The Lord’s Supper- Christian Communion
Lord’s supper / Christian Communion?”
“What is the importance of the Lord’s supper / Christian Communion?”Answer: A study of the Lord’s Supper is a soul-stirring experience because of the depth of meaning it contains. It was during the age-old celebration of the Passover on the eve of His death that Jesus instituted a significant new fellowship meal that we observe to this day. It is an integral part of Christian worship. It causes us to remember our Lord’s death and resurrection and to look for His glorious return in the future.The Passover was the most sacred feast of the Jewish religious year. It commemorated the final plague on Egypt when the firstborn of the Egyptians died and the Israelites were spared because of the blood of a lamb that was sprinkled on their doorposts. The lamb was then roasted and eaten with unleavened bread. God’s command was that throughout the generations to come the feast would be celebrated. The story is recorded in Exodus 12.During the Last Supper—a Passover celebration—Jesus took a loaf of bread and gave thanks to God. As He broke it and gave it to His disciples, He said, “’This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:19-21). He concluded the feast by singing a hymn (Matthew 26:30), and they went out into the night to the Mount of Olives. It was there that Jesus was betrayed, as predicted, by Judas. The following day He was crucified.The accounts of the Lord’s Supper are found in the Gospels (Matthew 26:26-29Mark 14:17-25Luke 22:7-22; and John 13:21-30). The apostle Paul wrote concerning the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. Paul includes a statement not found in the Gospels: “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). We may ask what it means to partake of the bread and the cup “in an unworthy manner.” It may mean to disregard the true meaning of the bread and cup and to forget the tremendous price our Savior paid for our salvation. Or it may mean to allow the ceremony to become a dead and formal ritual or to come to the Lord’s Supper with unconfessed sin. In keeping with Paul’s instruction, we should examine ourselves before eating the bread and drinking the cup.Another statement Paul made that is not included in the gospel accounts is “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). This places a time limit on the ceremony—until our Lord’s return. From these brief accounts we learn how Jesus used two of the frailest of elements as symbols of His body and blood and initiated them to be a monument to His death. It was not a monument of carved marble or molded brass, but of bread and wine.He declared that the bread spoke of His body which would be broken. There was not a broken bone, but His body was so badly tortured that it was hardly recognizable (Psalm 22:12-17Isaiah 53:4-7). The wine spoke of His blood, indicating the terrible death He would soon experience. He, the perfect Son of God, became the fulfillment of the countless Old Testament prophecies concerning a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53). When He said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” He indicated this was a ceremony that must be continued in the future. It indicated also that the Passover, which required the death of a lamb and looked forward to the coming of the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, was fulfilled in the Lord’s Supper. The New Covenant replaced the Old Covenant when Christ, the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), was sacrificed (Hebrews 8:8-13). The sacrificial system was no longer needed (Hebrews 9:25-28). The Lord’s Supper/Christian Communion is a remembrance of what Christ did for us and a celebration of what we receive as a result of His sacrifice.
“How often should the Lord’s Supper / Communion be observed?”Answer: The Bible nowhere instructs us how often we should take communion. 1 Corinthians 11:24-26 records the following instructions for communion: “…the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; And giving thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body, which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also, after sipping, saying, ‘This cup is the New Covenant in My blood; as often as you drink it, do this in remembrance of Me.’ For ‘as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show’ the Lord’s death until He shall come.” This passage gives all the instructions we need to perform the rite of communion and to understand the significance of what we are doing. The bread which He broke in half represents His body which was broken on the cross for us. The cup represents the blood He shed on our behalf, sealing a covenant between Him and us. Each time we perform the communion ritual, we are not only remembering what He did for us, but we are “showing” it as well to all who watch and all who participate. This is a beautiful and graphic picture of what happened at the cross, what it means, and how it impacts our lives as believers. It would seem, then, that since we take the Lord’s Supper to remember Christ’s death and shed blood, we should take it fairly often. Some churches have a monthly Lord’s Supper service, others do it bi-monthly, others weekly. Since the Bible does not give us specific instruction as to frequency, there is some latitude in how often a church should observe the Lord’s Supper. It should be often enough to renew focus on Christ, without being so often that it become routine. In any case, it’s not the frequency that matters, but the heart attitude of those who participate. We should partake with reverence, love, and a deep sense of gratitude for the Lord Jesus, who was willing to die on the cross to take upon Himself our sins.
“Who is authorized to oversee the Lord’s Supper?”Answer: Christians universally agree that the Lord’s Supper was instituted by Christ and should be observed as an ordinance in the church by His followers. It was to the Corinthian church that Paul wrote instructions concerning the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Paul later wrote to Timothy about the qualifications for church leaders, bishops/elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13). In the original language the word “deacon” comes from a verb that means “to serve,” probably in the sense of waiting on tables, but it also came to be used to signify a broad range of service in the church. Because of the connotation of table service in the word deacon and the centrality of the Lord’s Supper in the worship of the early church, there is strong indication that serving the communion elements was an important function of deacons. From this we can conclude that designated church leadership conducted the Lord’s Supper in the early church; however, there is no Scripture specifically given with “how to” instructions. Therefore, it would seem reasonable for the leadership, if there were an insufficient number of deacons present, to appoint laymen to serve. More important than who serves communion is the attitude with which it is both served and received. First Corinthians 11:27 goes on to say that those who take the elements in an “unworthy manner” are guilty of sin against the body and blood of Christ. An unworthy manner can mean the taking of the elements by those who do not belong to Christ or taking them in a flippant or irreverent manner. It can also mean using the ceremony as a means to be seen before the eyes of men to be exalted by them. Verse 28 gives the criteria for both serving and participating in the Lord’s supper. We are to examine ourselves before we partake and be sure our hearts are right before the Lord. Then both the servers and the receivers can be sure of pleasing God when they participate in His communion.
“Should communion be open or closed?”Answer: The Bible’s teaching on Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, is found in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 and promotes “open” participation for believers. All those who are true believers in God through personal faith in Jesus Christ, His Son, are worthy to partake of the Lord’s Supper by virtue of the fact they have accepted the death of Christ as payment for their sins (see also Ephesians 1:6-7).The actual reasoning behind some churches practicing “closed” communion seems to be that they want to make sure everyone partaking is a believer. This is understandable; however, it places church leadership and/or church ushers in a position of determining who is worthy to partake, which is problematic at best. A given church may assume that all of their official members are true believers, but even this is not necessarily always true.The practice of restricting communion to church members seems to be an attempt to make sure someone doesn’t partake in an unworthy manner, which some assume to mean that person is not a true Christian. However, the word is not “unworthy” but is “unworthily.” This is referring to the manner in which a person partakes of the bread and cup, not to his or her worthiness to participate in the first place. No one is really worthy to come into the presence of God for any reason, but by virtue of the shed blood of Christ on the cross, all who believe in Him have been made worthy. 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 is clearly addressed to believers, not unbelievers. Beginning this passage in verse 23, it is obvious Paul is talking about believers partaking of the Lord’s Supper and thus they “proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (verse 26). Also, Paul concludes the passage by calling the readers “brethren” (verse 33). Therefore, the passage is warning believers to avoid partaking in an unworthy manner. This unworthy manner is described as excluding others when you come to communion and partaking of the elements to curb one’s hunger (verse 34).So, communion should be “open” to all believers, but those believers should examine their motive for partaking. If believers are irreverent in their attitude toward communion because of prejudice or appetite, they should voluntarily refuse to partake, or, in some extreme cases, should be counseled by church leadership not to partake. May the Lord bless you in understanding the Biblical message and meaning of communion, so the practice can be a real blessing to you.