About the Author
John Owen (1616-1683) was an English theologian and is considered one of the greatest European theologians to have lived. He was educated and taught at Oxford, was a chaplain in Cromwell’s army, and a pastor.
In this practical book that is rooted in deep theological truths, Owen urges believers to commune with each distinct member of the Trinity. In the first main section, it is shown how believers are to have fellowship with the Father in love. The second main section concerns communion with the Son in personal and purchased grace. The third section is about communing with the Spirit as a Comforter. Each section shows not only the way that the distinct member of the Trinity communes with the believer, but also shows how the believer is to respond in communion as well.
Part I: Communion with God in General and the Father in Particular
Chapter 1: The Saints Have Communion with God
Chapter 2: This Communion is with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Chapter 3: Distinct Communion with the Father
Chapter 4: Implications of Having Communion with the Father
Part II: Communion with Christ
Chapter 1: The Fellowship the Saints Have with Jesus Christ
Chapter 2: The Way Believers Have Fellowship with Christ
Chapter 3: The Way Believers Have Fellowship with Christ- As a Husband to His Bride
Chapter 4: Communing with Christ as Our Husband Creates “Consequential Affections”
Chapter 5: Other ‘Consequential Affections”: Mutual Valuing. Compassion.
Chapter 6: Purchased Grace- Its Fountain
Chapter 7: Purchased Grace- Its Nature
Chapter 8: Of Communion with Christ in Our Acceptance with God
Chapter 9: Of Communion with Christ in Holiness
Chapter 10: Of Communion with Christ in the Privileges of Adoption
Part III: Communion with the Holy Spirit
Chapter 1: The Foundation of Our Communion with the Holy Spirit
Chapter 2: The Effectual Work of the Spirit in Believers
Chapter 3: Various Things In Which Believers Commune with the Spirit
Chapter 4: Consequences of Communion with the Spirit
Chapter 5: Contempt Shown Towards the Spirit
Chapter 6: Preparation to Commune with the Spirit
Chapter 7: How Believers Respond to the Spirit in Communion with Him
Chapter 8: Particular Directions for Communion with the Spirit
The Saints Have Communion with God
Naturally, because of sin, no one has communion with God. Yet, through the person and work of Christ we have spiritual communion with God (Eph. 3:12). Thus, for sinners “to have fellowship with God, the infinitely holy God, is an astonishing dispensation.” Through union with Christ by faith, we have this communion with God which Owen defines as “his communication of himself to us, with our response to him of that which he requires and accepts, flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him.” In glory, this communion is perfect and complete but as pilgrims it is initial and incomplete, yet producing a ‘farther longing’ after God and his salvation.
This Communion is with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Owen now discusses the manner and matter of this communion. First, we have distinct communion with each person of the Trinity which consists considerably in receiving their testimony (1 John 5:7). We have this access to God through Christ, in the Spirit, and to the Father. Yet, much of our communion also consists of our ‘moral and instituted worship of God.’ As we look in faith and love to the Father, He gives testimony of His Son which we receive by faith (1 John 5:9). Faith, hope, and love are also distinctly directed to the Son (Rev. 1:5, 6; 5:8; etc.). Our lives and worship are also to be directed to the Spirit. All of the above, Owen urges, reveals that we have distinct communion with each member of the Trinity.
One of the primary ways that God communes with us is through teaching. Owen begins by quoting John 6:45 where Jesus states that believers will be taught by the Father. By his teaching and the drawing of the Spirit, we are brought to a knowledge of Christ who will also teach us. Scripture also shows that the Spirit will teach us ‘all things’ too (John 14:26). Because there is distinct communication from each member of the Trinity, we are called to have distinct communion with each One. It is important for Owen, in light of these truths, to know that the Father is the ‘original authority’ of this communication and communion, while the Son purchased these realities with his redemption, and the Spirit gives them their ‘immediate efficacy.’
