Posts tagged #Communion with God

Communion with God Chapters 23&24

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Here we are in the last two chapters of "Communion with God". I hope you enjoyed reading along this summer through both the book and this blog. It's always a privilege to read and blog on these books!
Chapter 23 continues Owen's discussion on communion with the Holy Spirit. The title of the chapter is "The Behaviour of the Saints towards the Holy Spirit", but really, the chapter is about what we strive to not do towards the Holy Spirit. Owen lists three things.

1-We strive to not grieve the Holy Spirit. Now, Owen is careful here. We have to speak of grieving the Holy Spirit carefully, lest we come away with the impression that the Spirit is manipulated emotionally. This is not true. The Westminster Confession states this clearly by saying that God is without passion. That does not mean God is without emotion or passions, but it means that he is not controlled emotionally by external forces. And yet, there is a very real sense where the Spirit does indeed grieve when we, as the blood-bought people of God, do not pursue holiness in our life. Owen offers up a meditation on this topic:


The Holy Spirit is infinite love and kindness to me. He has wonderfully chosen to be my Comforter. He does this work willingly, freely and powerfully. What great things I have received from him! How often has he comforted my soul! Can I live one day without him? Shall I not care what he wants to do in me? Shall I grieve him by my negligence, sin, and foolishness? Shall not his love constrain me to walk before him in such a way that brings him great pleasure?

2-We strive to not quench the Spirit. Drawing off of Old Testament imagery where the Holy Spirit was typified by the fire that was always burning on the altar in the tabernacle and temple, Owen here is speaking specifically about not suppressing the works of the Spirit. If we resist the Spirit's work, it would be as if we're throwing wet wood on a fire to smother it. 

Now when we want to resist fire, we quench it. So the opposition made to the Holy Spirit working in us is called 'quenching the Spirit', as wet wood will do when it is cast into the fire. So we are said by the same picture to 'stir up with new fire' the gifts that are in us. The Holy Spirit is striving with us, working in us, encouraging growth in grace and the production of his holy fruit in us. 'Take heed,' says Paul, 'lest by the power of your lusts and temptations, you do not pay attention to him, but quench his works of good will in you.'

3-We do not resist the Holy Spirit. Owen's point is so good here. Stephen accused the Jews of "resisting the Spirit" by rejecting and killing the prophets of God. How might we resist the Spirit? By holding the preaching of the Word of God up with contempt. 

When the Word of God is preached, the authority, wisdom and goodness of the Holy Spirit in setting up this ordinance is to be recognized and respected. For this reason, obedience is to be given to the Word when it is preached, because the Holy Spirit and he alone gives gifts fro the Word to be preached. When this truth keeps us humble and dependent on the Holy Spirit, then we have holy fellowship with him in this ordinance.

Chapter 24, the last chapter of the book, really focuses in on worshiping the Holy Spirit as God. We'll close this blog with these words:

Our fellowship or communion with the Holy Spirit should stir us to give him praise, thanks glory, honour and blessing for the mercies and privileges we receive from him, as we do the Son for his work of Redemption (Rev. 1:5-6). Are not the same praises and blessings due to him who makes Christ's work of redemption effectual to us? The Holy Spirit undertook to be our Comforter with no less infinite love than the Son who took it on himself to be our Redeemer. When we feel our hearts warmed with joy, strengthened in peace and established in obedience, let us give him the praise that is due to him. Let us bless his name and rejoice in him.

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Communion with God chapters 15-20

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If you have been reading along through "Communion with God" this summer, then of course, you realize I am massively behind on this blog! But today I seek to amend this, and cover chapters 15-20 in one blog post! 

Chapter 15
There is much about chapter 15 that could be said. Owen's main thrust is that communion with Christ leads to acceptance with the Father. And just like every other chapter of this work, it's steeped in Trinitarian theology. For the sake of this post, I just want to point out Owen's discussion on the doctrine of imputation, or "the great exchange" as some have called it. Imputation has poked its head up in several sermons over the past few months at Proclamation, and it's a core doctrine for Protestantism. And actually, imputation may be at the heart of the justification debates between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran/Reformed traditions. If you're interested in this, here is a fairly good overview from a Reformed perspective on this issue. 

