Here’s a conundrum. Recently I heard it being insisted on very emphatically that fellowship with God is incompatible with living in sin. If anyone claims to have experienced fellowship with God, while leading a habitually sinful life, they cannot be reporting true fellowship or communion with God.

I believe this to be true, and yet it’s not the whole story. Because anyone who God has fellowship with in this world, is a sinner.

So how to reconcile these? And in a way that is sensitive to the fact that some dear believers are much more conscious of the habitual sinfulness of their life than they are able to confidently claim that they know what it means to have genuine fellowship and communion with the Trinue God?

[It’s our congregation’s communion this weekend, so the lack of time for blogging continues.]

14 thoughts on “puzzle

  1. There’s a sense in which a Christian’s life is more difficult than an unbeliever’s, because the Christian recognizes the reality of sin and feels the tension between the double reality – the reality of who he is as a sinner, and the reality of who he is as a saved and sanctified person, since Christians are both at the same time (hence, Romans 7, for example).

    Christians recognize that they still sin (see 1 John) and they recognize that part of the reality of their salvation is the struggle against sin. Both are true, and both are real experiences in the Christian life.


  2. I reckon that as a believer grows in knowledge of the Lord two things will be happening contemporaneously: 1. They will be unearthing more and more sins and find that they still struggle with old ones and 2. They will also be gaining partial or complete victory over some of them. Of course, all believers must “take heed lest they fall” and keep in mind that claiming victory over a particular sin may actually lead to overconfidence and they find themselves indulging again in the same sin.

    I have heard such a quote (perhaps from the same person) and it was made clear when I heard it that it is not a case that the person becomes sinless or is not converted, but rather the more you are focusing on the Word the less time you will have to sin. This is true. I have found that it is the times I have become lax in my personal devotions, even for legitimate reasons like fatigue, that my communion with God (via Bible-reading, trust in what He says in his word, fellowship with believers, etc.) suffers. I wonder, though, if this is something that God allows in order to keep us dependent upon Him and not our flesh, in which we’re to have no confidence (Philipians 3.3).

    In Ephesians 4, God tells us to take on a sort-of “put-on and put-off” mentality. This is something consciously done with the help of the Holy Spirit — and He always gives us a way out of temptations, too (1 Corinthians 10.13). When we “put off” say, impure thoughts and “put on” purity, we will find ourselves increasingly not shackled by it. Same for hatred and love, lies and truth.

    Oh, and one more thought. I was wondering if sometimes people wait for a feeling of communion with God to think they truly have it. But it’s possible that, like many things in the Spiritual dimension, communion with God happens irregularly and may take on many forms from utter blissful joy to sorrow over sin. Even sorrow over sin is communion with God … if it drives you to cling to the Cross and thank Him for His precious Blood, which covers over the multitude. We should thank Him for showing us how unworthy and ugly we are because it shows how Wonderful He is — the very Definition of Love.

    Beth Fisher


    • just a note: how you feel don’t necessarily enter into it: grace isn’t something material that you can feel (though God causes, directly or indirectly, sensible motions that are “graces” – e.g. the grace of sorrow for sin, ekcetra. But you don’t feel the presence of God/communion with God per se.


  3. Thanks one and all. Esp Beth & esp last para. (Yes the same person and yes not objecting to the doctrine :-)

    B – if the point is that you can have fellowship with God without feeling it, agreed, but if you’re saying fellowship with God can’t be felt, not agreed.

    Rube – your pastor is then in the line of the great Rabbi Duncan – Take it, woman, it’s for sinners.

    Thanks Richard for Rom 7. Also the end of 1 John 1 and start of 1 Jn 2.


      • He was! Not actually a rabbi, mind you. I think he was professor of Hebrew (or Old Testament or something) in the early Free Church College, 1840s or thereabouts. That anecdote is from when he apparently saw someone at the Lord’s Table hesitating to take the elements, but reassured her, it’s for sinners. Seemingly he struggled with atheism for some time, although he had been brought up by godly parents in the Secession Church, and another anecdote about him is that by his own report he danced for joy when he was finally convinced that God is.


  4. Just for clarification, I was giving the full range of emotions from joy to sorrow. I guess not feeling anything falls in the middle of these two — to me. So, yes, of course you can be communing with God without feeling it and even also not communing with God if you think you are based on a feeling.



  5. With the soul?

    Had been making a start on John Owen, Vol 2, several weeks ago, where he discusses communion with each of the three Persons of the Trinity distinctly, communion with the Father in love, with Christ in grace, with the Spirit in consolation, although not exclusively, and not so as to undermine ‘that holy fellowship we have with the whole Deity, in our walking before him in covenant obedience.’ And had thought at the time of commenting on how un-esoteric it was, a matter of believing what the scripture says about the love of the Father, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the comfort of the Holy Ghost, and the soul responding, not in kind exactly, but suitably/appropriately. A reciprocation, mutual returns, interaction, communion. Which John Owen handles in terms of the believer’s love for the Father, delight in the Lord Jesus as per the Song of Solomon, not grieving the Holy Spirit. Nothing esoteric, but profound enough.


  6. Pingback: The Quotable Rabbi Duncan | The Confessional Outhouse

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