But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
~ 1 John 1:7
Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.
~ 1 John 2:23-24
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
~ 1 John 5:10-11
Of Communion with the Father, Communion with each Person Distinctly, and That the Saints Have This Communion Distinctly with the Father, Son, and Spirit, by John Owen.
The following contains an excerpt from Part One, Chapter One, and the whole of Chapter Two 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
Now, communion is the mutual communication of such good things as wherein the persons holding that communion are delighted, bottomed upon some union between them. So it was with Jonathan and David; their souls clave to one another (1 Samuel 20:17) in love. There was the union of love between them; and then they really communicated all issues of love mutually. In spiritual things this is more eminent: those who enjoy this communion have the most excellent union for the foundation of it; and the issues of that union, which they mutually communicate, are the most precious and eminent.
Of the union which is the foundation of all that communion we have with God I have spoken largely elsewhere, and have nothing farther to add thereunto.
Our communion, then, with God consisteth in his communication of himself unto us, with our returnal unto him of that which he requireth and accepteth, flowing from that unions which in Jesus Christ we have with him. And it is twofold: — 1. Perfect and complete, in the full fruition of his glory and total giving up of ourselves to him, resting in him as our utmost end; which we shall enjoy when we see him as he is; — and, 2. Initial and incomplete, in the first fruits and dawnings of that perfection which we have here in grace; which only I shall handle.
It is, then, I say, of that mutual communication in giving and receiving, after a most holy and spiritual manner, which is between God and the saints while they walk together in a covenant of peace, ratified in the blood of Jesus, whereof we are to treat. And this we shall do, if God permit; in the meantime praying the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has, of the riches of his grace, recovered us from a state of enmity into a condition of communion and fellowship with himself, that both he that writes, and they that read the words of his mercy, may have such a taste of his sweetness and excellencies therein, as to be stirred up to a farther longing after the fullness of his salvation, and the eternal fruition of him in glory.
That the saints have this communion distinctly with the Father, Son, and Spirit,
1 John 5:7 opened to this purpose; also, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, Ephesians 2:18 — Father and Son mentioned jointly in this communion; the Father solely, the Son also, and the Holy Ghost singly — The saints’ respective reward in all worship to each person manifested — Faith in the Father, John 5:9, 10; and love towards him, 1 John 2:15, Malachi 1:6 — So in prayer and praise — It is so likewise with the Son, John 14:1 — Of our communion with the Holy Ghost — The truth farther confirmed.
That the saints have communion with God, and what communion in general is, was declared in the first chapter. The manner how this communion is carried on, and the matter wherein it does consist, comes next under consideration. For the first, in respect of the distinct persons of the Godhead with whom they have this fellowship, it is either distinct and peculiar, or else obtained and exercised jointly and in common. That the saints have distinct communion with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit (that is, distinctly with the Father, and distinctly with the Son, and distinctly with the Holy Spirit), and in what the peculiar appropriation of this distinct communion unto the several persons does consist, must, in the first place, be made manifest.
1 John 5:7, the apostle tells us, “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost.” In heaven they are, and bear witness to us. And what is it that they bear witness unto? Unto the sonship of Christ, and the salvation of believers in his blood. Of the carrying on of that, both by blood and water, justification and sanctification, is he there treating. Now, how do they bear witness hereunto? even as three, as three distinct witnesses. When God witnesseth concerning our salvation, surely it is incumbent on us to receive his testimony. And as he beareth witness, so are we to receive it. Now this is done distinctly. The Father beareth witness, the Son beareth witness, and the Holy Spirit beareth witness; for they are three distinct witnesses. So, then, are we to receive their several testimonies: and in doing so we have communion with them severally; for in this giving and receiving of testimony consists no small part of our fellowship with God. Wherein their distinct witnessing consists will be afterward declared.
1 Corinthians 12:4-6, the apostle, speaking of the distribution of gifts and graces unto the saints, ascribes them distinctly, in respect of the fountain of their communication, unto the distinct persons. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit,” — “that one and the self same Spirit;” that is, the Holy Ghost, verse 11. “And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord,” the same Lord Jesus, verse 5. “And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God,” etc., even the Father, Ephesians 4:6. So graces and gifts are bestowed, and so are they received.
