In his gospel, John refers to himself, four times, as the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” Not that John didn’t think Jesus loved His other followers, but that John KNEW that Jesus loved him. It was John who reclined near to Jesus at the table when they ate . . . John who was among the circle of confidants that Jesus entrusted the witness of His transfiguration. John knew, firsthand, what it was to be close to the Lord. And in writing his first epistle, he desires that his readers know the same depth of fellowship. What John had seen and heard he proclaimed, “so that you too may have fellowship with us” and, by the way, “our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son” (1John 1:3). And in describing that depth of fellowship John says, in a sense, it comes through being a man of all ages.
I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake.
I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (1John 2:12-14 ESV)
Depth of fellowship is realized when we know the reality of being children, and of being mature adults, and of being vigorous youth . . . when, in a sense, we’ve known the reality of being a man, or a woman, of all ages.
Depth of fellowship is known when we are as wide-eyed children in awe of our salvation. The forgiveness of sins gripping our hearts afresh as we consider anew what it cost the Son of God that our debt might be paid in full . . . when we remember that we were helpless to remedy our lost condition but apart from a God of abundant grace who rescued us solely for His name’s sake . . . when the Spirit moves us to cry “Abba Father” as we reflect again on our blessed privilege of being adopted into His forever family and declared children of God. Sometimes the deepest fellowship is known as we still ourselves, remember the essence of our salvation, and simply whisper toward heaven, “Wow! Thank You Father. Thank You, Lord Jesus.”
Depth of fellowship is known when we have put a few spiritual miles under the belt and, like fathers, mature people of the faith, have come to know, experimentally know, the One in whom we have believed and have become “convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (2Tim. 1:12). There’s something about looking back on the pilgrim path tread so far and recounting the faithfulness of God. To look, as it were, at the altars of stones erected along the way where you knew the presence of God . . . where you encountered the power of God . . . where you realized the promises of God. There’s a “grey-haired” wisdom born from having run the race and fought the fight that makes the fellowship deeper . . that makes the communion sweeter.
Depth of fellowship is known when, like young strapping combatants, we’ve done a round or two with the adversary and have known the “thrill of victory” through the living and active two-edged sword of God (Heb. 4:12). I’m getting further and further from “young” and “strapping” . . . more like “old” and “sagging” . . . but there is an inner vitality that remains from having proven God faithful as we’ve known what it is to stand firm in the strength of His might. Putting on the whole armor of God . . . learning to wield the sword of the Spirit, the word of God . . . wrestling not with flesh and blood yet prevailing by His power and grace . . . is the stuff of young men and women in Christ. Young, not necessarily in age, but in vitality . . . a vitality born through the indwelling Spirit of Christ.
It’s when I engage with the things of the kingdom as a child in awe of the Father’s saving adoption . . . and as a man of experience, wisdom, and depth of working knowledge concerning the Founder of my faith . . . and as a youth in the prime of spiritual conditioning ready to go a round or two, in the power of His might, . . . that fellowship with the Divine is known in its fullness and my joy is made complete (1John 1:4).
A man of all ages . . . by His grace . . . for His glory.