The Characteristics of Christian Communion: The Fellowship of the Saints (Boston)

Historic Christian theology affirms the reality of the communion (or fellowship) of the saints. In the historic Creed we say, “I believe…the communion of the saints.” It’s a confession that we believe in the biblical truth that there’s a deep bond among and between followers of Jesus. The NT word is fellowship (κοινωνία – koinonia). This word means partnership, sharing, communion, or close association. The early church was devoted to fellowship/communion (Acts 2:42). Those who walk in the light of Christ have “fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7).

Speaking of the communion of the saints, Thomas Boston (d. 1732) preached several sermons on this topic from 1 Corinthians 10:17: For we that are many, are one bread and one body, because we are all partakers of one bread (Geneva Bible). Boston explained the properties or characteristics of this communion:

First, It is a most honorable communion, for it is a communion with the holy Trinity. 1 John 1:3. “And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

(1.) The Father is the Head and Father of the communion, Eph. 4:6. 1 Cor. 11:3.

(2.) The center of this communion is the Son, the blessed Mediator. In him all join together – 1 Cor. 11:3.

(3.) The Holy Spirit is the internal original bond of this communion knitting all the members to Christ, and among themselves, Eph. 4:4. He brings them together into Christ, and to his Father, fixes and holds them there by his infinite power, that they can never be broken off again.

Second, It is a most rich communion. There are societies and companies this day joining groups together, to advance worldly wealth; but the richest of them have nothing but trifles in comparison with the company or communion of saints. The communion of saints is the company trading to heaven, and their wealth is beyond imagination. For a view of it, consider only these two things.

(1.) They have communion with Christ, a common interest with him who is Heir of all things, so that they may set their name under his, on all that is his. They have communion with him in his perfect righteousness, Is. 45:24.

(2.) They have communion with God; for so runs the covenant, “I will be your God” Ps. 144:15. God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is theirs.

Third, It is a most extensive communion. And it extends,

(1.) Over the earth; and so is called the catholic or universal church, 1 Cor. 1:2. Though vast tracks of land and huge seas interpose betwixt them; though they have different languages, so that some of them cannot understand what others say, and their customs are very different; yet none of all these prevent their being members of one and the same body.

Fourth, It is a holy communion. It is a fellowship of saints, Eph. 2:19. “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and household of God.” The head, center, bond, and members of this communion, are all holy. They are a society set apart for God, drawn out of the world lying in wickedness, walking in the way of holiness with displayed banners towards the holy land.

(NOTE: I’ve edited the above for length and readability.)

Boston, Thomas. The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: Sermons, Part 1. Ed. Samuel M‘Millan. Vol. 3. Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1848. pages 598-99.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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