Communion is monthly, quarterly, and annually practiced as a memorial celebration in our religious world. Even the day of the week has become optional to many. We Believe We Should Take Communion every Week on First Day of the Week
Wouldn’t Communion be more special if we only observed it occasionally? It has always surprised me when the idea is presented that doing something weekly makes it less important or makes it a ritual.
Imagine that we are walking along a busy street when suddenly we realize a family member has walked into the way of an approaching car. We are in shock and find that we have difficulty in literally ‘moving,’ to be able to do something about what is about to happen.
But someone else who is walking with us sees the identical thing and rushes into the street, grabs hold of the person and pushes them to safety…but stumbles in their ability to get away from the car and are hit and killed on contact.
Do any of us think there is a single moment, much less a day, when we do not think of that person’s heroic effort and the realization that their life was given for the one of our loved one! Does thinking of it often diminish the gratitude and take away the act of that occasion?
But that is not a real issue, the real question is what does God want us to do? What about worship in general: giving, praying, singing, hearing the Word, should we only do them infrequently?
It is wrong to do something at one time if God reveals another time. Could the Jews have observed Passover at any time?
There is no express statement in the Bible commanding that the only time to take of the Lord’s Supper is on the first day of the week or that we should partake every first day. However, the evidence of example is strong and complete that this is the time God intended for us to partake and that His intent is for us to partake every first day.
When we remember the things which are to happen in the communion, the reasons become all the more obvious that we should commune on a regular basis.
God has always given people memorials to remind them of important events regarding their relationship with Him. He put a rainbow in the sky to remind Noah, those who were saved in the ark with him, and the generations to come of His promise not to destroy the world again by water (Genesis 9:11–15).
He instructed Israel to set up stones beside the Jordan River when they passed through to the Promised Land. These stones were to remind the generations that followed of His care and keeping of His people (Joshua 4:1–7).
WHAT IS IT? One of the words used about this memorial is “communion,” which means “fellowship” or “sharing”: “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?” (1 Corinthians 10:16; KJV).
When we take of the bread and the fruit of the vine in memory of Christ’s death for us, we are in fellowship, or communion, with the Lord and with each other. The bond of fellowship tied to taking the communion together should keep Christians close together in unity.
The many are to be one because of the bond of communion. When we come together to worship God and take the Lord’s Supper together, our minds and hearts should go back to the cross where Jesus died for us.
As we share this experience, it ought to do away with petty differences and draw us close together as a body of people. When people commune together one moment and fuss and fight with each other the next, something is wrong with their worship. In
1 Corinthians 11:17–22, Paul told this same group that their coming together as a church was not for the better, but for the worse. He gave these reasons:
(1) Divisions were prevalent among them;
(2) factions existed among them;
(3) when they came together, it was not to take of the Lord’s Supper.
They had changed the worship into a time of feasting. The purpose of their gathering had evolved from communing with God and worshiping Him to reveling in their own pleasure. Remember, when worship becomes people-centered rather than God-centered, it has ceased to be what God intended.
When we focus mostly on what we like and what makes us feel good, it will not be long before factions and divisions arise all about us.
WHY IS IT DONE?
The Lord’s Supper is about remembering. When the church comes together on the first day of the week to take of the Lord’s Supper, we are to remember personally and individually what Jesus did for us on the cross. Our thoughts are to be of Him. In truth, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” ( 1 Corinthians 11:26).
We are preaching to all who look on as we take of the simple elements of bread and fruit of the vine, “We believe that Jesus died for us.” Also, we proclaim, “We believe that He is coming again.” This is a sermon all Christians can preach every Lord’s Day as they worship with the body of Christ.
When we take of the bread and the fruit of the vine, it is vital for us to give concern to what we are doing.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly ( 1 Corinthians 11:27–29).
Please understand, Paul did not say that we must be worthy to take of the communion. None are worthy! We are all guilty of sin, and our hearts are stained.
It is the manner which must be worthy. We are to partake of the communion with our minds focused on the dying Lord. We are to examine ourselves to see if we are following Him as we should.
Down through the centuries since the establishment of the church, the Lord’s Supper has been a most controversial issue. During the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic church had already come to dominate the entire religious scene.
By that time, the doctrine of transubstantiation had evolved. Also, the Lord’s Supper had come to be referred to as a sacrament.
A sacrament was an avenue through which God channeled His grace into the world, and man could not partake of the blessings of God unless he had the Lord’s Supper.
