These two chapters shift from exploring the communion believers have with the Father into looking at the communion believers have with the Son.
Believe it or not, these are some of the most "controversial" portions of "Communion with God". Not because of what Owen says about Christ's fellowship with his people, but because of his use of "Song of Songs". There's been a long debate, predating Christianity even, going back to the Jewish understandings of this book, concerning how "Song of Songs" should be read. Should it be read and understood within the context of a literal love-relationship between a man and his lover, or should it be understood allegorically to describe God's love for his people? Owen here appears to side with many throughout the history of the Church and even many within the Jewish Rabbinical tradition by taking a more allegorical approach to "Song of Songs", using it to describe Christ's love for the church. And while many may argue against Owen's use of "Song of Songs" here, I do think that ultimately, what he says concerning Christ's relationship with his people is correct. In other words, we may disagree with Owen's interpretive approach to Scripture in these two chapters, but hopefully none of us would disagree with his conclusions!
Listen to and reflect upon some of Owen's conclusions concerning Christ and his relationship with the church based upon his understanding of "Song of Songs":
The Lord Christ greatly delights in the sweet fruits of the Spirit in his saints.
The souls of the saints are the garden of Jesus Christ, the good ground which is blessed by God.
He (Jesus) is, in the heavens, as glorious as the sun, and as the bright morning star. Among the beasts is is like like the lion, the lion of the tribe of Judah. Among the flowers, Christ is as beautiful and as glorious as the rose and the lily. He is like the rose for the sweetness of its perfume, and like the lily for its beauty.
Owen spends ample time discussing the beauty of Jesus Christ, giving us great reason to delight in who Jesus is and to bask in the reality that we do, indeed, have communion and fellowship with him.
How does one have communion with Christ? Owen stresses that it is by grace that we enjoy this fellowship with Jesus. "We have communion with Christ in grace. We receive from Jesus all manner of grace whatever. In grace, then, we have fellowship with Jesus."
Owen lays out three uses of the word, "grace":
1-Grace can mean a personal presence and beauty. This is how we use the word when we refer to someone as being "graceful".
2-Grace can mean free favor and acceptance. Owen equates this use with "by grace you have been saved".
3-Grace can mean the fruit of the Spirit that sanctifies and renews our natures, that grace that enables us to do good things which God has commanded and ordained us to do.
All three of these uses have a redemptive purpose. This is typical of the Puritan writers. In our context today, we tend to give broad use to the word, "grace". For example, we talk about God's "common grace", that is, the idea that there is a general grace that is shown to all peoples on earth. It's the idea that the "rain falls on the wicked as well as the righteous". It's not a saving grace, but rather, a grace that sustains and provides for all creation. But for the Puritans, "grace" was generally used only in direct connection with redemption. They would talk about the rain falling on the wicked as well as the righteous in terms of God's general love for his creation rather than use the word "grace", and for Owen, even the first use of the word "grace" as it applies to Jesus is understood within the context of Christ as our mediator. This "personal grace" of Christ, as he calls it, refers to his mediatorial work on our behalf. Here, his glory and his beauty, "as appointed and anointed by the Father", does the great work of "bringing home all his elect". In Christ, in our mediator, God and man meet and the person of Jesus Christ becomes "More beautiful and gracious than anything here on earth." In this union of God and man in Jesus Christ, Christ is "fit to save". Owen writes,
Christ brings God and man together who were driven apart by sin. We who were afar off are brought near to God by Christ. For this very reason, he had room enough in his heart to receive us and strength enough in his spirit to bear all the wrath that was prepared for us. Sing brought infinite punishment because it was committed against an infinite God. Christ, being the infinite God in human nature, could suffer the infinite punishment that the sinner deserved. And so, by this personal union in Christ we are saved.
And it is because of this first use of the word grace, this "personal grace" of Christ, that the other two uses, what Owen calls "purchased grace", our "fellowship in his sufferings, and the power of his resurrection" are ours to enjoy.
Owen ends chapter six with several charges directed towards those who are truly seeking Christ, those who reject him, directed to "the young", and to those who would look to themselves for their righteousness before God. And we find at the heart of these charges Owen's final sentences in this chapter:
Has Christ his rightful place in your hearts? Does he mean anything to you? Is he in all your thoughts? Do you know him in all his glory and beauty? Do you desire him more and more? Do you really count all things 'loss and dung' in comparison to him? Or do you prefer almost anything in the world to him?
This blog was written by Andy Styer