"Our Fellowship"

It is usual for people of the world who are ambitious to make great efforts to enter into circles of society higher than those to which they have been used. To be familiar with notable people, or with some aristocratic family, or better still, to be presented at Court, or to come into contact with Royalty in any way, is something to be laboured for, and talked about when accomplished as long as life shall last.

That is the way of the world, and what heart-burnings, envyings and disappointments it carries with it, and how utterly poor and unsatisfying it is, especially when compared with that which God in infinite grace has opened to us. Take those Galilean fishermen — Simon and Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee, as examples. We have no reason to suppose that they were particularly ambitious, for they possessed neither qualities nor attainments likely to grace society, and they probably never contemplated moving out of their own station in life; and yet one day they received a call which changed their whole life and outlook for time and eternity. They heard the call of Jesus, and in response to it they abandoned their nets and followed Him, and they were placed immediately in associations, and given access to and intercourse in a circle of which they could never even have dreamed.

They did not become the companions of scribes, or enter into the fellowship of the haughty Pharisees; they were not put into relationship with the chief priest, or looked upon favourably by the kingly court. No, they were carried beyond all these, beyond the most exalted and exclusive circles on earth, and beyond angels also, into a wholly divine circle, so that they could say, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).

They were not introduced into this most blessed society, if we may be permitted to use that word in this connection, as mere spectators, or to pass in and out of it as those who were to be thus honoured for a moment but who had no abiding-place there, but they were brought into it as those who were to know it as their life and portion for ever.

Let us consider their call to this high place and privilege, and remember as we do so that they were representative men, and that what was true for them is true for us, and can be made real to us by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

The first chapter of John's Gospel shows us their introduction into this entirely new circle of fellowship for men. They heard the Baptist bear witness to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Wonderful title for the Only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father to assume! The fact that HE came in that character put at rest all doubts for ever as to the question of sin being settled for the glory of God, so that no barrier to the effectuation of God's purposes of love might remain. They not only believed the testimony that they heard, but He became at once the Object of their hearts, which had been awakened by the Father's touch, and they followed Him, for from henceforward nothing but Himself could satisfy them, and no place but the place where He dwelt could be home to them. It was this that made them ask with deepest earnestness from their very hearts, illuminated as they were by His glory and wholly possessed by Himself from that moment, that memorable question, "Master, where dwellest Thou?" To their question they received an answer which must have filled them with wonder, and which opened up to them, and for all who receive Him as they did, His own dwelling-place in the Father's everlasting love.

The desire for His company which moved them so mightily was only the response in their hearts to the love for them which was in His heart, and the grand purpose of His coming was to set them free from every hindrance and to cleanse them from all defilement that they might be His companions for ever in the place where He dwelt. Thus has His love expressed itself.

It has been pointed out very beautifully that in John's Gospel the Lord is not spoken of as the "Son of Man without a place to lay His head"; that belongs to other Gospels in which we have Him portrayed to us in other ways. But in this Gospel He had His dwelling-place — a place of ineffable rest, for He is the Only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father. This was His eternal dwelling-place, and it was His home as a Man here below. None shared it with Him before He came into manhood, it was His own peculiar place, but now He had found associates to whom He could say, "The Father Himself loves you because ye have loved Me" (John 16:27). And of whom He could say when speaking to His Father of them, "Thou hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me" (John 17:23). Yes, He had found those who were now to share with Him the unspeakable rest and joy of the Father's love.

Thus they became the associates of the Only-begotten Son of God. He dwelt among them and they dwelt with Him, and they beheld His glory as the most worthy Object of the Father's love. They heard the Father's voice telling out His delight in His beloved One and their hearts thrilled in unison with the Father's thoughts of Him. And as they lived and walked and dwelt with Him, He gave them the Father's words — words that angels could not understand — and these words entered their hearts and made known to them the Father's name, and opened up the Father's bosom to them with all its wonderful secrets of love. They beheld Him, with ever-deepening wonder, a Man amongst them, yet the only-begotten with the Father. They saw Him despised and hated of men, yet moving onward through all opposition and undisturbed by it, doing that which His Father commanded Him. He manifested before their eyes a life that did not belong to this world, that was not dependent upon anything that this world possessed — even that eternal life which was with the Father. It was the life of His own dwelling-place revealed here upon earth to His disciple, that they might enter into it and share it with Him, that His own joy might be fulfilled in them.

And those Galilean fishermen entered into that which was revealed to them, and the things that they heard and saw and contemplated and handled they have declared to us by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost that we might also know the fullness of joy that belongs to this most blessed life and fellowship.

What are our thoughts and attitude towards this revelation of the Father by our Lord Jesus Christ, and the divine fellowship which is the result of it? has it affected our sanctification from the world? or do we still in company with the unenlightened crowds pursue the things of the world and run after its friendships, fellowships, and society? If so we know nothing experimentally of the Father's love: it is not in us; and we are pursuing that which is nothing but lust and pride, and which is most surely perishing.

Can we do this? Not if we have believed the testimony of God to His Son as the Lamb of God, and beheld Him upon the cross suffering for sin as the sin-bearer, there coming under God's own condemnation of it that He might bear it away. No, we shall shrink from that which brought Him into the judgment of the cross for us, and attracted by the unmeasured love that led Him to become a sacrifice for sin for us we shall follow Him as His disciples did, and He will lead us into His own dwelling-place.

It is thus that we shall find the rest and peace and joy that the world cannot give and of which it knows nothing, for we shall be led outside of it, disturbed and dominated by sin as it is, into that region of eternal repose — the Father's bosom — His perfect love. Not our love to Him but His to us — and not only as God the Saviour whose love has been told out to the world, but as brought into this most blessed relationship: Himself our Father and His love to us measured only by His love to His well-beloved, who has been through death that we might be associated with Him in His dwelling-place of "love supreme and bright."

Let us consider these things and bow in worship in the presence of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, for this great purpose did not originate with us, it is the fruit of divine and eternal love. The FATHER could not rest until it was accomplished; the SON OF THE FATHER became man to declare the Father's love and to make this fellowship attractive to those who were called to it, and the HOLY GHOST who has proceeded from the Father has come to dwell in the hearts of all who respond to the call of grace that they might apprehend and enjoy the bliss of this new place and relationship with its life and fellowship. It is ours to respond to the labours of sovereign love and refuse everything that would unfit us for fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.