Questions about Communion?

What is Communion?

Mark 14:22-25

“22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Don’t worry, yes, I’m sure this sounded strange to the disciples as well. Jesus said this to His disciples before His body was broken and His blood poured out. This was done at the last meal before Jesus was taken on His journey to the cross. Jesus was the only person at this meal who knew what was ahead. Because He knew that He was about to die for the salvation of the world, He knew that this would be a moment that His followers would NEED to remember and proclaim often.

At its most basic level, Communion (also called the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist) is a meal commanded by Jesus Himself in order to be in communion with Him and remember His sacrifice offered once for all on the cross.

Who can celebrate Communion?

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say do this when you feel ready to do it. His disciples did not know what Jesus meant by His words. This means we must not fully understand Christ’s sacrifice for us in order to be welcomed to the table. However, all of the disciples had been baptized and in community with the Savior of the world. This is the only requirement for communion – baptism. Why do we need to be baptized before celebrating Communion?

Baptism is an extension of God’s covenant with Abraham. With Abraham, God gave His covenant and commanded Abraham and all the boys follow him to be circumcised 8 days after birth. This was done so that they could be welcomed into the covenant family. The physical act of circumcision made them full members of the community of God. This is what baptism does now – in baptism we are welcomed into the covenant family of God (the Church) and united with Christ. As full members of the Church we are welcomed into participation in all aspects of the worshipping community. This includes Communion.

What Happens During Communion?

The Lord’s Supper is not simply a sign pointing us to think of God, the sacrifice of Christ, and our adoption into His family, but is a visible sign of things invisible. Yes, partaking in the Lord’s Supper does lead our hearts to remembering the promises of God, however this is not the reason we partake in the sacraments. The Spirit is present in our celebration of the Sacraments. In discussing Q&A 25 in the Heidelberg Catechism, Kevin DeYoung says,

“[Baptism and the Lord’s Supper] do not create faith; rather, they confirm it, make us understand the gospel promises more clearly and assure us of our salvation…the sacraments are meant to nourish our faith, strengthen us, prop us up, and assure us of God’s favor…[God’s] given us the sacraments that we might see, smell, taste, and touch the same promises of the gospel we hear proclaimed in the preaching of the Word.”[1]

The sacraments confirm the truths of God’s Word. This is why the Lord’s Supper is not to be done apart from the preaching of the Word of God, which is God-breathed. The Spirit works in us through the Word and the sacraments collectively. Only those who have been justified by the Spirit can properly understand the Word of God. The sacraments then build upon the gospel message and nourish the souls of believers. If the Spirit reveals truth, those without the Spirit in them are incapable of responding to the gift of grace that is given in the sacraments.

God alone works in the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is not about what we are remembering, but about what God is confirming. The Lord’s Supper is not about our faithfulness in partaking in them, but about God’s faithfulness while we partake. Though it is not about what we do, it is still important that we partake in them. Jesus commanded His followers to partake in the Lord’s Supper.[2]

[1] Kevin DeYoung, The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 2010) 125.

[2] Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:14-20

Why Does Jesus Command These Things?

Kevin DeYoung suggests it is because “the Lord knows our faith is weak.”[3] The Lord’s Supper is a physical action and gives us the ability to taste, see, and touch the promises of God. In the Lord’s Supper we physically taste the bread and wine just as Christ was physically broken and killed. The Spirit is at work giving us this very real and present grace. Jesus knew that doing this act would be a point of connection between Himself and His people. Jesus knew that the Spirit would pour out perfect grace while we partake in Communion.

[3] Kevin DeYoung, The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 2010) 138.

Communion and Spiritual Formation

Communion forms us in our faith. In Communion we meet with the risen, living, Savior. In Communion we experience God’s grace presently. We remember God’s grace poured out through the sacrifice of Jesus, but God also gives His grace to us through Communion. In Communion we experience the forgiveness offered by God through Christ and His Spirit and are given the ability to live into our identity in Christ.

As we live our lives and work towards living for Christ and becoming more like Christ, Communion plays a key role in that. Now that we are united with Christ in baptism we are welcomed into a very personal and intimate relationship with Christ. Communion is one way that we are Spiritually fed by Christ. Communion is one way in affirming the truth of Scripture.

This all can seem very abstract and impersonal, but when we open ourselves up to Christ during Communion we will more fully understand His Word; and we will better understand His plan, His will, His love, and His grace for us and for the world.

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