Friday, April 17, 2015

Communion for the Believer: Past, Present and Future



As we saw last week, God’s Triune nature, reflected in triplets of Scripture, is echoed in the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-21; Luke 22:7-30). For Jesus, His apostles, and born-again believers, this sacrament remembers the past, celebrates the present, and expresses our sure hope for the future.

Thanks to Christ’s completed work on the cross, all of us who trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) have eternal life with Him. We are saved by His grace through our faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). So taking part in communion, like being baptized or joining a church, can’t save us.

Why, then do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper? Because He commanded us to -- to remember His sacrifice, to fellowship with Him and one another, and to look forward to His Second Coming. Paul summarizes how Christ told us to do this (1 Corinthians 11 17-34): in a spirit of truth (v. 17-19), sharing (v. 20-22), and self-examination (v. 27-32). He warned the church to address division (v. 18), heresy (v. 19), and revelry (v. 21-22) before they could take part in this sacrament, so that they would not receive the judgments of weakness, sickness or even death (v. 29-32).

Paul heard directly from Jesus about the Lord’s Supper and its significance (v. 23-26), because he was not present at that meal; he told it to the church at Corinth; and thanks to his first letter to Corinth being preserved in the New Testament, he also shared it with all believers thereafter. Jesus took the elements, gave thanks to the Father, and distributed the elements to the disciples.

When observing communion, we should follow Christ’s command to the disciples to take the bread, eat it, and remember that it symbolizes His body, broken for us to pay all our sin debt (v. 23-24). Similarly, He told His followers to drink from the cup, to remember each time they drank that it symbolizes the new promise of His blood washing away our sins (Matthew 26:28; Romans 3:25), and to look forward to His second coming (v. 25-26).

Communion therefore involves remembering Christ’s past, completed sacrifice for us (John 19:30; Hebrews 7:21-28); celebrating our present salvation through that sacrifice (1 Corinthians 15:1-4); and anticipating that glorious moment when we will break bread with Him in Heaven (Revelation 19:9). The three essential elements of the communion sacrament are not only the bread and the fruit of the vine, but also a cup to contain, distribute, and share the grape juice.

The cup may symbolize the cup of Jesus’ suffering, which He drank to the dregs to redeem us; our body as the earthly vessel filled at the moment of salvation by His Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22); and the sharing by all members of the body of Christ (Romans 12:5) in His blood, shed for our sins to redeem and cleanse us.

Jesus commanded all of His disciples to drink from the communion chalice with Him, acknowledging that they would drink the cup of suffering for His sake, including the baptism of martyrdom for some, but that it was up to His Father to assign specific positions of responsibility in his Kingdom (Matthew 20:22-23; Mark 10:38-39). Similarly, all born-again believers will suffer for Christ’s sake (1 Peter 4:12-19); some will be martyred; and some will receive heavenly leadership positions based on earthly service (1 Corinthians 3:10-14).

The sacrament of communion looks back to Jesus’ perfect, completed sacrifice, His broken body, and His shed blood (1 Corinthians 11: 23-25). Communion also celebrates our ongoing, present relationship with Christ. Each time we partake of the bread and fruit of the vine, whether in a church service or at our own table, we have fellowship with Him, we affirm the new covenant, and we become more like Him by assimilating His Word (John 6: 51-58).

Jesus told His followers to eat His flesh and to drink His blood, not in a literal sense as the Catholics believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation, where the wafer literally becomes His body. If that were the case, everyone who took part in communion would be guilty of crucifying Christ all over again. Thank God that when Jesus said “It is finished,” (John 19:30) it truly was! His perfect, priceless, agonizing sacrifice paid the debt in full for all our sins (John 1:29), past, present and future.

Many of Christ’s followers could not accept this saying and abandoned Him because of it. Jesus of course was not speaking of cannibalism or any other literal interpretation, but of the need for His followers to desire Him more than our daily food (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4); to become assimilated with Him (Romans 12:5; Galatians 3:28) by ingesting His Word as our daily bread; and to be nourished completely by Him, physically, spiritually, and eternally (John 15:5).

