John Owen

B. Childress
Nov 20 2009 08:00AM

Having manifested that the saints hold peculiar fellowship with the Lord Jesus, it next follows that we show in what it is
that they have this peculiar communion with him.

Now, this is in grace.  This is everywhere ascribe to him by the way of eminency.  'He dwelt among us, full of grace and
truth' (John 1:14) - grace in the truth and substance of it.  All that went before was but typical and in representation; in
the truth and substance it comes only by Christ.  'Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ' (verse 17); 'and of his fulness
have all we received, and grace for grace' (verse 16); that is, we have communion with him in grace; we receive from
him all manner of grace whatever; and in that have we fellowship with him.

So likewise in that apostolic benediction, in which the communication of spiritual blessings from the several persons to
the saints is so exactly distinguished; it is grace that is ascribed to our Lord Jesus Christ, '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).

Yea, Paul is so delighted with this, that he makes it his motto, and the token by which he would have his epistles known,
'The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.  The grace of our Lord Jesus
Christ be with you all' (II Thessalonians 3:17-18).  Yea, he makes these two, 'Grace be with you,' and 'The Lord Jesus
be with you,' to be equivalent expressions; for whereas he affirmed the one to be the token in all his epistles, yet
sometimes he uses the one only, sometimes the other of these, and sometimes puts them both together.  This, then, is
that which we are peculiarly to eye in the Lord Jesus, to receive it from him, even grace, gospel-grace, revealed in or
exhibited by the gospel.  He is the head-stone in the building of the temple of God, to whom 'Grace, grace,' is to be
cried (Zechariah 4:7).

Grace is a word of various acceptations.  In its most eminent significations it may be referred to one of these three

  1. Grace of personal presence and comeliness.  So we say, 'A graceful and comely person,' either from himself or
    his ornaments.  This in Christ (upon the matter) is the subject of near one-half of the book of Song of Solomon; it
    is also mentioned, 'You are fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into your lips' (Psalm 45:2).  And to
    this first head, in respect of Christ, do I refer also that acceptance of grace which, in respect of us, I fix in the third
    place.  Those inconceivable gifts and fruits of the Spirit which were bestowed on him, and brought forth in him,
    concur to his personal excellency; as will afterward appear.
  2. Grace of free favour and acceptance.  'By this grace we are saved'; that is, the free favour and gracious
    acceptance of God in Christ.  In this sense is it used in that frequent expression,'  If I have found grace in your
    sight'; that is, if I be freely and favourably accepted before you.  So he 'gives grace' (that is, favour) 'to the
    humble' (James 4:6; Genesis 30:21, 41:37; Acts 7:10; I Samuel 2:26; II Kings 25:27).
  3. The fruits of the Spirit, sanctifying and renewing our natures, enabling to good, and preventing from evil, are so
    termed.  Thus the Lord tells Paul, 'his grace was sufficient for him;' that is, the assistance against temptation
    which he afforded him (Colossians 3:16; II Corinthians 8:6-7; Hebrews 12:28).

These two latter, as relating to Christ in respect of us who receive them, I call purchased grace, being indeed
purchased by him for us; and our communion with him in that is termed a 'fellowship in his sufferings, and the power of
his resurrection' (Philippians 3:10).

Let us begin with the first, which I call personal grace; and concerning that do these two things:

    a.  Show what it is, and wherein it consists; I mean the personal grace of Christ.

    b.  Declare how the saints hold immediate communion with him in that.


To the handling of the first, I shall only premise this observation: it is Christ as mediator of whom we speak; and
therefore, by the 'grace of his person', I understand not (
a) the glorious excellencies of his Deity considered in itself,
abstracting from the office which for us, as God and man, he undertook, nor (
b) The outward appearance of his human
nature, neither when he conversed here on earth, bearing our infirmities (of which, by reason of the charge that was
laid upon him, the prophet gives quite another character (Isaiah 52:14), concerning which some of the ancients were
very poetic in their expressions; nor yet as now exalted in glory; a vain imagination of which makes many bear a false, a
corrupted respect to Christ, even upon carnal apprehensions of the mighty exaltation of the human nature; which is but
'to know Christ after the flesh' (II Corinthians 5:16), a mischief much improved by the abomination of foolish imagery.