Distinct Communion with the Father
Owen begins this chapter with some observations that are necessary to understand our communion with God. First, when Owen states that we have distinct communion with each Person of the Trinity, he does not exclude the others due to the common and undivided essence they share (esp. in light of the ‘Trinitatis ad extra’ theological distinction). Also, when we are communing distinctly with One member the others are all influencing and enabling us.
With these points in view, Owen moves towards explaining our communion with the Father in his ‘free, undeserved, and eternal love.’ Though full of wrath towards our sin, in the Gospel he is “revealed peculiarly as love, as full of it unto us.” The Father is love in nature (essence) and in name (1 John 4:8) which is why his love preceded and caused the work of Christ for us. His love is both a love of good pleasure and destination as well as a love of friendship and approbation and is the foundation of all of the grace we receive and experience.
Next, Owen urges believers “to complete communion with the Father in love” which, he says, requires two things: that we receive this love from him by faith and that we suitably respond to it in our lives. We receive the Father’s love when we look to Christ alone and are led to the Father through him. We also respond to God’s love by loving him: “God loves, that he may be beloved,” Owen states. It is in this mutual love that we have fellowship with him.
Moving forward in understanding the Father’s love, Owen shows how our response of love is both like and unlike the Father’s love for us. There are two ways that our love is alike. First, they are both a love of “rest and complacency.” Owen quotes Zeph. 3:17 which reveals the Father’s love- a love of rest and delight. Internal delight cannot but respond with an outward demonstration of affection towards his people. We respond similarly as is shown in Ps. 73:25 and 63:3. Second, our love is similar in that they both can only be communicated in and through Christ. The Father communicates all of his love to us through Christ and our love “is conveyed to him through the Son of his love.” Our love, though, is also very different. God’s love to us is a love of overflowing bounty flowing as a spring from his own heart. Our love is that of duty, like a child, responding in gratitude. “He adds to us by his love; we nothing to him by ours.” Owen is quick to add four things that our love to the Father consists of: rest, delight, reverence, and obedience. Through these we have communion with the Father.
In concluding the chapter, Owen discusses how the Father’s love is antecedent to ours and ours is a consequence of his. We love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:10; Rom. 5:8). “The love of God is like himself- equal, constant, not capable of augmentation or dimunition; our love is like ourselves,- unequal, increasing, waning, growing, declining.” His love is immutable and unchangeable yet our experience of its fruits and manifestations may vary- sometimes feeling full of strength and faith and other times full of weakness and fear.
Implications of Having Communion with the Father
Here, Owen exhorts readers to understand and apply what has just been stated. We are to look on the all sufficient, eternal, and glorious Father as love and to know that his love is eternal, free, unchangeable, and distinguishing between believers and the world. This love should be looked upon in order to receive it individually and to let that same love produce the fruit of love in our hearts for him. Owen calls us to daily consider this so that we will not have harsh thoughts of the Father, which is the aim of Satan to produce in us. Owen then considers a few objections that believers may have in their understanding of God’s love and ends with reminding us that considering God’s love endears our hearts to him as we grow in knowing the “eminency and privilege” of communing with God the Father.
Communion with Christ
The Fellowship the Saints Have with Jesus Christ the Son of God.
In this section, Owen seeks to declare that we have fellowship with the Son and what this fellowship consists of. First, scripture declares we have fellowship with Christ (1 Cor. 1:9) and Christ himself declares his desire for fellowship (Rev. 3:20). Here, Owen enters into a discussion of the Song of Songs to help us better understand Christ’s passionate and eminent love for his people. This loving fellowship of Christ with his people consists of believers experiencing Christ’s sweetness and delighting in his love while knowing the safety and comfort of his presence.
The Way Believers Have Fellowship With Christ
Next, Owen moves to his second intention which is to describe how the saints have fellowship with Christ. The first foundation of all our fellowship with Christ is grace (Jn 1:14ff; 2 Cor. 13:14; etc.). This grace can be understood as the grace of his personal presence, his free favor and acceptance along with the fruits of the Spirit. Owen states that the last two should be considered ‘purchased grace,’ because we only experience them in light of what Christ has done for us.