Unfortunately today, it seems that imputation is now being attacked even in Protestant and Evangelical circles. The issue here, as it was for Rome as well, is not that our sin was put on (or imputed to) Christ. Generally, we all agree with that. The issue here is the other side of imputation, that is, Christ's righteousness put onto us. We see this attack on the imputation of Christ's righteousness from men like N.T. Wright who wrote,

It is therefore a straightforward category mistake, however venerable within some Reformed traditions including part of my own, to suppose that Jesus ‘obeyed the law’ and so obtained ‘righteousness’ which could be reckoned to those who believe in him. …It is not the ‘righteousness’ of Jesus Christ which is ‘reckoned’ to the believer. It is his death and resurrection. (Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision)

Owen, in response to the Catholics of his day, and equally applicable to the deniers of imputation today, does a wonderful job at defending this doctrine. At the heart of his argument is a clear distinction between the role of Christ's righteousness, as the mediator and covenant representative of God's people, and our works of obedience-which even after justification are not meritorious. Christ's righteousness counted to us is vital to the Holy God declaring us righteous! Even after regeneration, unless we can achieve pure holiness in this life, our sins would make us unrighteous in God's sight. But if Christ's righteousness is counted as our own, then our hope is sure. It's on solid ground because our works are really the works of God the Son Jesus Christ.

Yes, we are regenerated to new life. And yes, we can now, because of new life in Christ, do righteous works that please God. But pleasing God and earning favor or merit with him are not the same thing. Owen points out that these new works of obedience don't contribute to the finished work of Christ, but rather, are products of the workmanship of God, works that we do out of love gratitude to him for the grace he has given us.

Chapter 16
We could do an entire blog series on the theology of imputation and justification, but we have much ground to cover! Chapter 16 deals with the issue of holiness. Namely, the holiness of God's people and it's role in our communion with God. 

Owen states that Christ does three things to bring his people into holiness.
1) His work of intercession. Namely, Christ is interceding with the Father so that we would receive the promised Holy Spirit, who does the work of sanctification.

2) The receiving of the Spirit from the Father and sending him into the hearts of his saints, there to dwell in his place, and to do all things for them and in them which he himself has to do in them. In other words, Christ is the one who sends the Spirit from the Father to dwell in us and do the work of sanctification. 

3) By his (Christ's) Spirit, he imparts a new, gracious, spiritual life. Owen explains what this means when he says that by the work of the Holy Spirit, "The soul is filled and enabled to obey, and to receive every divine truth presented to it according to the mind of God.

Chapter 17
The focus of Chapter 17 is the doctrine of adoption, which Owen defines as

the authoritative transfer of a believer, by Jesus Christ, from the family of the world and Satan into the family of God with his being admitted into all the privileges and advantages of that family.

And what are the privileges and advantages we receive? Owen lists several (if you have not yet, read chapter 17 for a description of many of these):

We receive liberty
We receive a title (or a privilege)
Boldness with God by Christ
Affliction coming from love and leading to our spiritual good
The privilege of being called sons of God
Being heirs and joint-heirs with Christ
Being predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's Son
Being called Christ's brethren
Fellowship in Christ's suffering
Fatherly discipline
Fellowship in God's kingdom
We shall reign with Christ

Chapter 18
Owen now shifts from focusing on our fellowship with the Son to our communion and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. And here, he wants to examine the foundation of our fellowship with the Spirit, namely that our foundation with him is grounded upon the reality that it is Jesus Christ who has sent the Spirit to be our Comforter and helper. This is based on the promise of Christ in John 16:1-7 when after warning the disciples of many trials and persecutions, he gives the promise to send a helper, the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is more than willing to come and be the Comforter and helper of God's people. Owen states about our communion with God in light of the Spirit's work that it is a

special communion with the Father in love, the Son in grace, and the Holy Spirit in his work as comforter and helper. This is the way into fellowship with the Holy Spirit to which we are called. His gracious and blessed will, his infinite and wonderful willingness to come down to us, all the works he enables us to do and all the privileges he brings to us, of which we are made partakers, is what our souls by faith receive from him. And our response is to pour out on him all our gratitude and thanksgiving.

