We have looked briefly at the principles of union and communion with God previously. Our union with God is unilateral or one-sided. It is all God’s work; it is a gift of God in our regeneration – the Spirit unites us with Christ when we are born again.
But God has saved us so we might have communion with Him, and this communion with Him is two-way. God relates with us and in return we relate to God. So we contribute to the relationship and what we do can affect our experience of God.
A two way relationship: There is giving and receiving; there is loving and being loved; there is delight and delighting. God gives life, hope, freedom and forgiveness, and we respond by giving God our faith, love and worship. Salvation is more than just having our sins forgiven and escaping God’s judgement; it is more than being justified so that God regards us as righteous in Christ. It is those things and much much more. He does not simply save us from sin and death; He saves us for something – to bring us an enjoyment of God! Faith in Christ brings us into a real two-way relationship of joy with the triune God.
We are not here talking about Christian experience per se. There is the danger of pursuing experiences for their own sake rather than pursuing God. Building our faith on experiences will prove to be a shaky foundation. We are saved through the finished work of Christ and that is a fact and not a feeling. But we must not just stress on ‘fact’ of our faith and lose the ‘experiential’ nature of faith. We are saved for a genuine relationship with the triune God.
Communion flows from our union with God through Christ. Our unity with God in Christ is the basis of our community with God in experience. In much Christian mystical thought, union with Christ is seen as something we achieve as a result of hours of meditation or self-denial or deep contemplation. Our union-communion with God is then based on our attainments. Union with God is a gift – we need to reiterate this. It actually so is our communion with God – because it flows from our union with God. So like our union with God, our communion with Him is a gift from Him. But because it is a two-way relationship, we can neglect the gift of communion with Him. It is not something we achieve but it depends on our actions. What we do can affect our experience of God
Feelings and experience are not the same. I experience God’ love for me whatever my feelings. Growing in faith is learning to discern the Trinity’s involvement In our lives even when we do not feel that involvement. Knowing Jesus means participating in the life of the Trinity. Jesus does not just give everlasting life; He Himself is life – true life. Knowing Jesus means participating in the life of the Trinity.
Ponder over what was said by John Owen:
‘Our communion with God consists in his communication of himself to us, with our return to him of that which he requires and accepts, flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him.’
‘There is no grace whereby our souls go forth to God, no act of divine worship yielded to him, no duty or obedience performed, which is not distinctly related to Father, Son, and Spirit.’
What this means is that we always have communion with God – not a part of God. If I have communion with the Son, then I have communion with the Father and the Spirit. The Spirit is the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. So to be in-dwelt by the Spirit is to be in-dwelt by the Son and the Father. Hence the need to appreciate God as the triune God – God is three in one and communion with God depends on our appreciation and experience of the Trinity. It also depends on our actions taken on the means of grace given to us; if we neglect the means of grace, it would invariably affect the quality of our communion with Him.
Communion with the Triune God (Trinity)
For the Christian, from the outset, life is lived in the light of the fact that we have been baptised ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. Through the Son whom the Father sent into the world to save us, and the Spirit who brings all the resources of Christ to us, we have come to know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. We have been brought into a reality far grander than anything we could ever imagine – it means communion with the Triune God!
We live in an age that stresses practical Christian living; hence we have little patience for the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity in fact provided the light by which everything else became clear.It was the most practical truth of all – for what can be more practical than knowing Godin Jesus Christ and through the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. And this is eternal life – to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.
The forgiveness of sins, the peace of God and with God, justification and reconciliation are,in one sense, means to the great end – that we might know Him. We were made to know and love God in all His glory. The wonder of the gospel is that we can be restored to this high privilege. The doctrine of the Trinity means that each Person of the Godhead expressesHis specific personhood both internally and externally to the cosmos and mankind. Our experience of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is shaped by the specific role that each plays in relationship to our lives and especially to our salvation.
The more we reflect on the way Scripture details the activities of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, the fuller and richer our communion with God will become. This lay at the heart of what it means to know God and to enjoy communion with Him. The God of the Bible is the living God – living in Himself, loving within His three persons, expressing all His attributes in the dynamic interplay of Father with Son, Son with Spirit, Spirit with Father, Father and Son with Spirit, Spirit and Son with Father , Father and Spirit with Son.Communion with God is always the enjoyment of the whole Godhead.
Communion with the Father
The communion with God: Although the communion with God is also the enjoyment of the three persons of the Godhead, yet there is also a distinct ‘flavour’ about our fellowship with the Father, with the Son, and with the Holy Spirit.
Believers enjoy fellowship with the Father in love. The Bible speaks of the love of Jesus the Son, and also of the Holy Spirit pouring the love of God into our hearts. But he Bible also emphasises the love of the Father that flows to us through the Son and the Spirit.