Owen now wants to elaborate on the ‘personal grace’ of Christ, showing both what it is and how it enables us to have immediate communion with him. Owen begins negatively- this personal grace is not the glorious excellence of his Deity considered apart from his office as mediator, nor the simple outward appearance of a man, but, positively, “the graces of the person of Christ as he is vested with the office of mediation.” These graces should make Christ the greatest desire of the believer. Owen, again, moves to an exposition of the Song of Songs to show how Christ’s deity and humanity, his shed blood for sinners, and his kingship all work together to reveal Christ’s beauty to the believer.
Three things, for Owen, highlight Christ’s personal excellency. First is his fitness to save which comes from the union of his two natures in one person and the various consequences of that reality. Next is his fulness to save since the Father communicated the fulness of the Spirit to him in order to rescue sinners and last is his ‘excellency to endear’ because in all things he is completely suitable to answer the needs of desperate sinners. These three realities urge Owen to pastorally exhort the reader to pursue the ultimate Beloved rather than lesser beloveds and to find a greater righteousness in Christ than in our own works.
The Way Believers Have Communion – As a Bride with Her Husband
Not only should believers consider how they have fellowship with Christ, but also the way in which they have fellowship. One of the main ways scripture describes our relationship with him is as a bride to a bridegroom. This relationship with his bride is one in which he greatly delights in as it entails two primary aspects: a mutual giving to each other and mutual affections for each other. In giving themselves to each other, Christ fully gives himself to the soul of the believer and the believer fully embraces and receives Christ, submitting to his reign in his life. This willing embrace of Christ entails that the believer considers him as having far more excellence than any other lesser beloveds.
Some of Christ’s Excellencies Proposed to Draw Our Souls Closer to Him
Because Jesus is ‘the Lord our Righteousness’ he is excellent, first, in the glory of his deity (Jer. 23:6) which makes his love towards sinners eternal, unchangeable, and effectual. Second, he is desirable in his humanity as the unspotted, sinless Lamb of God who is the source of the fulness of grace sinners need. Lastly, he is desirable because he is both God and man in one person which made him fit to bear the curse, to be the source of all grace for believers, and to be their Mediator. In his person he is also exalted and invested with all authority, possessing a kingdom that is glorious and eternal.
All Wisdom is Found in Christ and This Also Makes Him Desirable
All knowledge and wisdom is to be found in and from Christ alone. As our Mediator, he is not the essential wisdom of God (he is as the eternal Son of the Father), but he is the wisdom of God “as he is crucified.” There is a worldly wisdom that consists of civil wisdom to order affairs and also the ability to learn but these are not the source of true wisdom. The sum of true wisdom can be given in three heads: knowledge of God, ourselves, and the ability to walk in communion with God. All these are to be sought and found in Christ. First, knowledge of God can be found in creation and providence but various aspects of his character cannot be known through these means but can only be known through Christ, such as his love for sinners and his pardoning grace. His vindictive justice, patience, his wisdom in managing all things for his glory, and his all-sufficiency “clearly shine only in him” and cannot be found in creation. In light of this, there is no saving knowledge of any of God’s properties outside of Christ. To receive the saving knowledge of these properties it was required that they be manifested, that God exercise these properties “to the utmost” on behalf of believers, and that God- through these properties- is powerfully able to draw believers to himself to that he will be their God.
The second part of true wisdom is the knowledge of ourselves which consists of understanding sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn. 16:8). This can only come about by the work of the Spirit who, first, convicts us of sin by revealing four realities through the cross: it reveals the severe penalty that is due to sin and the unique Person of the Son who alone could bear that penalty, it reveals man’s impotence to redeem himself, it reveals that the cross is the source of the death of sin in believers, and it reveals God’s glory by displaying his extravagant grace.
The Spirit also convicts us of righteousness. Sinners need a righteousness that will answer the two dilemmas of their guilt and their inability to keep the law, and this is provided in the gospel- Christ removes sin through expiation and grants righteousness through imputation. Lastly, the Spirit also convicts us of the truth and manner of judgment. The truth of judgment is confirmed in Christ by his death and resurrection and the manner of it is that Christ himself will be the judge which will bring consolation to believers and terror to unbelievers.