But this is that which I intend - the graces of the person of Christ as he is vested with the office of mediation, this
spiritual eminency, comeliness, and beauty, as appointed and anointed by the Father to the great work of bringing
home all his elect to his bosom.


Now, in this respect, the Scripture describes him as exceeding excellent, comely, and desirable - far above comparison
with the chiefest, choicest created good, or any endearment imaginable.

'You are fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into your lips' (Psalm 45:2).  He is beyond comparison, more
beautiful and gracious than any here below,
japhiaphitha; the word is doubled, to increase its significance, and to exalt
its subject beyond all comparison.  'Your fairness, O king Messiah, is more excellent than the sons of men.'
admodum pre filiis hominum
' - exceeding desirable.  Inward beauty and glory is here expressed by that of outward
shape, form, and appearance; because that was so much esteemed in those who were to rule or govern.  The prophet,
terming of him 'The branch of the Lord' (Isaiah 4:2) and 'The fruit of the earth', affirms that he shall be 'beautiful and
glorious, excellent and comely'; 'for in him dwells all the fulness of the God head bodily' (Colossians 2:9).

The spouse is inquired of as to this very thing, even concerning the personal excellencies of the Lord Christ, her
beloved: 'what is your Beloved' (say the daughters of Jerusalem) 'more than another Beloved, O you fairest among
women?  What is your Beloved more than another beloved?' (Song of Solomon 5:9).  She returns this answer 'My
Beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand' (verse 10), and so proceeds to a particular description of
him by his excellencies to the end of the chapter, and there concludes that 'he is altogether lovely' (verse 16); of which
at large afterward.  Particularly, he is here affirmed to be 'white and ruddy;' a due mixture of which colours composes
the most beautiful complexion.

God and Man

He is white in the glory of his Deity, and ruddy in the preciousness of his humanity.  'His teeth are white with milk, and his
eyes are red with wine' (Genesis 49:12).  Whiteness (if I may so say) is the complexion of glory.  In that appearance of
the Most High, the 'Ancient of days' (Daniel 7:9), it is said, 'His garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like
the pure wool;' and of Christ in his transfiguration, when he had on him a mighty lustre of the Deity, 'His face did shine
as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light' (Matthew 17:2); which, in the phrase of another evangelist is 'White
as snow, so as no fuller on earth can white them' (Mark 9:3).  It was a divine, heavenly, surpassing glory, that was upon
him (Revelations 1:14).  Hence the angels and glorified saints, that always behold him, and are fully translated into the
image of the same glory, are still said to be in white robes.  His whiteness is his Deity, and the glory thereof.  And on this
account the Chaldee paraphrast ascribes this whole passage to God:

They say to the house of Israel, 'Who is the God whom you will serve?'...Then began the congregation of Israel to
declare the praises of the Ruler of the world, and said, 'I will serve that God who is clothed in a garment white as snow,
the splendour of the glory of whose countenance is as fire.'

He is also ruddy in the beauty of his humanity.  Man was called Adam, from the red earth of which he was made.  The
word here used points him out as the second Adam, partaker of flesh and blood, because the children also partook of
the same (Hebrews 2:14).  The beauty and comeliness of the Lord Jesus in the union of both these in one person, shall
afterward be declared.