God the Father is characterised by His infinitely gracious, tender, compassionate, and loving nature. Often than not, we tend to think of God the Father as a God of wrath and we have no confidence of His love, apart from Christ.
But the gospel gloriously affirms the love of the Father, particularly His love for lost sinners. He is the One who sent His Son so that we should not perish but have everlasting life; He is the One in whom we find the benediction of His love. The Lord Jesus Himself emphasised to His disciples before His passion and death: ‘The Father Himself loves you.’ Clearly, this love neither exists nor is manifested apart from the Son. Nor do we experience it apart from the Holy Spirit.Nevertheless, these streams of love flow to us from a fountain in God the Father.
God the Father first manifested His love by willing good to the creature from eternity – hence He elects us; secondly, He does good to the creature in time according to His good will – hence He redeems and sanctifies us; thirdly, He delights Himself in the creature on account of the rays of His image seen in them – hence He gratuitously rewards as holy and just. (see John 3:13; Ephesians 5:25; Rev. 1:5; Heb.11:6)
We must reflect on the love of the Father for us before we were born, and the purposes He then planned for our lives. His divine love stretches way back into eternity and downwards into time. This love is expressed in Christ we have now come to experience. It cost Him dearly to love us as sinners, for it required His willingness to send His Son and give Him up to the death on the cross in order to fulfill His purposes of love for us.
John Owen lamented that many Christians, in their heart of hearts, are not deeply convinced that the Father indeed loves them. They may grasp the love of Christ, but there seems to be a significant gap between their trust in Him and their trust in the Father. It is almost as though they fear that behind Christ, the Father is actually distant and dark, even sinister. How few of the saints are experimentally acquainted with this privilege of holding immediate communion with the Father in love.
The evil one wants us to believe that the Father does not really love us and he succeeded most of the time just as he lied to Adam and Eve. He managed and is still managing to twist and distort the character of God. We are only to meditate on the parable of the prodigal son to appreciate the love of the Father.
We need to take daily doses of the Father’s love and reflect on the high privilege of being His adopted children. Jesus is the beam, but the Fathe Himself is the sun of eternal love. Christ is the stream, but through Him we are led to the fountain of all grace and kindness. We must first receive His love by faith and then return the Father’s love. Never ever doubt that the Father loves you; not when you experienced His discipline of love; not when you face distressing circumstances, not even when you failed to live out your Christian life and feel that He will never forgive you. As long as you come back to Him in genuine repentance again and again, know that He continues to love you in His Son.
Communion with the Son
All that God has for us in His Son can be summed up in this statement:To become a believer means to have fellowship with Christ in all that He has accomplished for us. In his Trinitarian benediction, the apostle Paul prays for us: ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.’
This grace is the fulfilment of everything to which the Old Testament pointed to – it’s pattern, promises, types, and history. Hence John wrote: ‘The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.’ This does not mean that the old covenant is devoid of grace; but true, real, full, embodied grace came only in the One the old covenant anticipated and pointed to.
Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Heavenly Father gives us to Jesus and gives Jesus to us who believe. We have Jesus; everything we can ever lack is found in Him; all we will ever need is given to us in Him! For the Father has ‘blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.’ (Eph. 1:3) This is true for every Christian, for the weaker believer as for the most mature. To appreciate communion with the Son, we need to explore deeper the grace of our Lord Jesus.
Christ’s grace is multidimensional: it consists of His graciousness and attractiveness as our Mediator and Saviour; in His love and favour toward us as sinners, and in His transforming us through the gifts of His Spirit.
Unless Christ were truly and fully God and truly and fully man, He could not have been fitted and equipped to save us. It was only as the God-man that the Lord Jesus had room enough in His being to receive and power enough in His spirit to bear all the wrath that was prepared for us. Since all the fullness of God dwells In Him, and He received the Spirit without measure (Heb.7:25; John 3:34), His bearing the judgement of God on the cross could not exhaust and destroy Him. Because He is so perfectly suited to our needs, therefore, He endears Himself to believers. He is just what we need, and He is all that we need. Communion with Christ is all about Christ.
Through the ministry of the Spirit and by faith, we become united to Christ, one with Christ in the way a man and a woman ‘become one flesh’ in the marriage bond. The Father brings to His Son the bride He has prepared for Him, and asks both parties if they will have each other – the Savour if He will have sinners to be His; sinners if they will embrace the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, Husband, and Friend.
Being a Christian involves a deep affection for Christ. He is a person to be known, admired and loved. We have received freely from Christ; in our delight in Him, we give ourselves freely, unreservedly, and joyfully back to Christ. This is communion indeed!
