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Sep 10, 2023

Fellowship with God--LifeTogether2023

Passage: 1 John 1:1-7

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Life Together

Keywords: trinity, partnership, fellowship, sharing, having in common


Fellowship as the Bible uses the term is uniquely Christian. It depends completely on our relationship with God which impacts every relationship with have in the church. This message looks at the primacy of personal fellowship with God, the foundation of all meaningful relationship with other believers.


Fellowship with God

Life Together Series—Fall 2023

September 10, 2023


Dietrich Bonhoeffer—German theologian during WWII.  Raised in Berlin in a doctor’s family.  He was a musician of note as a young person and even wrote a piece at age 11 that was performed by the Berlin Philharmonic.  He started his theological studies, much to the dismay of his science and lawyer brothers at age 14.  He completed and defended his doctoral dissertation at age 21.  Came to the U.S. in 1930 to study at Union Theological Seminary in NY and was thoroughly unimpressed with American theological students and the church…except for the Black church.  His decision to fellowship with local black Christians shaped his theology of suffering, war and civil disobedience. 

            He returned to Germany as the Nazis were taking power and soon became an ardent opponent of their socialist fascist rule.  He was highly critical of the Lutheran Church’s support of the German nationalism and went on to help found the “Confessing Church”, a group of about one-third of the Lutheran Churches in Germany who wanted to stay faithful to the Word of God and distant from the control of the State. 

            During that decade he traveled and ministered in both England and the United States.  But his concern and love for the true church in Germany drew him back just before the outbreak of WWII.  By then he had been traveling all over Germany training young pastors in what he called “the seminary on the run,” and underground training network for the church. 

            His participation in an assassination attempt on Hitler led to his arrest in January 1943 and his eventual hanging one month before the war ended in 1945. 

            It was in the years leading up to WWII that he wrote what has become a short Christian classic entitled Life Together.  It was a short, 105 page training booklet used to call the church of his day into genuine fellowship and out of non-relational church attendance. 

            If you like to read Christian classics, this is one that should be on your list.  The title of the book is what we’ve decided to use as the title of our short fall preaching series—Life Together. 

            If you were with us at Riverview last weekend, you know that fellowship formed the theme of our two teaching sessions. 

If you weren’t with us, don’t despair.  We’re going to spend the rest of this month fleshing out more of the Scriptures and more of the biblical principles on fellowship. 

I want to begin today where we began and left off last weekend at Riverview:  1 John 1:1-7.  As our speaker, Neil Anderson, reminded us, the first three verses form a single sentence in the original letter of John to his spiritual children.  Here is how it reads in the NIV:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 

I want to continue reading the next 3 verses since the remaining 2 of the 4 total references to “fellowship” in 1st John are found here. 

We write this to make our joy complete.

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.

            First, WHO are the objects of fellowship in this passage?  In other words, WHO is John talking about having this thing called “fellowship” with? 

  • 3—“with us”, i.e. John and all those who knew Jesus first hand.
  • 3—“with the Father and with his son, Jesus Christ.”
  • 6—“with him”, i.e. God.
  • 6—“with one another”, i.e. the church, God’s true family.

Whatever this “fellowship” is, we can clearly say that it applies to two spheres:  our relationship with God (more completely, the Trinity—Father, Son, and as we shall see, Holy Spirit—and our relationship with God’s family, brothers and sisters in Christ. 

            Most of us here probably come to this word “fellowship” with some preconceived notions of what it is.  That may be useful… or it may hinder us from really embracing what God wants us to experience.  We may freight our notion of ‘fellowship’ with very weak ideas of the real thing.  We may have outright wrong ideas.  And we may think we already know all we need to know about ‘fellowship.’  So, let’s ask God to liberate us from impoverished or incomplete views of fellowship and rather take us into ‘the deep end of the pool’ in both understanding and experience of fellowship this fall.


            Whenever the N.T. writers refer to this concept of fellowship, they use it in a strictly Christian sense.  In fact, Paul holds it in such high regard that he says in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”  The expected answer is “None!”  Darkness doesn’t share in the properties of light and visa versa…any more than righteousness shares in the properties of wickedness. 

            So, we can say that there is a negative aspect to fellowship.  It is not what our unbelieving friends ever experience.

ILLUnbelievers don’t go to a football game and have ‘great fellowship.’  They don’t go to the pub and have ‘great fellowship.’  And Christians at the football game or pub going with them don’t have ‘great fellowship’ with them either. 

Whatever fellowship is, we can’t have it with unbelievers.  We can certainly share a lot of things with them while we’re at the football game or pub (including, perhaps, the Gospel), but it is not ‘fellowship.’  At least on the human-to-human plain, genuine, biblical, Spirit-inspired fellowship is something that can only be experienced between two or more believers who are “walking in the light” of Christ, of His life and of his righteousness (1 Jn. 1:7). 

So, THE most critical aspect of ‘fellowship’, whatever it is, must be the ‘fellowship’ we have with God.  John said, our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. He just got finished talking about how dependent that fellowship was on his first-hand encounter with Jesus Christ.  Unlike us, his ‘fellowship’ had included touching the physical person of Jesus.  It included seeing the physical person of Christ.  It involved hearing the literal voice of Jesus Christ.  He referred to that experience as an experience with “eternal life” (vs. 3). 

