Grace-Based Communion with God

“By that will [God’s will] we [believers] have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all … Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering [required to pay] for sin … Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith… (Hebrews 10:10,19,9-22 NKJV).

The gracious blessing of union with Christ

Blessed be God, He has brought us near to Himself. We adore the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh. We rejoice with the joy of broken and healed, of contrite and comforted hearts, because Jesus loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and brought us near to God, into the Holy of Holies — a royal priesthood. We give thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit, in whom we now worship the Father, and by whom the light and life has been kindled within our hearts. Herein is love, that, notwithstanding our sin, God has brought us near unto Himself.

More wonderful and glorious than angelic purity or the innocence of Paradise is the divine righteousness in which we now stand before God; and high above all hopes and thoughts of the human heart are our union with the Incarnate Son of God, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls…

The practical admonition for communion with God

[Yet] draw near to God [in communion], that the fruit of the Spirit may be found in you.

  • Has God created you anew in Christ Jesus?
  • Has He taken from you the stony heart of unbelief and ingratitude?
  • Has He kindled within you love, that love which embraces the Father and the children?
  • Has He given you meekness, lowliness, patience?
  • Has He caused you to begin the warfare with sin, and the obedience of life?

Then remember that it is God who works all this in you by His Spirit; that it is grace which is disciplining you; that it is not Nature, but the divine life implanted in you, from which all these fruits spring. And you need to draw near unto God daily and continually, to abide in Christ, and to have His word abiding in you, that you may continue to glorify God.

Such pensioners are we of the Divine bounty, daily and hourly we must be recipients of His gifts and of His power. Peter imagines he has a stock of courage and loving loyalty in himself; but sad experience teaches him that his nature is feeble and selfish; that not he, but Christ in him, is rock. Moses, meekest of all men, cannot of himself conquer the hardness of Israel’s unbelief by rising to the all-forgiving gentleness of God. Solomon’s wisdom becomes folly; Laodicea imagines herself to have been enriched once for all, and forgets to draw near unto God. Let those who have received most, continue asking; for we have nothing in ourselves; our sufficiency is of God.

He who has been enriched with spiritual gifts must be brought constantly to feel poor in spirit; or there is the danger of his cleaving to his gifts, and contemplating his gifted self, instead of growing up into Christ, of becoming more rooted in Him who is our only life and strength.

We are nothing unless we abide in God; we can do nothing apart from Christ. We know and admit this as a doctrine; but to realize it as a fact, painful and humbling experience is often needed. But in this lowest humiliation is our true and highest exaltation. God takes all things from us that we may turn again to Him as our sure Portion; He makes us feel our weakness, our poverty, our ignorance, in order that we may return to Him who not only gives strength, gifts, and wisdom, but who is our light and our salvation. And would we have it otherwise? Do we not love to have it so? Is not God, the giver, more than all His gifts ? Is it not an infinitely higher state, that it is not I, but Christ that lives in me? That it is not I, but the grace of God that works in me? That it is not I, but the Spirit, who energizes in me effectually?…

“Draw near to God!” [James 4:8]. There is no place so good, so safe, so sweet for the teacher as the place of the learner — as the place of Mary, sitting at the Master’s feet; as the place of Paul, bowing his knees before the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

There let us all unite and meet. Here on earth, amid all the noise and conflict, the sorrow and the trial of our pilgrimage; there, in glory, where we shall see Jesus as He is, and be for ever with Him, beholding, adoring, and serving His and our Father.

Adapted from The Hidden Life: Thoughts on Communion with God, (1877) ch. 1.  Introductory Scripture, title and headings added; some old English words undated.

Theological note: There are three different meanings of God’s “nearness.”
1. Ontologically, God is near everyone due to His omnipresence (Psalm 139), and especially His children whom He indwells by His Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17,19).
2. Positionally, Old Covenant believers came near to worship God through the prescribed means at Temple, but there were degrees of nearness: outer court, Holy Place, Holy of Holies, depending on one’s status, whether observant worshiper, Levite, priest, or high priest. In the New Covenant, believers have access to God’s holy presence in worship; the veil has been torn apart through Christ’s atonement on the Cross (Matt. 27:51). “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father” — as described in the first section of this article (Eph. 2:18; see v. 17, Heb. 7:19).
3. Experientially, the New Covenant believer is exhorted to “draw near” in the sense of personal faith, love, obedience, and communion. This worship is expressed in praise, prayer, and Spirit-filled ministry — as described in the second section of this article (Heb. 10:22).

“Adolph Saphir (1831-1891) Presbyterian minister. Born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of a Jewish merchant, he and the rest of his family were converted to Christianity by the Jewish mission of the Church of Scotland. Deciding to enter the ministry, he studied at the Free Church College, Edinburgh, and the universities of Aberdeen and Glasgow (M.A., 1854). He served as a missionary to the Jews in Hamburg in 1854, as minister of English Presbyterian churches [in England]. Throughout his lifetime he maintained a great interest in the conversion of Jews and other non-Christians in Europe, serving in many capacities in various missionary agencies. His writings include Christ and the Scriptures, (1864), Expository Lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews (1874-76), and The Divine Unity of Scripture (1892).”

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Editor — John Woodward

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