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Communion with Christ in the Grace of Sanctification


In his magnificent masterpiece, Communion with the Triune God, John Owen discusses how believers have distinct communion with each member of the Trinity. 

Discussing “Communion with Christ in the Grace of Sanctification,” Owen shows the difference between people who are convicted of sin but pursue holiness in their own strength and believers who look to Christ for holiness: 

Convinced persons who know not Christ, nor the fellowship of his sufferings, would spin a holiness out of their own bowels; they would work it out in their own strength. They begin it with trying endeavors (Rom. 10:1–4); and follow it with vows, duties, resolutions, engagements, sweating at it all the day long. Thus they continue for a season—their hypocrisy, for the most part, ending in apostasy.

The saints of God do, in the very entrance of their walking with him, reckon upon it that they have a threefold want:
            (1) of the Spirit of holiness to dwell in them;
            (2) of a habit of holiness to be infused into them;
            (3) of actual assistance to work all their works for them;
and that if these should continue to be wanting, they can never, with all their might, power, and endeavors perform any one act of holiness before the Lord.

They know that of themselves they have no sufficiency—that without Christ they can do nothing (John 15:5): therefore they look to him, who is entrusted with a fullness of all these in their behalf; and thereupon by faith derive from him an increase of that whereof they stand in need.

Thus, I say, have the saints communion with Christ, as to their sanctification and holiness.
From him do they receive the Spirit to dwell in them;
from him the new principle of life, which is the root of all their
obedience;
from him have they actual assistance for every duty they are called unto.

In waiting for, expectation, and receiving of these blessings, on the accounts before mentioned, do they spend their lives and time with him. In vain is help looked for from other mountains; in vain do men spend their strength in following after righteousness, if this be wanting.

Fix your soul here; you shall not tarry until you be ashamed.

This is the way, the only way,
to obtain full, effectual manifestations of the Spirit’s dwelling in us;
to have our hearts purified,
our consciences purged,
our sins mortified,
our graces increased,
our souls made humble, holy, zealous, believing—like to him;
to have our lives fruitful, our deaths comfortable.

Let us herein abide, eyeing Christ by faith, to attain that measure of conformity to him which is allotted unto us in this world, that when we shall see him as he is, we may be like unto him.


--John Owen, Communion with the Triune God, edited Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007, p. 333. (Emphasis and breakdown into paragraphs mine.)

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