The Disciples' Distinctive

Fellowshipping Together
February 2024
Mark Etherington

As stated last month, our emphasis for fellowshipping together in 2024 is “the sharing in life in Christ together with one another.” (Douglas Allison)

John 13 records for us the final moments that Jesus spent with His disciples before He was taken to be crucified. Jesus “knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father” (Jn 13:1), and in a humbling act of love for His disciples Jesus demonstrated His love for them by washing their feet, a service that was relegated to servants.

Jesus was notorious for personal demonstration before giving a command to His followers. Here He girds Himself with a towel and stoops to wash their feet and then as their Lord and Teacher says, “If I have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (Jn 13:14)

Moments later Jesus again references His own example prior to giving His disciples a command which brings us to our second memory passage for the year in John 13:34-35:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

The first observation here in verse 34 is the extent to which Jesus commands His disciples to love one another – “JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.”

Anyone with any understanding of the true nature of biblical love would recognize that to aspire to attaining this standard with any degree of hopefulness would be impossible. To approach this truth naively would be a failure to understand the truth in the second observation found in verse 35; the distinctive Jesus issues in defining His disciples – “BY THIS ALL PEOPLE WILL KNOW THAT YOU ARE MY DISCIPLES.”

Jesus called His disciples to an unnatural, unattainable standard of love toward one another that was defined and exemplified by His own love for them. This same command to love one another as Jesus loved His disciples is true for us today. Romans 5:8 says that God demonstrated this love toward us as people dead in sin, incapable of loving Him in return, by sending His Son, Jesus Christ to die for us. The first fruit evidenced by the Spirit in a life transformed by the demonstrated love of Christ on the cross is love (Gal. 5:22), providing the ability to love one another just as He loves us.

The type of love that Jesus expects us to display toward one another defines our fellowship. This is love at the highest level with the highest interest in others regardless of their posture toward us. 1 Corinthians 13 provides at least 15 verbs defining what loving one another as Christ loves us looks like.

How does our fellowshipping together look as measured by the standard of love that Jesus commanded His disciples?