(Thus begins a read through John Owen’s Of Communion With God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The book is long, dense and profound — it is also difficult to read. An abridgment of the book can be had from Banner of Truth under the title Communion With God. The book captures the essential ideas of Owen and is substantially easier to read than Owen’s: http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/item_detail.php?4696 However, it necessarily loses some of the detail of Owen’s work.)
Consider carefully the claim of 1 John 1:3:
[T]hat which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:3 (ESV)
There are a few things to note in this claim: First, that the fellowship offered by the Church lies not merely in the lives of the human beings who make up the congregation. Rather, the fellowship of the Church includes such people – but it also extends to God. Second, the fellowship with God is not merely with God as an abstraction but with the individual members of the Trinity: John does not merely write, “with God”, but rather, “with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Third, how could John make such an audacious claim:
By nature, since the entrance of sin, no man hath any communion with God. He is light, (1 John 1:5; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:8; Matthew 22:32; Ephesians 2:1; 1 John 4:8; Romans 8:7.) we darkness; and what communion hath light with darkness? He is life, we are dead, — he is love, and we are enmity; and what agreement can there be between us? Men in such a condition have neither Christ, nor hope, nor God in the world, Ephesians 2:12; “being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them,” Ephesians 4:18. Now, two cannot walk together, unless they be agreed, Amos 3:3. Whilst there is this distance between God and man, there is no walking together for them in any fellowship or communion. Our first interest in God was so lost by sin, (Ecclesiastes 7:29; Jeremiah 13:23; Acts 4:12; Isaiah 33:14.) as that there was left unto us (in ourselves) no possibility of a recovery. As we had deprived ourselves of all power for a returnal, so God had not revealed any way of access unto himself; or that he could, under any consideration, be approached unto by sinners in peace. Not any work that God had made, not any attribute that he had revealed, could give the least light into such a dispensation.
Now the OT does record various interactions between God and man – gracious interactions. However, prior to the work of Jesus, such interactions lacked both confidence and freedom:
But the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest whilst the first tabernacle was standing, Hebrews 9:8. Though they had communion with God, yet they had not parrhsian — a boldness and confidence in that communion. This follows the entrance of our High Priest into the most holy place, Hebrews 4:16, 10:19. The veil also was upon them, that they had not eleuqerian freedom and liberty in their access to God, 2 Corinthians 3:15,16, etc. But now in Christ we have boldness and access with confidence to God, Ephesians 3:12. This boldness and access with confidence the saints of old were not acquainted with. By Jesus Christ alone, then, on all considerations as to being and full manifestation, is this distance taken away.
Thus, all such communion, fellowship with God as enjoyed and offered by John in his epistle may be had only by and through Jesus.