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Fellowship and Inheritance
By David A. DePra
Giving thanks unto the Father, which has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (Col 1:12)
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ….This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare 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 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 Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:3-7)
The NT Greek word most commonly translated, "fellowship," or, "communion," literally means, "a having in common." Keeping that in mind, John says that, "our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ." Thus, the saint is, "to have in common with the Father and Son."
Now, it is easy to begin imagining THINGS that we might have in common with God. But the emphasis here is not THINGS -- but the fellowship itself. Fellowship or communion begins with common ground in EACH OTHER – one mind, one heart, and one spirit. If you don’t have communion with the PERSON, you really cannot have fellowship with THINGS.
In Jesus Christ, God has made Himself ONE with believers. In fact, Paul said, "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. ".(1 Cor. 1:9) Fellowship is primary to the CALLING unto Christ. So don’t think of fellowship as merely, "dialog," or as some theological term. No. Fellowship is ONENESS – in purpose, intent, and heart – but it is oneness in PERSON. We are ONE in Jesus Christ with the Father.
Jesus gave a great description of this communion:
And the glory which thou gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:22-23)
So this communion is, "a having in common," of each other. It starts there and then extends out to possible things and application. And this is exactly the Truth revealed all through the NT. In fact, the NT says that Christ IS our very life if we are born from above. Well, if He is our life, then we have His life in common with Him. That forms the basis of communion with God.
For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. (Col 3:3-4)
That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Eph 1:10)
So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death…our old man is crucified with him...For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: (Rom 6:3-8)
Gather all of this up and you are reading a description of what it means to be IN CHRIST. It is to be ONE WITH HIM – spiritually. And then to become one with Him in heart, mind, and intent. Through death and resurrection we are IN Christ; He is our life – which is communion – but then this must become real and experienced.
How does all of this come into our experience? According to both John and Paul, the basis of our fellowship with God is LIGHT. "IF we walk in the light….we have fellowship with Him."
Fellowship with God is entirely dependent upon LIGHT. Sure. God IS light, and thus, is always in the light. Thus, if you are in darkness, you have nothing in common with Him. You are NOT in fellowship with God on those matters where you are in darkness. But if you are in the light, you are in fellowship with God. God is Light and you are a partaker of Him.
Don’t think so much of LIGHT as knowing or believing the right things or doctrines. That is important but is secondary. Oneness with God in the Light means a oneness with God of mind, heart, and intent. It means to see the Truth about God and to BE MADE TRUE by embracing that Truth. If Jesus Christ is the Truth then we must be made true unto Him to be in communion with Him.
Certainly, being right with God in heart will lead to believing right things, doctrines, and teaching. But we are all growing. Thus, at a given time, it is possible to be one with God in heart and intent even if I am mistaken about some THINGS. Indeed, it would be a sorry state to be right about many things, but wrong with God in my heart. In short, this is a matter of faith at the core, not brains.
Jesus said this to His disciples:
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore your eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if your eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! (Mat 6:22-23)
The key to LIGHT is a, "single eye," that is, a heart that is single to God’s heart. In other words, tell God to do whatever it takes to get His will in your life. If you really mean that, your eye is single. If you don’t really mean it, God will prove that – and give you opportunity to get a single eye. But to the extent that your eye is single, you already are in the LIGHT. And this will open you to receive fullness of LIGHT.
To the extent that my eye, or heart, is single unto the Lord, I am in the Light, and thus, am in communion with Him. Indeed, we are wasting our time otherwise. Oneness or communion with God is absolutely dependent upon this. We are walking in darkness otherwise.
Jesus promised that the Spirit of God would seek to guide us into all Truth. Truth is equal to LIGHT – God will seek to make us true unto Him by making our eye single to Him, and thus our lives will be filled with Light. So get ready – God will bring about what is needed to get your eye single. An eye that is single to God is a life that is in the Light as HE is in the Light. That is communion. It is fellowship.
When the Bible speaks of inheritance in Christ, it never divorces this from communion with God. In other words, God doesn’t give us an inheritance as a THING as much as He brings us into communion with Himself. Communion with God IS our inheritance at the core. Our inheritance is to be a partaker of Christ Himself.
God does this by first bringing light. This why Paul said the Father, "has made us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. (Col 1:12) Get that. The inheritance of the saints is in LIGHT. Fellowship is dependent upon being in the light. And so if the inheritance is in the light, then fellowship in the light IS the inheritance.
All of these things, of course, are allegorical. God is simply saying that He has made Himself one with us in His Son. Thus, Jesus Christ, who is the Light, and who is the Life, IS our inheritance. To the degree we walk in Him, we experience the inheritance. We are co-heirs in Christ.
God Himself is our inheritance. But the saints themselves are the inheritance of God. Is this not a picture of communion; of having each other in common?:
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, (Eph 1:18)
Giving thanks unto the Father, which has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (Col 1:12)
The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: you maintain my lot. (Psa 16:5)
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance. (Psa 33:12)
Now again: What this means is that the inheritance of the saints IS Christ Himself, and conversely, the inheritance of Christ are the saints themselves. The, "having in common," is really each other – there is an oneness. Any things, etc., that are in common, emerge from that as root. Indeed, if that oneness were not there at the core, of what value would anything else be?
