God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
~ 1 Corinthians 1:9
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
~ 1 Corinthians 1:30
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
~ Philippians 2:1
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
~ Philippians 3:10
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
~ Hebrews 3:14
Of the Fellowship Which the Saints Have with Jesus Christ the Son of God, by John Owen. The following contains Part Two, Chapter One of his work, “Of Communion with God”.
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
— 1 John 1:3
Of the fellowship which the saints have with Jesus Christ the Son of God
— That they have such a fellowship proved, 1 Corinthians 1:9; Revelation 3:20; Cant. 2:1-7 opened; also Proverbs 9:1-5.
Of that distinct communion which we have with the person of the Father we have treated in the foregoing chapters; we now proceed to the consideration of that which we have with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Now the fellowship we have with the second person, is with him as Mediator, — in that office whereunto, by dispensation, he submitted himself for our sakes; being “made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons,” Galatians 4:4, 5. And herein I shall do these two things: — I. Declare that we have such fellowship with the Son of God. II. Show wherein that fellowship or communion does consist: —
I. For the first, I shall only produce some few places of Scripture to confirm it, that it is so: — 1 Corinthians 1:9, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is that whereunto all the saints are called, and wherein, by the faithfulness of God, they shall be preserved, even fellowship with Jesus Christ our Lord. We are called of God the Father, as the Father, in pursuit of his love, to communion with the Son, as our Lord. Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Certainly this is fellowship, or I know not what is. Christ will sup with believers: he refreshes himself with his own graces in them, by his Spirit bestowed on them. The Lord Christ is exceedingly delighted in tasting of the sweet fruits of the Spirit in the saints. Hence is that prayer of the spouse that she may have something for his entertainment when he comes to her, Cant. 4:16, “Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my Beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.” The souls of the saints are the garden of Jesus Christ, the good ground, Hebrews 6:7; — a garden for delight; he rejoices in them; “his delights are with the sons of men,” Proverbs 8:31; and he “rejoices over them,” Zephaniah 3:17; — and a garden for fruit, yea, pleasant fruit; so he describes it, Cant. 4:12-14, “A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all chief spices.” Whatever is sweet and delicious for taste, whatever savory and odoriferous, whatever is useful and medicinal, is in this garden. There is all manner of spiritual refreshments, of all kinds whatever, in the souls of the saints, for the Lord Jesus. On this account is the spouse so earnest in the prayer mentioned for an increase of these things, that her Beloved may sup with her, as he has promised. “Awake, O north wind,” etc.; — “O that the breathing and workings of the Spirit of all grace might stir up all his gifts and graces in me, that the Lord Jesus, the beloved of my soul, may have meet and acceptable entertainment from me.” God complains of want of fruit in his vineyard, Isaiah 5:2; Hosea 10:1. Want of good food for Christ’s entertainment is that the spouse feared, and labors to prevent. A barren heart is not fit to receive him. And the delight he takes in the fruit of the Spirit is unspeakable. This he expresses at large, Cant. 5:1, “I am come,” saith he; “I have eaten, I am refreshed.” He calls it “periy megadim”, “The fruit of his sweetnesses;” or most pleasant to him. Moreover, as Christ sups with his saints, so he has promised they shall sup with him, to complete that fellowship they have with him. Christ provides for their entertainment in a most eminent manner. There are beasts killed, and wine is mingled, and a table furnished, Proverbs 9:2. He calls the spiritual dainties that he has for them a “feast,” a “wedding,” “a feast of fat things, wine on the lees,” etc. The fatted calf is killed for their entertainment. Such is the communion, and such is the mutual entertainment of Christ and his saints in that communion.
Cant. 2:1-7, “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters. As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste,” etc.
