Communion with Christ (Part 1)

From John Owen’s Communion with God 2.146-152

Owen is asserting that the saints are to be chaste in their relations with Christ. He states:

Now, there are three things wherein this chastity consists: –

1. The not taking any thing into their affections and esteem for those ends and purposes for which they have received Jesus Christ. Here the Galatians failed in their conjugal affection to Christ; they preserved not themselves chaste to him. They had received Christ for life, and justification, and him only; but being after a while overcome with charms, or bewitched, they took into the same place with him the righteousness of the law. How Paul deals with them hereupon is known. How sorely, how pathetically does he admonish them, how severely reprove them, how clearly convince them of their madness and folly! This, then, is the first chaste affection believers bear in their heart to Christ:  – having received him for their righteousness and salvation before God, for the fountain, spring, and well-head of all their supplies, they will not now receive any other thing into his room and in his stead. As to instance, in one particular: – We receive him for our acceptance with God. All that here can stand in competition with him for our affections, must be our own endeavors for a righteousness to commend us to God. Now, this must be either before we receive him, or after. [As] for all duties and endeavors, of what sort soever, for the pleasing of God before our receiving of Christ, you know what was the apostle’s frame, Philippians 3.8-10. All endeavors, all advantages, all privileges, he rejects with indignation, as loss, – with abomination, as dung; and winds up all his aims and desires in Christ alone and his righteousness, for those ends and purposes. But the works we do after we have received Christ are of another consideration. Indeed, they are acceptable to God; it pleaseth him that we should walk in them. But as to that end for which we receive Christ, they are of no other account than the former, Ephesians 2.8-10. Even the works we do after believing,- those which we are created unto in Christ Jesus, those that God has ordained that believers “should walk in them,” as to justification and. acceptance with God, (here called salvation), are excluded. It will one day appear that Christ abhors the manglings of men about the place of their own works and obedience, in the business of their acceptation with God; nor will the saints find any peace in adulterous thoughts of that kind. The chastity we owe unto him requires another frame. The necessity, usefulness, and excellency of gospel obedience shall be afterward declared. It is marvelous to see how hard it is to keep some professors to any faithfulness with Christ in this thing; – how many disputes have been managed, how many distinctions invented, how many shifts and evasions studied, to keep up something, in some place or other, to some purpose or other, that they may dally withal. Those that love him indeed are otherwise minded.

Herein, then, of all things, do the saints endeavor to keep their affections chaste and loyal to Jesus Christ. He is made unto them of God “righteousness;” and they will own nothing else to that purpose: yea, sometimes they know not whether they have any interest in him or no, – he absents and withdraws himself; they still continue solitary, in a state of widowhood, refusing to be comforted, though many things offer themselves to that purpose, because he is not. When Christ is at any time absent from the soul, when it cannot see that it has any interest in him, many lovers offer themselves to it, many woo its affections, to get it to rest on this or that thing for relief and succor; but though it go mourning never so long, it will have nothing but Christ to lean upon. Whenever the soul is in the wilderness, in the saddest condition, there it will stay until Christ come for to take it up, until it can come forth leaning upon him, Song of Solomon 8.5. The many instances of this that the book of Canticles affords us, we have in part spoken of before.

This does he who has communion with Christ: – he watcheth diligently over his own heart, that nothing creep into its affections, to give it any peace or establishment before God, but Christ only. Whenever that question is to be answered, “Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and appear before the high God?” he does not gather up, “This or that I will do;” or, “Here and there I will watch, and amend my ways;” but instantly he cries, “In the Lord Jesus have I righteousness, All my desire is, to be found in him, not having on my own righteousness.”