The third part of wisdom is the skill of walking with God. For this, six things are required. First, God and man must be reconciled and only then can they ‘walk’ with one another. Second, there must be acquaintance- a passionately pursued knowledge of God rather than an ignorance of his true character. Third, there must be a way to walk and this way is Christ himself who is “the medium of all communication between God and us.” Fourth, we must be given strength to walk which comes from Christ who is our strength. Fifth, even though God is a consuming fire of holiness, because of Christ we can have confidence and boldness in communion with God as we walk with him. Sixth, those who walk together must have the same goal and that is for God to be increasingly glorified in and through Christ.
Communing with Christ as Our Husband Creates “Consequential Affections”
In order to help believers have a response of deep affection for God, Owen now shows that God’s love to them consists of four things: delight, valuation, compassion, and bounty. First, Christ’s delight flows to believers in love and joy as he considers every day as his wedding day (Is. 62:5; Zeph. 3:17). There are two primary things that Christ delights to reveal to his bride: himself and his kingdom. As he communicates himself, believers see the beauty and glory of his face in the gospel and are changed into his likeness. As he reveals his kingdom, the Spirit reigns in believer’s hearts. Because believers belong to Christ’s kingdom, he delights “to communicate his secrets to them”- secrets of his goodness, mercy, will, kingdom, etc. He also delights to enable believers to communicate their minds to him which requires the effectual work of the Spirit, a way to approach God with our desires which is given in the gospel, and boldness. The Spirit works these things in us as he himself reveals our own needs, supplements our insufficient expressions in prayer with his own groans, and guides our prayers by the promises and precepts of God’s revealed will.
With Christ’s delight shown to the saints, they return by delighting in him. Again, the Songs of Solomon are portrayed as displaying how the saints respond in delight. Because they delight in him, they take great care to keep his company, they are impatient if he is absent and desire ever increasing nearness to him, and they are especially perplexed if he has seemed to withdraw. If the last of these is the case, believers can search their own hearts for the cause of his absence or search the promises of Scripture for his presence. If these more private duties do not seem to work, the believer must act with resolution and diligence to pursue him in the ordinances of public worship. If all these means fail, a believer must simply wait until he returns. This is the conclusion of the first ‘consequential act’ of marital affection as believers commune with Christ- he delights in them and they delight in him.
Other ‘consequential affections”: Mutual Valuing. Compassion.
The second great ‘consequential affection’ of the believer’s marriage to Christ is the mutual valuing of one another. This should be considered first, absolutely, and then in respect to others. When considered absolutely, believers must understand that everything Jesus endured as Mediator was for them, which includes his incarnation, his becoming a servant and emptying himself, and his obedience to death on a cross while enduring the wrath of God. Next, considered in comparison to others, Jesus values believers more than anything else in the world. He considers believers his garden, his inheritance, and non-believers as a wilderness, his enemies. Believers, in return, value Jesus above all things or people (Ps. 73:25), even above their own lives or their own supposed righteousness.
Again, we continue to see that Christ values believers because everything he suffered was for them. Because of this, he promises to preserve and never lose any of those who genuinely claim him as their Savior. The part of believers is to respond by giving up sin in order to have Christ alone, and also to be willing to give up good things (peace, family, freedom) if it means having him.
A third great affection on the part of Christ is pity and compassion towards believers as they go through various temptations and afflictions. First, he is compassionate to us in our temptations by being tender and giving his assistance to us like a shepherd with his sheep. Christ gives this ‘seasonable help’ by working within us a “strong habitual bent” against sin, by “a strong impulse of actual grace,” and by taking the temptation away or giving strength to endure it. Christ even uses temptation to help believers know themselves better as to what is actually inside them. However, even if the believer is overcome, he shows mercy and pardon. Second, Jesus shows us compassion in our afflictions (Is. 63:9) by interceding to the Father for our relief and promising revenge against our enemies. Believers respond to Christ’s pity and compassion towards their temptations and afflictions with “chastity unto Christ, in every state and condition,” (2 Cor. 11:2, 3). This chastity consists of believers keeping their affections and esteem set supremely on Christ alone and nothing else, of cherishing the Holy Spirit whom Christ has given as our Comforter, and by faithfully and joyfully attending the institutions of public worship.
