The man was a scoundrel, certainly not worthy of the invitation he had just received. He had stolen before—he had even stolen from the king’s treasury. And now he was eyeing the fat purse on the richly-dressed nobleman headed his way on the main road, when he felt a tap on his shoulder.
Oh no, he though. Caught at last.
“Sir,” a voice behind him said. He turned around.
“Sir, the king is giving a wedding feast for his son.” This was clearly one of the king’s servants. He continued, “He has prepared the dinner, his oxen and fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready.”
And what would someone like me have to do with that?
“The king would like you to come,” the servant said. “Come to the wedding feast.”
And those servants went out into the roads
and gathered all whom they found,
both bad and good.
So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Let Us Draw Near
Imagine—the sovereign, holy, all-powerful Ruler of the universe invites lowly, finite, severely flawed creatures into his presence.
This is exactly what he calls us to do. The end of Hebrews 10 contains such an invitation:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 10:19–22)
“Let us draw near.”
This idea of drawing near is an important focus of the book of Hebrews, evident by its presence in the three major climaxes of the book. Here in chapter 10:22 we find the second of these climaxes. The first is found in 4:16, which says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” And the final climax of the book is 12:22, which says, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,” and that phrase “you have come” is a translation of the same Greek term translated “draw near” in Hebrews 10:22.
Not only does this concept of drawing near appear in the book’s main literary climaxes, but it also appears in several other places in the book as well. Hebrews 7:25, 10:1, and 11:6 all focus our attention on the call to draw near to God, the basis for drawing near, and the means for drawing near. The concept of drawing near is critical in this book.
So what is the importance of this command? What does “drawing near” mean?
This idea of coming or drawing near is a translation of a term that means more than just a casual coming toward something. Rather, it specifically refers to approaching God, and we can see this by how it is used in the book of Hebrews; we find commands to draw near to God, draw near to the throne of grace, and 10:19 implies that we are to draw near to the holy place of God’s presence. So it is clear that this drawing near is coming to God, and throughout the book of Hebrews the author compares this idea of drawing near to the Hebrew worship practices—they are in chapter 10 as well, terms like “holy place,” “the veil,” “high priest,” “sprinkling” and “cleansing”; drawing near to God is what the author defines as the essence of worship—communion with God.
Drawing near to God in worship permeates the storyline of Scripture. It is what Adam and Eve enjoyed as they walked with God in the cool the day (Gen 3:8). Exodus 19:17 describes it when Moses “brought the people out of the camp to meet God” at the foot of Mt. Sinai. He had told Pharaoh to let the people go so that they might worship their God in the wilderness, and this is exactly what they intended to do at Sinai. It is what Psalm 100 commands of the Hebrews in Temple worship when it says, “Come into his presence with singing and into his courts with praise.” It is what Isaiah experienced as he entered the heavenly throne room of God and saw him high and lifted up (Isa 6). To draw near to God is to enter his very presence, to bask in his glory, to fellowship with him. It is the plea of the psalmist when he says,
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple. (Ps 27:4)
This idea of “drawing near” is a central picture of communion with God throughout Scripture, but the word most often translated “communion” or “fellowship” in the New Testament is the term koinonia. The core meaning of this term helps to further uncover the essential nature of communion with God.
At its root, koinonia simply means sharing something or having something in common with another person. For example, Luke uses the term to describe the “partnership” in fishing shared by Peter, Andrew, James, and John (Luke 5:10). Similarly, Paul uses the term to describe the sharing of material goods to meet the need of Christians in Macedonia (2 Cor 8:4).
This helps us begin to understand that communion is not something mystical or mysterious; rather, it is a relationship between individuals in which they share of themselves with each other.
The Tri-unity of God presents the perfect example of, and is indeed the ultimate source of this concept of communion. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each individual and unique persons within the singular godhead, experience perfect fellowship one with another. The very truth of three-in-one and one-in-three reveals the amazing communion shared by the persons of God. Their communion is so complete that to divide their being would be to divide God himself; as persons they are distinct, but in essence they are One. Jesus himself tells us of the unique relationship that he has with his Father; it is a relationship so profound that in reality, no one knows the Father except the Son, and no one knows the Son except the Father (Matt 11:27).
This reality about God—something that is unique to the God of Scripture compared to the gods of other religions—provides the basis for all discussions of communion with God and with others. Our commune with God is a reality in which all three persons of the godhead, each enjoying perfect communion one with another, play an active role.
Created to Commune
Indeed, to commune with God is to commune with his triunity; as John tells us, “Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3), and Paul explains that this fellowship is accomplished by the Holy Spirit: “For through [Christ] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph 2:18).
That’s right—God wants you to join in the communion he already shares within his own godhead.
Jesus himself described the relationship of one who believes in him to the triune God; notice this astounding language: “At that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:20). “My Father will love him,” Jesus promised for one who believes, “and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). It’s incredible that Jesus uses language of union here, parallel to the union he has with his Father. Later, John records a similarly striking statement Jesus made concerning the communion he desires for his people in relation to the shared communion among the persons of the trinity:
That they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one: I in them, and you in me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me. (John 17:21–23)
What an amazing description of the relationship God desires to have with us: “one in us”—one with the communion enjoyed by the persons of the trinity themselves.
