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Considerations on Communion

Notes & Transcripts

Considerations on Communion

July 19, 1998       1Cor. 11:17-34



Meaning of the word, ‘communion’:

2842 koinonia {koy-nohn-ee'-ah}


 from 2844; TDNT - 3:797,447; n f


 AV - fellowship 12, communion 4, communication 1, distribution 1,

 contribution 1, to communicate 1; 20


 1) fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation,


 1a) the share which one has in anything, participation

 1b) intercourse, fellowship, intimacy

 1b1) the right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship

 (in fulfilling the apostolic office)

 1c) a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution,

 as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship


1Co 10:16  The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

2Co 6:14  Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

2Co 13:14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.


1Co 10:16  Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?

2Co 6:14  Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

2Co 13:14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.


1Co 10:16  Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?

2Co 6:14  Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

2Co 13:14  May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

I.       The consideration of unity.  (vv. 17-19)


The fellowship of communion that Christ gave us together with him can cause more harm than good when done without him.

          A.      The damage caused by division.

          B.      The exposure caused by division.

Paul laments that if some have deviated so far from the intention of the ceremony, then the divisions will at least magnify the authenticity of those who have remained faithful.

II.      The consideration of humility.  (vv. 20-22)


The fellowship of communion that Christ gave us must accentuate the common ground at the foot of the cross upon which all must stand.

2Co 5:14  For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

2Co 5:15  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

          A.      The manner of a guest.

          B.      The manner of an intruder.

                   1.       The intruder should stay in his own home.

                   2.       The intruder despises God’s home.

The lack of consideration by the wealthy for the less well-to-do implies that they are not celebrating the Lord’s Supper at all, merely “their own supper.”

In God’s Eyes


Small as a bird, big as the skies,

We’re all the same size in God’s eyes.

Rich as a king, poor as a mite,

We’re all worth the same in God’s eyes.

Red, black, yellow or white ---

We all look the same in God’s eyes.

So maybe the way to make everything right

Is to see everybody through God’s eyes.

III.    The consideration of Christ.  (vv. 23-26)

The fellowship of communion that Christ gave us must remind us of what Christ accomplished upon the cross.

          A.      Past sacrifice

1Co 15:3  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

          B.      Present communion

          C.      Future presence

The abuse of the poor in communion is the abuse of the Lord in communion.

Perhaps one should ask themselves if they have ever truly received Christ as Lord.  I am aware of a recent decision by an important church worker in another church who responded to a missionary speaker’s invitation to salvation.  It was somewhat a shock to others who thought this person was saved, but it should never be judged after the fact.  There should just be praise to God for his grace as it applies.

IV.    The consideration of witness.  (v. 26)

The fellowship of communion that Christ gave us must impress us with the continuing invitation for others to join him at his table.

          A.      The commemoration of his sacrifice is a continuing invitation                             (1John 2:2).

          B.      This continuing invitation is extended through us.

V.      The consideration of reverence.  (vv. 27-29)

The fellowship of communion that Christ gave us must cause us to honor him with our finest attitude of worship (Mt. 22:1-14 clothed with Christ).

          A.      We must be right with God through Christ.

          B.      We must be right with God’s people.

Paul does not use the adjective “unworthy,” which would have referred to a person’s character, but highlights instead the nature of their actions.  Thus his warning was not to those who were leading unworthy lives and longed for forgiveness but to those who were making a mockery of that which should have been most sacred and solemn by their behavior at the meal.  Their “examination” of themselves refers to their behavior towards their fellow Christians - whether it is appropriate - which then qualifies participation for themselves.

VI.    The consideration of judgment.  (vv. 30-34)

The fellowship of communion that Christ gave us must prompt us to judge ourselves before we come into the presence of the Judge.

          A.      Self judgment is prudent (self eliminating - and so for all sin).

          B.      God’s judgment is stringent.

          C.      Paul’s judgment is yet incomplete.

The way to avoid tragedy is to monitor one’s own behavior.  It is not there must be a connection of weakness and sickness to one’s behavior at communion, but that there might be a connection.  How can one be sure of the source of repercussions in life unless he is confident of his stand?  But Paul ends on a somewhat upbeat note by reminding his readers that even those who have died for their actions are not damned.  Rather, God disciplines those whom he loves (Heb. 12:5-11) to protect them from further damaging themselves or others.  It is just that this discipline may be severe because the importance of the Lord’s Supper is severe.  The importance of the Lord’s Supper is severe because the punishment he incurred for us which this supper commemorates was severe - because sin is severe.  The main point is this meal is to be shared as a worshipful remembrance for all and not just to satisfy one’s own needs without regard for others or for the Lord.

