Through our union with Jesus Christ through faith, we enjoy fellowship with all His people—those who are alive today as well as those who have already gone on to glory. Today, R.C. Sproul reflects on the communion of saints.
When the Apostles’ Creed talks about the church, it talks about the communion of saints. Not to confuse that with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, which we call the Holy Communion. The communion of saints points to something beyond that.
I just received a letter today from a young man, twenty six years old, who is suffering from a terminal illness. He is soon to die. He wrote me to tell me that he had read one of my books, a book on suffering, Surprised By Suffering, and he wanted to tell me that he was ready to go home. He said that he is looking forward to spending eternity with Christ. He said, “I want you to know I’m going to die in faith.” It gave me chill bumps to read this young man’s letter. I don’t know what word I can find to describe what I felt towards him personally. But if there was one word that captured it, it’s the word pride. I was proud of this young man.
But as I began to think about him through the day, I thought there’s some things I want to talk to him about, and one of them is meeting Martin Luther and St. Augustine and Calvin and Edwards and all of the great saints of the past. I’m going to say to that young man: “Do you realize that you’re about to embark on an adventure that every Christian up until this point in history—those of us who are still alive are excluded—but every Christian from the past has already crossed the veil. Every one of them has made that pilgrimage through death’s door before us. And everyone who was in Christ died in faith, and they have joined that whole host of witnesses and that the fellowship that we enjoy, the mystical communion that we enjoy as members of the body of Christ transcends the local congregation of which we’re a part.”
As a Christian, when I am worshiping Christ, when I am in church on Sunday morning, I am enjoying fellowship with Christ, and by the Spirit, I am communing with Jesus. But you, as you visit your church on Sunday morning—which may be a different denomination and may be in a different town from where I live—you also are enjoying fellowship with Christ. Since Christ is able to be present at your church and at mine, and I am linked to Him and you are linked to Him, there is the communion of us together. But that communion is not only a communion of saints living, but we who are united to Christ in this world, also, in at least a mystical sense, are communing with those who have gone before us who are alive and present and abiding in Christ. I would say to my friend, “Look, please give my regards to Luther when you get there.” I really have a sense in my soul that I envy this young man who’s going into the presence of Christ.