The Spiritual Life and Fellowship
Written by: Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum Posted on: 02/19/2003
Category: Bible Studies
Source: Ariel Ministries
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All scripture quotes are from the 1901 American Standard Version.
THE SPIRITUAL LIFE & FELLOWSHIP
This is a study on the spiritual life and fellowship. By "fellowship," we mean both fellowship with God and fellowship with fellow believers. We will discuss our topic of the spiritual life and fellowship in five major areas.
I. Introduction: The Problem of Sin
Sin affects our fellowship both with God and fellow believers. Both unbelievers and believers have problems with sin. For the unsaved man, the key thing he needs to rectify the problem of sin is to believe. For the unsaved man, his
responsibility is to have his sins forgiven, and the kind of forgiveness he needs is salvation forgiveness. He receives his salvation forgiveness when he believes that Jesus died for his sins, was buried and rose again.
However, it is not only the unbeliever who has a problem with sin. The believer also has a problem with sin; in this study we are especially concerned with the saved man. At the point of salvation, all of the believer's sins have been
forgiven. That includes past sins, present sins, and future sins. Insofar as his position in Christ is concerned, he is permanently forgiven. He is positionally forgiven of all of his sins (past, present and future); this forgiveness came at the point of salvation. Sin in the believer's life grieves the Holy Spirit. Whereas the key word for the unbeliever is "believe," the key word for the believer is "confess" (I John 1:9). Whereas the responsibility of the unbeliever is to have his sins forgiven in the sense of salvation forgiveness, the responsibility of the believer is also to have his sins forgiven, but in this case it is fellowship forgiveness. Whereas the former is positional, the latter is experiential. In the area of fellowship and the spiritual life, sin in the believer's life breaks his fellowship with God and also affects his relationship to other believers.
II. I John 1:1-2:2
The second part of our study on the spiritual life and fellowship is to expound I John 1:1-2:2.
A. Introduction: 1:1-2
That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life (and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father
and was manifested unto us);
The point of the introduction is that John was writing about something he and the other apostles were eye witnesses to.
It is very obvious that this epistle was written to believers. This comes out several times within the epistle itself. We must not try to get around the problems of the epistle by claiming it was written to unbelievers. The first time this is made abundantly clear is in 2:12-14.
I write unto you, my little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye know him who is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the evil one. I have written unto you, little children, because ye know the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye know him who is from the beginning.
These verses make it very clear that John is writing to believers, not unbelievers. In verse 12 he is writing to people who have their sins forgiven. In verse 13 he is writing to people who have overcome the Evil One, and have also come to know God the Father. In verse 14 he is writing to those who have come to know Him from the beginning. Obviously, the epistle was written to believers. This comes out again in 2:19-21:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out,that they might be made manifest that they all are not of us. And ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
In verse 19 he makes a distinction between the people he is
writing to, the "we" and the "us," over against those who
associated with the fellowship but then went out. John states
that those who went out have proven that they were never
believers to begin with. This is in contrast to those who have
proven themselves to be believers, those to whom the epistle has
been written. In verse 20 they have received an anointing from
the Holy One. In verse 21 they are people who know the truth by
experience. Once again, John is clearly writing to fellow
One other time that this comes out clearly is in 3:1:
Behold what manner of love the Father hath
bestowed upon us, that we should be called
children of God; and such we are. For this
cause the world knoweth us not, because it
knew him not.
Once again, John is writing to those who are the children of
God and who have received experientially the love of God the
Father. He is clearly writing to those who are believers.
B. The Pleasures of Fellowship: 1:3-4
. . . that which we have seen and heard
declare we unto you also, that ye also may
have fellowship with us: yea, and our
fellowship is with the Father, and with his
Son Jesus Christ: and these things we write,
that our joy may be made full.
In verse 3, John gives his theme in the epistle, fellowship.
There are two types of fellowship in these verses: the
horizontal fellowship and the vertical fellowship. The
horizontal fellowship is, "that ye may have fellowship with us."
Horizontal fellowship is believers with believers. The vertical
fellowship is our fellowship with God the Father and God the Son,
Jesus Christ. The vertical fellowship is between the believer
and God. Yet both types of fellowship can be affected by sin in
the believer's life. It is impossible for two believers to have
fellowship with one another if one of them is out of fellowship
with God. There is great joy in fellowship among believers.