Chapter 19
And what is the work of the Holy Spirit in communion with the believer? Owen answers this in chapter 19, reminding us of the Spirit's continual work in our lives. 
1) The Spirit brings to mind the words and promises of Christ
2)The Spirit glorifies Christ
3)The Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts

4)The Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God
5)The Spirit seals us, or is the evidence to our soul, that we have been accepted by God
6)The Spirit is our deposit or guarantee of our eternal inheritance
7)The Spirit anoints believers


Let me remind you of Owen's closing paragraph in this chapter:

Here, then, is the wisdom of faith. Faith looks for and meets with the Comforter in all these works of his. Let us not, then, lose their sweetness by remaining in the dark about them, nor fall short of the response required of us in gratitude.

Chapter 20
Well, we come now at last to the final chapter in this "Catch-Up" blog post. Short and sweet, yet so essential to the lives of God's children, this chapter deals with the Holy Spirit and the hearts of believers. What are the works of the Spirit in the hearts of those who belong to Christ?
1) The Holy Spirit comforts and strengthens the hearts of believers
Owen calls this the "chief work" of the Spirit in our lives. He brings our souls, which are often troubled, to rest and contentment not in some temporal earthly way, but rather, by focusing us on the eternal truths of God. This is an everlasting comfort, a strong comfort, and a precious comfort. 

2) The Holy Spirit brings joy to the hearts of believers. 
Reminding us that the Spirit is called the "oil of gladness", Owen states that true joy is produced by the Spirit pouring God's love into our hearts, which carries us through every kind of trial. The Spirit does this directly. He needs no other means, no other tools, no other help. This is HIS work, and it's a work that, just like John the Baptist in his mother's womb, causes us to leap for joy in knowing Jesus. This joy flows from the assurance that the Spirit gives; assurance of God's love for us and our adoption into his family. 

3) The Holy Spirit brings hope to the hearts of the believers.
What is our great hope? Owen says it's to "be like Christ and to enjoy God in Christ for ever". The Spirit, by showing us 'the things of Christ', and by glorifying Christ in our hearts, "arouses", as Owen puts it, our desires to be like Jesus. And this leads to our growth and increase in hope. This, Owen says, is one way that the Spirit sanctifies us. By arousing our hopes, which leads us to a desire to be more like Christ, the Spirit is actually making us more and more holy.

These are the general works of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, which, if we consider them and all that they produce, will bring joy, assurance, boldness, confidence, expectation and glorying. We shall then see how much our whole communion with God is enriched and influenced by them.

This blog was written by Andy Styer

 

Communion with God chapters 13-14

Chapter 13 is a very weighty chapter, and yet so essential to the Christian life. What is Owen talking about here in this chapter when he writes about "Communion with Christ Purchased in Grace"? Simply, he is speaking about the reality of the Christian being united to Jesus Christ. Owen writes, 

there is almost nothing that Christ has done, but we are said to have done it with him (Gal. 2:20, 2 Tim. 2:11, Col.3:3, Rom. 6:4, Col. 2:12; 3:1, Eph. 2:5-6)

If you want to know what he is speaking about, check out the verse references. 

Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

2 Timothy 2:11-12: The saying is trustworthy; for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him;

Colossians 3:3: For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Romans 6:4: We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.

Colossians 2:12, 3:1: having been buried with him in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead...If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Ephesians 2:5-6: even when we were dead in our trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Do we now understand what Owen means when he says that there is almost nothing Christ has done that we are not said to have done with him? This is union with Christ, and union with Christ is at the heart of our salvation. We are united to Christ in his life of perfect obedience (read chapter 15 if you haven't yet for a wonderful explanation on why Christ's life, not just his death and resurrection, is so essential for the Christian). We are united to Christ in his death. We are united to him in his resurrection. We are united to him in his ascension into heaven. We are united to him in his glorification. And we will be united to him in his future reign in the new heaven and new earth. This is amazing! This should just floor us. It should bring tears to our eyes to think that we, who were once enemies of God, objects of wrath, infinitely guilty before his infinite holiness, worthy of nothing but damnation, that we would be brought into such a rich inheritance because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. This is the reality of union with Christ and communion with the Triune God. 

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Communion with God chapters 11&12

There's a lot in these two chapters to reflect upon, but I really want to focus the theme of prayer that Owen hits on in chapter 11. 

