Sermon on 1 John 1:1-2:2, 2nd Sunday of Easter 2021 (B), "Raised for Fellowship"
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! Easter called us to trust Jesus’ reliable Word, and witness how our Risen Good Shepherd comes to His beloved sheep. These next six weeks of the Easter season we’ll study 1st John to explore Jesus’ resurrection gifts and blessings to His church. In 1 John 1, I want to zero in on verses 3-7. They tell the effect of the resurrection message: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we 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 his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Jesus’ resurrection creates fellowship—fellowship with the Father and the Son, and fellowship with each other. And that there is a fellowship-breaking walk, and a fellowship-keeping walk. To walk in darkness or walk in light. So today let’s consider what fellowship is, why Jesus’ resurrection creates it, and how we stay in it. The “what”, “why”, and “how” of fellowship.
First, what is fellowship? Koinonia in Greek. Translations include “fellowship”, “communion”, “participation”. Koinonia can also be expressed as “shared in common”, or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer liked to call it, “life together.” What do we share in common? What is our Christian “life together?” The foundation is our confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Paul writes: Ephesians 4:4–6 “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” One body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. That’s the stuff of our fellowship, our “life together” in Jesus.
Our life together makes us a common body, the body of Christ. We have each other in common—we’re not disconnected fingers, toes, and ears. We’re a whole. We belong to each other. The body of Christ is community and togetherness, not fragmentation, isolation, or disconnectedness. We share joys and blessings, sorrows and struggles together. We stand by each other, not just for the good times, but the bad times also, because we need each other.
Fellowship, or life together is not made for the abstract, but in the flesh. In our words, actions, and interactions with each other. It looks like Christians together in worship, hearing God’s Word together, studying the Bible together, praying for each other, recognizing and listening to each other when someone is struggling. It looks like reaching out to the disconnected, the homebound, and the lonely, and taking care of each other. It looks like the vulnerability and trust of opening yourself up to let someone else pray for you and know that you’re having a tough time. And for that trust to be met with Christian prayer and concern. The early Christians lived their fellowship by helping the needy and sharing each other’s burdens. What does life together in the flesh look like? It’s Christians circled around what we have in common: Christ, His love and His resurrection life, His body and blood given us in the fellowship meal, and caring for each other as His body, His community.
On to the “why?” Why does Jesus’ resurrection create this fellowship? John and the other eyewitnesses relate Jesus’ resurrection, so we have life together with them, each other, and with God. Jesus’ resurrection creates fellowship because God wants to be reunited to His children! Sin tears us apart from God, Jesus brings us back together. Jesus died for our sin so He can raise us to fellowship with God in His resurrection! We are created for, meant for life together with God. To raise us to fellowship with Him was worth the price of the cross to God.
Why is our life together important to God? Because we’re not meant for “life apart” from Him. Sadly, people are always drifting away from God. Some people stridently march as far away from God as they think they can get, looking for personal fulfillment and happiness apart from God. Or Christians slowly, aimlessly drift from God, as if it didn’t matter, and perhaps not caring that their connection is slowly weakening and dying. Perhaps they feel they’ve found substitutes for God. But whether on the fast train away from God or the slow drift, the point is we’re not meant for “life apart” from God. We’re meant for life together with God. Our soul yearns for it, even when we can’t correctly name or identify that desire. Our “God-shaped hole” can only be filled by God. God is irreplaceable; has no substitutes. They may deny it, but Scripture says it’s true. And if God made us for fellowship with Him, it must be true.
Indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. Not only is God’s desire for fellowship with us true, but it also is for our joy! Jesus raises us to life together with God and each other for joy! What are these joys of life together? Being known and loved by God is joy. He’s our Maker, our Savior. He completes our joy. In a world of sin, trouble, and distress, He raises us to life together in His gifts of eternal life, forgiveness, hope, joy, and peace. The joy in knowing who I am: a beloved child of God. Knowing what I have: the promise of forgiveness and eternal life. Knowing how I can survive the crosses and trials of this life: Jesus is my Shepherd every step of the way. Knowing who my family is: I have brothers and sisters in Christ here at my church, who are in the same fight, the same struggle, and walking in the same grace of God as me. When we remain in life together, we can mutually encourage each other in our walk. These are just some of the joys of fellowship, why Christ has raised us for life together.
So, fellowship is what we share, our Christian life together in Jesus. Jesus’ resurrection raises us for fellowship. John also writes that this fellowship can be threatened and broken by walking in darkness, or it can be strengthened and sustained by walking in the light. Now that we’ve heard the “what” and the “why” of fellowship, let’s talk about the “how.”
v. 5-7, This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we 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 his Son cleanses us from all sin. So, the biggest threat to our life together with God and each other is to walk in the darkness. God is light, and we want to walk as a child of the light, with Him.
So, what does it mean to walk in darkness or walk in light? 1 John 1 shows that even a person walking in light needs Jesus’ blood to cleanse us from all our sins. Walking in the light doesn’t mean you have no sin. Instead, it means admitting we have sinned and do sin. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Walking in the light is a continual surrender of our sin to God by confessing it, repenting of it, striving to turn away from it. Walking in the light says my sin is my enemy; I belong to the light. Jesus is my Lord and Savior, and His blood cleanses me from sin. His light drives out all darkness, and His light must shine in me to cleanse me from my sin.
Walking in darkness is to be cozy with our sin. Embrace or indulge it. Friendly with our sin, yielding to it; having no wish to fight it. To walk in darkness is to have no light for our path. No way to see where we are going, or the dangers all around us. It’s to stumble and fall in the darkness, and to forsake Christ as our light. To walk in the darkness is fellowship-breaking with God, because If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. We choose the stumbling walk of darkness over His light and truth, so we can’t have life together with Him. We’ve chosen life apart.
John’s solemn warning is not to walk in the darkness, and so lie about having fellowship with God. How do we know whether we are breaking our fellowship with God by walking in darkness, or are keeping life together with God by walking in light, and having Jesus’ blood purify us from all sin? Ask yourself some of these questions: Am I a sinner in need of Christ’s forgiveness? Do I seek His light, His truth, and His forgiveness? Or would I rather hide in the darkness and deny His truth? Also, do I think: I’ll make no apologies to God or anyone, and don’t need anyone’s forgiveness for my sins? These questions should help us answer whether we are pointed toward Christ’s light, or running from it. It’s not a question of whether we are sinners or not. We’re all sinners, John clearly teaches. Paul confessed the struggle with sin is lifelong. Struggling with sin or knowing you are a sinner, doesn’t mean you are walking in darkness. If you confess your sins to God and want His strength to push back against your sins, you are walking in light, and His blood cleanses you from all sins. You are surrendering yourself and your sin over to Him.
We’ve seen the “what”, “why”, and “how” of fellowship. Fellowship with God is Jesus’ resurrection blessing for His church. Raised to life together with God by Jesus’ blood cleansing from sin, and His raising us to new life. Our Maker and Savior desires life together with us which brings us joy. We are warned not to fall out of that life together by walking in darkness and surrendering to sin and death. On the other hand, walking in the light is surrendering ourselves, our sin and weakness, to Jesus, who is light, and whose blood cleanses us from all sin. Surrendered to Jesus, He raises us out of darkness into fellowship with God—life together with other believers growing in His love and care for each other as He loves and cares for us. Life together circled around faith in Jesus, our one Lord, one faith, one baptism; which brings us to our highest celebration of life together, the koinonia of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. When we walk in the light, He feeds and sustains our fellowship with God and with each other through this Sacrament we share, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.