John Owen

B. Childress
Oct 30 2009 08:00AM

Saints have communion with God.  The manner how this communion is carried on, and the matter of which it consists,
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 to the several persons consists, must, in the first place, be made manifest.


The apostle tells us, 'There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost'  (I John 5:
7).  In heaven they are, and bear witness to us.  And what is it that they bear witness to?  To 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 to this?  Even as three, as three distinct witnesses.  
When God witnesses concerning our salvation, surely it is incumbent on us to receive His testimony.  And as He bears
witness, so are we to receive it.  Now this is done distinctly.  The Father bears witness, the Son bears witness, and the
Holy Spirit bears witness; for they are three distinct witnesses.  So then,  we are 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.  Of what their distinct witnessing consists will be afterward  declared.

The apostle, speaking of the distribution of gifts and graces to the saints, ascribes them distinctly, in respect of the
fountain to the saints, ascribes them distinctly, in respect of the fountain of their communication, to the distinct persons.  
'There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit' (I Corinthians 12:4), 'that one and the self-same Spirit' (verse 11) that
is, the Holy Ghost.  'And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord,' the same Lord Jesus (verse 5).  
'And there are diversities of operations, but the same God' (verse 6), even the Father (Ephesians 4:6).  So graces and
gifts are bestowed, 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 to
God, is the same distinction observed.  'For through Christ we have access by one Spirit to the Father' (Ephesians 2:
18).  Our access to God (in which we have communion with Him) is through Christ, in the Spirit, and to the Father - the
persons being here considered as engaged distinctly to 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 (I 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 to him, and make our abode with
him.'  It is in this communion that Father and Son make their abode with the soul.  Sometimes the Son only is spoken of,
as to this purpose: ' God is faithful, by whom you were called to the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord' (I
Corinthians 1:9).  And, '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' (Revelation 3:20) - of which place afterward.

Sometimes the Spirit alone is mentioned.  'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion
of the Holy Ghost be with you all' (II Corinthians 13:14).  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.  


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, in which both the moral and
instituted worship of God consists.  Faith, love, trust, and joy are the natural or moral worship of God, whereby those in
whom they 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
to that way which He has appointed.  That the Scripture does distinctly assign all these to the Father, Son, and Spirit -
manifesting that the saints do, in all 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 had, I shall farther
declare by particular instances.


Faith, love, and obedience are peculiarly and distinctly yielded by the saints to the Father; and He is peculiarly
manifested in those ways as acting peculiarly towards them: which should draw them forth and stir them up to that.

Through Faith

He gives testimony to, and bears witness of, his Son (I 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 be received in it by faith.  And this is affirmed: 'He that believes on the Son of God, has
the witness in himself' (I John 5:10).  To believe on the Son of God in this place, is to receive the Lord  Christ as the Son
of God in this place, is to receive the Lord Christ as the Son, the Son given to 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 believes not God' (that is, the Father, who bears witness to the Son) 'has made him a liar.'  
'You believe in God,' says our Saviour (John 14:1); that is, the Father as such, for he adds, 'Believe also in me;' or, 'You
believe in God; believe also in me.'  God, as the
prima Veritas, upon whose authority is founded, and to which all divine
faith is ultimately resolved, is not to be considered as peculiarly expressive of any person, but comprehending the whole
Deity; which undividedly is the prime object of this.  But in this particular it is the testimony and authority of the Father
(as such) in that, of which we speak, and upon which faith is distinctly fixed on him.  If it were not so, the Son could not
add, 'Believe also in me.'

In Love

The like also is said of love.  (First 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.  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 'honour' (Malachi 1:6).

By Prayer and Praise

Farther, these graces acted in prayer and praises, and as clothed with instituted worship, are peculiarly directed to
Him.  'You call on the Father' (I Peter 1:17).  'For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of
whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named' (Ephesians 3:14-15).  Bowing the knee comprises the whole
worship of God, both that which is moral, in the universal obedience He requires, and those peculiar ways of carrying it
on which are by Him appointed.  'To me,' says the Lord, 'every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear' (Isaiah 45:23),
which He declares to consist in their acknowledging of Him for righteousness and strength (verses 24-25).  Yea, it
seems sometimes to comprehend the orderly subjection of the whole creation to His sovereignty.  In this place of the
apostle it has a far more restrained acceptance, and is but a figurative expression of prayer, taken from the most
expressive bodily posture to be used in that duty.  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, in another place, expressly conjoins, and yet as expressly distinguish,
the Father and the Son in directing his supplications, 'God himself even our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct
our way to you' (I Thessalonians 3:11).  The like precedent, also, have you of thanksgiving, 'Blessed be the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Ephesians 1:3-4).  I shall not add those very many places in which the several
particulars that concur to that whole divine worship (not to be communicated to any, by nature not God, without idolatry)
in which the saints hold communion with God, are distinctly directed to the person of the Father.