Communion with the Spirit
The Spirit is the One through whom all blessings of God, planned by the Father and purchased by the Son, become ours. To experience the power of the Spirit in our lives, and the wonder of the new creation, we must become familiar with the Spirit’s ministry in the life of our Saviour Himself. Our communion with the Spirit is dependent on, and shaped by, His communion with Christ, and Christ’s with Him. The Spirit who comes upon believers is one and the same Spirit who dwelt on the Lord Jesus when He was on earth. Jesus received the Spirit to engage in His ministry as Redeemer; He has now given this very same Spirit to all who are united to Him by faith I.e. to us who are believers.
Jesus, who gives us the Spirit, is the One upon whom the Spirit came. He received, bore, and was borne by the Spirit throughout His life and ministry. The One through whom the Saviour was conceived in the womb of the virgin is the One Who conceives us spiritually when we are ‘born of the Spirit.’ He is the One who empowered the Saviour throughout His ministry from womb to cross, from tomb to throne. Christ received the Spirit, was filled with the Spirit and walked in the Spirit in order that on His ascension He might give the Spirit who dwelt on Him to all who believe in Him. Only the Spirit of Christ has the capacity to transform us to be Like Christ.
The Messiah did not come immediately from heaven to the cross. Rather, Jesus grew. The fruit of the Spirit in His life went hand-in-glove with the natural development of all His individual human characteristics. His natural deployment was the fruit of his submission to the work of the Spirit.
What we must appreciate deeply is that our transformation to be like Christ and our growth in Godliness have very much to do with the ministry of the Spirit; it has to do with our communion with the Spirit – the deeper the communion, the more intimate the interaction, the greater the likelihood of transformation to be like the Master.
The Spirit does not bring glory to Himself but to the Son. But this should not be used as an argument for our failing to give glory to the Spirit as well as to the Son and the Father. The Spirit’s role calls forth from our hearts admiration, adoration, praise, and devotion to the One who so lovingly shines on the Son and comes to us as the Spirit of grace. Hence we should worship the Spirit together with the Father and the Son.
The immediate fruit of the Spirit’s coming to us is the bond of our union with Christ. From this union flows all our communion with Him. As He comes to indwell us, He enlivens us, leads us, supports and strengthens us, and produces in us Christlike character and qualities. He both restrains us from sin and sanctifies us more and more.
Union and Communion lead to knowing, loving and enjoying God
We have seen that God is known through the three Persons of the Godhead; so we relate to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We noted also that unity with God in Christ is the basis of our communion with God in experience.
How can we finite beings know the infinite? We cannot know the essence of God; His nature is beyond our comprehension and it is only when He chooses to reveal Himself that we can know Him and have a relationship with Him.
God reveals Himself to us in His creation, in the Scripture, and in His Son. Thanks be to God, we, as believers, can now know the Persons of God. God lives in an eternal community in which the Father, Son and Spirit relate to one another in love. And when God relates to us He relates to us in the same way – as Father, Son and Spirit. So when we speak of a relationship with God, it is really a relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Your relationship with God will be deepened and enriched if you think about how you are relating to the Father, to the Son and to the Spirit. Think on how each member of the Trinity is relating to you and how you are responding to them.
For eg., when you pray, think of addressing your words to the Father through the Son with the help of the Spirit. Or when you read the Bible, think of the Father revealing Himself in His Son by the Holy Spirit, or think of the Son communicating His love to you through the Holy Spirit.
We must never think of the three Persons without at the same time recognising that God is one. The unity of God matters because it means that to know one of the Persons is to know all three. You never relate to them on their own. The unity of the Trinity means that when we see God in Christ, we are not seeing a mask or a front. There are no surprises behind when we see in Christ. Jesus is the perfect Word of God and image of God because Jesus is God. To see the Son is to see the Father The Son is the exact radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being (Heb. 1:3). The Father and the Son are one being. To relate to the Son is to relate to the Father and Spirit.
Many Christians think of God as only a ruler or judge. And no matter how hard we try, we will always be a disappointment to Him. It is true that God is king and Judge. If we think of God only in this way, we may respect such a God, but we are not going to like Him, to say the least about loving Him. Or it may be that we somewhat feel numb towards God. We agree with Christian truth but we are not sure we feel it. We see others excited apparently with joy in the presence of God in worship and we feel nothing.
But recall that God desires us, not just to be saved, justified, but to know Him, love Him and enjoy Him just as He love you, know you and enjoy you as his children and as the bride of Christ. Whether you pursue more of God depends on what you think of Him. Hence the sharings on union, communion with God in the three Persons are meant to help us have a right wholesome knowledge of the Triune God and His love, grace and sacrifice for us. The wholesome knowledge of Him in the Trinity should lead to gratitude, love, worship and adoration. Do we think that a relationship with such a wonderful God is worth pursuing? The promise of exceeding joy, fellowship and pleasure await us if we pursue after this living wonderful majestic holy Being and humbly seek to know Him, love Him and enjoy Him (psalm 73: 25-26; psalm 16:11).