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Question and Answer

Communion of Saints


What is the correct (i.e. orthodox) position on the "communion of saints" affirmed in the Apostle's Creed?


I do not think I can do any better to answer your question about the Communion of the Saints than the authors of our Confession of Faith, so I will quote it and provide you the Scripture support:


Of the Communion of Saints

I. All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head by his Spirit and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, 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.

Romans 1:11-14; 6:5, 6; 8:17; 1 Corinthians 3:21-23; 12:7, 12; Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:5, 6; 3:16-18; 4:15, 16; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 2 Timothy 2:12; 1 John 1:3; 3:16-18.

II. Saints by profession are bound to maintain a holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

Isaiah 2:3; Acts 2:42-46; 11:29, 30; 1 Corinthians 11:20; 2 Corinthians 8-9; Hebrews 10:24, 25; 1 John 3:17

III. This communion which the saints have with Christ, doth not make them in any wise partakers of the substance of his Godhead; or to be equal with Christ in any respect, either of which to affirm is impious and blasphemous. Nor doth their communion one with another, as saints, take away, or infringe the title or propriety which each man hath in his goods and possessions.

Psalm 45:6, 7; John 1:14; 20:17; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:18, 19; Hebrews 1:6-9; Exodus 20:15; Acts 5:4; Ephesians 4:28

It is important to know that in the New Testament the word translated in our English Bibles as "saints" (from the Latin) means "holy people". This is not a designation of some Christians within the larger church but is the identity of all who belong to Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor. 1:2). I am a "saint", not because I have attained to a higher level of holiness than other Christians, but because in Jesus Christ (the Holy One) I have been declared holy as God's gift of grace in spite of my many sins (see Romans 3:19-24; Philippians 3:3-9), received by faith in Christ.

In its most basic sense, when referring to humans and other things, "holiness" indicates separation from the common to be devoted to the honor and service of God. The garments of the Old Testament priests were holy because they were worn by the priests in their service of God in the tabernacle and temple. The same is true of the holy plates and bowls and candlesticks. They were for God's use only and not for common use. And so those who belong to God by the redeeming work of Christ are His holy people, called out of the world and into His holy church.

The word "communion" means "sharing". For example, in the Lord's Supper, Christian believers share together the loaf and the cup, symbolic of sharing together in the body and blood of Christ, that is, in His atoning work on the cross.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

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Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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