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What is communion? The Apostle Paul explains in scripture that the Passover is the communion of the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16), that light has no communion with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14), and that the saints have communion with God and Christ through the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14). Some use the term communion to describe a relationship to God that Christians generally enjoy because of the grace of Christ. Others use the term when describing organizational Christian fellowship within the body of a unified church group.
Communion between Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and others has long been sought by the Roman Catholic Church. This type of communion is what past popes have striven for, and what Pope Francis currently works toward. This type of communion is what clergy such as the late Anglican bishop Tony Palmer and Pentecostal minister Kenneth Copeland announced in the spring of 2014, and which Tony Palmer explained the 1999 agreement between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Reformation Church is intended to achieve, stating that “by grace alone in faith in Christ’s saving works and not because of any merit on our part we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit…” (“Francis, Ecumenism, and the Common Witness to Christ,” The Catholic World Report, September 5, 2014).
Addressing his Pentecostal audience, Palmer rightly explained that the implications of the words “by grace alone” were, for centuries, one of the big causes for division between Catholics and Protestants. This disagreement was a fundamental cause of Martin Luther’s break from Roman Catholicism. Agreement on grace alone is hoped to bring communion once again. And while an eventual organizational communion is a monumental, prophesied event, the fundamental question remains: does one achieve communion with God by grace alone?
To better understand grace and the part that grace plays in building a relationship with God, it is helpful to note that God provides His grace both before and after conversion. As the late evangelist John Ogwyn once wrote regarding God’s grace to people before repentance and conversion: “First, we require God’s grace, given through God the Father’s gift of His only begotten Son, who died in our stead and paid sin’s penalty on our behalf (John 3:16; Romans 3:24–25). Second, we must respond to God’s grace with faith and repentance (Romans 5:1–2; Acts 3:19)” (Living Church News, reprint article, March–April 2013).
True Christians then, as recipients of God’s grace and with Christ living in them, strive to uphold and keep God’s law (Romans 3:31). No one will do this perfectly, but faithfulness and obedience to God’s law is not a matter of personal works and is not a matter of earning salvation in some way—it is, instead, the result of Christ living in His followers (Romans 5:10; Galatians 2:20) and of His faith working through them (Galatians 2:16). Other than Jesus Christ, no one keeps God’s law perfectly (cf. Romans 3:23; 7:15); thus God continues to show His grace.
So, as Ephesians 2:8 explains, it is because of God’s grace that Christians “are being” saved through faith (read “Of Grace and Obedience” for a further explanation). Those who truly are Christians have been saved from past sins by the blood of Christ and are now “being saved” (Matthew 24:13), and “shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10)—by His living in them (Galatians 2:20)! Christians do not continue in sin because they are recipients of God’s grace (Romans 6:1–2). Instead, by faith—and by Jesus Christ’s faith and Him living in them—Christians obey and “uphold the law” (Romans 3:31, New International Version).
God’s true Church has long taught accurately about grace, faith, obedience, the law—and about the coming communion between the Roman Catholic Church and her Protestant daughters. Major prophecies are indeed being fulfilled right now! But, equally importantly, true Christians need to understand and be extremely grateful not only for God’s grace but also for Jesus Christ’s faith—His faith working in them (Galatians 2:16)—by which His disciples are able to practice righteousness and obey God’s law, which ultimately leads to God’s reward of eternal life (Matthew 25:46).
To learn more, be sure to order or read online the free study guides What Is a True Christian? and Christian Baptism: Its Real Meaning.
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