Owen begins his exhortation on prayer with this simple statement: 

Christ delights to reveal his kingdom to his saints...Christ enables his saints to reveal their minds and souls to him that they might walk together in intimate love and friendship...But to know this truth will not avail us if we do not know how to open our hearts to him. this we do in prayer. To Christ, the prayers of his saints are like incense...If we would open our hearts to Christ, we need help to pray.

Two things. First, notice here that Owen is saying that Christ makes himself and his Kingdom known to the saints, and the saints make their minds and souls known to him through prayer. Prayer is how we share in a deep, intimate love and friendship with Jesus Christ. But secondly, notice Owen fully recognizes that we are weak in prayer and that we need help. And here, Owen reminds us that the Holy Spirit, the "Helper" as Christ referred to him, is the one who helps us in our prayers. 

I'm encouraged by these two points. First, doesn't it make our hearts sing to know that Jesus Christ makes himself known to us, and delights in having us make ourselves known to him in an intimate friendship? The one who in and through whom all things were made, the eternal Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the very image of the invisible God delights in us. He delights in having an intimate friendship, a deep rooted love, and communion with us. That fact alone should give us great delight in the act of prayer! 

And yet, all of us still struggle with prayer, don't we? We are tempted to see prayer as a chore. We don't delight in prayer as we should. We may know that through prayer we are having sweet communion with God, and yet how many of us are eager to go before the Lord in prayer? How many of us struggle to even know what to say and how to say it? And here is the encouraging reminder from John Owen that Jesus, who knows our weaknesses first hand, has sent a Helper-the Holy Spirit of Christ. He writes:

...we need help to pray. This help we have by the Spirit of Jesus. All attempts at praying without the help of the Spirit working in us a prayerful spirit are of no avail and of no value. Christ greatly delights in the prayers of his saints when they truly open their hearts to him. When the soul is driven to hide from Christ, then Christ calls it out and enables it to pray by giving it the help of his Spirit."

If we (when we...) struggle to pray, let us all look to the power of the Holy Spirit, who is working in us. He is the one who will help us to pray! The Spirit gives us the help and power we need to pray, which leads to sweet communion and fellowship with Jesus Christ, through whom we are able to come into the presence of the Father who sits upon a throne of grace, to which we draw close with confidence!

This blog was written by Andy Styer
 

Communion with God chapters 9&10

In chapter 8 of "Communion with God", Owen began exploring the "excellencies of Christ", giving us glorious truths about Jesus in the hopes that by meditating on Christ's attributes, we would be encouraged to give ourselves up more fully to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Chapter 9 continues Owen's exploration of Christ's attributes, looking specifically at his wisdom and knowledge. But really, what Owen has in mind here is not so much an exploration of the wisdom and knowledge Christ showed in his earthly life, but rather, Owen speaks to the truth that in Christ we truly know God and that to know God is to be truly wise. It is in Christ that we get to see and know the attributes of the eternal God. For example, in Christ, we know God's righteousness and justice in punishing sin. We see this at the cross. Yet we also know his mercy and love and forgiveness for sinners. 

All this is hidden in Christ. The great and unspeakable riches of God's wisdom in pardoning sin, saving sinners, satisfying justice, fulfilling the law, regaining his own honour and providing for us a much greater weight of glory are all accomplished in Christ. And all this was accomplished out of an impossible state of affairs. It was impossible for angels or men to discover how God could possibly restore all things to his glory or ever save one sinful creature from everlasting ruin...

Nothing in God concerning our salvation can be known or received except by Christ. All that is necessary for our salvation is in Christ and is shown to us by Christ. All truth outside Christ does not lead to the knowledge of salvation. It only leads to further corruption.

Do we desire to be wise? Do we desire to truly know God, which is the heart of all wisdom? Then our desire should be to know Jesus Christ, because, "To know Christ and to be in Christ by faith is to know the wonder and excellence of the wisdom and knowledge of God in the salvation of sinners."

Chapter 10 marks a turn in Owen's thought. If we are to have a saving knowledge of God in Christ, we must also know ourselves. And what are we to know about ourselves? We are to know just how desperately we need Jesus Christ. We are to know that we are sinners. We are rebellious. We are breakers of God's holy law. We are worthy of eternal punishment for our sin. And most terrifying of all, we are to know that all mankind will face a day of judgment, carried out by Jesus Christ himself. 

