Having explained the role and message of the apostles, John then mentions two features of Christian fellowship. First, there is a horizontal level – fellowship with the apostles; second, there is the vertical level – fellowship with the Father and the Son. We can think today about fellowship with the apostles.
The obvious feature of this aspect of fellowship is that it involves correct doctrine. Today the word ‘fellowship’ is used elastically and it can be stretched from a shared meal to a church service, with many other occasions in-between. Yet fellowship is more than Christians being together. Many Christians work with other Christians in their daily employment, but those activities in themselves are not Christian fellowship. As far as John was concerned, true fellowship involves a correct understanding of the person of Jesus, the Son of God who became a real man.
When John wrote these words, all of the other original apostles were dead. So how was it possible for his original readers, who lived in Ephesus and its region, to have fellowship with them? The answer is straightforward. His readers would share with the apostles when they accepted the apostolic teaching about Jesus. There were alternative views about Jesus that were current at that time, particularly a notion that Jesus was not fully human. If the readers accepted that notion, it would mean that they were not experiencing fellowship with the apostles. The choice was clear. Ignore the false teachers and adhere to the teaching of the apostles about Jesus.
As long as the readers maintained this attitude, this commitment, they were in a position to experience an even greater reality. They could build on the apostolic message and discover that it was a stairway or a ladder to meeting with God himself. In a sense, John is reminding his readers of what took place at their conversion to the Christian faith. They had believed the gospel (the message delivered originally by the apostles) and discovered that, as an immediate consequence, they came to know God. We will think about that second aspect of fellowship tomorrow.