But John is now speaking to people who didn’t have that physical encounter with Christ.  But they have clearly had a personal and deeply spiritual encounter with Him.  And because they have, John can instruct them about shared fellowship with others, himself included, who have that common/shared relationship with Jesus. 

BTW, many of you know the Greek word for ‘fellowship’koinoniaIt comes from the Greek root word koine which was applied to the entire Greek language of the day.  Because Greek was the shared or commonly used language of the Roman empire, it was called koine Greek—“commonly shared” Greek

ILL: Just as we could say that English became the “common language” of the 20th century.  It was the one language that united more people in communication than any other all over the world. 

            Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood this and stated it this way in Life Together.

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this (p21)…
…the community of Christians springs solely from the Biblical and Reformation message of the justification of man through grace alone; this alone is the basis of the longing of Christians for one another…we come to God and to one another solely through Christ. (p23) [Found at https://au.thegospelcoalition.org/book-review/review-d-bonhoeffer-life-together/ on 9.8.2023]

Without being a person who has received Christ by faith, who has embraced right relationship with God through God’s grace to us in Jesus’ death on the cross, we are incapable of having ‘fellowship’ as God knows about ‘fellowship’.  We’re incapable of having it with God and we are therefore incapable of having it with each other. 

ILL:  There is a pastor in town I know who was raised in a very evangelical church.  He went to an evangelical seminary, got the degree, pastored a church…and left the historic, orthodox Christian faith to adopt a faith that allows anyone to believe anything about sin, self and God as long as it doesn’t judge or hurt anyone and as long as it values the contemporary definition of ‘love’ our culture loves to toss about.  When asked why he left his Christian roots he will say because he didn’t find ‘peace’ in Christianity. I would sadly have to say that must have been because he didn’t find peace with God.  He could not have known, as Bonhoeffer says, “Justification…through grace alone” or he would have found peace.  He would have found that “the God of peace” in the person of Jesus Christ gives to His children peace that the world cannot give (Jn. 14:27).  He’s a very nice man.  I’ve done a funeral of a mutual friend with him years ago.  But we will never be able to have what God calls ‘fellowship’ until he makes peace with God through Jesus Christ. 

APP:  Same applies here in this room today.  (Call to faith in Jesus.)

            But genuine ‘fellowship’ also goes much deeper than our initial connection with God in Jesus Christ.  As Neil reminded us last week, our fellowship with God depends upon what the Apostle John talked about in John 15—our abiding in Christ, the true vine.  John 15 is all about fellowship with God. And, as John reminds us in our opening passage in 1st John 1, that is the basis of any and all fellowship we can ever hope to have with one another. 

            This leads us to a danger here in talking about fellowship together.  It is that we make our fellowship with one another the primary objective and God merely the means to that objectiveILL:  Brothers in Christ, imagine you had a younger brother growing up…or sisters in Christ, that you had a younger sister.  Suppose (brothers) a girl you liked when you were a teenager or young adult started showing interest in you…or sisters, a guy you liked did the same to you. So, you started dating him/her.  Guys, you took her out to dinner, to concerts, to the park and the fair and included her in your family by having her over to your house for movie nights, family dinners and other family celebrations.  Suppose you did that for a few months.

            But then you noticed a change.  She started taking more interest in your baby brother than you.  She started inviting him to hang out with the two of you more and more.  She started doing things other times of the week with him even without you. 

            What if she eventually confessed that she liked hanging out with him more than you?  What if she told you that she really was more interested in him from the beginning?  Besides the sibling rivalry and jealousy, what’s wrong with that picture? 

            You’ve become a means to an end, not the end in itself.  Nobody likes that.  And when that happens with God…when we use our relationship with Him that was bought with the life and blood of Jesus himself to fulfill a deeper desire for someone or something else, that’s idolatry. 

APP:   Fellowship with the family of God is designed to be a wonderful, fulfilling and growth-filled experience.  BUT it is never designed to take the place of our deepest need for and hopefully desire for fellowship with God.  

Trying to make it do so will be a dead-end street. Fellowship with one another is always the result of fellowship with God.  IF we try to gin-up fellowship with one another without truly embracing the reality that it will only rise to the level of our fellowship with God, we will be constantly disappointed. But if fellowship with God is our dominant and primary passion, we will always find deeply fulfilling and genuine fellowship with some other Christ-followers wherever we are.

            Before we talk further about what ‘fellowship with God’ really looks like, it might be helpful to get a few general handles on what the Bible talks about when it uses the word “fellowship.” 

Greek terms:

  1. Koinos—“common, mutual, public”. It refers to that which is held in common.
  2. Koinonia (noun) and koinoneo (verb).
    1. to share together, take part together” in the sense of partnership or participation
    2. to share with’ in the sense of giving to others.

So, we can say that N.T. ‘fellowship’ refers to something share in common by the parties involved (relationship, blessings, burdens, privileges, responsibilities, etc.).  It refers to the people doing the sharing.  And it refers to some quality of life that happens in fellowship. 

