Our series titled “The Fullness of Prayer: Communion with God” begins on Sunday evening June 5th. Communion with God should not be confused with the sacrament by the same name, but encompasses the broader scope of our relationship with God. It is the nearness and deep sense of devotion and personal relationship that Christians have the privilege of enjoying. It is our interaction with the God of Heaven and His responsive, loving ministry to us.
This afternoon, at the Banner of Truth Minister’s Conference, I heard from Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn (Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary). He talked about communion with God from the writing of an almost forgotten Puritan named William Strong. Strong was buried at Westminster Abbey and then dug up and re-buried in a place of lesser renown by the Church of England during the tumultuous times of reformation in England. His writings on the topic of Communion with God were published after his death and were a source of debate.
The reason for sharing this is a vocabulary development made by William Strong that I think is particularly helpful as we look at the broader topic of Communion with God. It will be helpful in our consideration of the practice of prayer.
Reverend Strong made the distinction between immediate communion with God and mediate communion with God. Please stick with me. Immediate communion with God is the relationship Adam and Eve had with God prior to the Fall. They had unfettered access to their Creator. Mediate communion with God is the relationship mankind has with God after the Fall. We have access to God, but because of sin, it must be through a Mediator. Our relationship must be mediated because of us.
In the Old Testament mediate communion with God took the form of prophets, priests, and kings. Through these men, people of faith interacted with God in their fallen state. They were saved by faith, but they were required to commune with God through a human mediator, a shadow pointing to a greater Mediator that was promised. The Old Testament lets us know that we need something more.
In the New Testament the Mediator is Jesus Christ, the Son of God in the flesh. He is the substance of the shadowy, veiled figure that is anticipated in the Old Testament. Today we are no longer looking by faith through a veil, seeing a shadowy figure, but we have seen Jesus. This Jesus, formerly in the flesh, is now presented clearly in the Word of God. We can see Jesus. We have experienced Jesus. We can know Jesus and the Father intimately. Communion with God, though still mediate (or mediated) has shifted back toward an immediate communion with God.
We still need a mediator and therefore still have mediate communion, but we see much more clearly through the person of Jesus Christ. The change which has taken place is often lost to us who are familiar with the Good News of the Gospel. This Prophet, Priest, and King brings us closer to the reality experienced by Adam and Eve. We have direct, but mediated access to God through Jesus Christ. We can speak to Jesus and the Father because of the work of Christ. We are not yet restored to immediate communion (fellowship), but we do have far greater access to the throne of grace than did our Old Testament fathers. How easy it is to neglect this great truth and to forsake the privilege of taking our great needs to the Father. We do not lift up our needs because we do not see the grace of our communion with God, graciously restored through the work of God. We have power of sin through Christ. We should be more and more dependent on prayer, knowing Jesus has made victory over sin possible. Over the summer we will consider prayer as Communion with God and I hope we will be encouraged to enjoy our nearly unfettered access to our Sovereign Father through our great and powerful Mediator Jesus Christ.