Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Bookmark and Share

The Communion of the Saints


1) I John on the Communion of the Saints

I John 1:1-10: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."

I John 2:7-11: "Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes."

I John 2:15-17: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

I John 3:11-19: "For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him."

I John 4:7-12: "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us."

I John 4:19-5:5: "We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"


2) Reformed Confessions on the Communion of the Saints

Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 55

What do you understand by "the communion of saints"?

First, that all and every one, who believes, being members of Christ, are in common, [a] partakers of him, and of all his riches and gifts; secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and [b] cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.

[a] I John 1:3-4: That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. Rom. 8:32: He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
[b] I Cor. 12:13: For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.


Westminster Confession of Faith 26: Of the Communion of Saints

1. All saints that are united to Jesus Christ their head, by his Spirit and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory:[a] and being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other's gifts and graces,[b] and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.[c]

[a] John 1:16; Rom. 6:5-6; Eph. 2:5-6; 3:16-19; Phil. 3:10; II Tim. 2:12; I John 1:3.
[b] I Cor. 3:21-23; 12:7; Eph. 4:15-16; Col. 2:19.
[c] Rom. 1:11-12, 14; Gal. 6:10; I Thess 5:11, 14; I John 3:16-18.

2. Saints, by profession, are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification;[a] as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.[b]

[a] Isa. 2:3; Acts 2:42, 46; I Cor. 11:20; Heb. 10:24-25.
[b] Acts 2:44-45; 11:29-30; II Cor. 8-9 throughout; I John 3:17.

3. This communion which the saints have with Christ, doth not make them in any wise partakers of the substance of his Godhead, or to be equal with Christ in any respect: either of which to affirm is impious and blasphemous.[a] Nor doth their communion one with another, as saints, take away or infringe the title or propriety which each man hath in his goods and possessions.[b]

[a] Ps. 45:7 with Heb. 1:8-9; Isa 42:8; I Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:18-19; I Tim. 6:15-16.
[b] Ex. 20:15; Acts 5:4; Eph. 4:28.


3) Quotes on the Communion of the Saints

"Our affections must be set steadfastly upon the Head of the Church before they will wax warm to its members. When the Lord is given His rightful place in our hearts, His redeemed will also be given theirs …Love for the brethren is ever proportioned to our love for the Lord Himself." - A. W. Pink

"Anyone who is to find Christ must first find the church. How could anyone know where Christ is and what faith is in him, unless he knew where His believers are?" - Martin Luther

"One of the duties of church membership, therefore, is to exercise the spirit of love toward all fellow members, and toward all who enter the church. Jesus said that all men should know His disciples—by their love for one another … So should it be in every Christian church. The members should live together as one family. When one is glad—all should rejoice. When one is in sorrow—all should be touched with the feeling of grief. They should bear one another's burdens. Such a church is a true home for souls. The weary, the tempted, the baffled, the defeated, the sorrowing, the friendless—turn to it with hunger and yearning, as they would turn to Christ Himself—if He were here. Every member should do his part to make his church such a Christly refuge. One harsh, unsocial person may greatly hinder the prevalence of the spirit of love and hospitality in a church. It takes the hearty help of every one, to make a church at all points; and to all who come within its doors—a place of cordial, hospitable love." - J. Miller

"'I am a companion of them that fear thee' (Psalm 119:63). Shun the company that shuns God, and keep the company that God keeps. Look on the society of the carnal or profane as infectious, but reckon serious, praying persons the excellent of the earth … Make the loveliest of God’s people your greatest intimates, and see that their love and likeness to Christ be the great motive of your love to them, more than their love or likeness to you." - J. Willison

"Not only should all profaneness, obscenity, and falsehood be put far away, but you should continually endeavour to render your conversation useful. Be ever ready to communicate godly knowledge, to suggest profitable ideas, to recommend virtue and piety, to rebuke sin, and to give glory to God. Beware of evil-speaking. A habit of criticism is one of the worst which you can contract—and is always indicative of an envious and malignant heart. Instead of prostituting this active and useful member to the purposes of slander, employ it in defending the innocent and the injured." - A. Archibald

