Communion with God
An Example from History
While Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States, he was accustomed to receive many visitors to the White House. Anyone could come and shake the hand of the president and make requests for personal needs. These visitors could come unannounced and enter the White House at certain set times. Lumberjacks, soldiers, tradesmen and many other people came and made use of this opportunity. This was obviously a great privilege for the common people. After spending at the most a few minutes with the president, they had to leave again. Abraham Lincoln would seriously consider their requests. He would try to help them, but for obvious reasons he would not confide in them.
But there were certain people who were close to Abraham Lincoln, in whom he did confide. That would be his secretary of state, William Seward, as well as the secretary of the war department, Edwin Stanton. There were also his personal secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. These men knew Lincoln well and understood him. Daily, he would spend hours with them and discuss all kinds of political problems and issues with them. In this way they were led to overcome their initial contempt for Lincoln and learned, instead, to deeply respect him. In time, they became very dedicated to the president and became very close to him. It was a great privilege for them to be so intimate with this important president. He allowed them to look into his heart and they loved him for that.
God’s Relationship with His People
It is the greatest privilege allotted to a human being to live close to God. This is reality for all who have been purchased by the blood of Christ and have been engrafted into the Saviour. They have become bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. The astounding miracle described to us in the Word of God is that the high and lofty One, who inhabits eternity, the holy and majestic God, dwells with those who are of a humble and contrite spirit (Isaiah 57:15). The everlasting God enters into communion with weak, sinful people.
The privilege of the persons who were invited to come and meet with Abraham Lincoln, shake his hand and pass on a request before leaving again, is nothing in comparison to the great privilege that a sinner may have who dwells with God and with whom God is pleased to dwell. Even the privilege of the few who had a close relationship with Lincoln and were very open with him, is nothing in comparison to the everlasting communion into which the Lord initiates His people.
The Essence of Communion with God
We find this communion with God described in many places in God’s Word. Two passages are: I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5) and He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him (John 6:56).
Calvin called this communion the unio cum Christo. He writes: “First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and dwell within us” (Institutes, III,1,1).
God calls sinners to come to Him and to live in and through Him. Christ made communion with God possible through His suffering and atoning death. God now draws sinners to Himself and reveals Himself to them. He leads people to come to know Him and He knows them so that they will admire Him and love Him greatly. This is what it means to have communion with God.
Yet there can be confusion about what this communion with God really is. We often think that communion with God consists only of the blessed experience of God’s nearness and love. We think we have communion with God only when we experience the reviving or comforting of our heart. At such times God’s sweetness and nearness to the soul are experienced. The love of God is felt and applied to the heart and it is felt that it is well between the Lord and our soul. That is what we generally consider to be the meaning of having communion with God. And we find this experience of communion with God described in the Psalms and throughout God’s Word.
But that is not the only form of communion with God. One may also have communion with God in the way of sorrow and tears. There may be the melting of the heart and a very humbling and heartabasing experience, which is also genuine communion with God. At such times the Spirit of God leads to contrition and godly sorrow.
The Puritan, Thomas Brooks, relates that some tenderhearted children of God think they have no communion with God in their closets, except God meets and embraces them, comforting their souls. When they find God speaking peace to their hearts, they are willing to say they have had sweet communion with God. But if God meets them in their closets and breaks their sinful hearts and they are humbled on account of a sight of their corruptions, they will not say they had communion with God.
Actually, a Christian may have communion with God in a heartcomforting way and he may also have tender communion with God when his eyes are filled with tears of contrition. Sometimes God meets with His child in the closet to humble him and at other times He meets the same person in the closet to greatly comfort him. God does not always come to His child in the same manner. The dealings of the Lord are intended to humble and to break down as well as to comfort and to lift up. We must be aware of these distinctions.
God is Sovereign
We must also realize that in experiencing communion with God, He is sovereign. Some children of God receive more dealings of the Lord than others. The Lord displayed His nearness to all the disciples, but it pleased Him to give deeper experiences to Peter, James and John. Similarly, God is also sovereign in dispensing the experiences of His communion to the soul.
It also needs to be said that not all children of God seek this precious communion with God as diligently as they should. Some do not prepare themselves by proper meditation or they do not take sufficient time in the closet, while others seek after communion as a beggar presses after alms or like a condemned man sues for pardon. It is a frequently occurring sin among God’s children that they are too sloppy in seeking communion with God. Too much of the world can hinder them or interfere with their devotional life. This will deflect adversely on their communion with God.
It is also a fact that due to the circumstances they find themselves in, some of God’s children crave more for communion with God than others. That is especially true when particular needs or burdens weigh heavily upon them. When they suffer difficulties they have a greater need for God’s nearness. When they are in great need, they are apt to cry to God more fervently for deliverance. In times like that the Lord will draw near especially and grant them His delivering nearness.
Obtained by Christ
Communion with God is only possible because of the sufferings of Christ. He experienced the deepest lack of communion with His God. He was cast out of the precious nearness of His God when on the cross He lamented: “My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?” In this way He merited the precious communion with God for unworthy sinners. He had to be cast away so far and so deeply from His Father’s presence that His Father did not answer His cries. This is where Christ encountered the most frightful and dreadful experience of the loss of communion with His God.
Child of God, see what it cost your Saviour, so that you could receive this precious communion with God. You never need to be forsaken of God, but you may receive His nearness and communion.
Do we seek this Lord and Saviour? Do we seek His communion? Or do you voluntarily live far away from Him? Is it not time for a change? Should there not be among us more seeking for communion with God? Should there not be more diligence to seek God’s nearness? Should we not have a greater desire for the Lord to uncover us and smite us for our negligence, but also that He would comfort us and lift us up?
We are called into this blessed communion with God. The Lord has so much to give us. In Him lies an abundance of every good for all and every circumstance. The Lord is a neverending Help, and has a neverending supply of every blessing. He can do far above what you can imagine. Is it not time to confess our slothfulness with shame? Jesus suffered to be able to give us this privilege of living in the unio cum Christo. Should we not be more diligent to live in communion with God?