The Communion of Saints

Rev. Chip Hammond

“I love Grandpa Hammond.” I rejoiced to hear the words. It was a most remarkable statement from my nine year old son.

“What’s so remarkable about that?” you might ask. “Of course kids love their grandparents!” True. What was remarkable was my son’s grasp of theology, particularly the doctrine of the “Communion of Saints.” For you see, Grandpa Hammond passed away almost a year to the day before my oldest son was born.

But my son has been brought up in the Church of Jesus Christ. He worships in the company of the redeemed. He hears and reads the Bible. He is catechized. And he has committed to memory that Great Symbol of the universal Christian Faith, the Apostles’ Creed.

In this Creed, under the head of faith in the Holy Spirit, we affirm, “I believe in the communion of saints.” This is simply a confession of the teaching of the Scripture that all Christians are vitally united, not only to Christ ( Rom. 6:5), but also to one another (Eph. 4:25; Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12).

Too many Christians limit this wonderful doctrine to mean “the communion of the saints I know,” or “those who are in my Church.” This is far too parochial. We are united, not only to them, but to our brothers throughout the whole world (see 1 Peter 5:9). But it does not reach a terminus there, for these are not the only fellow believers we have, and so not the only believers we have fellowship with.

There is a “great multitude” of our brothers and sisters in heaven (Rev. 7:9). We walk too much by sight, not by faith. Too many Christians do not live in anticipation of the resurrection (and some doubt it so much they substitute “going to heaven” for it). But the resurrection should not be unbelievable to us because Jesus died and rose again. In addition, as Jesus told the Sadducees, the resurrection should not be considered incredible because the faithful who have gone on are not now dead: “‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living” (Matt. 22:32).

The great doctrine of the Communion of Saints, founded upon the Scriptures, means that we do not need to grieve for those who are no longer with us, as do the rest of men who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). Our fellowship with them is unbroken, for they are not “gone,” only “gone away.” We are still vitally united to all who are vitally united to Christ. No Christian need ever say of a departed brother, “I loved him so much.” He ought to say rather, “I love him.”

I love my Dad very much, and anticipate with the joy the day I see him again. I love Pastor Kellogg very much, and can’t wait to see him again. And I look forward to meeting Peter, John, James, and Paul; Cyril, Cyprian, Augustine, Bonaventure, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Machen, and a host of others. I am united with them, for I am together with them united to Christ. They are “gone away,” not “gone.”

I would be glad for the Lord to return today. But if he tarries, I’m not in a rush to go from here. For now, I have much to be thankful for, not the least of which is that my son has a grasp on the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. It broadens his view of creation and redemption, and brings him wonder and joy. And I know that no matter what the future brings, because of it my son will never speak of his love for me in the past tense.