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.1 John 1:3
It’s astounding to think that God participates in our lives. Fellowship with Christ means that, not only do we participate in the life of Christ, but Christ participates in ours, too.
Personally, this revelation has helped me navigate life differently. It makes me think of the quote, you are who you surround yourself with or you become like the people you spend time with. It may be cliche, but it’s definitely true. We reflect those who we fellowship with, and they reflect us.
When trials or difficult moments come up, this can help us recognize how Jesus Christ is in each situation with us. When things go well and smoothly, we can see how Jesus is still in it all with us. He’s inclusive and intimate, and He doesn’t leave us alone to figure things out. He partakes in our life just like we get to partake in His.
However, there’s this side of us that comes up that makes us feel distant from Him. It’s as if we know we’re in a relationship with Him, but we don’t believe that He’s experiencing everything with us. As if, at salvation, there’s some sort of cut-off, with no room to go deeper.
I think it’s difficult for many people to understand that it’s even possible to have a relationship with God. I mean, we’ve heard the whole “relationship vs. religion” phrase mentioned among Christians lately. But for those who have stepped away from faith or those who aren’t convinced about God’s realness, (heck, I would say even a lot of Christians struggle to understand it, too), I think a vibrant relationship with God is a difficult reality to grasp if you don’t fellowship with Him.
Fellowship is the next step after relationship. It’s the “getting to know you” part on a continued basis.
Think of it this way. When you meet a new person and you both decide to pursue the relationship, the next “step” is spending time together. That’s fellowship.
In John’s letters, he helps us understand the truth about relationship and fellowship. I encourage you to read it if you want to understand it better, but in the meantime, I want to simplify what fellowship with Christ means in this post.
Relationship vs. Religion
For many, a relationship with God might sound made-up, as if it’s all in the head. For others, it might seem distant and cold, because you can’t physically “see” God. But that’s why it’s important to investigate the Bible for insight and ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand what it means to have relationship with Him. If that sounds impractical, it’s still worth a try because it’s a way to get to know God, it’s a way to fellowship with Him.
When we see the word “fellowship” in the Bible, it’s not only the idea of relationship. The word relationship means the state of being connected. So, even though we are connected to Christ (John 15), we’re invited into something deeper: fellowship.
A relationship with God is the initial invitation to being connected with Him. The salvation of Jesus brings us into relationship with Him. But fellowship with God is an invitation to intimacy with Him. It’s our continued connection with Him, and our means to spending time with Him. For example, my husband and I are in a relationship of marriage. Our marriage covenant connects us. But our intimacy, our fellowship with one another (in every aspect: physically, emotionally, mentally, etc.) is what deepens our marriage. We get to know each other, our likes and dislikes, our interests and pet peeves, and grow deeper in love.
When Jesus walked the earth, it was radical for the Jews to hear Him refer to God as Father. Not only did it shock their “religious” system, but it opened up the door to relationship, which is what Jesus is all about. He pulled them out of religion and into relationship and fellowshipped with them. He participated in their lives (without sin) and let them participate in His.
When I Googled, “what does fellowship with Christ mean,” the phrase Participative sharing came up. This tells us that fellowship is an active participation in and sharing of lives (in this case, with Christ and other believers). It goes beyond the idea and the potential battle of “relationship vs. religion” and brings us into a place of sharing a common life with Jesus. Not only are we in relationship with Him (i.e., connected and restored to Him), but we get to have fellowship with Him, where 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 1:6–7).
This is the avenue, or the means, by which we become more like Him and see His life in ours. When we fellowship with Jesus, we become more like Him and reflect Him, and this deepens our relationship with God.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.2 Corinthians 3:18
Relationship & Fellowship
David Guzik says in his commentary, “This idea of a shared life is essential. This doesn’t mean that when Jesus comes into our life, He helps us to do the same things, but simply to do them better than before. We don’t add Jesus to our life. We enter into a relationship of a shared life with Jesus. We share our life with Him, and He shares His life with us.”
Life doesn’t stop at salvation. On the contrary, it begins. But what happens often is that Christians stop living in true fellowship with God. They’re still saved, and they know it, but they don’t share their life with Christ nor partake in His.
It’s exactly what Adam and Eve did immediately after their sin. They hid from God, instead of meeting Him in the cool of day to walk and talk everything through. God called out to them because He is a God of relationship, but their sin kept them from coming, which is so often what keeps us from coming, too.
This is what John talks about in this Epistle, 1 John chapters one through five. It’s not just about being connected to Christ, AKA “saved,” though that is very good, but also fellowshipping with Christ. Doing life with Christ. Experiencing Christ and letting Him experience us. That’s why Paul said, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20).
We all have an innate desire for relationship, but not just any relationship. We want a participative sharing. We want fellowship. We want to know and to be known. And the best place to get that desire filled is, first and foremost, in Christ. When this desire is filled in Christ, it flows out of us and touches the lives of others. It transforms our relationships and helps us to fellowship with one another as well. It creates empathy and compassion and love, and all the things that keep us in relationship, whether from our end, another’s, or both.
Paul also talked about living a life worthy of the calling you received (Ephesians 4:1). He “lists” things we should do and how we should behave, but I propose that it’s not a laundry list or set of religious duties. It’s also not a life that can only be lived externally, but it comes from the inside out. The life of Christ is written plainly so that we can fellowship with Him through the Spirit. We get to partake in and imitate the life of Christ.
When we read the Bible, we get insight of Jesus and how He actually was on earth as a person. He made it possible for us to live the same way, because we get to fellowship with Him now.
How to fellowship with Christ
Our starting point is in God’s word, the Bible. It is all we need for fellowship with Him. If we want to experience deeper fellowship with God, we must know what it says so that we can submit to His will and obey His commands. This comes from a place of relationship with Him, not out of duty.
When we find ourselves doing things out of duty and in religion, it is helpful to know that the Holy Spirit is in us and with us, guiding us into all truth. He convicts and corrects, but ever so gently. He loves and leads, revealing Jesus and pointing to Him again and again.
Prayer and worship go hand in hand with reading God’s word. It’s not about what you do, but the heart with which you do it.
And lastly, fellowship with believers brings us to a deeper relationship with Christ. We need each other for encouragement and growth. We are called to relationship and fellowship with God AND one another.
Like Paul stated to the Ephesians, I conclude with this:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.Ephesians 1:17-19
Further Scripture Reading
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3
But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it! Luke 11:28
Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 1 John 3:24
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:13
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. 2 John 1:6