"It is Satan’s great design to set his cloven foot among God’s people to make division and contention among the sons of Zion. The devil’s best music is discord. Oh! Let all Christ’s people, His sheep, flock together and associate in love. Those who hope to meet together in heaven should not fall out by the way. Unity is the great music in heaven. There is unity in the Trinity—and unity among saints would be a great blessing on earth. For Christians to unite is their interest and wisdom; union is their strength, union is their glory and their ornament … Let the sheep of Christ unite together. When the saints are harmoniously united, then they adorn their blessed Shepherd, the Lord Jesus." - Thomas Watson

"We acknowledge no unity except in Christ; no charity of which He is not the bond … Agreement, or union, is, indeed, singularly a good thing, because there is nothing better or more desirable than peace. But we must ever bear in mind, that in order that men may happily unite together, obedience to God's Word must be the beginning. The bond, then, of lawful concord among us is this: that we obey God from first to last; for accursed is every union where there is no regard to God and to His Word." - John Calvin

"There is no legitimate place for individualism in the life of the believer. This is one of the great problems today. Too many 'members' think of the church only in terms of what it gives them, rather than in terms of what they can give others. But the Bible says that we are all members of one another, that we all need the gifts that others have, and that we have something that we ought to give to others. What this means is that if we are not faithfully participating in the life of a faithful local church, we are not really living as Christians. Let us say, for instance, that you do not bother to come to church on Sunday evening. You say, 'Well, I just don't feel that I need it!' Your problem is that you are thinking of the church only in terms of what you get from it. You ought to think as well of what you can give to others. The truth is that when you are not there, the body—as a whole—is weakened. This is true because the holy catholic church is a holy communion of believers." - G. I. Williamson

"Some members of the church … fill up their places at the table of the Lord, and in the house of God; and beyond this, seem to have nothing else to do with the church. This is a most criminal apathy! … we should feel peculiar delight in each other as fellow heirs of the grace of God; partakers of like precious faith, and joint sharers of the common salvation. We must be dear to each other as the objects of the Father's mercy, of the Son's dying grace, and of the Spirit's sanctifying influence … 'These,' should a believer exclaim, as he looks on the church, 'are the objects of the Redeemer's living and dying love, whom He regards with delight; and out of affection to Him, I feel an inexpressible delight in them. I love to associate with them, to talk with them, to look upon them—because they are Christ's!'" - J. James

"It is love for God which produces love for those who bear His image. And what is the touch-stone of my love to God? Not rapturous feelings, nor beautiful words of devotion, nor heartily singing His praises—but by keeping His commandments (John 14:15, 21, 24). The strength of my love for God is to be gauged by the measure of my obedience to His Word. The same principle holds good in my relations with the brethren—love to them will be manifested by efforts to encourage them in the path of obedience—and that necessarily involves rebuking them for disobedience." - A. W. Pink

"Whatever ability a faithful Christian may possess, he ought to possess it for his fellow believers, and he ought to make his interests subservient to the well-being of the church in all sincerity." - John Calvin

"Persons searching for their gifts think that they can 'find' their gifts in isolation from the body. They have forgotten that the orientation of God’s people is outward rather than inward. The question should be this: How can I grow in love for and service to the body of Christ? Gifts are the way we naturally love and serve. To paraphrase Augustine, if you want to know your God-given gifts, first know that the purpose of spiritual gifts is to bring unity to the church." - E. Welch

"People are not truly grieved by the sins in others, which they complacently expose and condemn. Too often they seem to delight in having discovered something unbeautiful in a neighbour, and they swoop down upon the blemish—like a vulture on carrion! If ever criticism is indulged in—it should be with deep grief for the friend, that the fault exists in him; and with sincere desire that for his sake it be removed; and then the criticism should be made, not in the ear of the world—but 'between thee and him alone' (Matt. 18:15)." - J. Miller

"As the saving doctrine of Christ is the soul of the church, so does discipline serve as its sinews, through which the members of the body hold together, each in its own place. Therefore, all who desire to remove discipline or to hinder its restoration—whether they do this deliberately or out of ignorance—are surely contributing to the ultimate dissolution of the church. For what will happen if each is allowed to do what he pleases? Yet that would happen, if to the preaching of doctrine there were not added private admonitions, corrections, and other aids of the sort that sustain doctrine and do not let it remain idle. Therefore, discipline is like a bridle to restrain and take those who rage against the doctrine of Christ; or like a spur to arouse those of little inclination; and also like a father’s rod to chastise mildly and with the gentleness of Christ’s Spirit those who have more seriously lapsed." - John Calvin (Institutes, 4.12.1)