Does the Westminster Confession teach “Common grace” or a remnant of the image of God in man?

Head—Paragraph —Teaching
III 5 Free grace brings unconditional election
IV 2 Image of God is knowledge, righteousness and true holiness
IV 5 God is gracious to his people
IV 6 God withholds grace from reprobate
VI 1,2 Total depravity of man, fallen from righteousness
VII 3 Covenant of grace is ratified by Christ and for the elect
VIII 3 Christ is full of grace
X 1,2 Grace and salvation comes by Christ causing among his people a willingness to come and respond to his effectual call
XI 3 Justification is by grace
XII Adoption is by grace and God is on a throne of grace
XIII 3 We are called to grow in grace
XV 1,3 Repentance is an evangelical grace. Grace is in Christ.
XVI 3 Graces are received by the Holy Spirit
XVII 2 Covenant of grace
XVIII 1,2 Elect may be assured of being in a state of grace by their faith, love, godly walk and evidence of graces
XIX 7 The law is not contrary to grace of the gospel
XXVI 1 We have fellowship in Christian grace and communion in each other’s graces
XXVII, XVIII 1,1 The sacraments (baptism and Lord’s Supper) are signs and seals of the covenant of grace and put a visible difference between church and world
From the above references grace is only for God’s elect, it is always particular just as the atonement was, and it renews them in the image of God, calling them out and separating them from the ungodly world who being totally depraved have nothing of that image.

Communion with God the Son (5b)

John Owen continues: I shall only add that of Prov. 9:1–5, “Wisdom has builded her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars; she has killed her beasts; she has mingled her wine; she has also furnished her table. She has sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city, Whose is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.” The Lord Christ, the eternal Wisdom of the Father, and who of God is made unto us wisdom, erects a spiritual house, wherein he makes provision for the entertainment of those guests whom he so freely invites. His church is the house which he has built on a perfect number of pillars, that it might have a stable foundation: his slain beasts and mingled wine, wherewith his table is furnished, are those spiritual fat things of the gospel, which he has prepared for those that come in upon his invitation. Surely, to eat of this bread, and drink of this wine, which he has so graciously prepared,
is to hold fellowship with him; for in what ways or things is there nearer communion than in such?

Communion with God the Son (5)

Our fellowship with him is characterized by: (1.) Sweetness. (2.) Delight. (3.) Safety. (4.) Comfort.

Safety: “His banner over me was love,”  Song of Songs 2:4. The banner is an emblem of safety and protection, — a sign of the presence of an host. Persons belonging to an army do encamp under their banner in security. It is also a token of success and victory,Ps. 20: 5. Christ has a banner for his saints; and that is love. All their protection is from his love; and they shall have all the protection his love can give them. This safeguards them from hell, death, — all their enemies. Whatever presses on them, it must pass through the banner of the love of the Lord Jesus. They have, then, great spiritual safety; which is another ornament or excellency of their communion with him.

Support and consolation, (2:6), “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand
does embrace me.” Christ here has the posture of a most tender friend towards any one in sickness and sadness. The soul faints with love, — spiritual longings after the enjoyment of his presence; and Christ comes in with his embraces. He nourisheth and cherisheth his church, Eph. 5:29; Now, “the hand under the head,” is the support of sustaining grace, in pressures and difficulties; and “the hand that does embrace,” the hand upon the heart, is joy and consolation; —in both, Christ rejoicing, as the “bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride,” Isaiah 62:5. Now, thus to lie in the arms of Christ’s love, under a perpetual influence of support and refreshing, is certainly to hold communion with him. And hereupon,  (Song of Songs) 2:7, the spouse is most earnest for the continuance of his fellowship, charging all so to demean themselves, that her Beloved be not disquieted, or provoked to depart. In brief, this whole book is taken up in the description of the communion that is between the Lord Christ and his saints;

John Owen (abridged)

Friendship of David and Jonathan reflects something of Christ’s covenant love to his people:

Communion with God the Son (4)

Characterised by delight.

The spouse is quite ravished with the sweetness of this entertainment, finding love,
and care, and kindness, bestowed by Christ in the assemblies of the saints. Hence she cries out, 2:5 “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love.” Upon the discovery of the excellency and sweetness of Christ in the banqueting-house, the soul is instantly overpowered, and cries out to be made partaker of the fullness of it. She is “sick of love:” overcome, with the mighty acting of that divine affection, after she had once tasted of the sweetness of Christ in the banqueting-house. Her desire deferred, makes her heart sick; therefore she cries, “Stay me,” etc.; — “I have seen a glimpse of the ‘King in his beauty,’ — tasted of the fruit of his righteousness; my soul melteth in longing after him. When a person is fainting on any occasion, these two things are to be done:— strength is to be used to support him, things are given to refresh his spirits. The beloved needs strengthening grace to support her in that condition, to do her duty; and refreshing of the Holy Ghost, to revive her until she come to a full enjoyment of Christ. And thus sweetly and with delight is this communion carried on.

Our faith

Our faith in Christ, a marvelous gift of God is the human side of our justification. God justified us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with into which we are baptized by the Spirit who simultaneously works faith in us. 

We are “kept by the power of God through faith (the means) unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” 

I Peter 1:5-7.

Note it is our faith in Christ, very precious faith, not as some posit, the faithfulness of Christ or our faith in the faithfulness of Christ. The object of our faith is Christ and it is we who believe and are kept believing till faith gives way to sight! Then faith and hope will be done away and only love, which is eternal, love between us and our Saviour will remain forever.