And yet...this thought should bring us hope and comfort as well, because this means that we will be judged by the one who loves us and gave himself up for us. We are to be judged by the one who has taken away enmity between us and God. If we are putting our faith in Christ, if we have communion and fellowship with him, if we are "walking with him", (and Owen gives several examples of what walking with Christ means), then we can rejoice in knowing that Jesus has indeed reconciled us to the Father. And while for some the day of judgment will be a terrible day, for us, it will be a day of unspeakable joy. All of this is an encouragement to us to continue to pursue communion with Christ, aiming for the day when he comes again, restores all things, and we have perfect and eternal communion with him, unhindered by our enemies of sin, death, and the devil. 

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Communion with God chapters 7&8

One of my favorite "pastimes" is chatting with one of our ruling elders at Proclamation, Matt Henny. We talk about many things dealing with the church both locally and globally, and we talk about what we're reading. Recently, Matt was sharing some thoughts after reading these chapters in "Communion with God". He said to me:

A really important word to meditate upon in Owen's "Communion with God" is the word "receive." Have you received the love, fellowship, and communion with the Eternal Trinity--Father, Son and Spirt by faith? This is the essence of communion: receiving love and then loving back out of adoration.

If you've read these two chapters, then you know that Matt is right. The word "receive" is so essential to Owen's thoughts on communing with God. And you know Matt is right about how communion works. We receive love from the Triune God, and in return, we love back out of adoration. This is what Owen is saying in his closing statements in chapter 7 when he writes:

Let us, then, receive Christ in all his excellencies and glories as he gives himself to us. Frequently think of him by faith, comparing him with other beloveds, such as sin, the world and legal righteousness. Then you will more and more prefer him above them all, and you will count them all as rubbish in comparison to him. And let your soul be persuaded of Christ's sincerity and willingness to give himself to you, in all that he is, to be yours forever. And let us give up ourselves wholeheartedly to him. Let us tell Jesus that we will be for him and not for another. Let him hear this from us. He delights to hear it from our lips. Christ says, 'Your voice is sweet to my ears, and your face is beautiful to my eyes'. Are we going to disappoint Christ by neglecting this communion with him?

Isn't it astonishing that Christ would be disappointed because we would neglect communion with him? It is absolutely remarkable that the eternal Son of God, the one whom through all things were created, the one who holds all things together, the one who is reigning and ruling over all creation would want and desire to have communion with us. And when you read chapter 8, when you see how excellent and glorious Christ is, the truth that Jesus would desire communion with us should become all the more remarkable to us. Let us not disappoint our dear Savior by neglecting communion with him!

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Communion with God chapters 5&6

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

Communion with God chapters 3&4

If you're reading along with us this Summer, then you should, in theory, be done reading through chapter 6. The blog is a week behind due to both Troy and my absence last week. I'm sure we'll catch up at some point.

Very few chapters throughout "Communion with God" have made such a lasting impression on me than chapters 3-4. Here, Owen begins looking more deeply at the communion we have with each person of the Trinity, these two chapters specifically focusing in on our communion with the Father. 

Throughout these two chapters, Owen hits on a major issue within the Christian mindset, and that is the idea that we, even as God's children, struggle to think of God the Father as loving. We tend to see the Son as being full of love, and yet, when it comes to the Father who sent the Son for us, we fall into the trap of seeing him as full of wrath and anger. Owen is right to point out that this is exactly how unrepentant sinners should see the Father, but this is not how his children should see him! We need to remember that for those who are in Christ, we have communion and fellowship with the Father, and the bond of that communion and fellowship is love. The Father has an eternal, never-ending love for us, his people, and we in turn love him because he first loved us. 

Owen says the Father's love is like the Father himself in that it is unchangeable. Just as the Father never changes, his love for us never changes. It is never less, and it is never more. He loves us as much as he possible could ever love us, and that never changes. While our love for him, Owen says, is like the moon in that it waxes and wanes, the Father's love for us is like the sun in that it is always there! It may be hidden by a cloud from time to time, but it is no less radiant. It is no less intense. He says:

Whom God loves he loves to the end, and he loves them all alike. On whom he sets his love, it is set for ever. God's love is an eternal love that had no beginning and that shall have no end. It is a love that cannot be increased by anything we do and that cannot be lessened by anything in us.

