J. A. Trench.
Article 48 of 55 from 'Truth for Believers' Volume 2.
Though not exactly expressed in these terms in Scripture, this is a very blessed reality, when seen in its true character. Grace has accorded it to us even here below; and we have the power and conditions necessary to its enjoyment. Let me say first, that the words "communion" and "fellowship" (in the passages that will come before us) are the same in the original, and have exactly the same sense, therefore, for the English reader. Let us look at what sets this fellowship (or communion) on its highest plane. (1 John 1:7) "If we walk in the light . . . we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." It is a wonderful statement of the Christian position. We must always bear in mind that in John's writing, light is God fully revealed and known; whereas darkness is God unknown.
We walk, then, in the cloudless light of that wonderful revelation; and we have fellowship with all our fellow-believers, as enjoying the same light, and partaking of the same life, and of the nature of Him Who is Light. This gives us capacity for such fellowship. And then the basis of the whole position is brought out in the third clause, that states the infinite value of the blood of Jesus — it "cleanses from all sin." So that though we "were sometimes (or formerly) darkness," we are now righteously introduced into this position.
The power for the enjoyment of this fellowship is the Spirit of God, given to dwell within us. Hence, 2 Corinthians closes with the words, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all." And Philippians 2:2 gives us to see the practical bearing of it, on the walk of the saints, as the Apostle so touchingly refers to it in his appeal, "if there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love, of one accord, of one mind." This is the normal effect of the power of the Spirit, where He is ungrieved in us. He produces this unity among Christians, where self can have no place.
It will be helpful also to look at this fellowship in the light of the calling of God. We find it in the preface to the first epistle to the Corinthian saints. "God is faithful" — he could not say they were, as we know too well from the rest of the epistle. But that does not hinder the Apostle casting them upon God's faithfulness — "by Whom ye were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." Here again we find it set higher than if we confined our thoughts of it to "the communion of saints." It is the communion or fellowship of the Son of God. Observe, not — fellowship with His Son, in this passage — which is the wonderful privilege of those who possess eternal life, and which we find in 1 John 1:1-4. This fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ, is individual, and true of each child of God if there had not been another to enter into it on earth. And the express object of John's epistle was that we might be brought into what had first been the privilege of the disciples, who had heard and seen the Word of Life when manifested in the world.
But in Corinthians it is the privilege of the assembly of God as such. The Son of God has this fellowship of His, on earth; and all Christians are called into it.
The conditions of enjoyment of it will be found in 2 Corinthians 6, where we are commanded not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. There must be separation from the world. "For what fellowship" (or 'participation,' as the word is here) "have righteousness and iniquity? or what fellowship of light with darkness? what concord of Christ with Belial? or what part hath a believer with an unbeliever? what agreement of the temple of God with idols? . . . wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
Thus we see what a real thing the communion of saints is. Nothing of what is of the flesh enters into it. It is characterised by the nature of the divine life we possess in Christ, and can only be known and enjoyed in the power of the Spirit, and in separation from the world.