23 min read

I read this book several years ago, and I remember it being particularly impactful and helpful. It’s not necessarily any new revelatory concepts but, among other things, just the meditation on the fatherly love of God the Father, while we were yet sinners was incredibly edifying to me.


Communion with the Triune God

John Owen on the Work of the Holy Spirit

Thoughts on the Love of God

Part 1: Of Communion with the Father

Chapter 1

  • Despite outward appearances, we have a glorious and desirable fellowship with the Father and Son.
  • Because of sin, we are all cut off from communion with God.
  • Jesus Christ opened the way into bold communion with God.
  • Communion can relate to:
    • Things and persons
    • States and conditions
    • Actions
  • All communion is grounded upon som union between parties

Our communion, then, with God consists in his communication of himself unto us, with our return unto him of that which he requires and accepts, flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him. (94)

Chapter 2

  • We have distinct communion with each member of the trinity.
  • Our communion with the Father:
    • We exhibit Faith in the Father
    • We have love to the Father
    • Prayer and praises of worship are directed to the Father.

      Bowing the knee comprises the whole worship of God, both that which is moral, in the universal obedience he requires, and those peculiar ways of carrying it on which are by him appointed: “Unto me,” says the Lord, “every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (Isa. 45:23) (99)

  • Our communion with the Son:
    • Faith is directed to the Son
    • Love is directed to the Son
    • Prayer and Worship is directed to the Son
  • Our communion with the Spirit:
    • Faith, love, and worship directed to the Spirit (it’s notable that the ability to demonstrate this in scripture is more limited by the available evidence)
  • We see a distinction in persons:
    • When the same thing at the same time is attributed to each
    • When the same thing is attributed severally and singly to each
    • The example of teaching demonstrates this distinction of persons

To borrow John Frame’s paradigm: Normative - Father - Original Authority (Authoritative) Situational - Son - Purchased Treasure (Mediative) Existential - Spirit - Immediate Efficacy (Immediate)

Chapter 3

  • When assigning an activity to one person, the others are not excluded.
  • All of the persons are at work in any act.

    As, suppose it to be the act of faith: It is bestowed on us by the Father: “It is not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). It is the Father that reveals the gospel, and Christ therein (Matt. 11:25). [Authority] And it is purchased for us by the Son: “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, to believe on him” (Phil. 1:29). In him are we “blessed with spiritual blessings” (Eph. 1:3). He bestows on us, and increases faith in us (Luke 17:5). [Mediative] And it is wrought in us by the Spirit; he administrs that “exceeding greatness of his power,” which he exercises toward them who believe, “according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.” [Efficacy] (106)

Thoughts on the Love of God

  • God loves us that he might be loved
  • God’s love toward us is one of rest
  • He rejoices in his saints
  • In returning love to God, the saints rest in him
  • Both the Father’s love to use and ours to him is through Christ
  • The Father’s love is one of bounty, creating love in the one loved
  • Love to God is a deserved act of duty, consisting in:
    • Rest
    • Delight
    • Reverence
    • Obedience
  • The Father’s love is antecedent, both in respect to our love and also any other cause
    • Our love is consequential in both respects
  • God’s love is like himself, immutable, ours like ourself, mutable
  • He loves the people, not the sin. He never alters his purpose of love, though it may look different (rebuke, chastening, etc.)

Chapter 4

  • Many Christians do not realize their lack when they don’t commune with God
  • We ought to look to the Father as one who loves us, considering:
    • Whose love it is - the all satisfying God
    • What kind of love - eternal, free, unchangeable, distinguishing
  • Look to the love of the Father, to receive it, then return love to him.
  • It is dishonoring to God to view him as an angry Father (speaking of saints)
  • A little consideration of the Father’s love is enough to draw you to him.
  • God loved us first, let us believe it and we will see our love rising.
  • The saints have eminent privilege, despite low appearances, and have a place of safe retreat in the bosom of the Father.
  • If we have this love and communion with the Father, let us walk in holiness.

