Obedience and Experiencing Fellowship with the Father

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Nate, May 22, 2018.

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  1. Nate

    Nate Puritan Board Junior

    I've read through several threads related to obedience and experiencing God's favor, and all have been helpful. I have a specific question related to the topic that hasn't been directly addressed (that I can find).

    If one is working with the following specific definition of Fellowship with the Father:
    and the blessings of salvation are further defined to include justification and sanctification, then is it accurate to further posit that obedience is necessary to experience this fellowship with the Father?

    Can a distinction be made between experiencing fellowship with the Father (according to the definition, experiencing the work of God's grace; experiencing justification and sanctification), and the reality of fellowship with the Father such that the experience in this context is dependent on obedience?
  2. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I have read and reread your post a number of times, and I think the part I'm struggling with the most is this last paragraph that I quoted above.

    Q. By experiencing fellowship, which you underlined, do you mean the intimate, heartfelt emotional interaction between the persons of the Trinity and your own soul in an undeniable satisfying assurance of God's love for you along with all the benefits that accompany salvation?

    If that is what you have in mind then yes, obedience, or better said, the obedience of faith is essential. For the Holy Spirit, who is the agent of all fellowship with God, is easily grieved by our lack of faith and by our sin.

    If you have something else in mind, for me at least, a bit of clarification would be helpful. But I think you're asking a pretty interesting question.
  3. Nate

    Nate Puritan Board Junior

    I apologize for the lack of context which probably makes my question a bit unclear. This is part of an ongoing conversation in my denomination. The definition above is from a document that was, in part, an attempt to consolidate a lot of other material.

    Your question regarding what experiencing fellowship means is exactly what a lot of people are struggling to understand. In part, this experience is being used to describe the situation in Canons of Dort 5.5, where walking in sin can cause a believer to "lose the sense of God's favor for a time." There is no disagreement when "experience" is used in this way. Questions arise when the definition above is applied: is obedience an instrument through which the believer experiences the work of God's grace and justification/sanctification.

    An additional term that is used in this discussion is "sanctifying faith". Some teach that sanctifying faith is necessary for fellowship with God (necessary for both the experience of fellowship and the actual fellowship as defined above). This makes others uncomfortable due to the similar sound that "sanctifying faith" has to the "justifying faith" of Norman Shepard. This worry may be unfounded--just because they sound similar does not mean they are similar. In the context of these discussions, sanctifying faith is described as follows:
    If you or anyone else has resources on sanctifying faith or experiencing fellowship with God, that would be most helpful.
  4. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    It would seem to me: no, except for the "obedience of faith." Justification is by faith alone. One's obedience or lack thereof does not change that one has been reconciled to God. Obedience is not a means of sanctification, since sanctification produces obedience. Since all who are justified will be sanctified and since sanctification is glorification begun and glorificaiton sanctification completed, obedience is the way a Christian will walk to heaven and without it they will not see the Lord.

    According to this definition, "fellowship" is the "work" of God's "grace:" obedience cannot even possibly be necessary to experience such fellowship.

    Yes. However, I would flip them around and define things a little differently. I would say that the reality of fellowship is the objective state of affairs and not conditioned on obedience. Whereas the experience of fellowship--the Christian's subjective feelings of God's favor based on inward or outward experience--is in part conditioned on obedience (God could for his own sovereign purposes bring darkness to his obedient people as a trial, such as Job.).

    Not direct resources, but this sounds a lot like what the Marrow of Modern Divinity addresses; the thing addressed by the OP is just using different terminology instead of "law and gospel." To that end then, I think John Colquhoun's treatise on the Law and Gospel will also be useful. You may also find the last 10-15 minutes of this sermon useful too.
    Last edited: May 24, 2018
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