As born-again believers participate in a communion service or even as we break bread at our table, we commemorate what Christ did for us and thank Him that we presently are a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:1). But we also anticipate with glorious hope (1 Peter 1:3) His Second Coming, when we shall experience the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17), the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10), and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9), when He shall again drink the fruit of the vine with His followers (1 Corinthians 11: 26).

To partake Biblically in communion, our participation should involve not only the sacrament itself, but also the self-examination before and the worship following, which symbolizes our fellowship with Christ and His church as we hold hands in a circle, give thanks in prayer (Matthew 17:27), and praise Him in song (Matthew 17:30; Mark 14:26).

As we share in communion, may we remember how He saved us, thank Him for our abundant life with Him now (John 10:10), and look forward to eternal life with Him (John 3:16) in Heaven!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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43 comments:

  1. Dear Laurie,
    As one brought up in the Catholic faith before converting to Christ by the end of 1972, I always saw the sacrament of Holy Communion as a solemn occasion, taken after fasting, and in silence, believing as you say, in Transubstantiation. Therefore I couldn't help but smile at your header photo of Jesus Christ holding the Sacred Host.
    It is taught in our church that the bread and wine distributed and taken by the disciples were part of a meal, contrary to the teaching of fasting of Roman Catholicism, and it was more of a joyous rather than a solemn occasion,as the forgiveness of sins is good news indeed.
    Again thank you for your Trinitarian presentation of the Last Supper. God bless.

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    1. Dear Frank,
      Thanks for this enlightening perspective. I have always thought of communion as being more solemn than joyous, perhaps because I was brought up in a church (long before being saved) where Maundy Thursday was celebrated with communion before Good Friday.
      Now that I am saved, I experience the communion service as beginning soberly with self-examination and contemplation of how He suffered for us, yet ending joyously in fellowship with Him and other believers, praise and worship.
      Thanks as always for sharing your insights and God bless,
      Laurie

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  2. Hi Laurie,

    Thank you for the invite to visit your blog. :-)

    I enjoy reading blogs that go deeper into God's Word as is the focus of yours.

    I was struck by your words, "Each time we partake of the bread and fruit of the vine, whether in a church service or at our own table, we have fellowship with Him, we affirm the new covenant, and we become more like Him by assimilating His Word (John 6: 51-58)." I never thought of it broken down in the way you did {"we have fellowship with Him, we affirm the new convenant and we become more like Him by assimilating His Word".} Very good insights.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Karen,
      Thanks so much for your visit and kind comment! I'm blessed to hear you enjoyed the post and hope you will be back again soon. Praise God that He gives us so many opportunities to draw closer to Him.
      May you have a blessed week in Him,
      Laurie

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  3. Thank you for sharing your knowledge about communion. I was raised in a church that had communion every week and it became a routine part of the service. What I like about your description is remembering to reflect, ask forgiveness before receiving and to worship after communion-give thanks. Blessed as always that you join us at The Weekend Brew each week.

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  4. Thank you Mary, for sharing your experience in this lovely comment. I'm blessed to hear that you enjoyed the post! I also grew up in a church where communion was done more routinely. I wasn't saved then, but now that I am, I appreciate our church celebrating it as a special sacrament and time for reflection and worship.
    God bless,
    Laurie

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  5. This is a wonderful description of the true meaning of communion and even though it does not make one "saved", it is such a vital part of the believer's life. I grew up in the "Mennonite" Church and we also would have foot washing, following our communion. It was a very humbling and compassionate experience! I do miss doing that part at my church today.