Part 2: Of Communion with the Son Jesus Christ

Chapter 1

  • We are called to fellowship with Christ as Mediator
  • Christ delights in the fruit which believers bear
  • Christ is compared to all of the eminent things in creation, and his atonement is a sweet savor to God
  • In Christ’s view, the church is as a lily among thorns.
  • In Christ, the church finds refreshment and nourishment
  • Christ’s communion consists of:
    • sweetness - refreshments of the scripture, gospel, ordinances, love
    • delight - once tasting it, the church longs for it
    • safety - Christ’s love protects them
    • support and consolation

Chapter 2

  • Our fellowship with Christ is in grace
    • 1) Grace of personal presence and comeliness
    • 2) Grace of free favor and acceptance
    • 3) The fruits
  • The grace of his person, referring not to his deity or human nature, but to his office of mediation
  • Comparisons of white and ruddy using Song of Songs…
  • Personal excellency of Christ consists in:
    • Fitness to save
      • He is fit to save by nature of his uniting God and man

        The uniting of the natures of God and man in one persona made him fit to be a Savior to the uttermost. He lays his hand upon God, by partaking of his nature (Zech. 13:7); and he lays his hand upon us, by being partaker of our nature (Heb. 2:14, 16): and so becomes a days-man [arbiter], or umpire, between both. (148)

    • Fulness to save
      • By his union with God, he has all that is needed to save.
    • Excellency to endear
      • [[ Christ is All-Satisfying ]]

Chapter 3

  • The communion between Christ and us is as a husband to his wife.
  • The ministry of the gospel involves calling men to give themselves to this husband.
  • God calls people to consider his proposal. If they do, they will find:
    • Honor
    • Delight
  • The allusion to marriage is the most frequent description of Christ & Church
  • This communion consists in:
    • A mutual resignation to each other
    • Mutual conjugal affections
  • Christ bestows himself to the soul, with all of his excellence, to be its Savior and head.
  • The part of the saints is the free willing consent to receive, embrace, and submit to the Lord as husband and Savior
  • The soul prefers Christ above all pretenders, counting all things loss for his sake.

Digression 1

  • Christ is excellent and desirable in his deity
    • Men cower at angels, but even angels cover their faces before his majesty. The Lord’s glory is on a whole different plain than any created thing.
    • By nature of his unity human and divine, there is an infinite supply of grace in the Messiah
    • The infiniteness of his grace should quench all objections to coming to him.
    • Christ’s love is eternal, unchangeable, and fruitful
  • The excellence of his humanity:
    • Free from sin
    • Full of grace
    • Unless a spotless Adam direct by God’s hand, this spotless Christ rose out of sinful humanity - how can this be?
      • Original sin consists of imputed guilt and derived pollution
      • Christ was free from these because:
        • He was never federally in Adam (the basis of this argument is that the determination to have Christ become incarnate took place after the fall and therefore Christ was not under the imputation of Adam’s sin)
        • He was conceived of a virgin by the Holy Spirit (assumes a standard traducian view of inherited corruption through biological descent)
    • Christ is full of grace, both in kind and degree
  • Christ is not a God and a man, but the God-man
  • Because of his humanity he could suffer, because of his deity he could effectively atone
  • All grace was given to Christ as purchased by his death, and there to be bestowed by him as he thinks good.
  • This truth should drop us to worship and admiration.

    This is the hidden mystery; great without controversy; admirable to eternity. What poor, low, perishing things do we spend our contemplations on! Were we to have no advantage by this astonishing dispensation, yet is excellency, glory, beauty, depths, deserve the flower of our inquiries, the vigor of our spirits, the substance of our time; but when, with, our life, our peace, our joy, our inheritance, our eternity, our all, lies herein, shall not the thoughts of it always dwell in our hearts, always refresh and delight our souls? (172)

  • Christ is Lord of All!