The inheritance which God has for the saints is HIMSELF – the fullness of Jesus Christ. Sure. We are to have full communion with God in Christ – and if you will, that communion, on an eternal level – is the inheritance. The communion in His light IS the inheritance. What could be a greater inheritance?
The Down Payment
…You were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, (Eph 1:13-18)
The Spirit of God is said to be, "the earnest," or DOWN PAYMENT of our inheritance. In other words, CHRIST IN US – thorough in indwelling of the Holy Spirit during this age – is a down payment on an eternally greater fullness of Christ to be released in the age to come. But not simply released TO us – rather, to be released IN US. In short, God intends for our communion with Himself through Christ to be released into fullness during the eternal ages. This will be fullness of inheritance.
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Cor. 2:9-10)
The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Rom 8:16-18)
There is an eternal glory that is to be revealed IN US – not our glory, but HIS glory. If we are born from above, we have Christ in us. We are complete in Him. We have all of Christ in us. But in this age WE are limited. Thus, the greatness of His glory – and our communion in Him – can be realized only in fullness in the next age. This age is preparatory. The next age is fullness.
Faithfulness to God relates to being a faithful steward over the life of Christ that is given in the believer during this age. In other words, we must be faithful to God over the down payment He has given. Read the parables. There is a theme all through – you and I are given something over which to be faithful. Whether we were faithful in what God calls, "little," during this age, relates to whether we will be entrusted with MUCH. That which is given during this age is LIFE WITHIN. Put everything else second to that. Have we been faithful to Christ in us?
Someone might ask, "How do we do that?" Well, a faithful steward so reveres his master that he will not violate the truth that nothing he has belongs to himself, but to his master – indeed, in the NT, the steward himself belonged to his master. Thus, faithfulness is a matter of NOT taking personal ownership over the master’s possessions. Rather, you live towards all things in reverence to the master – for all belongs to HIM.
This applies to Christ in us. He does not belong to us. We belong to Him. We have no right to use Christ for our own agenda. And if we are faithful we will not want to.
In other words, Christ is our inheritance. But this simply means that we have been brought into communion with Himself – and thus, we are partakers of Christ in light. We are faithful by allowing God His full sovereignty with us.
Now, this tells us something about all of those parables. Are we being faithful NOW in our communion with Christ? If not, how do we expect God to trust us to be faithful THEN? What we are with regards to the down payment has a relationship with what we shall be with regards to the fullness.
All Things Freely
There are teachings in the Christian church that would suggest that God is going to give different amounts of reward or inheritance – based on our works and serving in this life. Some of this misconception is based on a faulty understanding of the parables I’ve already mentioned. This is not the place to discuss at length this error. But sufficient to say that once you say that the amount of your inheritance is determined by the amount of your works you have simply created a new kind of legalism. You are saying that the works that could not make you righteous enough for salvation can nevertheless earn you that which the Bible says is the outcome of salvation – the inheritance. The Christian life that emerges from being under such a law is no different that classic, "salvation by works." Only now it is, "reward by works."
Let’s go back to this matter of our inheritance being Christ Himself, Who is already in us. Clearly, God has given each believer ALL of Christ. Get that – God has given us all of Christ, and thus, has given each believer all things freely IN His Son. But what if we do not walk in the light as He is in the light? Well, then despite having all of Christ, we will not experience all of Him. We will experience less of Him despite being given all of Him. Again – this is not merely a matter of works, but of faith, oneness in heart, and a single eye.
Simply put, God does not give each DIFFERENT amounts of inheritance to each of us any more than He gives DIFFERENT amounts of Christ – no, for Christ IS ultimately our inheritance. Yet, despite the fact that all believers receive ALL of the SAME Christ within, it is possible for individuals to be UNFAITHFUL over that down payment. Or to be faithful. Thus, we all receive by grace ALL of Christ. But we can choose to experience ALL of Him, or less than all of Him.
Can we see that the inheritance is the SAME for all? That Christ is the SAME for all? But that we, as individuals, may NOT be the same towards Christ? We have a choice. God will bring such choices. The issue here is faithfulness to the light given – to the communion experienced. Are we faithful over the, "little," down payment of our inheritance NOW?
Communion with God through Christ is our inheritance NOW. The fullness of that communion is to be released THEN. Thus, communion and inheritance cannot be separated. Christ is our inheritance. We are His inheritance. This stands at the core of what God is doing, and has prepared for love who love Him.
After we are done with all of our theological essays and theories, all of this comes down to a simple relationship with God – based upon grace and Truth. Grace and Truth came through Jesus and therefore all relationship with God must be based upon Him in that – not simply as a theological principle – but as communion and fellowship.
Communion with God means we must be changed to where the basis of our life is the same as the basis of His – Christ in us, the hope of glory. Otherwise, there is no, "having in common." Christ is what we have in common with God – and all that He is. He is therefore our inheritance, and the means by which we experience God Himself.
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