(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
Well, I would title 1 John, “Genuine Fellowship with God.” The theme of this wonderful letter is fellowship with God, and John is very intent on rooting his readers in the truth that there's no such thing as fellowship with God that doesn't have its foundation in the personal work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our fellowship with God is through the Lord Jesus Christ, that sin broke that fellowship, and Jesus had to come, again to live the life that we could not live, die a death that we should have died, rise again conquering sin and death. He is our advocate, He is our righteousness, He is our propitiation.
And then John wants us, this is two sides of his fellowship coin, he wants us to understand that the expression, the fruit of fellowship with God, is transformed living. So, two things he has on the two sides of his gospel coin, his fellowship with God coin is, foundation is Jesus Christ, the result of that fellowship is gospel living. And this little letter is organized by three signs of gospel living, three signs of true faith, true fellowship with God.
First is the moral sign, do you keep God's commands? It's impossible for John to think of people who have fellowship with God who willingly, consistently break God's command; that’s a contradiction that doesn't work for John, so there’s a moral sign.
There's the theological side. Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? That's the watershed. And you know that there are many people outside of the church who would recognize that Jesus was a great teacher, a good man. That's not enough. If Jesus is not the Son of God, the whole of the gospel is a lie. C.S. Lewis says, “If Jesus is just a great prophet, He is either an incredible liar or He's insane.” In either case, He's not worth following because He declared Himself to be the Son of God, that's exactly where John is. Do you believe in the Son of God?
And then there's the affection side. Do you love God and His people? I think these three hold a wonderful mirror for all of us. Are we zealous to keep God's commands? Do we hold tightly onto our belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and do we live a life of love for God and love for His people?
Now why those three signs? Because, John says, the grace of the gospel transforms you. Biblical thinkers, theologians have talked years of the test of true faith as being the testimony of a transformed life. There's no such thing as true faith, grace at work in a person's heart, and that person's life remaining the same.
This book about fellowship with God really becomes an argument for the transforming power of grace. God's grace transforms your morality. God's grace gives you a brand-new worldview and a theology of Jesus at the center. God's grace transforms the loves of your heart where love of God and His people become the most important love to you.
What does fellowship with God look like? Well, it looks like more than joyfully singing on Sunday. It looks like a life that's transformed because when God touches you by His grace, you won't be the same!