When I started this series on Walking in the Spirit I referenced Colossians 1:27 so I want to close with it as well.
27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 (NKJV)
While it may not seem apparent at first, understanding this passage, Christ in us as the hope of glory, is the doorway into communion with Him. To understand that we need to understand communion the way it is presented by the scriptures.
When we hear the word ‘communion,’ what ideas and images does the word evoke? Do we think of the ritual we tend to go through on a monthly basis in evangelical churches? Do we consider the role of rituals and symbols in our faith? They are all meant to point us to something, or more specifically, in the case of communion, to someone. The ritual is meant to remind us of Jesus sacrifice and to lead us into a deeper experience of Him as we reflect on His sacrifice and the reason for it. Something very real and meaningful should take place when we partake of the elements. Think about what Paul meant when he wrote the following?
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NKJV)
What is the ‘communion of the Holy Spirit?’ The word is Greek is koinonia and in addition to many other places the word is found in the following scriptures.
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NKJV)
16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:16 (NKJV)
Given the significance of koinonia /communion for our lives as believers I am including a long section from a Greek dictionary.
- κοινωνία koinōnia noun
Communion, association, partnership, fellowship, sharing, contribution.
We are primarily indebted to Paul for providing more information about the nature of koinōnia in the Early Church, especially in his presenting of koinōnia as a relationship between believers and God. Paul regarded the entire Christian call to be a summons to “fellowship” with Jesus Christ. “Sharing” most notably takes place at the Table of the Lord. For Paul, then, eating and drinking are more than mere symbols, though symbols are involved; eating and drinking at the Lord’s table denote an inner “participation” with Christ. It is the ultimate expression of unity – the common bond – between Christ and His body the Church (1 Corinthians 10:16f.). Furthermore, it is the ultimate expression of unity among the people themselves (Paul’s concern in his first letter to Corinth; cf. Philippians 3:10; Philemon 6). Such unity is experienced through the Spirit (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:14; Philippians 2:1). Even Barnabas’ offering of the “right hand of fellowship” (koinōnia, Galatians 2:9) signaled their common bond of faith (see also Hauck, “koinōnos,” Kittel, 3:805ff., who investigates how Paul’s sun , “with,” compounds contribute to the concept of koinōnia).
Four instances of koinōnia occur in the First Epistle of John (cf. the use of the verb in 2 John 11). Each of these is central to the letter (cf. 1:3, John stated his purpose in writing: “that ye also may have fellowship [koinōnia] with us”). John regarded koinōnia as an impossible relationship apart from its being experienced both vertically with God and horizontally with humanity. If one has koinōnia with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (1:3), then one will have koinōnia with other believers who have this same relationship to God (1:6,7). If fellowship does not exist between believers, then any claim to have fellowship with God is invalid. The converse, though not stated, would also be true: True human koinōnia is impossible apart from koinōnia with God.
Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Zeta-Kappa.
Given that communion also includes participation and fellowship what does communion mean in our lives? It is meant to be an ongoing encounter with Jesus through the Holy Spirit that overflows into our other relationships. How do we experience the communion of the Holy Spirit in practice? He reveals to us the one living in us.
16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” John 14:16-21 (NKJV)
Jesus is manifest to us through the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says we can ‘know’ the reality of Him living in us and us living in Him! When revealed in our lives the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23, love, joy, peace, patience/longsuffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control is a manifestation of His presence in our spirit. This is ‘Christ in us the hope of glory.’ His glory is His nature or character.
When we learn to develop intimate communion with Him more of His character is evident in our lives, He is formed and revealed in our mind, will and emotions. Our thinking aligns with His word, our feeling aligns with His heart and our choices reflect His desires. This all flows from fellowship with Him, sitting and letting Him touch our hearts through His word and presence. The only way to experience the fruit of His presence is to spend time pursuing His heart. This requires aligning our lives with His.
Can any of us fully align our lives with His and continually deeply experience Him? I don’t know, but as we enter a new year is it not worth trying? There is a phrase that some of you may be familiar with – Constant Conscious Communion. This is the thing Brother Lawrence and others wrote of, living in and out of Him. It doesn’t come out of removing ourselves from the world; it comes out of learning to lean into His heart each day and seeking to be sensitive to His presence throughout the day.
I have experienced this in varying degrees over the years and have learned there is no magic formula. It isn’t about a special spiritual experience; it is about investing in and developing a relationship. He is always nearest when I am intentionally removing barriers and seeking to just be with Him and focus on Him. This may mean consciously trying to open my spirit or it may mean picturing gazing upon His throne as it is presented in scripture. I tend to do the former and just become conscious of Jesus in me and before me. I have learned that I can know His presence in very busy and stressful circumstances if I have been spending time in the secret place with Him. My ongoing goal is to more intentionally pursue His presence and seek to live out of Constant Conscious Communion, that my life may reflect His glory. As Paul put it,
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV)
If we embrace His purpose we will be conformed to His image. So may we embrace this journey and learn afresh what it means to sit at His feet as Mary did.