There is a third kind of forgiveness in the Bible. We call this forgiveness in fellowship. First John 1:7-9 says, "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin. If we say that we do not have sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." First John 2:1-2 continues, "My little children, these things I write to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for those of the whole world." The forgiveness spoken of in this portion of the Word is neither the forgiveness at the time of our salvation nor the forgiveness pronounced by the church. This forgiveness is different from the above two kinds of forgiveness. After one believes in the Lord and has become a child of God, often he still needs God’s forgiveness. This is the forgiveness spoken of in an earlier chapter [Volume 49, Chapter 21], in which the ashes of the red heifer are applied. After we believe in the Lord, confess our Christian faith, and receive eternal forgiveness, we may still sin at times. We may become weak and encounter setbacks before the Lord. This kind of sin produces a barrier in our fellowship with God.
All biologists know that life has two basic characteristics: First, it strives to live, to preserve itself, to continue its existence. Life abhors death. Second, it does not want to be cut off from fellowship. Life abhors isolation. If a chicken is left by itself, it will be sullen. If you put it with many other chickens, it will become lively. If you keep a prisoner in isolation, he will suffer because he cannot have fellowship with other men. Man is a living creature. Like other living creatures, he strives to preserve his own life, and he also delights in fellowship.
We believe that the blood of the Lord Jesus has saved us. There is absolutely no question as far as our life is concerned; we are saved and are eternally forgiven. This part does not pose any problem to us.
But another matter may pose a problem. After we have believed in the Lord and are saved, our fellowship with God and with other children of God can be interrupted if we offend Him. What does it mean for our fellowship to be interrupted? Suppose a little girl goes to the kitchen secretly and steals the food her mother has prepared, or some fruit from the cabinet, or other things. Suppose she eats all the food while her mother is away. She may close the door of the kitchen properly, clean her face, and wipe the table, but a transgression has been committed! Before this she was very intimate with her mother every night. But on this night, she may not be as intimate as before because she has stolen something. When her mother calls her from upstairs, her heart may start bounding downstairs. She may think that her mother is going to spank her. Her mother may even offer her some food, but she will not have any taste for it. She will be in constant fear that her mother knows what she has done. She may try to hide herself from her mother. In this we see that the child’s fellowship with her mother has been interrupted. After she steals the food, she does not cease to be her mother’s daughter; she is still a daughter, but her fellowship with her mother has been interrupted. After you have sinned, you do not cease to be a child of God. You are still God’s child, but your fellowship with Him has been interrupted. Sin cuts off fellow- ship immediately. You no longer have a conscience that is void of offense. You must have a pure conscience before you can enjoy a continuous fellowship with God. If your conscience is offended, you have no way to fellowship with God.
(New Believers Series: Governmental Forgiveness #18, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)