And not only in the emanation of grace from God, and the illapses of the Spirit on us, but also in all our approaches unto God, is the same distinction observed. “For through Christ we have access by one Spirit unto the Father,” Ephesians 2:18. Our access unto God (wherein we have communion with him) is “dia Christou”, “through Christ,” “en Pneumati”, “in the Spirit,” and “pros ton Patera”, “unto the Father;” — the persons being here considered as engaged distinctly unto the accomplishment of the counsel of the will of God revealed in the gospel.
Sometimes, indeed, there is express mention made only of the Father and the Son, a John 1:3, “Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” The particle “and” is both distinguishing and uniting. Also John 14:23, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” It is in this communion wherein Father and Son do make their abode with the soul.
Sometimes the Son only is spoken of, as to this purpose. 1 Corinthians 1:9, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” And, Revelation 3:20, “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;” of which place afterward.
Sometimes the Spirit alone is mentioned. 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all.” This distinct communion, then, of the saints with the Father, Son, and Spirit, is very plain in the Scripture; but yet it may admit of farther demonstration. Only this caution I must lay in beforehand: — whatever is affirmed in the pursuit of this truth, it is done with relation to the explanation ensuing, in the beginning of the next chapter.
The way and means, then, on the part of the saints, whereby in Christ they enjoy communion with God, are all the spiritual and holy actings and outgoings of their souls in those graces, and by those ways, wherein both the moral anal instituted worship of God does consist. Faith, love, trust, joy, etc., are the natural or moral worship of God, whereby those in whom they are have communion with him. Now, these are either immediately acted on God, and not tied to any ways or means outwardly manifesting themselves; or else they are farther drawn forth, in solemn prayer and praises, according unto that way which he has appointed. That the Scripture does distinct)y assign all these unto the Father, Son, and Spirit, — manifesting that the saints do, in all of them, both as they are purely and nakedly moral, and as farther clothed with instituted worship, respect each person respectively, — is that which, to give light to the assertion in hand, I shall farther declare by particular instances: –
1. For the Father. Faith, love, obedience, etc., are peculiarly and distinctly yielded by the saints unto him; and he is peculiarly manifested in those ways as acting peculiarly towards them: which should draw them forth and stir them up thereunto. He gives testimony unto, and beareth witness of, his Son, 1 John 5:9, “This is the witness of God which he has testified of his Son.” In his bearing witness he is an object of belief. When he gives testimony (which he does as the Father, because he does it of the Son) he is to he received in it by faith. And this is affirmed, verse 10, “He that believeth on the Son of God, has the witness in himself.” To believe on the Son of God in this place, is to receive the Lord Christ as the Son, the Son given unto us, for all the ends of the Father’s love, upon the credit of the Father’s testimony; and, therefore, therein is faith immediately acted on the Father. So it follows in the next words, “he that believeth not God” (that is, the Father, who bears witness to the Son) “has made him a liar.” “Ye believe in God,” saith our Savior, John 14:l; that is, the Father as such, for he adds, “Believe also in me;” or, “Believe you in God; believe also in me.” God, as the prima Veritas, upon whose authority is founded, and whereunto all divine faith is ultimately resolved, is not to be considered “hupostatikos”, as peculiarly expressive of any person, but “ousiodos”, comprehending the whole Deity; which undividedly is the prime object thereof. But in this particular it is the testimony and authority of the Father (as such) therein, of which we speak, and whereupon faith is distinctly fixed on him; — which, if it were not so, the Son could not add, “Believe also in me.”
The like also is said of love. 1 John 2:15, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him;” that is, the love which we bear to him, not that which we receive from him. The Father is here placed as the object of our love, in opposition to the world, which takes up our affections “he agape tou Patros”. The Father denotes the matter and object, not the efficient cause, of the love inquired after. And this love of him as a Father is that which he calls his “honor,” Malachi 1:6.
Farther: these graces as acted in prayer and praises, and as clothed with instituted worship, are peculiarly directed unto him. “Ye call on the Father,” 1 Peter 1:17. Ephesians 3:14,15, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Bowing the knee compriseth the whole worship of God, both that which is moral, in the universal obedience he requireth, and those peculiar ways of carrying it on which are by him appointed, Isaiah 45:23, “Unto me,” saith the Lord, “every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” Which, verses 24, 25, he declareth to consist in their acknowledging of him for righteousness and strength. Yea, it seems sometimes to comprehend the orderly subjection of the whole creation unto his sovereignty. In this p)ace of the apostle it has a far more restrained acceptation, and is but a figurative expression of prayer, taken from the most expressive bodily posture to be used in that duty. This he farther manifests, Ephesians 3:16, 17, declaring at large what his aim was, and where about his thoughts were exercised, in that bowing of his knees. The workings, then, of the Spirit of grace in that duty are distinctly directed to the Father as such, as the fountain of the Deity, and of all good things in Christ, — as the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And therefore the same apostle does, in another place, expressly conjoin, and yet as expressly distinguish, the Father and the Son in directing his supplications, 1 Thessalonians 3:11, “God himself even our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.” The like precedent, also, have you of thanksgiving, Ephesians 1:3, 4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” etc. I shall not add those very many places wherein the several particulars that do concur unto that whole divine worship (not to be communicated unto any, by nature not God, without idolatry) wherein the saints do hold communion with God, are distinctly directed to the person of the Father.