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    1. Foot washing does sound like a very meaningful addition to the communion service that would help us to receive communion in a spirit of humility and to have servant's hearts, as Christ asked us to have. Thank you so much for sharing your experience here and for your words of encouragement.
      May you have a blessed week in Him,
      Laurie

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  6. Hi Laurie,
    I enjoyed reading your post, I love what the communion represents. To 'eat Jesus' body is simply another way of instructing we believers to 'eat' the word of God,(Jesus, who John ch. 6 v. 35 says is the bread of life) and drinking His blood is to me 'drinking eternal life' as we are told in Leviticus ch. 17 v. 11 that 'the life is in the blood'. How wonderful is that!
    God bless you Laurie for your informative post.

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    1. Amen, Brenda! May we feed daily on His Word and know that we have received eternal life and forgiveness of sins through His shed blood.
      Thank you as always for your encouraging comment, and may God bless you richly for all you do to spread His Word.
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

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  7. Unfortunately, some view the communion as a way of receiving Christ, rather than a celebration of having received his salvation, which is why some insist on having communion every week. Such a view changes the whole meaning of the service.

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    1. Great point, Donald -- the sacrament of communion then just becomes a work that some falsely believe can save you. Salvation by grace goes hand-in-hand with eternal security, but for those who think they have to work their way to heaven, they can never be sure if they've done enough to qualify. Hence the need for weekly communion and the fear that they'll lose their salvation if they don't keep working.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  8. Thank you for sharing at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

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    1. You're very welcome, Terri, and thanks for your comment! Many blessings to you!
      Laurie

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  9. Prior to partaking of communion, our former Pastor would always have us take a moment for personal introspection. Take care of anything that is hanging on and prepare your heart to realize all there is available in the communion service. So blessed are we to remember Christ in this manner. Thank you for your lovely words shared with us here at Tell me a Story.

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    1. So true, Hazel -- we should take time to examine and prepare our heart before taking communion. Otherwise, as Paul said, we are partaking unworthily of the Lord's Supper and may suffer judgment.
      Thank you for sharing your experience and insights and for hosting. God bless,
      Laurie

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  10. Laurie, we are neighbors over at the RaRa linkup again. Great post. Communion is such a beautiful gift. I love the promise of being fed and forgiven at the table.

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    1. Thanks, Tara -- nice to "see" you again! Praise God that He nourishes us at His table, forgives our sins, and gives us eternal life!
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

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  11. An excellent video and very enlightening is "The Miracle of Passover" by Zolla Levitt. You can find part 1 and part 2 on Youtube. He was a jewish man who became a believer

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    1. Thanks for your comment and suggestion -- I'll have to check it out! I believe he teaches prophecy as well as the Jewish roots of New Testament events.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  12. Amen! There is so much to learn about Jesus, the Bread of Life and the communion we have in Him! I read your profile- wow! I can't dance. One partner said I danced like a tree trunk!!! God bless you! patsy

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    1. Thanks, Patsy! Your partner was not very kind -- I'm sure you could dance beautifully with some practice -- and maybe with a better partner! :-)
      Praise God that He is the Bread of Life!
      May God bless you and your family and ministry too,
      Laurie

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  13. Hi Laurie,

    Thank you for visiting incrementalhealing.wordpress.com - and for sharing your kind words of encouragement.

    I found your in-depth discussion of the Communion to be very thorough and interesting. I remember when I first heard teaching on the following verse - "some will receive heavenly leadership positions based on earthly service (1 Corinthians 3:10-14)" The thought that there are different leadership positions in heaven is an interesting thought.

    Hope to connect again soon,
    Kamea

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    1. Hi Kamea,
      Thank you for your visit, kind words and interesting insights. I agree, it is fascinating to contemplate what different leadership positions are like in the Millennial Kingdom, and how they will be determined. We do know, for example, that each of the 12 disciples will rule over one of the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). The parable of the talents also suggests that our stewardship over what we are given here, and how we use our resources to glorify Him, may also be a determining factor.
      Hope we can "chat" again soon!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  14. It can be easy to take communion for granted when you go to a church (like I do) that celebrates it every week. I appreciate your in-depth analysis and it causes me to be more intentional with my thoughts as I approach the altar.