The fourth way Jesus evidences his love to the saints is by way of bounty- his rich and plentiful provision that he makes for them. In everything he does for believers- giving wisdom, forgiveness, grace, etc.- it is by way of abundance. Believers respond in two ways. First, they follow after holiness in obedience to Christ, knowing that Christ is the author of their faith and their obedience is only accepted in him. They do this also because the law is now in their hearts and they are constrained by the Father’s love shown through him to live in faithfulness to him. Not only do they seek to follow after holiness, but to abound in the fruits of holiness.
Purchased Grace- Its Fountain
Purchased grace is any righteousness and grace which Christ procured through his work as Mediator. First to be considered are the sources or causes of this purchased grace which are the obedience of his life, the suffering of his death, and his continued intercession.
Owen now explores the intention and influence of Christ’s obedient life. To begin with, his obedience entails his complete conformity to the will of God and his complete fulfilling of the entire law of God. This obedience came from that habitual righteousness within Christ, by virtue of his human nature’s union with his divine nature, which led to actual outward actions of obedience. He fulfilled whatever the law required and also fulfilled the unique requirements of the Mediator that were given by the Father (John 10:18).
Believers, then, have communion with Christ through God’s free acceptance of them in light of what Christ accomplished as their Mediator. His active and passive obedience for them is reckoned to them in justification. The implications for this are significant for believers. They know that only in him was the law actively, perfectly fulfilled and this was done for those who would look to him by faith and are justified. His active obedience answers Adam’s active disobedience (Rom. 5:18-19) and his passive obedience of suffering and death pays the penalty for transgressions. However, it is important to know that all of Christ’s obedience was a ‘doing’ and therefore all of it is in some sense ‘active.’ Believers, then, have communion with Christ in purchased grace because of the obedience of his life.
They also have communion with him in purchased grace, next, because of the suffering of his death, especially as it was the paying of a price for redemption, the giving of a sacrifice for atonement, and the enduring of a penalty for satisfaction.
Purchased grace, lastly, comes from his continual intercession for the saints where he continually presents to the Father his once-for-all sacrifice for sinners and faithfully asks and effectually gives the Holy Spirit in order that sinners might receive and enjoy this purchased grace so as to have communion with Christ.
Purchased Grace- Its Nature
The nature of purchased grace is acceptance with God, sanctification from God, and privileges with and before God. The first to be dealt with is our acceptance with God which is brought about by removing the guilt of sin and providing the righteousness of Christ through faith. Second, purchased grace also consists of sanctification where defilement is removed and cleanness is bestowed. Defilement is removed by the “habitual cleansing of our nature,” taking away the pollution of our actual transgressions, and removing defilement from even our ‘best duties.’ The cleansing that is bestowed has its foundation in the death of Christ. This cleansing is given through Christ bestowing the Spirit on believers in order to indwell them, by giving believers a ‘habitual principle of grace,’ and by giving the needed strength for the performance of every spiritual duty. Lastly, the nature of purchased grace also consists of the privileges believers have to stand in God’s presence. These privileges are adoption and all the various gospel benefits that flow from acceptance with God. These three topics will be discussed in the following chapters.
Of Communion with Christ in Our Acceptance with God
Understanding the source and nature of the purchased grace, now it is important to understand uniquely how believers have communion with Christ in light of their acceptance with God. In light of what Christ did and suffered, communion is brought about through the declaration of the gospel and the sending of the Spirit to regenerate and grant faith to the elect.
