Chapter 26.1, part two
July 9, 2013
i. All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by His Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with Him in His grace, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other's gifts and graces, 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.
Because we are united to Jesus Christ, we are also united to one another--a communion of love.
The love we share within the communion of the saints is not a mere emotion. Still less is it a spiritual abstraction. Rather, the love that unites us comes to practical expression as we share our "gifts and graces" with one another.
In referring to "gifts" and "graces," the Confession is not trying to make a careful theological distinction, but to be all inclusive. Whatever we have--natural abilities, spiritual gifts, material resources--is meant to be shared with other believers in Christ.
God has not given us these "gifts and graces" solely for our own benefit, but for the well-being of our brothers and sisters in Christ. What belongs to one person is meant to be shared with everyone. This is what it means to have communion "in each other's" spiritual and material blessings: what God has given to us is designed to be used for others, so that we can all share in his blessing.
This principle--that the communion of the saints means sharing our gifts and graces--gives every believer the holy duty to do all the good we can for one another.
We will do some of this good in public, such as the pastor who uses the gift of preaching the spiritual benefit of his congregation. Some of the good we do for one another will be done in private, such as the gift card we leave in the mailbox for a family with financial needs. The communion of the saints calls us to care for the bodies and the souls of our brothers and sisters in the family of God.
Dr. Philip G. Ryken is the president of Wheaton College and author of Loving the Way Jesus Loves (Crossway 2012).