This week I’ve been posting reflections on the prologue of 1 John. John proclaimed that Christ is the Word of Life. His second point was that Christ is the basis of our fellowship with God and with one another. 1 John 1:3 says, “We proclaim to you what we ourselves has actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his son, Jesus Christ” (NLT).
Fellowship was a word that was unique to first century Christians. It comes from the Greek word koinonia and most literally translated means “common.” The common vernacular of the day was koine Greek, or the Greek spoken by the common and the uneducated. Our word “coin” comes from the same root.
When used in the Bible, fellowship meant more than friendship and food. We do a great disservice to the New Testament when we reduce fellowship to drinking coffee or eating fried chicken with our Christian friends. If I were a New Testament translator, I would evict the word fellowship from the New Testament. Why? In the Bible, fellowship is used to describe our partnership in the gospel. It’s the way we share together in the mission of God. Granted, that does involve elements of community or sharing life together. But that’s the entry point. Our shared lives in Christ are guided with divine purpose: to advance the gospel and announce the Kingdom of God.
The third thing John proclaimed was that Christ is the source of our joy. He concluded the prologue with these words, “We are writing these things so that you may full share our joy” (1 John 1:4, NLT). John had the heart of a pastor and wanted the readers to live to the fullness of their Christian experience. He wanted them to know true joy.
Joy is not synonymous with happiness. Happiness is an emotion that is functions from the outside-in. Joy, on the other hand, is a character trait that operates from the inside-out. When something good happens (note the same root word as happiness) to us, we become happy. But happiness is not lasting. For example, if I look down and find a $20 bill, I’m happy. But what happens? I spend the money and its gone. Joy is something that finds its source in our relationship with Christ. Because its internal and rooted in Him, I can have it regardless of what happens to me or around me.
So what observations can be made about the prologue to 1 John? Allow me to suggest three things to think about.
First, we must beware of a Christ-less religion. Christ must be central to our concept of the gospel, our philosophy of ministry, and our missional engagement. A good question to think about is this: What makes what we think and do distinctively Christian?
Second, strengthening our walk with God does not begin with behavior modification. It begins by affirming those core beliefs about Christ. Again, right belief will lead to right behavior.
Finally, you only give your hand to a person you know and trust. Walking with Christ is first and foremost about relationship, not rules. Not even religion serves adequately substitute.