The Believer's Union and Communion.
by George Adam
IT is of great importance to the children of God to know the distinction between being united to Christ and one to another, and what it is to walk in the joyful experience of this oneness.
For want of knowing this distinction, many godly believers in years gone by were kept in bondage. When their communion with God was broken, or interrupted, they thought that their safety was thereby endangered.
Now-a-days, we seem to be swerving to the other extreme. Believers are from their birth, taught the truth of their eternal union with Christ, so that when by careless, or sinful walking, the communion is broken, it gives many of them little concern. And the way in which these two doctrines are sometimes mixed up together in teaching, tends to lull carnal believers into a deeper sleep. By Divine help, I will try to point out what is taught in the Scriptures on this subject.
First of all, as to Divine union. The Lord's prayer in John xvii. 20-23, gives the kernel of this truth. As far as union goes, no one can doubt but that this request has been answered. Embracing those who heard it made, and all those who have believed, or shall yet believe the Holy Spirit's testimony of Christ whilst He is now in heaven. All are one in the Father and in the Son, as the Father and the Son are one.
To attempt to touch this vast, incomprehensible mystery by exposition, would be like the men of Beth-shemesh looking into the ark (1 Sam. vi. 19). But whilst we cannot dare to analyze it, we can believe it. Thus, the power which can break the union between the Father and His Son, would be needed to break the union which God has made among all believers, who are one "in the Father and in the Son."
This unbreakable, eternal union, comes out in other aspects in other parts of Scripture. "If children then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. viii. 17). Again, "For in one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" (1 Cor. xii. 13). And again, "And we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John v. 20). Passages could be multiplied, but these ought to suffice to prove, that all believers are now and for ever one with Christ, by a bond which never can be broken.
"IF children, then heirs." There is no condition here but one. If a child of God, then an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ. When a sinner is born into the family of God by the reception of Christ (see John i. 12-13), he ls thereby constituted an heir, and his after-behaviour cannot affect that truth. But his behaviour after he has been born into God's family will affect him in other ways. It will affect
his communion now, and also his reward, and his place in the coming kingdom.
The word "fellowship" may convey one of two thoughts. It may mean partnership, or it may mean companionship. Union or communion. It is needful to mark the context where the word occurs, so as not to confound the truth, and so mislead the children of God. "God is faithful by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord." The word "fellowship" here, probably includes both union and communion; but it appears to me, that union is the primary thought. That is, that all who are "sanctified in Christ Jesus," "called saints," are called unto the partnership of Jesus Christ our Lord. "Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ," by virtue of their birth. But when we come to the first Epistle of John, where the word "fellowship" so often occurs, it seems clear that communion is the primary thought. One of the purposes for which John wrote his first epistle was, that all the children of God may have communion with those whose communion was with the Father and with the Son (chap. i. 3). John wrote the Gospel which bears his name, that dead sinners might have life (John xx. 31). He wrote His first letter, that those who had life, might know they had it, and might live in the enjoyment of it (chap. v. 13).
It is needful to mark well the importance that the Spirit attaches to a believer's walk in this epistle. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth; but if we walk in the light, as He is the light, we have fellowship one with another."
It is needful also to mark the force of the word "if," which clearly implies that fellowship in the sense in which it is used by the apostle John, is not a birthright blessing, but is largely conditional. Let us never put in an "if" where God has not put one; but let us never ignore that little word where God has put it.
The teaching of the above quotation from 1 John i. 6-7 is, that communion with the Father and the Son, is dependent on our walking in the light; and so is our communion "one with another." Hence the paramount importance—if we would enjoy what God regards as communion—of our walking in the light of His presence by virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ; and also seeking to lead others into that light. In our endeavour to remove misunderstandings amongst saints, and to restore broken fellowships, we have often not begun where we ought to have begun.
Genuine fellowship amongst the children of God, springs out of the higher fellowship with the Father, and with the Son. If that is wrong, nothing can be right till that is restored. What a mercy that our union with Christ, as with one another, does not depend upon our walk. But what a loss it is to our God and Father, to ourselves, and to one another, when we become careless of our communion, which can only be maintained and enjoyed in the light of the presence of God. Let us be thankful for the little we do know of fellowship in the light, and with purpose of heart, let us seek to know it more.
“The Believer’s Magazine” 1900