The Communion of Saints

By Not Known

Where is our sense of belonging and who are our ‘kin’? Many of us will point to our earthly family or maybe to a tight-knit workplace, club or such like. For Christian people, that sense of belonging is expressed in a phrase ‘the communion of saints’. We affirm our belief in this every time we say the Apostles’ Creed. However, what does it mean?

Let’s start with the words. ‘Saint’ is a common Bible term for people who are full of faith in Christ as a result of God’s initiative to choose and save (eg Eph 1:2- 7). ‘Communion’ refers to the bond between believers and it’s a word synonymous with ‘fellowship’, ‘sharing’ or ‘participation’.

The ‘communion of saints’ is thus the fellowship that is shared between Christian people because they share the faith of Christ. This communion exists on three levels and each is important.

Firstly, there is the sharing between members of a local church. As we come together, each with our individuality we combine into the one body and coexist, co-suffer and co-serve with one another (eg 1 Cor 12:12-13,20,25-27). This is powerfully symbolised in the one table of the Lord that we come to in the communion service (1 Cor 10:16-17). And this all rests on one Lord, faith and baptism (Eph 4:4). What can we do to foster this communion within ORPC?

Secondly, there is the sharing with all Christians elsewhere on earth (the church militant). Thus Paul writes of the shared bonds with Christians whom he had never met (eg Rom 1:11-12) and organised a collection from a group of Christians for other needy believers of a different culture, race and language (eg 2 Cor 8-9). When we hear of Christians in other places who are needy or being persecuted, our sense of communion with them should mean that we feel their sufferings as though they are ours (eg Heb 10:33; Rev 1:9). Do we do this when we hear of believers in Iraq or Pakistan being driven to exile by violence, or killed in their hundreds as in Joss, Nigeria? How can we express our oneness with such people?

Thirdly, there is our partnership with believers in heaven (the church triumphant). Although absent from us in the flesh they are a living and ever- present cloud of witnesses to encourage our life of enduring faith (eg Heb 12:1) and they are people to whom we have now come when we join ourselves to Christ (Heb 12:22-23). As we sit at the Lord’s table today, let’s remember that they sit at the same table in heaven (eg Ps 23:5-6; Matt 22:1). Let’s celebrate and be comforted by that fellowship in our communion services today.

Let us be thankful to Christ who makes the communion of saints possible and who is its root, head and purpose.

David Burke