Unblemished Lamb

He is white in the beauty of his innocency and holiness, and ruddy in the blood of his oblation.  Whiteness is the badge
of innocence and holiness.  It is said of the Nazarites, for their typical holiness, 'They were purer than snow, they were
whiter than milk' (Lamentations 4:7).  And the prophet shows us that scarlet, red, and crimson, are the colours of sin
and guilt; whiteness of innocency (Isaiah 1:18).  Our Beloved was 'a Lamb without blemish and without spot' (I Peter 1:
19).  'He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth' (I Peter 2:22).  He was 'holy, harmless, undefiled, separate
from sinners' (Hebrews 7:26); as afterward will appear.  And yet he who was so white in his innocence, was made ruddy
in his own blood; and that two ways: naturally, in the pouring out of his blood, his precious blood, in that agony of his
soul when thick drops of blood trickled to the ground (Luke 22:44); as also when the whips and thorns, nails and
spears, poured it out abundantly: 'There came forth blood and water' (John 19:34).  He was ruddy by being drenched all
over in his own blood.  And morally, by the imputation of sin, whose colour is red and crimson.  'God made him to be sin
for us, who knew no sin' (II Corinthians 5:21).  He who was white, became ruddy for our sakes, pouring out his blood an
oblation for sin.  This also renders him graceful: by his whiteness he fulfilled the law; by his redness he satisfied justice.  
'This is our Beloved, O you daughters of Jerusalem.'

Merciful and Just

His endearing excellency in the administration of his kingdom is by this also expressed.  He is white in love and mercy to
his own; red with justice and revenge towards his enemies (Isaiah 63:3; Revelation 19:13).  


There are three things in general in which this personal excellency and grace of the Lord Christ consists.

Fit to Save

His fitness to save - his being a fit Saviour, suited to the work; and this, I say, is from his grace of union.  The uniting of
the natures of God and man in one person made him fit to be a Saviour to the uttermost.  He lays his hand upon God,
by partaking of his nature (Zechariah 13:7); and he lays his hand upon us, by being partaker of our nature (Hebrews 2:
14,16): and so becomes a days-man, or umpire between both.  By this means he fills up all the distance that was made
by sin between God and us; and we who were far off are made near in him.  Upon this account it was that he had room
enough in his breast to receive, and power enough in his spirit to bear, all the wrath that was prepared for us.  Sin was
infinite only in respect of the object; and the punishment was infinite in respect of the subject.  This arises from his

Union is the conjunction of the two natures of God and man in one person (John 1:14; Isaiah 9:6; Romans 1:3, 9:5).  
The necessary consequences of which are:

  1. The subsistence of the human nature in the person of the Son of God, having no subsistence of its own (Luke 1:
    35; I Timothy 3:16).
  2. That communication of attributes in the person, whereby the properties of either nature are promiscuously
    spoken of the person of Christ, under what name soever, of God or man, he be spoken of  (Acts 20:28, 3:21).
  3. The execution of his office of mediation in his single person, in respect of both natures: wherein is considerable,
    the agent, Christ himself, God and man.  He is (a) the principle that gives life and efficacy to the whole work; (b)
    the principium quod - that which operates, which is both natures distinctly considered; (c) the effectual working
    itself of each nature; and (d) the effect produced, which arises from all, and relates to them all: so resolving the
    excellency I speak of into his personal union.

Almighty to Save

His fulness to save, from the grace of communion or the effects of his union, which are free; and consequences of it,
which is all the furniture that he received from the Father by the unction of the Spirit, for the work of our salvation: 'he is
able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him' (Hebrews 7:25); having all fulness to this end
communicated to him; 'for it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell' (Colossians 1:19); and he received
not 'the Spirit by measure' (John 3:34).  And from this fulness he makes out a suitable supply to all that are his; 'grace
for grace' (John 1:16).  Had it been given to him by measure, we had exhausted it.

All We Need

His excellency to endear, from his complete suitableness to all the wants of the souls of men.  There is no man
whatever, that has any want in reference to the things of God, but Christ will be to him that which he wants: I speak of
those who are given him of his Father.  Is he dead? Christ is life.  Is he weak?  
Christ is the power of God and the
wisdom God
.  Has he the sense of guilt upon him?  Christ is complete righteousness - 'The Lord our Righteousness.'
Many poor creatures are sensible of their wants, but know not where their remedy lies.  Indeed, whether it be life or
light, power or joy, all is wrapped up in him.

