The Meaning Of Fellowship In 1 John -- By: William W. Combs

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 013:1 (Fall 2008)
Article: The Meaning Of Fellowship In 1 John
Author: William W. Combs


The Meaning Of Fellowship In 1 John

William W. Combs1

The word “fellowship,” κοινωνία, is used four times in 1 John, all in chapter one.

v. 3 — “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”2

v. 6 — “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

v. 7 — “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

But what does John mean by the term fellowship in these verses? Two different interpretations of fellowship in 1 John have been set forth. One view is what I prefer to call the sanctification view of fellowship.3 The other is what I will call die salvation view of fellowship.4

The first view, the sanctification view, is probably the dominant view in most fundamental and evangelical churches and Christian colleges. One of the commonly heard appeals to Christians during the sermon invitation is, “Are you in fellowship with God?” The sanctification view understands fellowship to be a particular condition or state of the Christian in which he enjoys the presence and blessing of God. The opposite state is to be out of fellowship because of unconfessed sin. When a believer is “in fellowship with God,” he experiences the blessing and presence of God in a way beyond what he acquired as a result of the new birth.5 The condition for being “in fellowship” is to “walk in the Light” (1 John 1:7), that is, living in obedience to the standard of God’s truth.6 Therefore, any sin the believer commits, causes him to lose fellowship with God. But fellowship can be restored by confession of the particular sin committed (1 John 1:9).7

The popularity of the sanctification view is due to a number of factors. For one, it was taught in the Scofield ...

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