However, that great joy can be dampened by sin in a believer's
life. In these verses John emphasizes the believer's continual
spiritual experience. He needs to keep on having fellowship with
God and in that way he can keep on having fellowship with fellow
C. The Pattern of Fellowship: 1:5-7
And this is the message which we have heard
from him and announce unto you, that God is
light, and in him is no darkness at all. If
we say that we have fellowship with him and
walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the
truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is
in the light, we have fellowship one with
another, and the blood of Jesus his Son
cleanseth us from all sin.
In these verses, John deals with the pattern of fellowship
and points out three things.
First (v. 5), is the fundamental presupposition which is the
nature of God. The nature of God which affects the believer's
spiritual life and his fellowship with God the Father is: God is
light. Because God is light, pure light, there is no darkness in
Him whatsoever. That is the fundamental presupposition of the
nature of God. He is light and in Him there is no darkness.
Second (v. 6), he gives a response that a person can make in
light of this presupposition. If we claim that we have
fellowship with Him, but walk in the darkness, we lie and do not
speak the truth. This response is a false profession of
fellowship. If a person is claiming to have fellowship with the
Lord while he is walking in the darkness, while he is walking in
sin, then he is not speaking the truth. He is a liar. If our
actions are not consistent with our claims, we become liars.
Every time we sin, every time we are making an action that is not
in accordance with our profession, we are lying and we are not
doing the truth.
Third (v. 7), he spells out a truthful practice. If we walk
in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one
another. This deals with the horizontal relationship: we have
fellowship with other believers. That is horizontal fellowship.
If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we do have
horizontal fellowship. But that is not all. He goes on to say
that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, which means we
also have vertical fellowship: we have fellowship with God the
Father. To walk in the light is to expose oneself to God,
especially the Word of God. When one exposes himself to the Word
of God, he senses his own sin and then will know how to seek
forgiveness. This aspect of fellowship is preventative. It is a
way of avoiding breaking our fellowship with God; but it is also
a condition for fellowship -- we must be walking in the light.
D. The Provision of Fellowship - 1:8-2:2
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive
ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we
confess our sins, he is faithful and
righteous to forgive us our sins, and to
cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we
say that we have not sinned, we make him a
liar, and his word in not in us. My little
children, these things write I unto you that
ye may not sin. And if any man sin, we have
an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the
righteous: and he is the propitiation for our
sins; and not for ours only, but also for the
In dealing with the provision for fellowship, John spells
out four key things.
First (v. 8), he deals with a false profession concerning
sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, the
truth in not in us. In verse 8, the sin he is speaking of is the
sin nature. The word "sin" is in the singular and it is in the
present tense. The present tense emphasizes linear, durative
action. It is looking at the guilt of sin. What he is dealing
with is the sin nature. If any believer says that he does not
have a sin nature, then the truth is not in him because salvation
does not eradicate the sin nature. The proof that the word "sin"
here refers to the sin nature is based on John's usage of the
expression "to have sin." It is always in a sense of guilt (John
15:22, 24, 19:11). The meaning of sin in this context is that of
guilt. If someone says he does not have the sin nature, it is an
untruth, it is false.
Second (v. 9), he deals with the confession of sins. This
time, the word "sin" is in the plural, and it is dealing with the
actions of sin, the acts of sin. The condition for the
restoration of fellowship is confession of our sins. The
condition is: "if we confess our sins." The result is: "He is
faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins; and to cleanse us
from all unrighteousness." This is the corrective aspect. If we
commit an act of sin, because we still have our sin nature, we
need to confess that sin. God will respond by forgiving us and
the result will be to be cleansed from all unrighteousness. The
key word in this verse is the word "confess". The Greek word is
homologeo. Literally, it means "to say the same thing," or, "to
agree with". It means an agreement with a standard. It also
involves an admission of a previous disagreement. It means to
acknowledge totally and it contains within it the concept of
repentance. In other words, confession is not only admitting to
God you did something wrong. It is actually calling it what God
calls it, saying the same thing about it, that it is sin. You
agree that you have violated a divine standard and you admit that
in practice you previously disagreed with it when you committed
the sin. Then God will be faithful to forgive us our sins. The
word "faithful" emphasizes that once the sin is confessed, that
sin is forgiven. There is never a time when a sin is confessed
that it is not forgiven. God does hold us responsible for sins
we do know about and those sins we must confess. If we
acknowledge these sins, He will also forgive our unknown sins.
