Vertical and Horizontal Fellowship
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7
Are you a “team player”? Both the sports and business worlds use this expression. The most effective teams have members who play or work well together; no one tries to win by themselves.
For Christians, team play is summed up in the word fellowship. The Greek word is koinōnia, which also includes “association, community, communion, joint participation, and intimacy.”*
What is the basis for Christian fellowship? First, Christians have a vertical relationship of communion with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1: 5-7). This communion is based on receiving forgiveness of sin because of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. Then Christians have a horizontal relationship of communion with other Christians. The two relationships affect one another.
Those who walk in darkness may say they have fellowship (1:6), and they may say they have no sin (1:8,10). But neither statement is true.
We can’t experience koinōnia if we allow sin to mar our fellowship with God and other Christians. Those who walk in a lifestyle of darkness are willfully choosing to sin. They may say, “I made a mistake,” or “that’s the way I am,” or “I’m not perfect; I’m only human.” Yet they still continue to walk in darkness, and therefore they can’t fellowship with God or other believers.
The Bible says all of us are sinners (Romans 3:23). All have hidden sins we can’t see (Psalm 19:12). All were born with a sin nature inherited from Adam. Even after receiving salvation, we sin and need to get our feet washed (John 13:10).
“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, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).
Sin is still present in our lives, but so is the remedy: the Light of the World in us purifies us as we confess and abandon our sin.
Where do you walk—in the darkness, your fellowship marred? Or do you walk in the light, as a team player enjoying fellowship with God and other Christians?
Sometimes we may feel like we’re living in the darkness and out of fellowship with God and other believers. According to 1 John 1:5-7 and John 8:12, what assurance do we have that this is only a temporary feeling with a remedy?
John wrote 1 John from Ephesus. How did John describe this church in Revelation 2:1-7 and what did He tell them to do? Does this describe your walk with God? If so, what should you do?
Compare Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:12-19 with John’s words in 1 John 1:1-4. In what ways are their reasons for writing similar?
To read a devotion on 1 John 1:9, see Confess under Dig into Words.
Nancy J. Baker
*Greek Lexicon: G2842 (KJV). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2842&t=KJV