FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD
D. M. PANTON, B.A.
A precaution against coming persecution
is the first, so far as we know, that has been made in Anglo-Saxondom. The
General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the
[* Isa. 66: 8-14. cf 2 Pet. 1: 15-19; Rev. 11: 15; 20: 4-6.]
But this precaution first of all needs clarifying. If we walk in the light, we have fellowship one with another. Who have fellowship one with another? Fellowship among Christians is a deep delight, and can be most blessed; but, while the verse can mean this, the grammar points to a fellowship infinitely more wonderful: we have fellowship one with another - GOD AND MY SOUL.* It is blessedly true that in the last days believers who walk in the light will have earths richest fellowship one with another. Dr. Candlish thus defines this fellowship:- We see all things in the same light: we therefore cannot but understand one another and agree with one another; and sympathize with one another and co-operate with one another. But such believers, walking in the light, will grow rarer; and the fellowship of believers who walk in the darkness is a fellowship that heads straight into chaos. The inner strife, we are told, has shattered the Confessional Church of Germany, and sundered friendships even under the same roof. The fellowship here is that of which John has just spoken (ver. 3):- Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
* Some understand the one another of the saints. That is a good sense. But the contrast with the previous verse points to the meaning being fellowship with God (Govett). It is not our mutual fellowship as believers that is meant. The introduction of that idea is irrelevant and breaks the sense. It is our joint fellowship with God,* and He with us, that alone is the purpose here (R. S. Candlish, D.D.). Were the fellowship spoken of that between Christians, the pronoun His would be inappropriate (A. B.. Bruce, D.D.).
Now therefore there rises on our vision a truth of incalculable importance:- IF we walk in the light, God and we shall have fellowship one with another. It is our walk, not our standing, that determines this issue: the conscious, daily fellowship with our heavenly Father is not merely the consciousness that we are saved, the assurance of salvation: on the contrary, it is a fruit only of an active walk in the light in which God lives. All who believe are in the light; but now comes the command - Ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light (Eph. 5: 8); for it is our walking in the light, and that walk alone, which produces the fellowship. So Johns earlier negative emphasizes the truth. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: that is, walking in the light is not believing the truth, or even teaching the truth, but doing the truth: it is living Gods light. As our Lord expresses it:- He that followeth me - not he that merely believeth on me - shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life - the blaze of God (John 8: 12); and again, - If a man love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and MAKE OUR ABODE WITH HIM (John 14: 23).
WALKING IN DARKNESS
It is critically necessary to remember that we [regenerate] believers can walk in darkness. In the words of Mr. R. H. Boll:- It is the commonest notion that light once enjoyed remains forever. We think we can never lose it, we can never forget truth once learned. The fact is that nothing vanishes more quickly. Light once received must be jealously guarded and treasured. Play fast-and-loose with your convictions and presently you will have lost them, you will not know how. You even come to wonder why you ever held them. It is not only by memory that truth is held, but with the heart. Not by contrary teaching, not by infidel-attacks, but by a gradual fading of the sense of its importance and authority does the precious truth depart from the disobedient soul. The infidels argument may come in at the last to give it a finishing stroke, or it may not. At any rate the light will have vanished. The only way truth can be kept is by the use of it, by walking in it. Walk while you have the light that darkness overtake you not, said the Saviour; and he that walketh in the darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have the light believe on the light that ye may become sons of light (John 12: 35, 36).*
* Strict walking
is much despised in these days, but rest assured, dear reader, it is both the
safest and the happiest. He who yields a
point or two to the world is in fearful peril; he who eats the grapes of
What then is the light? If we walk in THE LIGHT, as he is in the light, we shall have fellowship one with another. Light is a very wonderful thing. The characteristics of light are, on the one hand, clearness, openness, transparency; and on the other hand, inviolability - its taking no impression from anything it comes in contact with, but retaining and preserving its own pure nature, unmodified, unmingled, unsoiled, unsullied; everywhere and evermore the same (Candlish). It is a lovely and exact picture of Gods truth revealed in the Scriptures. The fruit of the light, as Paul puts it - that is, the walk which is according to the light - is in all goodness and righteousness and truth (Eph. 5: 9).
Therefore we have the vivid picture of what, and what alone,
produces fellowship with God. A man who
is walking is visible to all around: his walk is all the world sees of him: the
world cannot read his heart, but it watches his steps, his gait, his whole carriage. We
are to walk in the light, as God is in the light: the light, in which God is,
is His own pure truth, His holy nature; and we are to walk in that. The
There is here a further lovely revelation. Enclosed within the fellowship is the solution of the sin problem of the soul walking with God. And the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin. The believer who walks in semi-darkness, in twilight, can have an untroubled conscience, for he is blind, as a man is who is walking in the dark: a believer walking in the light, on the contrary, has to face the terrible disclosures of the light; and so, whenever necessary, obeys the command of the passage - If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1: 9). It is to [regenerate] believers that John says:- He that walketh in the darkness knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes (1 John 2: 11). Thus known sin disappears from the soul that walks with God; and the unconscious sin of the old fallen nature is under the Blood of the Atonement. When I fall, I shall arise, cries the Prophet; he will bring me forth to the light (Mic. 7: 8, 9).
So here is the masterly precaution against whatever the future
may hold, and a precaution which it is open to every one of us to possess. What a fellowship! If we walk in the light,
as he is in the light, we have
fellowship ONE WITH ANOTHER. When Enoch walked with God, he did not walk before, or after,
God; far more wonderful, both walked together: so when God and a human soul have fellowship one with another, it is not only that we
love and enjoy His fellowship, but that He loves and enjoys ours; He is
conscious of it, and desires it. Fellowship
has been expressed thus:- We
are one in our deepest sympathies, in our most stedfast principles, in our most
important aims, and in our highest aspirations; we are one in character, in
service, and in destiny: hence our fellowship is genuine, vital and blessed.
It is a fellowship of light that only
becomes closer and brighter beyond. It is not darkness I am going to, Charles Kingsley said when dying, for God is light. And the worst possible persecution only
perfects the fellowship. To a martyr who was being crucified his
executioners said, ironically:- We do this to bring you nearer to your God; and he
are doing it more successfully than you know! So to-days fellowship ends in the
fellowship of the glory. For our Lord says:- Thou hast a
few names in