Life in Christ (II)
Sharing the life of the triune God means sharing in the rich communion of Father, Son, and Spirit throughout eternity. Communion builds on the Communication we considered in the first post in this series. Otherwise this Communication would remain external to us - coming from the outside. But in Christ this Communication between God and us is rooted in a profound Communion shared between us. The great New Covenant prophecy of Jer.31:31-34, fulfilled in Christ, shows this well:
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”
God’s law, his Communication with us, is within us, written on our hearts by God, as a mark of our familial relation (“my people”), our shared knowledge of God and each other grounded on God’s astonishing forgiveness which is so thorough and complete that God “remember(s) (our) sin no more”! God’s forgiveness does not allow even the memory of sin to affect his relationship to us.
Communion with the triune God is based on this kind of graciousness in which two different beings, one divine, one human, are made one by the gracious love of the divine partner. Humans are not absorbed into the divine as in some religions and spiritualities. And as we have seen this is not merely an external greater ruling over the lesser as in some legalistic versions of Christianity. Rather, as the great Puritan theologian John Owen wrote in the 17th century: “Our communion . . . with God consisteth in his communication of himself unto us, with our return unto him of that which he requireth and accepteth, flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him.”
“Communion with God was a great thing . . . today it is a comparatively small thing. The Puritans were concerned about communion with God in a way we are not. The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it. When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology — but rarely of their daily experience of God.” J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Crossway, 2010), 215.
Communion with the triune God, according to the Puritan Owen, can be distinguished in terms of the persons of the trinity.
-Communion with the Father is in love (cf.1Jn.4:8; 2Cor.13:14; Rom.5:5).
There is nothing more crucial yet too often lacking to Christian living than this. “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.”
-Communion with Son is fundamentally in grace (cf.John.1:14,16,17; 1 Cor.1:9; 2 Cor.13:14; 2 Thess.3:17-18).
All that Christ has gained for us in his earthly ministry and continuing intercession for us as well as our experience of being in union with Christ with others as his body is the substance of the grace in which we enjoy him.
-Communion with the Spirit is chiefly in comfort.
By this Owen refers to “his bringing the promises of Christ to remembrance, glorifying him in our hearts, shedding abroad the love of God in us, witnessing with us as to our spiritual estate and condition, sealing us to the day of redemption...confirming our adoption, and being present with us in our supplications.”
-Finally, we experience communion with God especially in the Lord’s Supper.
Here it is “a matter of acknowledging his presence in the power of his reconciling sacrifice and of observing the ordinance with reverent confidence that in it Christ comes to pledge his saving love to each one personally, so that `we sit down at God`s table as those who are the Lord’s friends...there being now no difference [contention] between him and us.’”
This communion is the womb in which our hearts are shaped both individually and corporately as Christ’s people in his image (Rom.8:29). The heart, biblically speaking, is the “command center” of the person. Intellect, affections, and will are aligned with each other here such that our lives display the coherence and integrity we desire and God requires.