When it states that God is righteous, it points out that God is
still righteous when He forgives both types of sins, both the
known and the unknown. The blood of Christ has paid for all our
sins, not only for the confessed sins. When it states that God
cleanses us from all unrighteousness, this means family
forgiveness and the fellowship which was broken by our sins is
now restored. This raises the question, when should we confess
our sins? Ideally, you should confess your sin as soon as you
become aware of it. Ephesians 4:26 gives one timing element: we
should try to confess our sins before bedtime. In I Corinthians
11:27-34, there is another timing element: we should seek the
forgiveness of our sins before we partake of the next Lord's
Third (v. 10), John next deals with a false profession
concerning the confession of sin:
. . . if we say that we have not sin we make
Him a liar, His Word is not in us.
Here, the word "sin" refers to the acts of sin. It is
obvious that John has been developing a progression in these
verses. In verse 6 there is a denial of the product of sin. In
verse 8 there is a denial of the guilt of sin or the sin nature.
Now, in verse 10, there is a denial of the practice of sin. All
three denials are false denials. In every case when we deny one
of these three truths then we make God a liar and it shows His
word is not in us. Since His word teaches that we do sin, and we
claim that we do not sin, we are trying to make Him a liar to
make ourselves look better.
Fourth (2:1-2), John speaks about the faithful provision of
Christ, who is the guarantee of fellowship. Verse 1 teaches that
He is our Advocate. He is an Advocate for believers and not for
unbelievers. We no longer, as believers, have the right to live
as we like; we no longer have the right to sin. John states that
"these things I write unto you that you may not sin," meaning
that he wants to encourage believers not to commit acts of sin.
We know that we all still do commit acts of sin, but he
encourages us not to despair when we do sin. He points out that
we do have an Advocate. If any man sins, that is if anyone
commits an act of sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus
Christ the Righteous. John emphasizes the present ministry of
Jesus at the right hand of God the Father. He is now our
Mediator, He is our Advocate at the right hand of God the Father
and He intercedes for us when we do commit acts of sin.
Not only is he our Advocate, He is also our propitiation
(v. 2). The word "propitiate" means to satisfy or to appease the
wrath of God. By propitiation, we mean that the wrath of God
against sin has been appeased. It has been propitiated, it has
been satisfied. He points out that Christ is the propitiation
not just for believers but for unbelievers, not for our sins only
but for those of the whole world. Christ is the propitiation for
the world. Christ is the satisfaction for sins, both for our
sins, that is, the elect; and for the world, that is, the
non-elect. This verse clearly teaches unlimited atonement:
Christ died for the sins of all men, not only for the elect.
Because he died for the sins of all men and not only for the
elect, it means the blood of Christ has satisfied God's wrath
against sin for all, though salvation is only applied to those
Whereas propitiation affects everybody, the application of
salvation is only for believers and so He is the Advocate for
believers only. What He is in verse 1 is true of believers only.
What He is in verse 2 is true of believers and unbelievers.
However, the emphasis is this: His past death as Savior of
the world is the basis of His present ministry as the Advocate
for believers who sin.
III. John 13:1-11
This passage can be divided into three units.
A. Historical Setting - 13:1-3
Now before the feast of the passover, Jesus
knowing that his hour was come that he should
depart out of this world unto the Father,
having loved his own that were in the world,
he loved them unto the end, and during
supper, the devil having already put into the
heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to
betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father
had given all things into his hands, and that
he came forth from God, and goeth unto God,
Insofar as the setting is concerned, it is the Jewish passover.
Even before the first night of passover, Jesus knew that this
would be His last passover and that He was going to be departing
following this passover (v. 1). At passover (v. 2), that is,
during the Passover supper, Judas had already decided in his
heart that he was going to betray Jesus. Jesus, knowing all
this, and knowing he is about to return to God, set the stage for
what is about to happen (v. 3). On two occasions during the
passover, there is a ceremony known as the washing of the hands.
Twice it is hands which are washed and, furthermore, the hands
are washed by a servant. That is the normal procedure of the
washing at passover.
B. The Account of the Cleansing - 13:4-9
. . . riseth from supper, and layeth aside
his garments; and he took a towel, and girded
himself. Then he poureth water into the
basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet,
and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he
was girded. So he cometh to Simon Peter. He
saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do
thou knowest not now; but thou shalt
understand hereafter. Peter saith unto him,
Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus
answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast
no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him,
Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and
With the background of the Passover, we see the service of
Christ. There were no servants at this particular Passover.
There were no volunteers from among the disciples to wash the
hands of the other disciples so Jesus took the role of a servant
(v. 4), and He did the washing (vv. 5-9). While doing the
washing Jesus did not wash the hands, but chose to wash the feet
(v. 5). This raised the question on Peter's part (v. 6), "Are
you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered (v. 7) that this is
something He is doing as a symbol which Peter does not understand
now, but will understand later. Jesus clearly indicated a
symbolic significance. Yet Peter again protested (v. 8) and
said, "you will never wash my feet," the implication being: I am
going to do it myself. Jesus responded. "if I don't wash you you
have no part with me" (v. 9). In other words, Peter, the
symbolism of what I am doing now is not something you can do for
yourself, it is something that I must do. At that point Peter
submitted to being washed.
C. The Explanation - 13:10-11
Jesus saith to him, He that is bathed needeth
not save to wash his feet, but is clean every
whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he
knew him that should betray him; therefore
said he, Ye are not all clean.
In these two verses Jesus gave the explanation for his
symbolic demonstration of washing the disciples feet. He defined
or explained the bathing and the washing (v. 10). "Bathing" is
the washing of the entire body which was usually done at a public
bath house. This "bathing" symbolizes salvation forgiveness.
When a bathed person walked from the bath house back to his home,
his feet got dirty, but the rest of his body remained clean; so,
his feet needed to be washed upon entering the house. Foot
washing symbolizes family forgiveness. When we received Jesus as
our savior we received a bathing. We are totally bathed through
our salvation forgiveness. However, as believers we still commit
acts of sin and that means our feet will get dirty. We need to
have our feet washed. Those who have feet washed are "clean
every whit" because the rest of the body is still clean. By
salvation, we have every other part forgiven. Foot washing
refers to family forgiveness which comes by means of confession
of our sins.
Some take verse 10 to teach that foot washing is an
ordinance, just like baptism and the Lord's Supper. In this
context, that cannot be so because of four reasons. First, since
the bath is spiritual or symbolic, so must the foot washing be a
symbol. After all, we cannot in the same verse claim that
bathing is symbolic but foot washing is literal. If the bathing
is literal then the foot washing would be literal. All agree
that the bathing is symbolic; therefore, so is the foot washing.
Second, the language of verses 7-8 has figurative connotations.
The response of Jesus to Peter emphasizing a point of
illustration, emphasizes figurative connotations, not literal.
Third, while we do see baptism practiced in the book of Acts and
we see the Lord's Supper practiced in the Book of Acts we never
see foot washing practiced in the Book of Acts, showing it was
not taken as an ordinance by the early church. Fourth, in
verse 15 it is clearly referred to as an example. It implies
that it is a symbol that is in view. It does not say: what I
did you should do; but Jesus used the word "as." "As I have
done, you should do," emphasizing again a symbol and not a
literal practice. This verse does not teach foot washing as an
This, then, would raise a question about Judas. Jesus next
dealt with the status of Judas (v. 11). There are two different
Greek words for washing. The first Greek word is louo which
means "to bathe." This emphasizes regeneration. Judas did not
have this type of a bath. The second word is nipto which means
"to wash a part of the body," emphasizing confession. In the
case of Judas, this is the word which is used for bathe. Judas
never had his bath, he was never saved to begin with. His
association with Jesus meant he had a part of his body washed,
but he never had a bath. The case of Judas is not someone who
lost his salvation, but someone who was not saved to begin with.
IV. I Corinthians 11:17-34
This passage can also be divided into three divisions.
A. The Rebuke - 11:17-22
But in giving you this charge, I praise you
not, that ye come together not for the better
but for the worse. For first of all, when ye
come together in the church, I hear that
divisions exist among you; and I partly
believe it. For there must be also factions
among you, that they that are approved maybe
made manifest among you. When therefore ye
assemble yourselves together, it is not
possible to eat the Lord's supper: for in
your eating each one taketh before other his
own supper; and one is hungry, and another is
drunken. What, have ye not houses to eat and
to drink in? or despise ye the church of God,
and put them to shame that have not? What
shall I say to you? shall I praise you? In
this I praise you not.
The passage begins with a rebuke of the offenders within the
Corinthian church for two problems. The first problem
(vv. 17-19) is schisms. There are schisms, there are divisions,
among this group of believers. The second problem (vv. 20-22) is
for failing to share. Some believers had lots of food, some did
not have any. Yet those who had were not willing to share with
those who had not. Some were stuffed and glutinous, and some
were drunk, while others remained thirsty and hungry. For these
problems he rebuked them. These problems caused a breakdown of
fellowship between the Corinthian church and God and between the
believers within the Corinthian church.
B. Reminder of the Institution of the Lord's Supper - 11:23-26
For I received of the Lord that which also I
delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in
the night in which he was betrayed took
bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake
it, and said, This is my body, which is for
you: this do in remembrance of me. In like
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