The doctrine of transubstantiation taught that a miracle automatically took place at the time of the blessing of the communion by the priest of a Catholic church. That miracle caused the bread to become the literal body of Jesus, and the fruit of the vine miraculously became the actual blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Because the fruit of the vine supposedly became Jesus’ blood, it was taken only by the priests. The doctrine of transubstantiation dominated the church until the time of Martin Luther.
During the Protestant Reformation, Luther taught a different concept of the Lord’s Supper known as consubstantiation. This doctrine was very similar to that of transubstantiation, but it taught that in a mysterious way, the blood and body of Christ were to be found in the elements.
However, one would discover that the elements would actually taste like the fruit of the vine and the bread.
Later, during the Protestant Reformation, Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland promoted the idea that the Lord’s Supper was intended primarily to be a memorial. The Supper was a matter of remembering the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross.
When Zwingli and Luther met in the Marburg colloquy, in which each of them vehemently discussed their different points of view, Luther took off the table a sword that was in a sheath. Taking the sword out of the sheath, and putting it back in a rather vehement manner, he would say, This is my body, as a quotation of the words of Christ.
Both Zwingli’s and Luther’s ideas are predominant in the religious world today. We need to understand what the Lord’s Supper really is and what God intended the elements to be.
We do not consider the Lord’s Supper in a sacramental way. A sacramental view would mean that the ceremony itself has a certain power to impart a blessing apart from the heart of a participant. In this view, the emblems of Communion are felt to have intrinsic power.
However, the Bible teaches that the emblems offer no blessing unless the heart of a participant is right with God
We simply eat bread and drink grape juice when we do not partake biblically: (1 Corinthians 11:20 (ESV) When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.
Therefore, we do not believe that the Lord’s Supper actually becomes the body and blood of Christ.
Toward the close of the ministry of Jesus, as the feast of the Passover drew near, Jesus’ disciples came to Him and said, Wilt thou that we prepare for the observance of the Passover?
Our Lord told them yes, and that they were to go to a certain man and tell him that they would meet in his house that evening for the Passover.
The Passover was a time when the children of Israel recalled the day that God passed over and spared the firstborn in Egypt because blood had been placed on their doorposts. Because the Egyptians did not believe in God and would not carry out His instructions, they did not put blood on their doorposts, and the firstborn died in each of their households.
This was a grim reminder that the God of the Jews was the one true God.
During the period of the New Testament, as the time approached for the observance of the Passover, the Jews began methodically to prepare for the Passover. They made sure that all leaven was taken out of their homes and nothing suggesting the idea of corruption was allowed anywhere in their family residence.
According to Edersheim, a town-crier would go down the streets of every village in Palestine to remind the people that the time was drawing nigh for the Passover to come. The Jews were admonished to get ready for the Passover by eliminating all corrupting elements from their homes.
When they participated in the feast, they partook of the meal with only unleavened bread, and the fruit of the vine was to be uncorrupted. The Jews partook of the Passover together with their families.
Solemnly, they would kill the Passover lamb and observe this great memorial. It was on such an occasion as this that our Lord met with His own disciples.
As they were eating the Passover, Jesus took the bread and gave thanks. He gave it to His disciples, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. He took the fruit of the vine saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood even that which is poured out for you (Luke 22:19, 20).
He gave His disciples the grim reminder that He would not participate again with them until He did so in His coming kingdom.
At least four different religious ideas are connected with our observance of the Lord’s Supper. All of these have a very deep significance.
First of all, the communion service is always associated with prayer. Our Lord set the example. Jesus gave thanks for each of the elements of the communion service. Prayer involves both thanksgiving and petition. God wants our prayers to be serious.
When we break bread, the most important aspect of prayer is thanksgiving. It is good for Christians to be thankful so that they can forget all of the problems they face in their lives.
It is good to be thankful because we tend to focus our attention on all the bad things that go on, failing to think about the good things that God has done for us.
We should be thankful for the love of God which He so dramatically displayed when He gave Jesus to die on the cross for us. We should be thankful that we have an opportunity to come together in worship.
We should be thankful for all that God has done for us, but more particularly for what Jesus did when He died on the cross for us.
The second important element to remember in the communion service is the element of fellowship.
The third element of the communion service is that it is a memorial.
The final element of the communion service is that it is a declaration. When we partake of the communion service, as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11, we declare our faith that Jesus will come again. The communion service was observed in the early times with a spirit of hope. It was observed with an attitude of optimism, although there was persecution and opposition to the cause of Christ.
In the hearts of all of these early Christians, a flame of hope burned fiercely and grew with the passing of time. We find ourselves remembering what God did for us, and we are proclaiming so vividly our confidence in the future that the Lord is still at the helm of things, and that someday we shall all join Him when He comes the second time.