            There are some secondary usages of the Greek too. 

  1. Koinonos (n) means “a partner, associate, companion (2 Cor. 8:23; Lk. 5:10; Phil 1:7) or “partaker, sharer” (1 Cor. 10:18-20; 2 Cor. 1:7; 1 Pt. 5:1,2; 2 Pt. 1:4).
  2. Koinonikos (adj) meaning “characterized by sharing; ready to share of partake” (1 Tim. 6:18).

Simply put, there are 4 components/aspects of fellowship:

  • Relationship: not just activity
  • Partnership: common goals, objectives, activity, experiences, commitments to something.
  • Companionship: communication among companions
  • Stewardship: shared resources.

One of the central metaphors God uses for ‘the church’ is a FAMILY

  • Galatians 6:10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
  • Hebrews 2:11Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. [BTW, the familial term ‘brothers’ is used hundreds of times in the epistles.]
  • 1 Peter 2:17Show proper respect to everyone, love the familyof believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

That metaphor has much to tell us about fellowship itself. 

Q:  WHO most determines in a family the type of relationships a family will have together?  (Parents/father/mother). 

WHO’s nature, character, morality, rules, conduct will most determine the kind of family experience a family has?

If a family is headed by stellar parents who are kind, loving, disciplined, hard-working, gracious, forgiving, generous, thoughtful, joyful, peace-filled, etc., what will your experience in the home most likely be like?

Q:  But assume that you have those kind of parents BUT there are 1 or 2 real stinkers for kids in that family.  Is that going to impact what your experience is like in that family?  Sure. 

            The closer the children are and grow to become like their good parents, the better that family experience is going to be, right.  The farther any kid drifts from that good and loving character of those parents, the more difficult family life is going to be. 

APP:  THE most important component to great fellowship in the family of God is not how well we feel like we are getting along with each other.  It is how well we are getting along with God. 

            If I’m being a ‘stinker’ of a child of God—disobeying our Father, not listening to His direction, not following the family rules, not treating my brothers and sisters like God is treating you, then I’m not going to be getting along well with God.  But if I’m in solid relationship with God, obeying His instructions, listening to His counsel, seeking His character, growing in His shared divine qualities of generosity or thoughtfulness or kindness or love, then I’m going to not only be enjoying God a lot; I’m going to be experiencing you in a very different way. 

            This is why our shared fellowship on the human, church-plain will be only as good as the relationship every one of us has individually and corporately with God himself. 

            Just as THE best thing any married couple can do for their spouse is cultivate the best relationship possible with God, so in the church.

Just as THE best thing two parents can do for their children is cultivate a great relationship with each other, so THE best thing I can do for you is cultivate a great relationship with God.

APP:  If we want to experience amazing fellowship when we come together as a church, then we need to make getting together with God and being right with Him THE most important focus of our Sunday.  Our connection with God on any day, including Sunday, must be far more important to us than any connection with another saint.  Corporate worship through confession or communion or prayer or giving or serving or studying God’s Word or singing praises and truth together to Him must always outshine any interaction with another human being, great as they may be.  IF fellowship is what God has designed it to be, those other interactions with brothers and sisters in the Lord will not just build bonds with them; they will strengthen and forge fresh bonds with God himself.

            Which is why, even on days like today when we spend time hopefully in rich fellowship with others, the most important part of our day is the time we spend with God himself whether alone in His word or together in His word…whether alone in worship or together in worship…whether alone in prayer or together in prayer.  Our fellowship with one another is utterly dependent upon the existence and depth of our fellowship with God, start to finish. 

            So HOW do you nurture fellowship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit? 

            Historically God’s people have used what is called “Spiritual Practices/Disciplines” to connect with God. 

Here is a partial list to help jog your memory. 

Solitude                                              Fellowship

Silence                                                Worship

Fasting                                                Celebration

Not spending $                                    Giving

Doing things for others in secret        Witnessing     

Praise                                                  Confession

Serving others                                     Submission

Rest/Sabbath                                       Work

Reading God’s Word                          Journaling

Prayer                                                  Listening to God

Study of God’s Word                         Meditation/ Memorizing


            This week, as a result of studying and praying about fellowship with God, I’ve begun to wonder if certain practices might not help us fellowship more deeply with certain members of the Trinity.


  • S.—exercising your spiritual gift(s) more; prayer; silence and listening for God?
  • Jesus Christ—communion, adoration, study of His Word, witnessing, sacrifice, fasting
  • The Father—Submission, worship, sabbath rest, giving,


  • Make a short list of 3 things that help you most get or stay in solid, right, healthy relationship with God.
  • Choose 3 things you would like to try for the first time OR increase in frequency/amount to deepen your fellowship with God this next month.
  • WHEN will you do them? (Week?  Time?)
  • HOW will you do them?
  • WHO will you tell you are trying to do them…and give permission to ask you what the impact has been?

CLOSE:  60 seconds of silence, listening to the Holy Spirit for

  • What He wants us to take from today’s study?
  • What He wants us to DO differently as a result?
  • How God wants us to deepen fellowship with Him this month?

Family/Group DEVOTIONAL available in the back.