In the two first verses you have the description that Christ gives, first of himself, then of his church. Of himself, verse l; that is, what he is to his spouse: “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” The Lords Christ is, in the Scripture, compared to all things of eminency in the whole creation. He is in the heavens the sun, and the bright morning star: as the lion among the beasts, the lion of the tribe of Judah. Among the flowers of the field, here he is the rose and the lily. The two eminencies of flowers, sweetness of savor and beauty of color, are divided between these. The rose for sweetness, and the lily for beauty (“Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these”), have the pre-eminence. Farther, he is “the rose of Sharon,” a fruitful plain, where the choicest herds were fed, 1 Chronicles 27:29; so eminent, that it is promised to the church that there shall be given unto her the excellency of Sharon, Isaiah 35:2. This fruitful place, doubtless, brought forth the most precious roses. Christ, in the savor of his love, and in his righteousness (which is as the garment wherein Jacob received his blessing, giving forth a smell as the smell of a pleasant field, Genesis 27:27), is as this excellent rose, to draw and allure the hearts of his saints unto him. As God smelled a sweet savor from the blood of his atonement, Ephesians 5:2; so from the graces wherewith for them he is anointed, his saints receive a refreshing, cherishing savor, Cant. 1:3. A sweet savor expresses that which is acceptable and delightful, Genesis 8:21. He is also “the lily of the valleys;” that of all flowers is the most eminent in beauty, Matthew 6:29. Most desirable is he, for the comeliness and perfection of his person; incomparably fairer than the children of men: of which afterward. He, then, being thus unto them (abundantly satiating all their spiritual senses) their refreshment, their ornament, their delight, their glory; in the next verse he tells us what they are to him: “As the lily among thorns, so is my beloved among the daughters.” That Christ and his church are likened unto and termed the same thing (as here the lily), is, as from their union by the indwelling of the same Spirit, so from that conformity and likeness that is between them, and whereunto the saints are appointed. Now she is a lily, very beautiful unto Christ; “as the lily among thorns:” — 1. By the way of eminency; as the lily excelleth the thorns, so do the saints all others whatever, in the eye of Christ. Let comparison be made, so will it be found to be. And, — 2. By the way of trial; the residue of the world being “pricking briers and grieving thorns to the house of Israel,” Ezekiel 28:94. “The best of them is as a brier, the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge,” Micah 7:4. And thus are they among the daughters, — even the most eminent collections of the most improved professors, that are no more but so. There cannot be in any greater comparison, a greater exaltation of the excellency of any thing. So, then, is Christ to them indeed, verse l; so are they in his esteem, and indeed, verse 2. How he is in their esteem and indeed, we have, verse 3.
“As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” To carry on this intercourse, the spouse begins to speak her thoughts of, and to show her delight in, the Lord Christ; and as he compares her to the lily among the thorns, so she him to the apple-tree among the trees of the wood. And she adds this reason of it, even because he has the two eminent things of trees, which the residue of them have not: — 1. Fruit for food; 2. Shade for refreshment. Of the one she eateth, under the other she resteth; both with great delight. All other sons, either angels, the sons of God by creation, Job 1:6, 38:7, or the sons of Adam, — the best of his offspring, the leaders of those companies which, verse 2, are called daughters, or sons of the old creation, the top branches of all its desirable things, — are to an hungry, weary soul (such alone seek for shade and fruit) but as the fruitless, leafless trees of the forest, which will yield them neither food nor refreshment. “In Christ,” saith she, “there is fruit, fruit sweet to the taste; yea, ‘his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed,’” John 6:55. “Moreover, he has brought forth that everlasting righteousness which will abundantly satisfy any hungry soul, after it has gone to many a barren tree for food, and has found none. Besides, he aboundeth in precious and pleasant graces, whereof I may eat; yea, he calls me to do so, and that abundantly.” These are the fruits that Christ beareth. They speak of a tree that bringeth forth all things needful for life, in food and raiment. Christ is that tree of life, which has brought forth all things that are needful unto life eternal. In him is that righteousness which we hunger after; — in him is that water of life, which whoso drinketh of shall thirst no more. Oh, how sweet are the fruits of Christ’s mediation to the faith of his saints! He that can find no relief in mercy, pardon, grace, acceptation with God, holiness, sanctification, etc., is an utter stranger to these things (wine on the lees) that are prepared for believers. Also, he has shades for refreshment and shelter; — shelter from wrath without, and refreshment because of weariness from within. The first use of the shade is to keep us from the heat of the sun, as did Jonah’s gourd. When the heat of wrath is ready to scorch the soul, Christ, interposing, bears it all. Under the shadow of his wings we sit down constantly, quietly, safely, putting our trust in him; and all this with great delight. Yea, who can express the joy of a soul safe shadowed from wrath under the covert of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus! There is also refreshment in a shade from weariness. He is “as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,” Isaiah 32:2. From the power of corruptions, trouble of temptations, distress of persecutions, there is in him quiet, rest, and repose, Matthew 11:27, 28.
Having thus mutually described each other, and so made it manifest that they cannot but be delighted in fellowship and communion, in the next verses that communion of theirs is at large set forth and described. I shall briefly observe four things therein: —
(1.) Sweetness: “He brought me to the banqueting-house,” or “house of wine.” It is all set forth under expressions of the greatest sweetness and most delicious refreshment, — flagons, apples, wine, etc. “HE entertains me,” saith the spouse, “as some great personage.” Great personages, at great entertainments, are had into the banqueting-house, — the house of wine and dainties. These are the preparations of grace and mercy, — love, kindness, supplies revealed in the gospel, declared in the assemblies of the saints, exhibited by the Spirit. This “love is better than wine,” Cant. 1:2; it is “not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Gospel dainties are sweet refreshments; whether these houses of wine be the Scriptures, the gospel, or the ordinances dispensed in the assemblies of the saints, or any eminent and signal manifestations of special love (as banqueting is not every day’s work, nor used at ordinary entertainments), it is all one. Wine, that cheereth the heart of man, that makes him forget his misery, Proverbs 31:6, 7, that gives him a cheerful look and countenance, Genesis 49:12, is it at which is promised. The grace exhibited by Christ in his ordinances is refreshing, strengthening, comforting, and full of sweetness to the souls of the saints. Woe be to such full souls as loathe these honey-combs! But thus Christ makes all his assemblies to love banqueting-houses; and there he gives his saints entertainment.