The Lord’s Supper has been a point of division in the Christian community ever since Paul wrote to the Corinthians.  What God has intended to bring us together in fellowship has driven us apart.  There are views about the changeableness of the elements known as transubstantiation (actually become), consubstantiation (present in), and the reformed view (represent).  The one thing we should be careful of here is that we don’t make communion out to be a means of grace, or a sacrament rather than an ordinance.  Scripture is not clear about the changeableness of the elements, but it is clear that communion is in obedience to Christ (as an ordinance) and is not a sacrament or substitute for the means of grace that he gave once for all upon the cross. 

But there is very little in Scripture that insists it must be celebrated a certain way.  There is no restrictions on who can officiate or distribute, no particular words which must be spoken, no particular frequency commanded, no insistence that the bread be unleavened or of one loaf, no theological reason why the wine must be fermented or not, whether it should be part of a full meal or not, no limitations on a particular church, no limitation on age, no link between communion and baptism.  But Paul does set limits on our attitude and behavior.  When churches divide over these practices, it is not usually because of doctrine itself but because of peripheral issues and powerful personalities in each group.

All repentant sinners are welcome, no matter how far away from God they may have recently felt.  All professing believers who are unprepared to give generously of their wealth to help the poor in their midst, or who treat people of lower classes as second-class citizens, or who simply remain unreconciled with fellow Christians, should refrain (Mt. 5:23-24).  Above all, whatever individual introspection is involved should not overwhelm the dominant symbolism of unity.

Paul’s warnings against profaning the Lord’s Supper and incurring God’s judgment are consistently applied to all the wrong situations.  People are made to feel they should abstain if they have not felt close to God recently, or if they have been particularly disobedient, or if they have not achieved a certain level of Christian maturity, no matter how much they are prepared to repent or grow.  Instead we should be cautious against partaking if we are unwilling to be generous in helping the poor in our midst, or if we remain unreconciled with a fellow Christian over some interpersonal dispute or squabble.


Michael Green gives an excellent sixfold summary of the theology of the Lord’s Supper that Paul stresses in verses 17-34: 

          Look around (fellowship with each other)

                   Considerations of unity and humility.

          Look backwards and forwards (to Christ’s death and immanent return)

                   Consideration of Christ.

          Look outward (to proclaim God’s Word to others)

                   Consideration of witness.

          Look up (fellowship with God)

                   Consideration of reverence.

          Look in (self examination)

                   Consideration of judgment.

          But the one thing we must see is that through communion, and all it signifies and represents, all things must come together.  Let us not be a hindrance to this great coming together for which Christ died.

          Is there some reason which you don’t take communion?  When you don’t take communion you exclude yourself from the communion of the saints and your communion with Christ along with them.  Have you interpreted this passage correctly?  Certainly there are grave warnings and consequences for not heeding them.  But we do not need to remain locked in separation.  The first prerequisite to taking communion is that you personally know the One (Christ) who wants to share it with you.  You understand the symbolism and the meaning and the importance of it. 

          The second prerequisite is that you are at peace with God and at peace with the other saints with which you share it, not holding yourself to be of greater importance or more privileged.  We come to this great supper of remembrance with a right heart toward God and his children.  After all, we are to love one another (John 13:34-35).  In this, our communion is a witness of his love through us.  If we are afraid of judgment for a wrongful taking of communion, as we should be, let us not continue in refraining from communion but bring ourselves into communion through the forgiveness by  which Christ brought us into communion. 

          And if we are living in a known sin in defiance of God other than a sin of fellowship (which is not the primary meaning of this passage), we do well not to impose upon his grace by a wrongful taking of communion.  But to stay away from communion by staying in a sin is to bring ourselves into the same judgment as taking the communion in sin (Heb. 6:4-6).  What Christ wants is our communion with him and with each other, and he provides the means for which to do so.  It is called repentance and forgiveness (1John 1:9), with God and also between ourselves.

          If you recall last week’s message about the first duty of the church being prayer, then the idea of this week’s message is about the first duty of worship.  Certainly it must be communion with God, which we have through Christ.  If the essence of communion is fellowship, then this is a necessary prerequisite even to be able to praise God acceptably (with reverence and with awe, Heb. 12:28).  The priority of our worship is fellowship.  The most serious sin in worship is to abuse fellowship with God by abusing fellowship with each other.  How will he receive our praise if we have no relationship with him?  And when each one has true communion with Christ, then we have communion with each other and no one will come under condemnation.  God intends for communion to take place whenever we worship together.  It’s just that we formally celebrate it once a month.

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