One of the most important and thrilling teachings of the New Testament is the Christian’s union and communion with Jesus Christ. As Sinclair Ferguson states, our union with Christ is “the heart of sanctification, the soul of devotion, and the strength of holiness”. Through the Spirit’s uniting us to Christ, we have been connected to the source of salvation. The mystical unity between Christ and his Church is expressly signified by eating and drinking, that is, by sharing a meal at the Lord’s Table. In the sharing of this meal, God signs over to us all the blessings and all the promises of the New Covenant.
This union with Christ has also been pictured as our incorporation with Christ. While it is true that all mankind may be said to be in Christ as much as in the mystery of His incarnation He took on Himself our human nature, there is beyond this a special union between the elect and Christ which comes about through sharing our faith and devotion to the one truth of the Gospel. Beside this, there is a more special union of Christ with the faithful in the resemblance of a building (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9), or again, in the limbs and members of a body (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
These biblical figures of the church all make the point that Christ is the original and wellspring of all spiritual life. The Christian is joined to Christ in that Christ is the source of a new life. This is the mystery of godliness and there is a continual transfusion of the life of Christ into the believer in our sanctification. It is here that the work of the Holy Spirit is most clearly discernable. Purity, holiness, self-control, gentleness, and reverence are the fruit of the Holy Spirit working within us. The sacrament of Holy Communion serves as a beautiful figure of the promises seen in the Gospel. As Edward Reynolds states:
For as the legal sacrifices were the shadows of Christ expected, and wrapped up in a cloud of predictions, and in the loins of His predecessors; so this mystical sacrifice of the gospel is a shadow of Christ, risen indeed, but yet hidden from us under the cloud of those heavens, which shall contain Him until the dissolution of all things. For the whole heavens are but as one great cloud, which intercepts the lustre of that sun of righteousness, who enlighteneth every one that comes into the world. Meditations, pg. 64
When we rightly partake in the Lord’s Supper, we have communion and fellowship with Christ. This union implies a transcendent reality, a reality yet to come, a heavenly reality which is known by faith. We eat and drink the sacrament of Christ crucified to signify the real and yet mysterious union of Christ. The mystical body of Christ is Holy Communion at its most profound. It is to sense being part of the mystical body of Christ. Edwards Reynolds describes this as follows:
Whence it cometh that we so often read of the inhabitation of Christ in His church, of His more peculiar presence with, and in, His people; of our spiritual ingrafture into Him by Faith; of those more near and approaching relations of brotherhood and coinheritance between Christ and us; that mutual interest, fellowship, and society, which we have to each other; with infinite other expressions of that divine and expressless mixture, whereby the faithful are, not only by a consociation of affections and confederacy of wills, but by a real, though mystical, union. Meditations, pg. 42
As the Gospel of John has it, it is not seen but yet believed and enjoyed through faith during Holy Communion. Blessed are those who have not seen that glorious body but who sense it nevertheless.