Here, Owen considers a significant objection, namely, that if Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers by faith, why should they strive to obey at all? Rightly understanding our obedience “is of great importance as to our walking with God.” Owen, therefore, offers multiple “gospel grounds” to encourage believers to obedience and communion with Christ. First, God’s will is for our sanctification. Secondly, our holiness and obedience is a particular end of the redemptive work of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Third, holiness is important because of its purposes for God, ourselves, and the world. It glorifies the Father, Son, and Spirit. It restores the created honor of believers as they become like their Father in heaven and reflect more of the image of God in their lives. It gives them peace because with sin there is no peace. It makes them fruitful. The purpose of obedience that others can see in believer’s lives is that it can bring conviction to them and it can help to lead others to conversion.
Holiness is also necessary because those accepted by God and able to be in his presence should “with all diligence cleanse themselves from all pollution.” It is necessary because holiness is the natural consequence of a new heart and nature. Owen also shows that holiness is necessary because of its importance in the new covenant as the way believers enter into heaven- not as a ground, cause, or condition of their justification but as “the way appointed by God for us to walk in for the obtaining of salvation.” The new covenant also shows that obedience is an evidence that believers have received grace and an expression of our gratitude to God.
Still, however, believers know that their acceptance by and communion with Christ is only because of his perfect righteousness imputed to them. This is a deep conviction in their heart because they know their own righteousness falls short. They therefore rejoice in the righteousness God has provided and see this transaction of imputation as displaying God’s infinite wisdom and fulness of love. Because of this perfect righteousness, Christ himself is honored by the Father, the angels in heaven, and by his saints all over the world. They honor him because it brings God glory to do so.
Not only do believers commune with Christ by rejoicing in the righteousness he has provided, but also by bringing their sin to him so that they can receive his righteousness and grace by faith. It is healthy for believers to keep a sense of the guilt of sin alive within them, along with actively searching their hearts for sin to confess. As they do so, they remember that Christ died for their sins and they take their burdens to Christ and his cross. From the cross they, by faith, take his righteousness that he provides (2 Cor. 5:21). This taking of our sin to him actually honors Christ and endears the saints to him.
In sum, believers have communion with Christ as they approve of and rejoice in the righteousness he has provided for them and by actually bringing their sin to him in order to receive his righteousness and grace.
Of Communion with Christ in Holiness
In sanctification, there are ‘peculiar actings of the Lord Christ’ and there are the duties of saints. First, consider the acts ascribed to Christ in sanctification: he prays for and sends the Spirit into the heart of believers, working a new habit of grace which changes our whole being- its faculties and affections- so that believers will obey. This new habit is brought about by the Spirit but is different from the Spirit’s indwelling because the habit is ours. This habit is capable of increasing or decreasing and only comes to us in light of Christ’s work and the Father bestowing all grace upon Christ in order that he might ask the Spirit to take what is his (Christ’s) and give it to believers.
In this reception of the Spirit, believers are passive and hold no communion with Christ. However, in receiving the indwelling of the Spirit along with habitual and actual grace, believers then have communion with Christ. Knowing that Christ alone purges them from sin, they look to Christ as the giver of the Spirit and of the grace that will sanctify them and make them holy.
Thus, in communion with Christ, believers seek out the Spirit of holiness to dwell in them, a habit of holiness to be infused within them, and actual assistance to be faithful in genuine obedience to the Lord.
Of Communion with Christ in the Privileges of Adoption
The third area where we have communion with Christ is the purchased grace of adoption- the authoritative translation of a believer by Christ from the family of Satan into the family of God and the giving of all the privileges of belonging to that family. There are five requirements for this adoption: First, that by original right they belong to another family than the one into which they are being adopted. Believers originally belonged to the family of sin and Satan. Second, that there is another family into which they can be adopted. This is the great family of God where believers have Christ as their brother and God as their Father. Third, there must be an authoritative legal transaction and this is given in and through the gospel (John 1:12). This legal transaction is declared to angels and to Satan, as well as the conscience of the person adopted. The believer is then actually grafted into the family of God and given a new name. Lastly, the believer is freed from the old family and given all the rights of the new one. The believer, then, experiences a new spiritual liberty from the old family, especially from the law and sin. The freedom is from obligations to the ceremonial law along with the rigor, terror, and consequences of the moral law such as the curse and death.
