Taken and adapted from “The Gospel Banner”
Number 55, Vol VI, January, 1884.
Written by Robert Trail
BUT what is there in believers that Christ has communion with?
All good is in him, and this is the believer’s all; and therefore it is easy to understand what their communion with Christ is, and what his communications to them are. He clothes and covers them with his righteousness, sanctifies them by his Spirit, and supplies them out of his fullness. But is there anything in his people that Christ has communion with? I answer, “Yes, there is; and that is all in them, that either is consistent with their union with him, or that flows from that union.” Of the first sort is all the bad that is remaining in them. For as the grace of union with, and relation to Christ, was not suspended and delayed till they were faultless; so this grace when dispensed, does not presently remove faultlessness, as it will when this union and communion is perfect, which Christ here prays for (John 17: 24).
Christ’s body is made up of sinful members; and they are, even while sin and infirmity cleaves to them, united to a sinless, glorious head.
And it is the great glory of his grace, that he takes such members into union with himself, and maintains that union by communion with them as their need requires, till the blessed day comes that is here prayed for, when this union shall issue in that communion that shall quite remove fault and infirmity in his people. To deny that Christ has any interest, and concern, and work about what is bad in his people, is to deny our fellowship with him, in those things wherein we are most needy of it, and most sensibly benefited by it: for our own sinfulness and infirmity is better known to us, and sensed by us, than his righteousness and perfect fullness; neither is the latter so well known to us, as by its gracious application to our relief under the former.
So our sinfulness (I mean, that which remains in believers, even in the best of them) serves for magnifying his forgiving grace.
He that bids us forgive our brother that sins against us, not only seven times, but seventy times seven (Matt. 18: 21, 22), does forgive his people many more times, and many sins, even all of them (Ps. 103: 3); all our trespasses (Col. 2:1). And how blessed is that communion, when the blood of sprinkling speaks peace and pardon to a troubled conscience! Our corruptions and spiritual diseases are the subjects of Christ’s care. And his care about them, is to cure them, and to keep his people from dying under them. The greatest care is used by tender parents, about their sick and wounded children. That man never knew the guilt of sin rightly, that thinks that anything less, or else, than the blood of the Son of God can cleanse from it (1 John 1: 7)- And that man never saw the corruption and plague of his heart rightly, that is not persuaded that only the great Physician, Christ, can cure it. And no man can employ him rightly for the one, and not for both. And they do but deceive themselves in their religion, whose main heart-exercise is not with Christ for both.
Alas! there are many disquieted consciences, and many defiled hearts and lives, in many that are called Christians; and some of them are oft complaining, and sometimes sinking in their complaining; and that because they do not believe, and lay this truth to heart, that the cleansing and purging the conscience from the guilt of sin, and the purifying of the heart and life from the dominion of sin, are Christ’s proper works.
The first he does by the sprinkling of his blood, the other by the power of his Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11; Titus 3: 4-7). And all that use any other means for these ends, not only labor in vain, but sin greatly against God, who has made Christ unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; that no flesh should glory in his presence; and that he that glories might glory in the Lord'(1Cor. 1. 29-31). Not only are our own infirmities, sinfulness, and diseases under the gracious care and cure of our Lord Jesus Christ; but our persons, our souls, our bodies, and all our lots and concerns are at his disposal, to his glory and service. And every believer, in every distinct acting of faith, does yield up himself, and all he is and has, unto Christ’s dominion. ‘Grant me thy salvation according to thy promise, and guide me in the way according to thy will.’ ‘I am thine, save thou me’ (Ps. 119: 94). Christ has communion with his own good in them. All that is in us that is our own, is bad; and all that is good in us, is of his giving and working.
All our graces are his fruits (Song of Sol. 4: 16 and v. 1). They are all of Christ’s planting, watering, and ripening; and he feeds on them as his pleasant fruits.
