Several posts ago I began a series of short posts on Owen’s teaching on communion with the Trinity under the analogy of building an iPad (part 1, 2). This third and final post presents his teaching on all three persons in the Godhead.
What Does the Owen iPad Look Like?: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
This is where we should get excited. Owen teaches us how to have communion with each divine person jointly and distinctly. His book on Communion with God treats each person in turn with a practical aim. The Trinitarian blessing in 2 Cor. 13:14 can help us understand and remember how this works.
We hold communion with the Father primarily in love. Some Christians treat Christ’s intercession as though it is a cosmic wrestling match between the Father and the Son in which the Son (barely) prevails in holding back the Father’s wrath. Owen noted that this insults the Father. It is God the Father who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son (Jn. 3:16). When John wrote, “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8, 16), he had the Father in view primarily, since the Father proved his love by giving us his Son. While all three persons love us and Christ’s love passes knowledge (Eph. 3:19), we should think of the Father primarily when we think of the love of God. This should comfort us and lead us to love the Father every time we say, “Our Father,” in prayer.
We hold communion with the Son in grace. While “grace” often means today, “I am a very bad person and I need to keep reveling in my justification before God,” Owen meant something different. Grace includes all of the benefits imparted to us by the Father through Christ. This means that Christ gives us everything we need for justification, adoption, sanctification, persevering in godliness, and glorification (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:28-39). Christ is the wisdom and the power of God to salvation (1 Cor. 1:24), which includes more than forgiving our sins (1 Pet. 1:5). Since I am united to Christ’s person through covenant, I partake of all that Christ purchased. In practical terms, this means that you must go to Christ for everything. What do you do, for example, when you struggle with indwelling sin? You must go to Christ for the Spirit to grant you repentance and to practice obedience. If you are serious about this, then you must use the means that Christ gives you to put away sin, trusting in him to bless them. This includes meditation on the nature of sin, confronting yourself with Scripture, fervent prayer for help, Christian fellowship, public worship, sacraments, and other means by which Christ communicates himself to you. You need to be where Christ is and trust in his willingness and ability to enable us to live for his glory. We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).
We hold communion with the Spirit in comfort. He creates and maintains fellowship between God and us. As the seal of our redemption (2 Cor. 1:22), he regenerates us and stamps us as belonging to God. As the down-payment of our salvation (Eph. 1:14), he gives us partial possession and a foretaste of heaven while we walk with God on earth. We cultivate communion with the Spirit by growing in personal holiness (Gal. 5:25). When we fall into sin, we live as citizens of hell though we are truly citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:21). Owen argued that to the extent that we cultivate communion with the Spirit we have already begun to enjoy heaven on earth. Elsewhere he wrote that if we do not trust in the Spirit to help us know the Lord, then we may as well burn our Bibles. We must cultivate fellowship with the Spirit by reading our Bibles on our knees in prayer and by promoting godly living through using the means of grace.
Conclusion: Why Do I Need an Owen iPad?
Now you have a task set before you. The application of Owen’s principles stretch into every area of theology and into every part of the Christian life. To see what this looks like, you can begin by reading my very inexpensive book on Owen. To see how this works and why, you can read my very expensive book on Owen. However, the best way to grow in loving fellowship with all three divine persons is to start reading Owen himself, beginning with Communion with God. Owen will help you stretch your minds and train your spiritual muscles in order to run the race set before you (Heb. 12:1-2). Take up and read and learn to love the Triune God and to walk with him in every area of life.