This, then, for the present, may suffice in general to be spoken of the personal grace of the Lord Christ: He has a
fitness to save, having pity and ability, tenderness and power, to carry on that work to the uttermost; and a fulness to
save, of redemption and sanctification, of righteousness and the Spirit; and a suitableness to the wants of all our souls:
whereby he becomes exceedingly desirable, yea, altogether lovely; as afterward will appear in particular.  And as to this,
in the first place, the saints have distinct fellowship with the Lord Christ; the manner of which shall be declared in the
ensuring chapter.


From this entrance that has been made into the description of him with whom the saints have communion, some motives
might be taken to stir us up to that; as also considerations to lay open the nakedness and insufficiency of all other ways
and things to which men engage their thoughts and desires, something may be now proposed.  The daughters of
Jerusalem, ordinary, common professors, having heard the spouse describing her Beloved (Song of Solomon 5:10-16),
instantly are stirred up to seek him together with her, 'Whither is your Beloved turned aside?  that we may seek him with
you' (Song of Solomon 6:1).  What Paul says of them that crucified him, may be spoken of all that reject him, or refuse
communion with him: 'Had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.'  Did men know him, were
they acquainted in any measure with him, they would not so reject the Lord of glory.  Himself calls them 'simple ones',
'fools', and 'scorners' that despise his gracious invitation (Proverbs 1:22).  There are none who despise Christ,  but only
they that know him not; whose eyes the god of this world has blinded, that they should not behold his glory.

The souls of men do naturally seek something to rest and repose themselves upon - something to satiate and delight
themselves with, with which they [may] hold communion; and there are two ways by which men proceed in the pursuit of
what they so aim at.  Some set before them some certain end - perhaps pleasure, profit, or, in religion itself, acceptance
with God; others seek after some end, but without any certainty, pleasing themselves now with one path, now with
another, with various thoughts and ways, like them because something comes in by the life of the hand, they give not
over though weary (Isaiah 57:10).  In what condition soever you may be (either in greediness pursuing some certain
end, be it secular or religious; or wandering away in your own imaginations, wearying yourselves in the largeness of
your ways), compare a little what you aim at, or what you do, with what you have already heard of Jesus Christ: if
anything you design be like to him, if anything you desire be equal to him, let him be rejected as one that has neither
form nor comeliness in him; but if, indeed, all your ways be but vanity and vexation of spirit, in comparison of him, why
do you spend your 'money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfies not?'


You that are yet in the flower of your days, full of health and strength, and, with all the vigour of your spirits, do pursue
some one thing, some another, consider, I pray, what are all your beloveds to this Beloved?  What have you gotten by
them?  Let us see the peace, quietness, assurance of everlasting blessedness that they have given you?  Their paths
are crooked paths, whoever goes in them shall not know peace.  Behold here a fit object for your choicest affections -
one in whom you may find rest to your souls - one in whom there is nothing will grieve and trouble you to eternity.  
Behold, he stands at the door of your souls, and knocks: O reject him not, lest you seek him and find him not!  Pray
study him a little; you love him not, because you know him not.  Why does one of you spend his time in idleness and
folly, and wasting of precious time, perhaps debauchedly?  Why does another associate and assemble himself with
them that scoff at religion and the things of God?  Merely because you know not our dear Lord Jesus.  Oh, when he
shall reveal himself to you, and tell you he is Jesus whom you have slighted and refused, how will it break your hearts,
and make you mourn like a dove, that you have neglected him!  And if you never come to know him, it had been better
you had never been.  Whilst it is called today, then, harden not your hearts.


You that are, perhaps, seeking earnestly after a righteousness, and are religious persons, consider a little with
yourselves - has Christ his due place in your hearts?  Is he your all?  Does he dwell in your thoughts?  Do you know him
in his excellency and desirableness?  Do you indeed account all things 'loss and dung' for his exceeding excellency?  
Or rather, do you prefer almost anything in the world before it?  But more of these things afterward.


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