, and touching Him. Why does John do that?
He could have done this for several reasons. The historical reason was probably because some were falling into an error that taught that the Lord Jesus did not really physically come to earth. Some taught that matter was evil and spirit was good so God could not become man. It was impossible. John demonstrates that God actually became man.
The important purpose of this revelation is so we understand that the Lord Jesus, the eternal life that John describes, actually did come in a fully human body. He had to come in a body so that He could die on the cross for our sin. The Apostle Paul reminded us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 what the Gospel we believe is. “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” For the Lord Jesus who was God the Son to die, be buried and rise again, He must have a body. He had to be a real man and dwell among us. Before we can fellowship with God and with the Lord Jesus Christ His Son, we must come to Him through faith in what He did on Calvary.
Without an incarnation there is no salvation from sin, and without salvation there is no fellowship. Verse 3 is very important. “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.” The Apostle John declares this truth about the incarnation because without this truth we cannot have fellowship with each other or with the Father or His Son Jesus Christ. Our fellowship with each other and God Himself is anchored in the reality of salvation. You must believe in the incarnation and be saved in order to fellowship with God.
Finally, John underlines the fruit that flows from our fellowship with God in verse 4–“fullness of joy.” The New Testament tells us a lot about how our fellowship with God should produce real joy. One example will have to suffice. “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:12–13).
Our fellowship with God is built upon the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is where our fellowship begins because that is how we enter into our initial relationship with our holy God. Our sins are forgiven and we begin our pilgrimage on the road to heaven. Second, our fellowship is also based on God’s self-revelation. “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. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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.”
God is absolute light. This is because God is entirely holy. There are no spots of sin or corruption in Him. So, if we are to fellowship with God, we also need to be holy in a practical sense. John told us this in verse 6, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
He turns the coin over in verse 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.” Can we who are sinful human beings actually walk in the light with God? Satan likes to deceive us by telling us if we cannot be completely holy we cannot be holy at all. The fact is practical holiness can be ours. How is this possible?
Here is the answer: “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son [keeps on cleansing us] from all sin.” How can that be? How can we have continued cleansing from our sins so we can walk in real fellowship with the living God and His Son the Lord Jesus Christ?
This vital question leads directly to the third basis of our fellowship with God. We have learned that our fellowship is built upon Christ’s incarnation. A living growing fellowship with the Living God cannot exist apart from our salvation in Christ. Second, there cannot be a living growing fellowship between us unless there is a practice of practical holiness. Finally, there is no living growing fellowship with God and His Son unless we have continual confession of our sins.
John states an example of a false approach to sin. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (verse 8). Trying to claim that we have no sin ensures that we have no relationship or fellowship with God. Some declare he or she is not a sinner. This verse says two things about these folks. First, they are self-deceived. They are people who have no sense of sin, so they doubtlessly have no salvation. Second, the truth does not abide in them. They are ignorant of the revelation of God and it has not taken root in their hearts.
The second possibility is found in verse 10. “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” The second problem is if we insist that we have never sinned at all. This means that God is wrong. If we call God a liar, we can’t be embracing the truth or trusting Christ to save us or to forgive our sins.
To walk in practical holiness and to grasp verse 9, we must pause and think for a moment about the difference between positional and practical cleansing from sin. When we put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone to save us, He declared us righteous and forgave us all of our sin–past, present and future. The forgiveness in 1 John 1:9 is not this kind of forgiveness. Instead, it is a practical doing business with God. We acknowledge our sin and rebellion against God and come to Him for forgiveness. We read of this kind of confession in the Lord’s Table instruction in 1 Corinthians 11:31. “If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” We judge ourselves by confessing our sins to God.
So, the way that we walk in the light as He is in the light is by actively practicing verse 9. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Note, this is a continuous confession. It literally says that if we keep on confessing our sins, He keeps on forgiving our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. This is how verse 7 works. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses our sin practically as we confess them to God.
So, can we actually have a living growing fellowship with God and the Lord Jesus Christ? Yes we can. We can have it because Jesus came and died to make it available. We can have it if we will seek to walk in personal holiness with God. Finally, we can have it if we will make a personal confession of our sin to God continually.