Cultivating Communion with God

Cultivating Communion with God

Communion with God is the birthright of every heir of the redemption purchased by Christ. There is no greater blessing that creatures made in the image of God can possess or conceive of than communion with God. This was the very first lesson that God taught man in the day that he was created. In the beginning, God created man with the capacity to glorify and enjoy Him—to commune with Him in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (Gen. 1:26-27). God further revealed His purpose for man by setting apart a day for communion (Gen. 2:1-3), a place for communion (Gen. 2:4-17), and a relationship in which to enjoy communion with Himself (Gen. 2:18-25). The whole Bible is the story of how that wonderful communion Adam and Eve had with God in the Garden of Eden was lost through sin, but how God Himself has graciously brought us into an even better and more blessed communion with Him in Christ.

Our Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches that all mankind, by their fall in Adam, lost communion with God.[1] By eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam cut himself (and all those descending from him in the ordinary way of procreation) off from the Tree of Life. The way back into the Garden of Eden was shut (Gen. 3:24). This could have been the end of the Bible. However, the fall of man was not the end of man’s communion with God. Instead, even as God was pronouncing His curse upon all creation because of man’s sin, He was revealing His plan to bring sinners into an even better communion than Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall. That plan, first announced in the Protoevangelion, was that the Seed of the woman, though His heel would be bruised, would nevertheless crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). Here, in a single verse of God’s Word, is the whole message of the Gospel.

The Gospel, at its heart, is the story, contained in whole counsel of God’s Word, both in the Old and New Testaments, that God’s great purpose in history is to bring man back into communion with Himself through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. Cornelis Venema puts it well when he writes:

Before and underneath the grand symphony recounted in Scripture, lies God’s surprising, undeserved, and invincible purpose to initiate and ultimately consummate a relationship of mutual love and commitment between Himself and those who belong to Him through the work of His Son Jesus Christ. At every note, the Scriptures represent the Triune God as the sovereign Lord of history, who graciously condescends to enjoy fellowship with us. Despite the disruption and loss of the original fellowship with God that the human race once enjoyed in Adam before the fall into sin, God intends to grant the fullness of unbreakable fellowship with His people through the work of the ‘last’ Adam, Jesus Christ.[2]

It is through the work of Christ as our Redeemer that all the blessings of salvation have been purchased for us and are now being applied to us by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:3-11). That work, though accomplished by Christ, is really the work of all three Persons of the Trinity. It is a work rooted in the eternal decree of God the Father to set His predestinating love upon His children. It is a work carried out in time and space by Christ. And it is a work that continues as the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ in our effectual calling, justifying, adopting, sanctifying, and eventually glorifying us in order to bring us step by gracious step into closer communion with our God. The good news of the Gospel is that He has purchased communion with God for us and us for communion with God!

Just what is this communion that Christ has purchased for us? Communion with God is receiving, delighting in, and benefiting from, all that can be enjoyed of God as He communicates Himself to us through our union with Jesus Christ, and as we respond to Him in faith, thanksgiving, and love. In other words, communion with God is God communicating Himself to us.[3] As God communicates Himself to us by His Son, we commune with one another in holiness, fellowship, truth, and love. But if communion with God is God’s communication of Himself to us through His Son, how are we brought into this communion? The answer is through our union with Jesus Christ. Union with Christ is the bond of life and love between us and God. When we are united to Christ, by the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit, we are called, irresistibly drawn, savingly transformed, and enfolded into the intensity and immensity and wonder and drama of the love that flows eternally between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in holy communion of the Persons in the blessed Trinity. To be united to Christ is to be made a partaker of the very life of God, and thus to be made spiritually fruitful (Jn. 15:1-8).

But the wonder of communion with God is that it brings us into fellowship with the God who has revealed Himself as Triune. This is why John Owen was fond of saying that the glory of the revelation we have as Christians in the New Covenant is that we enjoy distinct communion with all three Persons of the Godhead. We not only know Jesus as Lord, but we know God as our Father. This is why Jesus teaches His disciples in the Lord’s Prayer to address God as “Our Father.” The incarnation, sinless life, glorious ministry, atoning death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus are, simply put, the revelation in our humanity of the everlasting and inexhaustible love of God the Father. The Father reveals His love not only in the work of His Son, but also in the work of the Spirit. If Jesus is the incarnation of the Father’s love, the Spirit is the Applier of God’s love. This is why, according to Owen, our communion with God consists in large measure of becoming acquainted with our privileges as God’s children:

How few of the saints are experimentally acquainted with this privilege of holding immediate communion with the Father in love. With what anxious, doubtful thoughts do they look upon Him! What fears, what questionings are there, of His good-will and kindness! At the best, many think there is no sweetness at all in Him towards us, but what is purchased at the high price of the blood of Jesus. It is true, that alone is the way of communication; but the free fountain and spring of all is in the bosom of the Father.[4]

What is this love of the Father that has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ? It is a love that sought us and purchased all the blessings of our redemption when we were yet in our sins (Rom. 5:8). It is a love that will never let go of us, that nothing can separate us from (Rom. 8:38). It is a love that is from before the beginning (Jn. 1:1-3). It is al love that came to us “in the fullness of time” in our humanity, in our weakness, in our need, and in our mortality to redeem us and to make us the children of God (Gal. 4:4-5). It is a love that satisfied the requirements of the law for us, that endured the agony and the shame of the cross (Rom. 8:4; Heb. 12:2). It is a love that did not leave Jesus in the grave but raised Him up on the third day for our justification (Rom. 4:25). But even more than that—it is a love that abides in us and comforts us with the comfort and assurance that we are the children of God, by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:15-16).

How then, do you and I cultivate this communion with God? First, cultivate communion with God by abiding in Christ and in His Word through your union with Him as the one Mediator between God and men. Apart from Him we can do nothing, our lives will be spiritually unfruitful (Jn. 15:5). Second, cultivate communion with God by maintaining the communion of the saints. We tend to think first of our private communion with God as the mountaintop of the Christian life. The truth is that communion with God is communion with God in the body of Christ, the church, the fellowship of the saints. There, and only there, will you experience communion with God in all its fullness, and in all its fruitfulness. To be in communion with God means to be in communion with one another (1 Jn. 1:7). Finally, cultivate communion with God by “making diligent use of the means of grace.” The means of grace are all those simple, ordinary ways that God has given us to know and grow and enjoy Him. The most important of these are the Scriptures, public worship, and prayer. Commune with God by saturating your heart and life with His Word. Commune with God by resting yourself in Him on the Lord’s Day. And commune with God by devoting yourself to Him in private adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and praise.

May you know the sweetness of communion with God as you grow in your apprehension of the greatness of the Father’s love for you in Christ, by the comfort and assurance of the Spirit’s witness in your heart that you are a child of God.

[1] WSC Q. 19.

[2] Cornelis Venema, The Promise of the Future.

[3] I am borrowing this definition, with some slight modification, from John Owen, Communion with God.

[4] John Owen, Communion with God.

 

* This article was originally published in the May 2021 issue of the Heritage Journal, which may be accessed online here.

0 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *