Communion: The Outflow of Union
Devotional Communion Service
Study Guide, April 29, 2018
Pastor Clay Olsen
One of the central traditions of Christianity has always been the sharing of Communion by God’s people. What is often overlooked is the Union upon which Communion is based. In fact, all of our Communion, whether it be in this observing of the Lord’s Supper, or the Communing with our Savior in worship, or even the communing of the Brethren in service, is all centered on our Union with our Creator and Redeemer.
So let’s first take a deeper look into our amazing ‘Union’ with our Savior. Actually, another ‘union’ was necessary in order for our union with the Lord to even be possible. What are we talking about? We are talking about one of my favorite theological phrases. It’s called the ‘Hypostatic Union’. I know Pastor Robert and the Adult Sunday School class likes to talk about this one. They like wading in deep theological waters. Interestingly enough, although it sounds theologically complex, it’s actually something we, as Christians, just sort of take for granted. And we actually do talk about it quite often, even though, not in these terms. What do we mean?
The term itself is from the Greek word ‘hypostasis’, which means ‘subsistence’ or ‘essence’. It refers to the essential nature of something or someone. And in this case, it refers to how God the Son, Jesus Christ, took on human nature, yet remained fully God at the same time. Christ always was God, but at the incarnation Christ became a human being as well; Christ Jesus. As Jesus said: Rev 1:8- “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.” NLT To His essential nature of divinity God added another essential nature of humanity. This is the ‘hypostatic union’, Jesus Christ, one Person, yet fully God and fully man.
Not only are these two natures forever united in Jesus Christ, but they are also inseparable. Jesus will forever be the God-man, fully God and fully human, two distinct natures in one Person. The Apostle John put it this way: John 1:1-3- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” So here we see Jesus’ deity as our Creator. And then John said: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14-15 NASU And here we see Jesus’ humanity.
So the divinity of Christ and the humanity of Jesus are now in perfect union. And it had to be so, because the only way for humans, who were dis-united from God because of their sin, to have any hope of being re-united to God was through Jesus’ substitutionary life and death in our place. In other words, without God becoming human and then living a sinless human life in our place, no sinful human could ever qualify for becoming re-united to God.
Now, why do we say ‘re-united’? Well, do you want to talk some more ‘theology’? Of course! We say re-united’ because of what the Apostle Paul reveals happened in Rom 5:12- “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…” NASU Did you notice what he reveals here? That in Adam, we all sinned, as in the entire human race was represented in Adam. So, in ‘theology’ that is referred to as ‘Federal Headship’. As the representative of all humans, Adam’s sin was considered by God to be the act of all people and the penalty of death judicially became the penalty of everyone. But also, as the natural head of humanity, God considered all people as participating in the act of sin which Adam committed, thus receiving the penalty of that sin.
Certainly, everyone has sinned enough on their own to be guilty, but there is this sense in which, as the Apostle reveals, we have a union with Adam, our federal and natural head. But here’s where it goes from regrettable to wonderful, because Paul next explains the benefits we receive when we become re-united in a union with another ‘Federal and Supernatural Head’. Rom 5:15-19- “But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other Person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.” NLT
Even though the first Adam represented us in the Garden of Eden, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, represented us on the Cross of Calvary. And not only did His sacrificial death remove from us the penalty of being dis-united from God, the crediting of His righteous life made us right again with God, and re-united with God through our receiving the ‘gift’ of Jesus life and His righteousness. Rom 5:1- “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” NASU
As born again people we have been re-united to God through another Adam, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our second federal and natural representative. And that other wonderful theological term ‘Justification’, means that we are ‘justified’ or we are now ‘made righteous’ in our union with Christ. Our justification is the result of a living union we have with the living God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Although our union with Adam made us sinners, our union with Christ makes us righteous.
Do you now see what Paul was saying when he said: Phil 3:8-9- “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith…” NASU
Just like Paul, we each stand before God with this gift; this ‘gift of righteousness’ that is not our own; it belongs to Jesus. But in union with Him we share in His righteousness, in His eternal life, and in a position of being declared ‘not guilty’ because He has forgiven us the penalty of our sins. So now when God looks at us, do you know what He sees? He sees Christ’s righteousness all over us; covering us. Our union with Christ is complete and our standing with God is secure.
Out of our union with Christ comes our ‘communion’ with Christ and with each other as well. Let’s explore: The word ‘communion’ comes from the Latin word ‘communio’, which means ‘a sharing in common’. In the New Testament the Greek word that corresponds to that is ‘koinonia’. It’s found in 43 verses of the New Testament. Anything repeated once indicates it’s pretty important to God, so 43 times means we are to really pay attention to it, you know? It’s often translated as ‘fellowship’, like in 1 Cor 1:9- “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” NASU
Think about that. God has called us into fellowship with Jesus Christ. Actually, let’s each think about that…meaning…You were called into fellowship with Jesus Christ, as in, you were called into a ‘communion’ with Jesus Christ. Now, Praise God, we were called into eternal life with Jesus Christ. This is the greatest gift. But God is saying something else to us here. He has also called you and me into ‘koinonia’…into ‘fellowship’ with Jesus Christ. And this is our greatest purpose in life. You see, we often think of ‘fellowship’ first in terms of us Christians fellow-shipping with other Christians, or carrying out the ‘one anothers’ with other Christians…like, serving one another, loving one another, honoring one another, assisting one another, and so on. And these are great. These please God and they bless others. But that’s not our first calling into fellowship. No, our first calling into ‘fellowship’ is ‘fellowship’ with Christ. It’s really a call for you and for me to now ‘do life together’ with Christ. We are called to commune with or to share the rest of our life together in doing the things God has called us to do, as we do them ‘in fellowship with Christ’.
We are called to love what Christ loves. He loves saints, sinners, the world, and longs to see it redeemed. And what God loves we are called to love in union and in fellowship with Him. And what God hates we are called to hate in union and in fellowship with Him, which is – God hates sin. And we are called to desire what God desires. God desires the many to repent and to be saved, so that they will not perish. So, in fellowship with Jesus, we are to desire to see others repent and be saved as well. And He calls us to share in both His joys and even in His sufferings. Remember Paul’s words about that? Right after Paul’s words of praise that he had been clothed with the righteousness of Christ he said this: Phil 3:10- “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” NASU
That sounds like a strange prayer request, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t the sufferings that Paul was after…no, what he was after was the fellowship of the Lord Jesus, thus saying to Jesus – “Whatever it takes or whatever I have to face in doing the rest of my life together in fellowship with You, in living out Your will and in teaching others about Your truths, I am willing, because Jesus, You are worth it.”
Have you ever said something like that to Jesus? That’s the kind of thing that many of our persecuted Brothers and Sisters, that our Smyrna Representative Brian Bernhardt tells us about, have said to the Lord Jesus. Their fellowship with Christ inevitably leads to suffering for Christ. But for them, whatever it takes to do life together with Jesus is worth it, because Jesus is worth it! They are not living for their glory, they are living for God’s glory. Likewise, we are not to live for our own glory, but for God’s. In fact, God’s glory is the only glory worth living for. And if living for God’s glory and living in fellowship with Christ, doing life together with Christ, leads to suffering on our part, then so be it. In fact, Paul even put it like this: Rom 8:18- “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” NASU
But how like our God that as we do seek to live for His glory, and as we do seek to live in fellowship with Jesus, as we do seek to commune and to do life together with Jesus, He does something else. He doesn’t have to do it, but it’s just the way our God is: He produces in us riches which are of more value than all the wealth of this world: Gal 5:22-23- “…the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” NLT God produces in us the most satisfying virtues that humans can experience on Earth. Plus, He promises to reward us with the most wonderful privileges that can ever be experienced in the coming New Earth and New Heavens!
And this is what God had in mind when He called us into fellowship with Jesus Christ. He called us into a relationship of ‘union’ in spirit and of ‘communion’ in service, service together as we do life together. Again, all of our communion with others, our service for others, is to flow out of this unique union that we share with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our communion, our fellowship, is first with Jesus, and from there, from out of that is to flow our communion and fellowship with each other and on out to others. How amazing, and how like our God to design something like that!