Communion with God the Son (3)

Owen continues:  Our fellowship with him is characterized by: (1.) Sweetness. (2.) Delight. (3.) Safety. (4.) Comfort.
(1.) Sweetness: “He brought me to the banqueting-house,” or “house of wine.” It is all set forth under expressions of the greatest sweetness and most delicious refreshment, — flagons, apples, wine, etc. “He entertains me,” saith the spouse. This is grace and mercy, — love, kindness, supplies revealed in the gospel, declared in the assemblies of the saints, exhibited by the Spirit. This “love is better than wine,” Song.1: 2 “not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Gospel dainties are sweet refreshments; whether these houses of wine be the Scriptures, the gospel, or the ordinances dispensed in the assemblies of the saints, or any eminent and signal manifestations of special love (as banqueting is not every day’s work.)

Communion with God the Son (2)

The bride compares him to the apple-tree among the trees ( Song of Songs 2:3) of the because he has the two eminent things of trees, which the residue of them have not:—

1. Fruit for food; 2. Shade for refreshment.

Of the one she eats, under the other she rests; both with great delight.  These are desirable things, to an hungry, weary soul (such alone seek for shade and fruit). “In Christ,” saith she, “there is fruit, fruit sweet to the taste; yea, ‘his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed,’ ” John 6:55. “Moreover, he has brought forth that everlasting righteousness which will abundantly satisfy any hungry soul, after it has gone to many a barren tree for food, and has found none. Besides, he abounds in precious and pleasant graces, whereof I may eat; yea, he calls me to do so, and that abundantly.” These are the fruits that Christ bears. They speak of a tree that brings forth all things needful for life, in food and raiment. Christ is that tree of life, which has brought forth all things that are needful unto life eternal. In him is that righteousness which we
hunger after; — in him is that water of life, which whoso drinks of shall thirst no more. Oh, how sweet are the fruits of Christ’s mediation to the faith of his saints! Shades for refreshment and shelter; — shelter from wrath without, and refreshment because of weariness from within. When the heat of wrath is ready to scorch the soul, Christ, interposing, bears it all. Under the shadow of his wings we sit down constantly, quietly, safely, putting our trust in him; and all this with great delight. Yea, who can express the joy of a soul safe shadowed from wrath under the covert of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus! There is also refreshment in a shade from weariness. He is “as the shadow of a
great rock in a weary land,” Isaiah 32:2. From the power of corruptions, trouble of temptations, distress of persecutions, there is in him quiet, rest, and repose, Matt. 11:27, 28.
John Owen

Communion with God the Son (1).

We commune with him ( I Cor.1:9) as Mediator.

The souls of the saints are the garden of Jesus Christ where he finds fragrance of graces he has imparted (Song of Sol. 2:14). He delights in the fruit of the Spirit in us (Song.5:1).

Likewise he calls the spiritual dainties that he has for us a “feast,” a
“wedding.” (Prov.9:2,5).

Both Christ and his church are likened to beautiful lilies, because they mutually indwell each other. He is also the fragrant rose of Sharon.

This mutual union and communion is the (new) covenant.

What he is to his spouse: “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys” (Song of Songs 5: 1). The Lord Christ is, in the Scripture, compared to all things of eminency in the whole creation. He is in the heavens the sun, and the bright morning star; as the lion among the beasts, the lion of the tribe of Judah. Among the flowers of the field, here he is the rose and the lily. The two eminencies of flowers, sweetness of savour and beauty of colour, are divided between these. The rose for sweetness and the lily for beauty (“Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” [Matt. 6:29])

Communion with God (40)

Requires a WAY.

There must be a way wherein we must walk with God. Christ stated clearly that he is the way, who has set apart for that purpose “a new and living way” into the holiest of all (Heb. 10:20); a new one, for the first, old one was useless; a living one, for the other (The Law summarised in the Ten Commandments) is dead: therefore, says he, “Let us draw near” (v. 22); having a way to walk in, let us draw near. “I am the way; and no man comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). He is the medium of all communication between God and us. In him we meet; in him we walk. All influences of love, kindness, mercy, from God to us, are through him; all our returns of love, delight, faith, obedience unto God, are all through him—he being that “one way” God so often promises his people: and it is a glorious way (Isaiah 35:8)—a high way, a way of holiness, a way that none can err in that once enter it; which is further set out (Isaiah 42:16). All other ways, all paths but this, go down to the chambers of death; they all lead to walk contrary to God.


Further excerpts from John Owen’s book:

“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth,” 1 John 1:6. “He that saith, I know him” (I have communion with him), “and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him,”1 John 2:4. The love of the world and of the Father dwell not together. And if this be so, how many that go under the name of Christians, come short of the truth of it! How unacquainted are the generality of professors with the mystery of this communion, and the fruits of it! Do not many very evidently hold communion with their lusts and with the world, and yet would be thought to have a portion and inheritance among them that are sanctified? They have neither new name nor white stone, and yet would be called the people of the Most High. May it not be said of many of them, rather, that God is not in all their thoughts, than that they have communion with him? The Lord open the eyes of men, that they may see and know that walking with God is a matter not of form, but power! In other words many who profess to be Christians, attend church etc are not at all God’s people!-JK

This ends Part One of communion with the Father.

Why is the Christian bound to obey Christ and do good works?

Owen states:

  • God has decreed this (Eph.2:10), the Son has ordained and appointed this as mediator  and he pours out the Holy Ghost to enable believers to works of obedience and holiness and to work holiness in others.
  • Our holiness is the one major purpose of Father, Son, and Spirit in the business of exalting the glory of God in our salvation.
  • For ourselves there is honour, peace, usefulness.
  • For others in the world it serves to the conviction and stopping the mouths of some of the enemies of God.
  • It contributes to the conversion of others.
  • Mainly (and this agrees with Heidelberg Catechism) it is the whole expression of our thankfulness.