    He gives eternal life to his elect; ruling them in the power of God (Mic. 5:4), until he bring them to himself: and for his enemies, his arrows are sharp in their hearts (Psa. 45:5); he dips his vesture in their blood (Isa. 63:3). O how glorious is he in his authority over his enemies! in this world he terrifies, frightens, awes, concines, brusies their hearts and consciences - fills them with fear , terror, disquietment, until they yield him feigned obedience; and sometimes with outward jusgmenets bruises, breaks, turns the wheel upon them - stains all his vesture with their blood - fills the earth with their carcasses (Psa. 110:6), and at last will gather them all together - beast, false prophet, nations, etc. - and cast them into that lake that burns with fire and brimstone (Rev. 19:20). (172)

  • He is glorious in every way:
    • in his throne
    • in his commission
    • in his name
    • in his scepter
    • in his attendants
    • in his subjects
    • in his way of rule
    • in the issue of his kingdom
  • Allegorical reading of Songs 5:10-16
    • Eyes - tenderness, compassion, purity, discerning, beauty, glory
    • Cheeks - sweet savor, order and beauty, eminency
    • He is wholly to be desired in his:
      • Person - humanity and deity
      • Birth: becoming poor for our sakes
      • Course of life: angelic obedience in poverty
      • Death: Carried all of our sins
      • Whole employment: as mediator
      • Lovely in glory
      • Supplied of grace
      • In tender care, power, wisdom
      • In ordinances of worship
      • in vengeance
      • in pardon

Digression 2

  • Christ is the wisdom of God and the sole source of true knowledge. God brings to foolishness the wisdom of the wise.

    The sum of all true wisdom and knowledge may be reduced to these three heads: (1) The knowledge of God, his nature and his properties. (2) The knowledge of ourselves in reference to the will of God concerning us. (3) Skill to walk in communion with God. (184)

  • Creation reveals certain properties of God, but doesn’t reveal things such as patience longsuffering, forbearance
  • Attributes of God revealed to different levels:
    • Some only seen in Christ
    • Some brilliant in Christ
    • Some distorted except for in Christ

      That wisdom which cannot teach me that God is love, shall ever pass for folly. Let men go to the sun, moon, and stars, to showers of rain and fruitful seasons, and answer truly what by them they learn hereof. Let them not think themselves wiser or better than those that went before them, who, to a man, got nothing by them, but being left inexcusable. (187)

  • Christ reveals the love of God for sinners.
  • God’s pardoning mercy is seen in his gracious acceptance of sinners based on Christ’s atonement.
  • WHoever does not know God through Christ, doesn’t know him, but an idol.
  • These attributes shine brightest in Christ:
    • His vindictive justice
      • The death of Christ was necessary to the justice of God, evident in the fact that it was impossible to save sinners without it.
      • The severity of Christ’s punishment
    • His longsuffering toward sinners
    • His wisdom
    • His All sufficiency
  • Saving knowledge of God is only found in Christ. Everything outside is judgment.
  • Three things are required for this knowledge of his properties:
    • Manifest their glort in a way of doing good to us
    • Exercise them on our behalf
    • They must be fit to bring us to him.
  • Seeing God’s properties outside of Christ makes us flee. In Christ, they appear as glorious, and for our benefit.

    This is that which brings salvation, when we shall see that God has glorified all his properties in a way of doing us good. Now, this he has done in Jesus Christ. In him has he made his justice glorious, in making all our iniquities to meet upon him, causing him to bear them all, as the scape-goat in the wilderness; not sparing him, but giving him up to death for us all - so exalting his justice and indignation against sin in a way of freeing us from the condemnation of it (Rom. 3:25; 8:33-34). In him has he made this truth glorious, and his faithfulness, in the exact accomplishment of all his absolute threatenings and promises. (198)

  • Christ has been committed with the exercise of the Father’s attributes and become the captain of our salvation.
  • True wisdom also consists in the knowledge of ourselves with respect to sin and righteousness.
  • All men are borth with an innate sense of their sinfulness and worthiness for judgment.
  • In the law, sin is further revealed, but without the Holy Spirit’s conviction, even that is flawed.
  • The severity of the punishment sin deserves is seen clearly in the cross and the fact that God inflicted the punishment on his only son.
    • If you want to see how bad sin really is, look at the cross.
  • Our inability to atone for sin and our inability to obey are revealed in Christ. He shows all sacrifieces to be ineffectual.
  • In him, he we see our inability to obey. In Christ, sin is condemned, righteousness fulfilled by him.
  • Sin itself is reveraled to be crucified in us because is was crucified for us.
  • Sin is seen to have not only an end in displaying God’s judgment, but an even greater end in displaying his grace.