There is also freedom in the family of God. Where the Spirit is there is liberty and believers’ obedience comes from the power of new life and is done with love, “giving them joy and sweetness in it.” In Christ, God is seen as their Father and now their obedience is, to them, desirable and not terrible. The motive of this obedience is love, the manner of it is willingness, and the rule for it is the law of liberty- which Christ has rendered “sweet, tender, and useful…helpful as a rule of walking in the life they have received, not the way of working for the life they have not.”
Another privilege of adoption, after freedom, is having a title or right. As a proper right, it respects the spiritual interest in the administration of the family of God here, in the present world, which is the ordinances of the church and the dispensation of the Spirit to make them effectual. The nature and privileges of the church show that membership into its family belongs only to those who have been adopted by faith. Believers also have a proper title to the future fulness of their inheritance in heaven which makes them, even now, heirs of the promise, of righteousness, and of salvation. They also have a ‘consequential right’- a right to all the things God has portioned them in this world, stewarding them faithfully for his glory and anticipating the reality that one day they will inherit the entire world.
The last privileges of adoption are boldness in our access to God and the disciplinary affliction that God brings, in love, to conform us to his Son (Heb. 12:3-6). Both of these have been discussed in Owen’s other writings.
Communion With the Holy Spirit
The Foundation of Our Communion with the Holy Spirit
The foundation of our communion with the Spirit consists of his mission- being sent by Jesus to be our comforter. As such, he was promised both as a Spirit of sanctification and of consolation.
First, the fountain or source of his coming must be understood. He proceeds from the Father and the Son and this procession is twofold- in respect of substance and personality and in respect of the work of grace. This book only deals with the latter, the ‘economical proceeding’ to carry on the work of grace. In being sent by the Father and the Son, because the Spirit himself is God, he also comes willingly, condescending to us in order to make Christ’s work effectual. Second, he is given freely, sent with authority, and poured out lavishly on believers. Third, he is received as a Spirit of sanctification and consolation by believers. The faith by which believers receive the Spirit is a faith that rests on the promise of the New Covenant to give the Spirit to those who trust in Christ. This faith, enabled by the Spirit of supplication, asks in prayer for the Spirit of consolation. This faith also notices and cherishes the Spirit’s inner workings within the heart. Fourth, and last, the Spirit is said to abide in believers forever. Though he will always be with and within believers, he may have purposes for not comforting them at times. Other times, he may offer comfort but the believer doesn’t receive it. However, the Spirit will never absolutely leave a believing soul without consolation.
The Effectual Work of the Spirit in Believers
After considering where the Spirit comes from and how he is given, now his specific work within believers is considered. Fifth (number four was in last chapter), the actions of the Holy Spirit must be considered- both the manner of his acting as well as what it produces in the believer’s heart in which they have communion with him. To begin with, what the Spirit does, he does effectually, bringing about his purposes. This effectual work is divided and distributed among believers as the Spirit wills and whatever he gives us a gift of God’s grace. It is the effects of this work through which believers have communion with him. Owen, in closing this chapter acknowledges that he will, from this point, speak of the Spirit as the Comforter and will omit discussion of the Spirit as sanctifier as he has dealt with that in other works.
Various Things In Which Believers Commune with the Spirit
In this chapter, Owen briefly outlines nine ways believers have communion with the Spirit. One of the first ways believers have communion with the Spirit is when he brings to remembrance what Jesus taught (John 14:26) He comforts believers by revealing and illumining the words and promises of Christ to his people and thereby giving peace to their hearts. A second general work of the Spirit to comfort believers and in which they have communion with him, is when the Spirit glorifies Christ (John 16:14) by pointing believers to the benefits of the New Covenant. Next, the Spirit also sheds God’s love abroad in believer’s hearts, effectually persuading them of his love while also working, fourth, to bear witness to our adoption (Rom. 8:16).