Remembering this truth about the Father will have a great impact on the lives of God's people. When we remember how much the Father loves us, Owen says it will lead us to run towards him, to cherish our fellowship with him, to not see him as only in his "terrible majesty, severity and greatness", but also to see him as one who is "most kind and gentle...as one who from eternity has always had kind thoughts towards us."

Owen says that it is the greatest desire of God the Father that we should have loving fellowship with him. And yet, how often is our mindset the one Owen describes when he writes:

Flesh and blood is apt to think hard thoughts of God, to think that he is always angry and incapable of being pleased with his sinful creatures, that is is not for them to draw near to him, and that there is nothing in the world more to be desired than never to come into his presence.

But these thoughts grieve our Lord and delight our enemy! Let us therefore be intentional about how we think of our Father in heaven, and remember the truth Owen reminds us of when he writes, 

"The saints have close communion and fellowship with the Father. Their relationship with the Father is a relationship is a relationship of love. Men are generally esteemed by the company they keep. It is an honour to stand in the presence of princes, even if it be as a servant. What honour, then, have all the saints, to stand with boldness in the presence of the Father and there enjoy his love!"

This blog was written by Andy Styer

"Communion With God" Chapter 1&2

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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. 

Chapter 1

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!

Chapter 2

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. 

Communion With God Introduction

Today we begin a new blog series, working our way through John Owen's book, "Communion with God". For those who are unfamiliar with Owen, he was one of the great leading English Puritan thinkers of the 17th century. He served as both a minister and as Dean of Christ Church in the University of Oxford.

For this blog, we'll be using the abridged "Puritan Paperback" edition published by Banner of Truth

The goal of this blog, just like the goal of the blog we did on Owen's, "Mortification of Sin" two years ago, is to read this book together. Please read the corresponding chapters of the book prior to each blog post. We're aiming to publish the blog every Thursday. So that means that before next Thursday, June 15th, we'd encourage you to read chapters 1&2 of the book.

So why are we reading this book? What can we learn from a 17th century Puritan today in the 21st century? 

Well, there are a few reasons why we chose this work.

First, this is a blog Troy and I have talked about doing for quite some time. In fact, we were discussing this book in 2015 while working through "The Mortification of Sin". For the past 3 years, we've had the privilege of attending the "Banner of Truth Minister's Conference", held at Elizabethtown College. The first year we were there, one of the speakers was talking about John Owen's writings, and said that "we should always read 'The Mortification of Sin' together with 'Communion with God'". So, 2 years later, we're finally going to take that advice and read, "Communion with God"! 

Secondly, if you've been joining us for our sermon series on the book of Ephesians, then you'll remember Troy speaking about how to make the best use of our time in his sermon on Ephesians 5:14-21. One of his suggestions was to spend at least 15 minutes a day reading. Here, then, is a great book to be reading this summer! It's devotional, it's remarkably Trinitarian, and hopefully it shapes the affections of your hearts and influences the thinking of your minds!

Thirdly, and most importantly, in this book, John Owen offers us a wonderful reminder of the hope every Christian has: Through our union with Jesus Christ, we have restored communion, that is, restored fellowship, with the great and holy Triune God. This communion with God is not just a future promise, but a present reality for the believer. And this book will remind us of that reality, helping us to reflect on what this communion means for our lives here and now. 

R.J.K. Law, the editor of this edition of the book, writes, 

John Owen believed that communion with God lies at the heart of the Christian life. With Paul he recognized that through the Son we have access by the Spirit to the Father. He never lost the sense of amazement expressed by (the Apostle) John: 'Our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son, Jesus Christ'. In this outstanding book he explains the nature of this communion and describes the many privileges it brings.


We hope that your hearts are encouraged and lifted up in the gospel as we read this book together, and it's our prayer that none of us ever loses the sense of amazement that "through the Son we have access by the Spirit to the Father". 

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Posted on June 8, 2017 and filed under Teaching.