(2.) Delight. The spouse is quite ravished with the sweetness of this entertainment, finding love, and care, and kindness, bestowed by Christ in the assemblies of the saints. Hence she cries out, verse 5, “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love.” Upon the discovery of the excellency and sweetness of Christ in the banqueting-house, the soul is instantly overpowered, and cries out to be made partaker of the fullness of it. She is “sick of love:” not (as some suppose) fainting for want of a sense of love, under the apprehension of wrath; but made sick and faint, even overcome, with the mighty acting of that divine affection, after she had once tasted of the sweetness of Christ in the banqueting-house. Her desire deferred, makes her heart sick; therefore she cries, “Stay me,” etc.; — “I have seen a glimpse of the ‘King in his beauty,’ — tasted of the fruit of his righteousness; my soul melteth in longing after him. Oh! support and sustain my spirit with his presence in his ordinances, — those ‘flagons and apples of his banqueting-house,’ — or I shall quite sink and faint! Oh, what hast thou done, blessed Jesus! I have seen thee, and my soul is become as the chariots of Ammi-nadib. Let me have something from thee to support me, or I die.” When a person is fainting on any occasion, these two things are to be done: — strength is to be used to support him, that he sink not to the ground; and comfortable things are to be applied, to refresh his spirits. These two the soul, overpowered and fainting with the force of its own love, (raised by a sense of Christ’s,) prayeth for. It would have strengthening grace to support it in that condition, that it may be able to attend its duty; and consolations of the Holy Ghost, to content, revive, and satiate it, until it come to a full enjoyment of Christ. And thus sweetly and with delight is this communion carried on.
(3.) Safety: “His banner over me was love,” verse 4. The banner is an emblem of safety and protection, — a sign of the presence of an host. Persons belonging to an army do encamp under their banner in security. So did the children of Israel in the wilderness; every tribe kept their camps under their own standard. It is also a token of success and victory, Psalm 20:5. Christ has a banner for his saints; and that is love. All their protection is from his love; and they shall have all the protection his love can give them. This safeguards them from hell, death, — all their enemies. Whatever presses on them, it must pass through the banner of the love of the Lord Jesus. They have, then, great spiritual safety; which is another ornament or excellency of their communion with him.
(4.) Supportment and consolation, verse 6, “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand does embrace me.” Christ here has the posture of a most tender friend towards any one in sickness and sadness. The soul faints with love, — spiritual longings after the enjoyment of his presence; and Christ comes in with his embraces. He nourisheth and cherisheth his church, Ephesians 5:29; Isaiah 63:9. Now, “the hand under the head,” is supportment, sustaining grace, in pressures and difficulties; and “the hand that does embrace,” the hand upon the heart, is joy and consolation; — in both, Christ rejoicing, as the “bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride,” Isaiah 62:5. Now, thus to lie in the arms of Christ’s love, under a perpetual influence of supportment and refreshment, is certainly to hold communion with him. And hereupon, verse 7, the spouse is most earnest for the continuance of his fellowship, charging all so to demean themselves, that her Beloved be not disquieted, or provoked to depart.
In brief, this whole book is taken up in the description of the communion that is between the Lord Christ and his saints; and therefore, it is very needless to take from thence any more particular instances thereof I shall only add that of Proverbs 9:1-5, “Wisdom has builded her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars; she has killed her beasts; she has mingled her wine; she has also furnished her table. She has sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city, Whose is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.”
The Lord Christ, the eternal Wisdom of the Father, and who of God is made unto us wisdom, erects a spiritual house, wherein he makes provision for the entertainment of those guests whom he so freely invites. His church is the house which he has built on a perfect number of pillars, that it might have a stable foundation: his slain beasts and mingled wine, wherewith his table is furnished, are those spiritual fat things of the gospel, which he has prepared for those that come in upon his invitation. Surely, to eat of this bread, and drink of this wine, which he has so graciously prepared, is to hold fellowship with him; for in what ways or things is there nearer communion than in such?
I might farther evince this truth, by a consideration of all the relations wherein Christ and his saints do stand; which necessarily require that there be a communion between them, if we do suppose they are faithful in those relations: but this is commonly treated on, and something will be spoken to it in one signal instance afterward.