    A true saving knowledge of sin is to be had only in the Lord Christ: in him may we see the desert of our iniquities, and their pollution, which could not be borne or expiated but by his blood; neither is there any wholesome view of these but in Christ. In him and his cross is discovered our universal impotency, either of atoning God’s justice or living up to his will. The death of sin is procured by, and discovered in, the death of Christ; as also the manidfestation of the riches of God’s grace in the pardoning thereof. (208)

  • We all have a sense that God is righteous and the question pursues us, how can I sand before him?
    • The law, which is the msost common place to seek rightesousness, does not get fulfilled
    • Trying to find righteousness by the law is vain, since men have already sinned and are yet unable to obey
    • An answer for the demand of righteousness is only in Christ, where we find forgiveness for trnsgressions, and obedience to the law.
  • Walking together with another requires agreement.
    • Christ brings peace and agreement between God and man, by making atonement for sin and taking the curse of the law.
    • Not only lack of hostility, but acquaintance with one another is required
    • There must be a path to walk in and the strength to join the way.
    • Boldness to walk with God can only come in Christ
  • Learning alone is insufficient to lift darkness:
    • The goal of learning is to remove some part of the curse of Adam but it is insufficient for the task.
    • Though Adam was make perfect, his failure plunged us into farkness, and later divided tongues. Learning seeks to overcome this.
    • It is unable to attain this, becaue the weak light that they work with is not spiritual, unable to be brought into proper relation to God. - the most esteemed among them (Socrates) died like a fool (223)
    • Since it is a curse, the darkness cannot be lifted except by the one who made it.
  • Prudence alone is insufficient to bring peace among men:
    • The most skilled in civil affairs often seek a contrary aim
  • Solomon demonstrates that the greatest learning and prudence alone is mere vanity,

Chapter 4

  • Love of Christ to saints: Delight, valuation, pity, bounty
  • Love of saints to Christ: Delight, valuation, chastity, duty
  • Christ shows his delight by making them friends and confiding in them
    • The unbeliever does not have this mind of Christ, though they have the letter
    • Christ reveals himself and his kingdom
    • He enables the saints to cmmunicate their mind to him
  • Communication is enabled by the Spirit
    • The Spirit teaches us how we should pray
    • When we prat in accordance with his promises, we know we pray in his will. We must look upon them as promised in Christ and for that which is promised.
  • The saints earnestly seek Christ. They desire to seek and keep his company.
  • They cannot stand his abbsence and long for his presence
  • They are greedy for delight in him. A soul that notices communion missing, diligently seeks it

Chapter 5

  • Christ values his saints absolutely - all he does is for their sakes

    For one to part with his glory, his riches, his ease, his life, his love from God - to undergo loss, shame, wrath, curse, death, for another - is an evidence of a dear valuation. (250)

    • He took on flesh for us
    • He became poor for us
    • He became a servant for us
    • He became obedient unto death
  • Believers value Jesus Christ above all else. Martin Luther:

    Indeed, I would rather fall with Christ, than reign with Caesar. The earth is beautiful, heaven is beautiful, but the Lord Jesus is most beautiful. (251)