In fact, God created Adam and Eve with the express purpose that they would join in the communion enjoyed by the persons of the trinity:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26–27)
Possessing the image of God means that Adam and Eve—and us by extension—are relational beings; we have the capacity, and indeed the need to commune with others. God intended that Adam and Eve would commune with each other—“it is not good that the man should be alone,” and he intended that they together would commune with him—walking with him in the cool of the day.
Initiated by God
What all of this should immediately reveal is that communion with God is not something we initiate, create, work up, or generate in any way. We cannot call God down to us through some sort of ritual or ceremony, like Baal’s prophets dancing around the altar crying out for their god to hear them.
No, God initiates the relationship of communion with him through a disclosure of himself. He first reveals himself through his creation: “His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). However, sin blinds us to what would otherwise be plain, causing us to “suppress the truth” (v. 18). It is only when God reveals himself to us that we can draw near to communion with him.
But this makes the invitation for us to draw to him even more amazing. Creating humankind with all the universe in itself displayed God’s glory; he could have chosen to leave us to ourselves, imaging him through our lives. But he didn’t. He chose to reveal himself to Adam and Eve, and he has chosen to reveal himself to us in his inspired Word.
And through that revealed Word, God calls us to do what we were created to do—commune with him.
Dining with Christ
What comes into your mind when you hear that phrase—communion with God? Sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, arms outstretched, humming? Losing yourself in emotional ecstasy? Being ushered into another dimension? Centering rituals? Emptying your mind and hearing audible voices from God?
Maybe you’ve been drawn to ideas like this, always disappointed when you genuinely pursue God, and none of this happens. Or maybe popular perceptions like this have given you a distaste for the very notion of pursuing communion with God. No, you insist, the Christian life consists simply in rational understanding of biblical theology and pursuit of holiness; any talk of communion with God is mystical new age gibberish.
There is perhaps a no more beautiful picture of the relationship that God desires to have with us as his children than how Christ expresses it in Revelation 3:20.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and eat with him,
and he with me.
The image of dining with another person around a table in their home, in the ancient near east, was about the best picture of intimate communion with someone you could use. You didn’t just invite anyone into your home. You didn’t just eat with anyone. You only invited to your dining table those with whom you had free and open fellowship. This is what was pictured with the Table of Showbread in the tabernacle and Temple in the Old Testament. That table symbolized communion with God in his presence. This is why at the end of all of the major corporate worship festivals in Israel, they had an extended time of feasting in God’s presence. This is why in Psalm 23, the fact that God prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies is so amazing and beautiful. It pictures the fact that he welcomes us into communion with him. This is also why the Pharisees were so upset when Jesus ate with publicans and sinners. They did not approve of Jesus so intimately communing with people so publicly scandalous. And one day, all of redemptive history will culminate in a great marriage banquet.
Communing with God is like eating with someone around your table in your dining room. In that kind of setting, you can let your guard down; there’s no need for pretense. Dining with someone is an opportunity for you to listen to them, to get to know them, to enjoy their company. It is an opportunity to share your heart, to communicate something of yourself. There is a mutual give and take that happens around a table. You listen as the other person speaks, and then you respond in dialogue with that person. And as you do, your relationship with that person grows deeper as you get to know them better.
This should describe the nature of our relationship with God: dining with him. We listen intently as he speaks to us through his inspired Word. And our goal in listening to his words is not simply to gain more knowledge; our goal is to know him better, to learn his likes and his dislikes, to enjoy his company. And then we speak back to him; we tell him how much we love and adore him; we share something of ourselves and cast our burdens on him.
Communion with God, like dining with someone, is a dialogue: God speaks, we speak. And as we share this communion, our relationship with God grows deeper. This is why worship is profoundly relational; all true worship is communion with God. Jesus described this kind of dialogical nature of worship when he said to the Samaritan woman in John 4 that God desires those who will worship him in spirit (our response toward God) and truth (God’s Word to us).
And that is exactly what is pictured in Christ’s invitation in Revelation 3:20. Here is the Son of God himself—verse 14 describes him as “the Amen,” the affirmation and completion of all of God’s promises toward us; he is the faithful and true witness and the source of all that is. This very Son of God stands at your door knocking, desiring to come into your formal dining room to eat with you in intimate communion.
Think about how amazing this really is. Verse 14 uses some pretty lofty language to describe Jesus:
The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
This is language not meant to emphasize the humanity of Christ, although he is without doubt 100% human. This language is meant to highlight his divinity. He is “the Amen” of God. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:20, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’—Amen in Christ.” He is the “faithful and true witness”—“He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), Jesus said. He is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3). He is the “beginning”—the source and ruler—of all creation.
He is transcendent, he is all powerful, he is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, the source, sustainer, and end of all things, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Revelation portrays him as one with brilliant white hair, flaming eyes, a long white robe with a golden sash, bronze feet, and a voice like the roar of many waters. When John saw Christ in all his glory, he fell flat on his face in terror (Rev 1:12–17). And yet this same majestic, almighty Sovereign is standing at your door.
And he wants to come into your house, into your dining room, to sit at your table and fellowship with you.