All the spiritual services and duties that believers perform, are all of them fruit growing from their abiding in the vine, Christ (John 15: 4,5), and are pleasing to him. And surely when it is so, the believer finds sweet profit by it: ‘I will sup with him, and he with me’ (Rev. 3: 20). It is easy to conceive how we may feast with him; for he has all. But how can he feast with us, who are nothing, and have nothing? He does it two ways. He feasts with his people on his own store of grace he brings with him. As David said, ‘Of thine own have we given thee’ (1 Chron. 29: 14). So does Christ say, ‘It is of mine own I feast with thee, believer. All thy faith, love, repentance, service are my gifts, my grace, that I bring with me, and am delighted in.’ Christ may be said to feast with his people, in and by that pleasure he has, not only to give, but to see them feed on what he brings with him. Would you least on Jesus Christ, believers? Feed on him with holy hunger. Is not a kind mother delighted with her hungry babe’s sucking at her breasts? Is it not as a feast to a charitable man, to see a person eat heartily of the food he gives him? Much more is it a feast to our Lord, to see starving sinners feeding on the bread of life, and drinking of the water of life! Hear his voice,’ I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.’ It is all mine, all of my preparing; use it freely, feed plentifully; you are highly welcome But, alas! Most Christians may give the answer that follows, verse 2, ‘I sleep, but my heart wakens.’ Christ’s gracious offers and invitations are heard by us, as betwixt sleeping and waking: and so is it seen in the sorry entertainment we give them, and hence follows the poor life that many of us lead.
This communion has converse in it. It stands, not only in the mutual interest that each has in another, but also in converse one with another. This is what the apostle has in 1John 1: 3, where we have two communions or fellowships spoken of,—the fellowship of Christians one with another, and the fellowship that Christians have with the Father and Son: and that this second fellowship is mutual, as hinted in verse 7: ‘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.’ They then that know best by experience what it is to be with Christ on earth, in walking with him and in him, will know best what it is to be with him where he is. The greatest enjoyments of Christ here, are the best helps to conceive of what is to be.
This converse breeds likeness to Christ. The nearer a man is to Christ, the more converse he has with him; the more like he grows to Christ; compare 2 Cor. 3: 18 with 1 John 3:1-3. Paul speaks of Christians in this life, John of the same persons in the next life; and both speak of likeness to Christ, and as wrought the same way, by seeing and beholding of his glory.
Perfect likeness to Christ flows from a perfect beholding of his glory; and we begin our likeness to him, from a beholding of his glory by faith. The apostle, in a Cor. 3: 7, speaks of the glory of the countenance of Moses, which was such, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold his face, which glory was to be done away. In this the apostle respects that passage in Exodus 34: 29-35. It is this, that Moses returning from the mount, after his second forty days’ abode there, had, by his long converse with God, a beam of heavenly glory impressed on his face. Whether it continued all his life after or not, the word is silent about it; and therefore we should not be positive. But this may safely be drawn that the more near and continued our converse with Christ on earth be, the more heavenly likeness to Christ is impressed on the soul. Has not this been known to many, that when they had been long struggling and striving with, and been ailing of a body of death, and of strong corruptions and distempers, that rendered them unlike to Christ, and loathsome in their own eyes; if he be pleased (as often he does) to draw near to them, and to cause them to approach to him, as Ps. 55: 4, how suddenly and how sweetly is a likeness to Christ wrought in the soul? True nearness to Christ, and converse with him, has always this effect.
Communion with Christ, if real, is always the life of grace, and the bane of corruption.
Let all examine and judge their enjoyments by this sure test. Have you anything that you call communion with Christ? Does it not, in some measure, mortify your lusts, and enliven the grace of God in you? If it does not work both in you, it is not of the right sort. This converse with Christ, and this likeness to him, breeds love and delight. It is not possible it should be otherwise. So great are the mercies in themselves, so great are the blessings to us, and so much of God’s love is there to us, shining in the giving of them, must raise our love and delight. This is one of the fruits of communion with Christ: ‘I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste’ (Song of Sol. 2:3). The tree of life, Jesus Christ, has a refreshing shade to the weary, scorched traveler; and he has fruit for the hungry soul. Sit down under his shadow, eat of his fruit, and you must find it sweet to your taste.
‘O taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Ps. 34: 8). ‘If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious’ (1 Pet. 2:3). See how the same apostle speaks of the communion that believers have with Christ: ‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory’ (1 Pet 1: 8).’