Last week began this blog series on John Owen's book, "Communion with God". If you missed last week's post, please read it to see our plans and hopes for reading and blogging through the book this summer.
The greatest joy for any created being is to have fellowship with his Creator. But John Owen points out that we have a major problem.
Because of sin, no man in his natural state has fellowship with God. God is light, and we are darkness. What communion has light with darkness? God is life; we are dead. God is love; we are enmity. So what agreement can there be between God and man?
Our hope, however, is in Jesus Christ. Owen calls Christ "our way back into fellowship with God". Sinners would be terrified to approach a Holy God, but in Christ, we can approach him without fear.
We have a tendency to think of our salvation as being saved from something. And that's true. In Christ, we're saved from God's wrath. We're saved from spiritual death. We're saved from an eternity cut off from God's favor. But Owen's work helps us to think in terms of what we've been saved to. We're saved to have communion with God. And Owen defines that communion as:
the mutual sharing of those good things which delight all those in that fellowship. This was so with David and Jonathan. Their souls were bound together in love. Their love for one another was shown in various ways. But their love was nothing in comparison to the love that is between God and his people. This fellowship of love is far more wonderful. Those who enjoy this communion are gloriously united to God through Christ and share in all the glorious and excellent fruits of such communion.
And this communion is an unbreakable communion because it flows out of our union with Christ, and that is a union that will never be broken!
Owen turns our attention to what it means to have communion with each person of the God-Head. That is, what it means for Christians to have communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This Trinitarian emphasis is one that runs the whole way through the book, and the rich Trinitarian theology of the Puritan writers like Owen is one of the huge benefits to reading the Puritans!
Communion with the Father
"To believe on the Son of God is to receive the Lord Christ as the Son, the Son given to us to fulfill in us the purposes of the Father's love". Owen reminds us that the Son is the Father's gift to us. Could there be a greater gift? And to receive this gift, to believe in the Son and put our faith in him, it is not only putting our hope and trust in the Son, but also our hope and trust in the Father who sent him. And so, communion with the Father is to receive his love, it is to receive his favor, it is to be tapped into "the fountain and the source of all good things which come to us in Christ".
Communion with the Son
Faith is the means through which we have communion with the Son.
Believing is putting our trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the Son of God. The Son, whom the Father gave, is to be trusted as the one that gives us everlasting life and who will keep us from perishing.
Notice Owen's emphasis on the worship of Christ as the Son of God. He writes,
Love for the Lord Jesus Christ is love for him as God and it therefore includes love for him in religious worship. Only where there is such love does the apostolic benediction belong: 'Grace be with all those that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
For Owen, Jesus is to be the centerpiece of our worship together. Apart from Christ, there can be no true Christian worship. And, drawing from John's vision in the book of Revelation, it's clear to Owen that both the Father and the Son are worthy to receive the worship of God's people.
Communion with the Holy Spirit
Not only is worship to the Father and Son necessary for Christian worship, but also worship of the Holy Spirit. And while Owen doesn't spend much time at all on how communion with the Spirit works, his point in this brief discussion is this. If we are called to worship all three persons of the God-Head, then we can be assured that we also have communion with each person in the God-head. A God who does not receive our worship and adoration, our "faith, hope, and love", as Owen stresses throughout the chapter, is not a God with whom we have fellowship.
But this communion with God is expressed differently for each person of the Trinity. The Father, Owen says, communes with us, (here Owen speaks of him communicating his grace to us) by his own authoritative will. The Son communicates his grace to us out of a purchased treasury. That is to say, Christ, in whom the fulness of the Father was pleased to dwell, has the authority to communicate that fulness to us. And the Spirit communicates grace to us by directly working in us by his power.
All of this bears testimony that Father, Son, and Spirit are all in agreement to raise us from death unto life. And as he wrote in chapter 1, the reason we could not have communion with God prior to his work in our lives is because "God is life; we are dead". Now, here, each person of the Trinity, through their communing with us, their communicating grace to us, has raised us to life. The Great and Holy Triune God has made it possible now for us to have sweet fellowship with him.