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    1. Hi Jen,
      Thank you so much for sharing your experience and words of encouragement. May we be ever mindful of the many blessings He gives us, at the communion table and throughout our lives.
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

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  15. Thank you so much for this post (and for stopping by my blog)! This was something I definitely needed to read tonight. Perhaps God directed you to my blog so that I could turn around and read your post. I was struggling a bit spiritually tonight and was feeling really discouraged. But, this post helped strengthen my spirit and reminded me of the hope I have in Christ! Thank you!

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  16. Thank you so much for this post (and for stopping by my blog)! This was something I definitely needed to read tonight. Perhaps God directed you to my blog so that I could turn around and read your post. I was struggling a bit spiritually tonight and was feeling really discouraged. But, this post helped strengthen my spirit and reminded me of the hope I have in Christ! Thank you!

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    1. Amen, Lydia! I am so blessed to hear that my post encouraged you at a time when you especially needed it. There are no "coincidences" with God, and praise Him for using our blogs so that we would connect with each other in this way!
      May God bless you, your husband, and your ministry, and thank you so much for your faithful service.
      Laurie

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  17. Thank you for your in depth discussion of communion. Our church usually does communion on the first Sunday of each month, and our Pastor encourages us to examine our hearts and to make sure that we do what we can to heal any relationships where offense and/or unforgiveness has caused a breach. I teach a discipleship course to 5th grade girls, and we cover communion in the curriculum. I always make sure that the girls know that it is a serious thing and not to be taken lightly, which it is easy to do if done regularly during services.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you, Selena, for your thoughtful comment and for sharing your experiences and insights with us. God bless your Pastor for celebrating communion as the Bible teaches, and God bless you for teaching your students according to God's Word. They are blessed to have you as their teacher!
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

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  18. Laurie, I don't know if I've ever read a more thorough teaching on communion. I appreciate how you explained the significance of the parts. I really love the reminder of how communion celebrates the past, present, and our hope for future.

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    1. Hi Debbie! I am so blessed that you enjoyed the post! Thank you so much for your lovely words of encouragement. Praise God that He gave us this sacrament to remind us of His eternal love, glory, mercy and grace!
      May you have a blessed weekend in Him,
      Laurie

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  19. Actually, I just choose to believe Christ's words as they were spoken by Him. "Taken an eat of my body and drink of my blood." I don't believe he chose words by mistake or symbolism.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Colleen. Surely God makes no mistakes, in Christ's words, in Scripture, or in any circumstance. And yet there is no recorded instance of anyone actually eating the flesh or drinking the blood of Jesus, which is why I favor a symbolic interpretation.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  20. Thank you for sharing such a lovely post, communion is such an important part of our life and yet it is always good to reiterate the actual meaning of it, making emphasis of the celebration of the past, present and future.

    Have a very blessed weekend!!

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    1. You're very welcome, Jay, and thanks so much for your comment and for hosting! May we celebrate the whole meaning o\f communion each time we partake.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  21. Dear Laurie ... thanks for sharing Scripture every step of the way in your writing of this important post.

    Praise God that, YES, it is finished. What a wonderful Savior we love and serve!

    May this Sabbath fill you to overflowing with all that He is ...

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    1. Dear Linda,
      Thank you for your lovely comment and encouraging words. Hallelujah, what a Savior! He paid in full for us the debt He did not owe.
      May you have a blessed weekend in Him,
      Laurie

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  22. I heard a translation once that 'it is finished,' also meant 'paid in full.' Either way, it's very poignant.

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    1. Great point, Rosey! His suffering and shed blood on the cross paid the price in full to redeem us from the slave market of sin.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  23. It's interesting to me how all your studies seem to focus on threes. You have an eye to see those triplets in Scripture! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday!
    Tina

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    1. Thanks, Tina! May the Trinity be glorified! Thanks for your sweet comment and for hosting!
      May you have a blessed weekend,
      Laurie

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