Another significant comfort is the Spirit’s sealing of believers which consists in the “effectual communication of the image of God” to believers. Its purpose is to express an irrevocable confirmation of God’s promises as well as distinguish believers as his and keep them safe. The Spirit is also an earnest, down-payment to believers (2 Cor. 1:22) of the fulness of what is to come. As an earnest from God, the Spirit is given as a ‘choice part’ of the fulness of the Spirit that will come in glory. On the part of believers, the earnest acquaints believers with the love of God and the inheritance they are to receive. The Spirit further comforts believers by anointing them which Owen sees as being taught by him, especially concerning conviction of sin, sanctification, and consolation. The Spirit further comforts believers as a spirit of adoption and as the Spirit of supplication.
Consequences of Communion with the Spirit
A first consequence of communion with the Spirit is that believers possess comfort or consolation- the composing and contentedness of the soul as it rests in God’s grace, even in hard circumstances. This consolation is abiding, strong, and precious. A second consequence of communion with the Spirit is peace which is rooted in the previous consolation. A third is joy- and this joy can be immediate, simply from the Spirit’s presence, or mediate, as the Spirit points us to the benefits of God’s grace in Christ. Lastly, the Spirit works hope in believers as they commune with him.
Contempt Shown Towards the Spirit
Historically, in the church, Satan has tried two opposite extremes to denigrate the person and work of the Spirit. One the one hand, public worship becomes so formal and dependent on the ordinances alone, that the Spirit is not needed or is even derided. On the other hand, some claim that the Spirit doesn’t need to work through scripture or public ordinances of worship and everyone lays claim to new and private, immediate revelations. These two extremes are clearly opposed to Scriptural teaching and will not be dealt with at length.
Preparation to Commune with the Spirit
Believers are led to commune with the Spirit as they learn to rightly value his work as a Comforter towards them. To raise our hearts for this task, there are three things to be considered:
First, the Spirit’s consolations are useful in our afflictions, as we bear the burden of sin, and in the course of obedience. Second, he comforts us among these realities by communicating to us the love of the Father and the grace of the Son. Lastly, the principle which is the motivation and source of the Spirit’s work toward us in consolation is “his own great love and infinite condescension.
How Believers Respond to the Spirit in Communion with Him
Scripture outlines three ways of responding to the Spirit, all of which are stated negatively but have their positive counterparts. In light of this, believers are not to grieve him as he dwells in us; they are not to quench him as he seeks to work within us; and they are not to resist him as he works through gospel ordinances.
We can grieve the Spirit, who is “concerned in our good and well doing,” by falling short of the holiness we’re called to. Positively, believers should, in light of their union with Christ and the presence and power of the Spirit in their hearts, passionately pursue Christ-like holiness. Believers are also cautioned not to quench the Spirit as he seeks to burn away the dross and sin inside our hearts. Positively, then, they are called to be “careful and watchful to improve” all of the works of the Spirit in their hearts. Last, believers are not to resist the Spirit as he works through the ordinances. Positively, the posture of believer’s hearts to the ordinances should be humble submission and joyful reception of the grace God gives through them.
Particular Directions for Communion with the Spirit
Before discussing particular directions about communion with the Spirit, some cautions and clarifications are necessary. First, as the divine nature is the reason and cause of all worship, it is impossible to worship one Person of the Trinity without worshiping the whole Trinity. Second, as believers pray and invoke the Father through the Son, they invoke every Person of the Trinity because every person is God. Third, as believers worship the Spirit for any reason, they are also led to worship the entire Trinity. Fourth, believers are called to distinctly worship the Spirit.
The formal reason for distinctly worshipping the Spirit is not in his role as Comforter, but in his being God. The reason he can be a comforter is because he too is God and we must understand this and rejoice in this by faith. They are also to commune with him through responding to him with praise and thanks, as they pray for him to continue to carry on the work of sanctification, and as they ask the Father to give and send him, just “as children do of their parents for daily bread.” We commune with him even through humbling ourselves before him because we’ve grieved, quenched, and resisted him.
Anyone who is not interested in the Spirit will have no true and lasting comfort, peace, joy, or hope.
 The language has been updated. Emphasis Owen’s.