    • They value him above their lives
    • They value him above all spiritual excellence.
    • The saints willingly depart with the most desirable things to lay hold of Christ.
  • Christ left all on account of his love for believers and he ensures that he will keep him to eternity. We cannot fathom the depth of his love, and dare not doubt his determination to preserve us to the end. (254-255)
  • Christ has compassion on us in our temptations and was tempted as we are.
  • Christ grieves with and also feeds and guides us as a shepherd.
  • He gives seasonable help. Christ helps us in temptation by:
    • Keeping the tempted soul on a bent against sin
    • Recovering the soul from the borders of sin
    • Taking away the temptation itself
    • Giving fresh supplies of Grace
    • Giving wisdom
  • When a soul is overcome by temptation, Christ relieves with mercy and pardon
  • In afflictions, Christ is afflicted. He shows compassion by:
    • interceding with his Father for their relief
    • revenging their suffering
  • HE accomplishes his vengeance upond nations temporally, and at the last
  • The part of the sains in this is chastity:
    • THey remain chaste by not seeking to supplant his righteousness with anything else.
    • They remain chaste by cherishing the Holy Spirit which Christ sends to us
  • Two ways to grieve the Spirit:
    • With respect to sanctification, by running against him into unholiness and defilement.

      They labor instantly not to grieve the Holy Spirit by loose and foolish, by careless and negligent walking, whihc he has sent to dwell and abide with them. Therefore shall no anger, wrath, malice, envy dwell in their hearts; because they are contrary to the holy, meek Spirit of Christ, which he has given to dwell with them. THey attend to his motions, make use of his assistance, improve his figts, and nothing lies more upon their spirits than that they may walk worthy of the presence of this holy substitute of the Lord Jesus Christ (265)

Chapter 6

  • Purchased grace - all that Christ has procured for us, founded upon his work that is counted towards us by virtue of our union with him.
  • The source:
    • Obedience
    • Suffering
    • Intercession
  • The nature:
    • Justification
    • Sanctification
    • Privilege
  • Discussions on Christ’s active obedience applied to us
  • Active Obedience debate:
    • Only preparatory for sacrifice
    • When combined with death
    • Reckoned to our account as obedience
  • The fact that Christ obeyed in ways that were not required for a perfect sacrifice indicates something further is intended
  • Christ obeyed the law and took the curses of the law. We disobeyed the law and suffered not the curses.

Chapter 7

  • We are accepted with God by a removal of bad and a bestowal of good.
  • He not only makes us accepted but cleanses us to be acceptable.
  • He cleanses us from the stain of nature, transgressions, and good deeds. “..in our best duties we have defilements.”

Chapter 8

  • On the part of Christ, this requires:
    • What he did, he did for us - fulfilling righteousness - imputation
    • What he suffered, he suffered for us - satisfaction for disobedience - Absolution
  • Benefits of Christ’s work were effective the moment he began to undertake them. They were solemnly declared upon completion of the of the work.

God having made him under the law, for them who were so (Gal. 4:4); in their stead, obnoxious to the punishment due to sin, made him sin (2 Cor. 5:21); and so gave justice, and law, and all the consequences of the curse thereof, power against him (Isa. 53:6) - upon his undergoing of that which was required of him (Isa. 53:12), God looses the pains of death, accepts him, and is well pleased with him, as to the performance and discharge of his work (John 17:3-6); pronounces him free from the obligation that was on and which his soul desired. Hereon are all the promises of God made to Christ, and their accomplishment - all the encouragements given him to ask and make demand of the things originally engaged for to him (Psa. 2:8) (which he did accordingly, John 17) - founded and built.

  • It is accomplished effectually by Christ, but applied personally according to plan for the praise of God’s glorious grace.
  • Goal (Adoption) -> Means (Christ) -> Way (Redemption) -> End (Praise of Grace)
  • We cannot be saved by works because God does them.
  • We are required to work because God has ordained that we walk in them. It is the will of God.
    • Our holy obedience is the special end of the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit.
  • It is necessary:
    1. For God’s glory and honor
    2. For our own honor, peace, and usefulness
    3. For world’s conviction, conversion, and benefit
  • Benefits to the justified:
    1. They are accepted into friendship with God and should be holy
    2. They have been given new hearts, and should be holy

Holiness In the New Covenant

  • The saints recognize that Christ’s righteousness alone is able to make them acceptable to God.
  • They find their own righteousness lacking.