It is so also in reference to the Son: 'You believe in God,' says Christ.  'believe also in me' (John 14:1) - '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 Saviour of the world.  That is that whose neglect our
Saviour so threatened to the Pharisees, 'If you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins' (John 8:24).  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' (I John 5:13; 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. 'God [that is, the Father] so loved the
world...that  whosoever believes in him [that is, the Son] should not perish' (John 3:16).  The Son, who is given of the
Father, is believed on. 'He that believes on him is not condemned' (verse 18).  'He that believes on the Son has
everlasting life' (verse 36).  'This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent' (John 6:29, 40; I John 5:
10).  The foundation of the whole is laid, 'That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.  He that
honours not the Son honours not the Father which has sent him' (John 5:23).  But of this honour 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
apostolic benediction, 'Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerely' (Ephesians 6:24), 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 distinctly directed to the Son, is abundantly manifest from that solemn doxology:

    "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings
    of the earth.  Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and
    priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."  (Revelation 1:5-6)

Which yet is set forth with more glory:

    "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having
    every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints...And 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 honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto
    the Lamb for ever and ever."  (Revelation 5:8,13)

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 honour, for ever and ever.  And therefore Stephen, in his solemn dying invocation, fixes
his faith and hope distinctly on him.  'Lord Jesus receive my spirit;' and, 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge' (Acts 7:59-
60), 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, 'With all,' says he, 'that in every place call upon the name of Jesus
Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours' (I Corinthians 1:2); 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


Thus also is it in reference to the Holy Spirit of grace.  The closing of the great sin of unbelief is still described as an
opposition to, 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, 'The grace of the Lord Jesus
Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all' (II Corinthians 13:14).  And such
benedictions are originally supplications.  He is likewise entitled to 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 to God, no
act of divine worship yielded to Him, duty or obedience performed, but they are distinctly directed to Father, Son, and
Spirit.  Now, by these and such like ways as these, 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, in which saints have communion with God.  As all the spiritual ascendings of their
souls are assigned to them respectively, so all their internal receiving of the communications of God to them are held
out in such a distribution as points at distinct rises and fountains (though not of being in themselves, yet) of
dispensations to us.  Now this is declared two ways:


When the same thing is, at the same time, ascribed jointly and yet distinctly to all persons in the Deity, and respectively
to each of them.  So are grace and peace, 'Grace be to 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'
(Revelation 1:4-5).  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 to the saints.  'Grace and peace be to you, from the Father, and from...'


When the same thing is attributed severally and singly to each person.  There is, indeed, no gracious influence from
above, no illapse of light, life, love, or grace upon our hearts, but proceeds in such a dispensation.

    An Example:  'They Shall All Be Taught of God'

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 to
the saints of which they are made partakers.  That promise, 'They shall be all taught of God,' inwraps in itself to the
whole mystery of grace, as to its actual dispensation to us, so far as we may be made real possessors of it.  Now this is

TO THE FATHER.  The accomplishment of that promise is peculiarly referred to him, 'It is written in the prophets, And
they shall all be taught of God.  Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes to me' (John
6:45).  This teaching, whereby we are translated from death to life, brought to Christ, to 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 to 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).

TO THE SON.  The Father proclaims him from heaven to be the great teacher, in that solemn charge to hear him, which
came one [and] again from the excellent glory:  "This is my beloved Son; hear him.'  The whole of his prophetic, and no
small part of his kingly office, consists in this teaching; in this is he said to draw men to him, as the Father is said to do
in his teaching; which he does with such efficacy, that 'the dead hear his voice and live' (John 12:32).  The teaching of
the Son is a life-giving, a spirit-breathing teaching; and 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 of that.  Hence he claims it as his privilege to be the sole master, 'One is your Master, even
Christ' (Matthews 23:10).

TO THE SPIRIT.  'The Comforter, he shall teach you all things' (John 14:26).  'But the anointing which you have
received,' says the apostle, 'abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing
teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in him' (I John 2:27).  
That teaching unction which is not only true, but truth itself, is only the Holy Spirit of God so that he teaches also; being
given to us 'that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God' (I 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 annumerated - quickening, preserving.  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.

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 remains only to intimate, in a word, in what this distinction lies, and what is the ground of it.  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.

    The Father - by Original Authority

The Father communicates all grace by the way of original authority:  He quickens 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 to you from the Father' (John 15:26); though he be also said to send him himself, on another
account (John 16:7).

    The Son - Out of a Purchased Treasury

The Son, by the way of making out of a purchased treasury: 'Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace'
(John 1:16).  And whence is this fulness?  'It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell' (Colossians 1:19).  
And upon what account he has the dispensation of that fulness to him committed you may see (Philippians 2:8-11).  
'When you shall 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 53:10-11).  And with this fulness he has also authority for the
communication of it (John 5:25-27; Matthew 28:18).

    The Spirit - by Immediate Efficacy

The Spirit does it by the way of immediate efficacy, '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 dwells in you'
(Romans 8:11).  Here are all three comprised, with their distinct concurrence to 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
dwells 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 of which we treat both proved and demonstrated.


COMMUNION WITH GOD, by John Owen, Copyright 2007, Christian Focus Publications.