Tangent Community Church
arrow Home Sermons Enjoying Fellowship With God (1 John 1 - 5)


Enjoying Fellowship With God (1 John 1 - 5)
Sermon Notes
Sunday, 28 April 2013 00:00

This Sunday we began a study in the book of 1st John. Martin Luther had been taught that justification before God was a life-long process. But through his reading of Romans 4:1-8 he learned that he could be declared righteous (justified) by God at a moment in time with no works involved. As Luther continued to study through Romans, he came to Romans 7:23-25 where Paul declared that he was a wretched man, still full of sin even after his justification before God. Luther expressed this paradox with the Latin expression: simul iustus et peccator ~ simultaneously (at the same time) justified and a sinner.
Luther discovered these twin truths which appeared to be contradictory: (1) I have been declared completely righteous (justified) by God, but (2) I am still sinful.

The first deals with our position or standing before God – completely justified.

The second deals with our condition or situation on earth – still sinful.

Some teach that to harmonize these truths we must better understand the “still sinful” part. They suggest that if one is very sinful (meaning he commits really serious sins, whatever those are) or if one continues (for how long?) in any kind of acknowledged sinfulness, then the person either loses eternal life or was never truly justified in the first place. Many of those holding to such views see in the letter of 1st John a series of tests we can use to determine if we will go to heaven when we die. 1st John is seen as setting forth tests we can use to determine whether or not we really have a relationship with God. I believe this view can never offer the “know-so” kind of assurance that John says we should have as believers (in 1 John 5:13).

I understand the book to be about our fellowship with God as believers, not about whether or not we have a relationship with God.
We may define fellowship as the enjoyment of a relationship. A father and son have a forever relationship, but they may not be enjoying the relationship they have.
This distinction between relationship and fellowship is a simple way to understand the twin truths of Luther’s paradox.
Iustus (just or justified) has to do with our relationship with God. It is permanent. It is forever. It is the everlasting and unbreakable bond between a father and his child. That refers to our position before God – our standing as His children. We are viewed by God in our position before Him as perfectly sinless, perfectly forgiven of all our (past, present and future) sins.
But peccator (a sinner) can be understood as a statement of our condition or our situation and ongoing experience as a believer. Although Paul refers to himself as a saint (Ephesians 3:8), at the end of his life he still considered himself a sinner (1 Timothy 1:15).
The point here is that ongoing sinfulness in the life of the justified person (a believer, a child of God) can drastically affect one’s fellowship with God but not one’s relationship with God. Thus the two apparently contradictory truths in Luther’s statement are not at all contradictory. This is because we are dealing with two different planes of truth – our relationship and our fellowship – our position and our condition.

It is clear that without a relationship with God there will be no fellowship with God. Fellowship is conditioned on there being an existing relationship to enjoy. But it would be very possible to lack fellowship with God while still having a relationship with Him. In other words, my sinfulness in my present condition can keep me from enjoying my forever relationship with my heavenly Father. This is loss of fellowship. Neither I nor my heavenly Father are enjoying our eternal relationship. But loss of fellowship does not mean loss of relationship, or that there never was a relationship. Understanding these twin truths is absolutely necessary for experiencing the fullness of joy John writes about in 1:4.

As we move through our study of 1st John, it is my prayerful desire that we may each grow in our enjoyment of our forever relationship with our Father and His Son, our Savior. As we gain in understanding of and then rest on the truths in this little letter, we will be relieved of any burden of fear and guilt, and learn to live with maximum joy* as we walk in fellowship with Jesus!

* I am indebted to David R. Anderson, whose book (Maximum Joy: First John – Relationship or Fellowship?) has been a helpful tool in communicating the wonderful truths of 1st John.






© 2019 Tangent Community Church
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU General Public License.