1 John 1:3-4 - So that our joy may be Complete
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And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. I John 1:4.
A graduation ceremony usually calls for celebration. After years of hard work, students rejoice when they reap the rewards of their sacrifice and perseverance. It was an especially joyous occasion for students from South Sudan, who missed much of their foundational primary schooling when they fled the civil war and had to complete their secondary schooling in refugee camps in Kenya. Post-secondary education at theological college was not easy for them, but when they graduated, their joy was palpable. Family and friends celebrated when the degree was awarded and after the ceremony, the entire community rejoiced together, sharing food with singing, and dancing.
In v. 3 & 4, John explains that his purpose in writing his sermon-letter to the church is so that “our joy may be complete.” The word can also be translated as “fulfilled”. In Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17: 13, he says, “These things I speak in the world that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” In these verses in 1 John, we learn how that joy is fulfilled. It is not the joy of achievement experienced at graduation but a deep, fulfilling joy that derives directly from the heart of the Triune God.
In v.3, John repeats several words from vv. 1 & 2 and gives them a deeper theological meaning. He reiterates that the task of the Apostles was to pass on the message about what they had “seen” and “heard”, that is, what had been revealed to them about the incarnation and resurrection of the Son, Jesus Christ. He adds that the Apostles’ purpose in proclaiming this news to the church is “so that you too may have fellowship with us.” This is a person-to-person relationship within the church between the Apostles as those who experienced the historical events and the members of the church who received the news by faith.
However, this horizontal level of fellowship is not all. The result of receiving the good news about who Jesus Christ really is and believing in him (1 John 5:13) is also vertical, a “fellowship with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” We will see later in the sermon that this relationship with God through the Son is put into effect by the Spirit (1 John 4:13). This is an incredible claim. We, who receive by faith the testimony of the Apostles that Jesus, the Son of God, was made incarnate for our sakes, suffered, died, and rose again for our redemption, are drawn into fellowship within the heart of the Trinity through union with Christ.
Here is the source of joy that is complete or fulfilled. It flows from the heart of the Father’s love for the world in sending his Son (John 3:16). The Greek work for fellowship is koinonia. It is translated from the Hebrew root h-b-r which meant human relationships of sharing, binding together, companionship or marriage. In the intertestamental period, a heberim was a Pharisaic group that shared the Scriptures and ate together. When they joined a group, they changed their behaviour to conform to the ethical norms of the new group. John will show in this sermon-letter that those who participate in koinonia with the Triune God will evidence this in changed hearts and lives.
Calvin writes, “Whosever then really perceives what fellowship with God is, will be satisfied with it alone, and will no longer burn with desire for other things” (p.162).
As we go about our daily business, let us remember that we have fellowship with one another in the Triune God and be filled with deep joy that can find no other satisfaction, not even in the celebration of life’s successes.
“These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full” John 15:11.
Gracious Lord, grant that this day we may be filled with the joy of fellowship with you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Give us joy together in our shared fellowship, so that we desire nothing other than the fulfilment of the joy only you can give.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
For various reasons the Gafcon Primates have not been able to meet in person since April 2019. They would like to meet in person in September 2021. Please pray about all the preparations and organisation and for the Lord's help and direction.
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