2. It is so also in reference unto the Son. John 14:1, “Ye believe in God,” saith Christ, “believe also in me;” — “Believe also, act faith distinctly on me; faith divine, supernatural, — that faith whereby you believe in God, that is, the Father. There is a believing of Christ, namely, that he is the Son of God, the Savior of the world. That is that whose neglect our Savior so threatened unto the Pharisees, John 8:24, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” In this sense faith is not immediately fixed on the Son, being only an owning of him (that is, the Christ to be the Son), by closing with the testimony of the Father concerning him. But there is also a believing on him, called “Believing on the name of the Son of God,” 1 John 5:13; so also John 9:36; — yea, the distinct affixing of faith, affiance, and confidence on the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, as the Son of God, is most frequently pressed. John 3:16, “God” (that is, the Father) “so loved the world,.. that whosoever believeth in him” (that is, the Son) “should not perish.” The Son, who is given of the Father, is believed on. “He that believeth on him is not condemned,” verse 18. “He that believeth on the Son has everlasting life,” verse 36. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he has sent,” John 6:29, 40; 1 John 5:10. The foundation of the whole is laid, John 5:23, “That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which has sent him.” But of this honor and worship of the Son I have treated at large elsewhere; and shall not in general insist upon it again. For love, I shall only add that solemn apostolical benediction, Ephesians 6:24, “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ In sincerity,” — that is, with divine love, the love of religious worship; which is the only incorrupt love of the Lord Jesus.
Farther: that faith, hope, and love, acting themselves in all manner of obedience and appointed worship, are peculiarly due from the saints, and distinct)y directed unto the Son, is abundantly manifest from that solemn doxology, Revelation 1:5, 6, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Which yet is set forth with more glory, chap. 5:8, “The four living creatures, and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints:” and verses 13, 14, “Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” The Father and the Son (he that sits upon the throne, and the Lamb) are held out jointly, yet distinctly, as the adequate object of all divine worship and honor, for ever and ever. And therefore Stephen, in his solemn dying, invocation, fixeth his faith and hope distinctly on him, Acts 7:59, 60, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit;” and, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge;” — for he knew that the Son of man had power to forgive sins also. And this worship of the Lord Jesus, the apostle makes the discriminating character of the saints, 1 Corinthians 1:2, “With all,” saith he, “that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours;” that is, with all the saints of God. And invocation generally comprises the whole worship of God. This, then, is the due of our Mediator, though as God, as the Son, — not as Mediator.
3. Thus also is it in reference unto the Holy Spirit of grace. The closing of the great sin of unbelief is still described as an opposition unto, and a resisting of that Holy spirit. And you have distinct mention of the love of the Spirit, Romans 15:30. The apostle also peculiarly directs his supplication to him in that solemn benediction, 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.” And such benedictions are originally supplications. He is likewise entitled unto all instituted worship, from the appointment of the administration of baptism in his name, Matthew 28:19. Of which things more afterward.
Now, of the things which have been delivered this is the sum: — there is no grace whereby our souls go forth unto God, no act of divine worship yielded unto him, duty or obedience performed, but they are distinctly directed unto Father, Son, and Spirit. Now, by these and such like ways as these, do we hold communion with God; and therefore we have that communion distinctly, as has been described.
This also may farther appear, if we consider how distinctly the persons of the Deity are revealed to act in the communication of those good things, wherein the saints have communion with God. As all the spiritual ascending of their souls are assigned unto them respectively, so all their internal receiving of the communications of God unto them are held out in such a distribution as points at distinct rises and fountains (though not of being in themselves, yet) of dispensations unto us. Now this is declared two ways: —
(1.) When the same thing is, at the same time, ascribed jointly and yet distinctly to all the persons in the Deity, and respectively to each of them. So are grace and peace, Revelation 1:4, 5, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness,” etc. The seven Spirits before the throne, are the holy Spirit of God, considered as the perfect fountain of every perfect gift and dispensation. All are here joined together, and yet all mentioned as distinguished in their communication of grace and peace unto the saints. “Grace and peace be unto you, from the Father, and from,” etc.
