Communion is one of two sacraments or ordinances instituted by Christ to be observed by His church until He returns: BAPTISM & THE LORD’S SUPPER.
Today, I would like to look at The Lord’s Supper.
The institution of the Lord's Supper (Matt. 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:1-23; 1 Cor. 11:23-25) took place on the night before Jesus died, at a meal commonly known as the Last Supper.
12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.
14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, 'The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?'
15 He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there."
16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.
18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me-- one who is eating with me."
19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, "Surely not I?"
20 "It is one of the Twelve," he replied, "one who dips bread into the bowl with me.
21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body."
23 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them.
25 "I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."
26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Although there is considerable debate over the issue, the Last Supper probably was the Jewish PASSOVER meal, first instituted by God in the days of Moses (Ex. 12:1-14; Num. 9:1-5).
Numbers 9:1-5: The LORD spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, "Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations." So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the LORD commanded Moses.
Many of Jesus' actions and words at the Last Supper, such as the breaking and distributing of the bread, were part of the prescribed Passover ritual.
But when Jesus said, "This is My body" and "This is My blood" while distributing the bread and the cup, He did something totally new.
The Dynamic View agreed that the bread and wine are to be understood symbolically.
Christ is not physically present in the elements, because His risen, glorified body is in heaven (Heb. 10:12-13).
Still, He is dynamically and spiritually present in the Lord's Supper through the Holy Spirit.
In the worship service (but not at any one precise moment), when the Word of God is proclaimed and the Lord's Supper is received, the glorified Christ actually gives spiritual nourishment from His own glorified body to those who receive it.
As bread nourishes the physical body, so Christ's glorified body enlivens the soul.
Because of the organic union between Christ, the risen Head and the members of His body, the church (Eph. 1:18-23; 4:15-16; 5:23), this nourishment is conveyed to Christians by the Spirit who dwells in them (Rom. 8:9-11).
The way the Spirit does this is a genuine mystery.
This corresponds well with those Scriptures that speak of God's nourishing and empowering work in His people (Eph. 3:14-21; Col. 2:6-10,19).
Ephesians 3:14-21: For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!
Colossians 2:6-19: So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority ... He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Biblical Teachings on Communion
In (1 Corinthians 10:16), the apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their involvement with idolatry.
He referred to the cup as "the communion of the blood of Christ" and the bread as "the communion of the body of Christ."
The Greek word for communion has the meaning of "fellowship, participating, and sharing."
From the context it appears that Paul is saying that when Christians partake of the cup and the bread, they are participating in the benefits of Christ's death (referred to as His blood) and resurrection life (His glorified body).
The most important of these benefits are the assurance of sins forgiven (through Christ's blood) and the assurance of Christ's presence and power (through His body).
The "one body" (the universal church) in (1 Corinthians 10:17) connects with the "body of Christ" in (verse 16) in the sense that the entire church of Christ is organically related to the living, glorified human body of Christ now in heaven.
The "one [loaf of] bread" (v. 17), representing Jesus the "bread of life" (John 6:35), is eaten by all believers at the Supper, symbolizing their unity and common participation in the one body of Christ.
The great discourse of Jesus on the bread of life (John 6:25-68), while not intended to be a direct theological explanation of the Lord's Supper, helps to explain how receiving the communion can be one way in which Christians "feed" on the Lord (John 6:55-57).
Other important ways are by prayer and the hearing of God's Word through the Scriptures.
In (1 Corinthians 11:17-34) Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their pride and greed during the meal that accompanied communion (vv. 17-22).
Then (vv. 23-25) he described the institution of the Lord's Supper and emphasized the need for Christians to partake in a worthy manner.
Many of them who had not been doing so were weak and sick, and many had even died as a result of God's judgment <vv. 27-34>.
Why does Paul use such strong language when speaking of the abuse of the Lord's Supper?
The Corinthians were not properly discerning or recognizing the Lord's body.
The wealthy Corinthians who shamed their poorer Christian brothers and sisters by their selfish eating practices (vv. 21-22) were not discerning the true nature of the church as Christ's body in which all distinctions of social class, race, etc. were blotted out (Gal. 3:28).
On the other hand, Christians who received the bread and the cup after behaving disgracefully were failing to discern that Christ would not automatically bless and empower those who received the sacrament in this manner.
Such persons were guilty of sin against the body and blood of Jesus (v. 27).
Meaning for Today
When we ask how the Lord's Supper should be meaningful to the Christian today, three concepts-- relating to the past, present, and future-- can be helpful.
First, the Lord's Supper is a time of remembrance and communion.
Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25).
This is not to be so much our dwelling on the agonies of the crucifixion as it is to be our remembering the marvelous life and ministry of our Savior.
Communion is to be an occasion for expressing our deepest praise and appreciation for all Jesus Christ has done for us.
Just as one step in the Jewish Passover meal was to proclaim the Hebrews' deliverance from Egyptian bondage (Ex. 12:26-27), so in the Supper Christians proclaim their deliverance from sin and misery through the death of "Christ, our Passover" (1 Cor. 5:7; 11:26).
Second, the Supper is a time of refreshing and communion.
As we participate in the benefits of Jesus' death and resurrection life (Rom. 5:10; 1 Cor. 10:16), we are actually being nourished and empowered from the risen Christ through the Spirit.
John Wesley knew of this strengthening.
On the average, he received communion every four or five days throughout his long and fruitful ministerial career.
It is not that God cannot empower us without the Lord's Supper, but that He has instituted the Supper for us, even as He has designated prayer and the hearing of Scripture as means of communicating His grace.
While the Bible does not tell us how often to observe the communion, Wesley's guideline--" as often as you can"-- deserves our serious consideration.
Third, the Supper is a time of recommitment and anticipation.
We are to examine (literally "prove" or "test") ourselves and partake in a worthy manner (1 Cor. 11:28-29).
In so doing we renew our dedication to Christ and His people, in hopeful anticipation "till He comes" (1 Cor. 11:26).
After Christ's return we shall partake with Him-- in His physical presence-- in the kingdom (Matt. 26:29).
Paul stressed the memorial aspect of the Supper. "Do this in remembrance of me."
Christians were to remember that the body of Christ was broken and His blood shed for them.
As in baptism, sharing the Supper is a proclamation of the gospel in hope, "until He comes."
As the Passover was a symbol of the old covenant, the Lord's Supper is a symbol of the New Covenant.
Christians remember the sacrifice provided for their deliverance from bondage and look forward to the ultimate consummation in the land of promise, the kingdom of God.
The Supper shared in remembrance of the past and hope for the future is fulfilled in fellowship for the present.
Time and again the phrase "in Christ" is repeated in the writings of Paul.
Union in Christ and unity with Christians is a recurring theme.
Not surprisingly, therefore, one finds these emphases related to the Lord's Supper.
"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?" (1 Cor. 10:16).
Paul was not talking about a repetition of the sacrifice of Christ, but a genuine sharing of fellowship (koinonia) with the living Lord.
Fellowship in Christ is basic for fellowship in his body (v. 17).
All Christians are unworthy to share the Lord's Supper, but His grace has provided for them in their unworthiness.
The tragedy is that some partake in an unworthy manner, not discerning the Lord's body.
Paul addressed this matter for the Corinthians and for us, urging that Christians examine themselves and respect the corporate body of Christ as they share the Supper of the Lord.