    When a man who lives upon convictions has got some enlargements in duties, some conquest over a sin or temptation, he hugs himself, like Micah when he had got a Levite to be his priest [Judg. 17:12-13]: now surely it shall be well with him, now God will bless him: his heart is now at ease; he has peace in what he has done. But he who has communion with Christ, when he is highest in duties of sanctification and holiness is clearest in the apprehension of his own unprofitableness, and rejects every thought that might arise in his heart of setting his peace in them, or upon them. (311)

  • They rejoice in the wisdom and grace of his righteousness.
  • They have lasting peace with God, and rejoice that Christ is honored as preeminent
  • Saints remain aware of their guilt, though persuaded of their acceptance.
  • They consider their sins, trust that Christ has paid them; and turn to him.

Should we daily come to Christ with our sins?

What greater dishonor, then, can be done to the Lord Jesus, than to ascribe this work to any thing else - to think to get rid of our sins [by] any other way or means? Herein, then, I say, is Christ honored indeed, when we go to him with our sins by faith, and say unto him, “Lord, this is your work; this is that for which you came into the world; this is that you have undertaken to do. You call my burden, which is too heavy for me to bear; take it, blessed Redeemer, you tender your righteousness; that is my portion.” (319)

Chapter 9

  • Christ’s work is one of intercession for the Spirit.
    • The Spirit is purchased by Christ’s death
  • Christ’s work is one of sending the Spirit.
    • We are imparted with an habitual grace - a new spiritual life

      This is that which I intend by this habit of grace - a new, gracious, spiritual life, or principle, created and bestowed on the soul, where it is changed in all its faculties and affections, fitted and enabled to go forth in the way of obedience unto every divine object that is proposed unto it, according to the mind of God. (327)

      • It differs from the Spirit dwelling in us
      • From actual grace
      • It is capable of increase/decrease
    • This grace is purchased by Christ
    • This grace is communicated to us by Christ.

Chapter 10

  • Our adoption into God’s family is the fountain of our privilege.

Part 3: Of Communion with the Holy Ghost

Chapter 1

  • The main promise of the Spirit is John 16
  • The coming of the comforter is better for believers than any corporeal presence of Christ

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

That a man may have consolation in any condition, nothing is required but the present of a good, rendering the evil wherewith he is pressed inconsiderable to him. Suppose a man under the greatest calamity that can possibly befall a child of God, or a confluence of all those eviles numbered by PAul (Rom. 8:35, etc); let this man have the Holy Ghost performing the works mentioned before toward him, and, in spirit of all his evils, his consolations will abound. Suppose him to have a send of the love of God all the while shed abroad in his heart a clear witness within that he is a child of God, accepted with him, that he is sealed and marked of God for his own, that he is an heir of all the prmises of God, and the like; it is impossible that man should not triumph in all his tribulations. (392)

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

  • His consolations are necessary throughout the whole course of our obedience:
    • Without them we shall either despise afflictions or feint under them
    • Without them sin, will either heard us to a contempt or cast us down to neglect grace
    • Without them, duties will either puff us up with pride, or leave us dull
    • Without them, prosperity will make us carnal and weaken us against adversity
    • Without them, the comforts of family will separate us from God
    • Without them the calamity of the church will overwhelm us, and its prosperity will not concern us
    • Without them, we shall have sidome for no work, peace in no condition, strength for no duty, success in no trial, join in no state.

“The world hates me,” may such a sould as has the SPirit say; “but my Father loves me. MEn despise me as a hypocrite; but my Father loves me as a child. I am poor in this world; but I have a rich inheritance in the love of my Father. I am straitened in all things; but there is bread enough in my Father’s house. I mourn in secret under the power of my lusts and sin, where no eyes see me; but the Father sees me, and is full of compassion. With a sense of his kindness, which is better than life, I rejoice in tribulation, glory in affliction, triumph as a conqueror. THough I am killed all the day long, all my sorrows have a bottom that may be fathomed - my trials, bounds that may be compassed; but the breadth and depth and height of the love of the Father, who can express?”

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

When we pray to one person of the trinity, we pray to the whole trinity.