(2.) When the same thing is attributed severally and singly unto each person. There is, indeed, no gracious influence from above, no illapse of light, life, love, or grace upon our hearts, but proceedeth in such a dispensation. I shall give only one instance, which is very comprehensive, and may be thought to comprise all other particulars; and this is Teaching. The teaching of God is the real communication of all and every particular emanation from himself unto the saints whereof they are made partakers. That promise, “They shall be all taught of God,” inwraps in itself the whole mystery of grace, as to its actual dispensation unto us, so far as we may be made real possessors of it. Now this is assigned, —
(1.) Unto the Father. The accomplishment of that promise is peculiarly referred to him, John 6:45, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto me.” This teaching, whereby we are translated from death unto life, brought unto Christ, unto a participation of life and love in him, — it is of and from the Father: him we hear, of him we learn, by him are we brought unto union and communion with the Lord Jesus. This is his drawing us, his begetting us anew of his own will, by his Spirit; and in which work he employs the ministers of the gospel, Acts 26:17, 18.
(2.) Unto the Son. The Father proclaims him from heaven to be the great teacher, in that solemn charge to hear him, which came once (and) again from the excellent glory: “This is my beloved Son; hear him.” The whole of his prophetical, and no small part of his kingly office, consists in this teaching; herein is he said to draw men unto him, as the Father is said to do in his teaching, John 12:32; which he does with such efficacy, that “the dead hear his voice and live.” The teaching of the Son is a life-giving, a spirit-breathing teaching; — an effectual influence of light, whereby he shines into darkness; a communication of life, quickening the dead; an opening of blind eyes, and changing of hard hearts; a pouring out of the Spirit, with all the fruits thereof. Hence he claims it as his privilege to be the sole master, Matthew 23:10, “One is your Master, even Christ.”
(3.) To the Spirit. John 14:26, “The Comforter, he shall teach you all things.” “But the anointing which ye have received,” saith the apostle, “abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, ye shall abide in him,” 1 John 2:27. That teaching unction which is not only true, but truth itself, is only the Holy Spirit of God: so that he teacheth also; being given unto us “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God,” 1 Corinthians 2:12. I have chosen this special instance because, as I told you, it is comprehensive, and comprises in itself most of the particulars that might be an numerated, — quickening, preserving, etc.
This, then, farther drives on the truth that lies under demonstration; there being such a distinct communication of grace from the several persons of the Deity, the saints must needs have distinct communion with them.
It remaineth only to intimate, in a word, wherein this distinctions lies, and what is the ground thereof. Now, this is, that the Father does it by the way of original authority; the Son by the way of communicating from a purchased treasury; the Holy Spirit by the way of immediate efficacy.
1st. The Father communicates all grace by the way of original authority: He quickeneth WHOM HE WILL, John 5:21. “OF HIS OWN WILL begat he us,” James 1:18. Life-giving power is, in respect of original authority, invested in the Father by the way of eminency; and therefore, in sending of the quickening Spirit, Christ is said to do it from the Father, or the Father himself to do it. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send,” John 14:26. “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father,” John 15:26; — though he be also said to send him himself, on another account, John 16:7.
2ndly. The Son, by the way of making out a purchased treasury: “Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace,” John 1:16. And whence is this fullness? “It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell,” Colossians 1:19. And upon what account he has the dispensation of that fullness to him committed you may see, Philippians 2:8-11. “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities,” Isaiah 53:l0,11. And with this fullness he has also authority for the communication of it, John 5:25-27; Matthew 28:18.
3rdly. The Spirit does it by the way of immediate efficacy, Romans 8:11, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Here are all three comprised, with their distinct concurrence unto our quickening. Here is the Father’s authoritative quickening, — “He raised Christ from the dead, and he shall quicken you;” and the Son’s mediatory quickening, — for it is done in “the death of Christ;” and the Spirit’s immediate efficacy, — “He shall do it by the Spirit that dwelleth in you.” He that desires to see this whole matter farther explained, may consult what I have elsewhere written on this subject. And thus is the distinct communion whereof we treat both proved and demonstrated.