A Communion Study

November 11, 2018

 

The story and purpose of communion is not simply a New Testament event. A fuller understanding, a more complete picture, of the sacrament will greatly enrich the communion service through intimacy with God and thanksgiving in the heart. Meditating on these things will increase the awe and thankfulness within one, when considering the great love of God, the plan of God, and the honor bestowed upon all who are invited to participate in communion with God. This may not be an exhaustive study, but I am sure it will include more than what is normally thought about during the communion service in many churches and among many individuals.

Why is this important? Isn’t this just another segment of the church service? Let’s begin by taking a look at the warning and counsel of the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

1 Corinthians 11:27-30

 

Unworthy manner? Will be guilty? Examine oneself? Discerning the body? Judgment on oneself? Many weak and ill? Some have died? Oh my! This sounds like there are some serious ramifications for a lack of knowledge and understanding. I would like to think that I am doing things correctly, at least to the point that these side effects are not touching me. I’m certainly not physically dead yet, as I am typing this article at present, but what of the other items in the list.

 

The Unworthy Manner

What is the unworthy manner spoken of here?

Some teach it is receiving communion while in a state of sin. When am I purified enough to receive communion? I believe we all have areas of life that we are working on to eradicate sin from our lives, whether it be in behavior, character, attitude or anything else. Does one need to be perfectly free from sin in order to receive communion without fear of the repercussions? Who then can receive communion?

Continuing in a lifestyle of sin is rebellion and it makes no sense for someone to participate in communion if they are rebelling against God, whom they claim to be coming into communion with. They judge themselves who practice such hypocrisy. The expectation of being completely free from all sin is a lofty expectation, but repentance before joining in communion is a good thing.

Some teach it is receiving communion without proper knowledge of what is taking place. How much knowledge do I need to possess before I no longer need be fearful of something I may not know or understand? Does anyone have a perfect understanding of any of the ways of God? Has a higher level of intellect ever been a precursor of relating to God?

Knowledge of what one is doing before becoming involved is always wise. We are all at different levels of growth and maturity, so how low or high does the bar need to be set in order to participate in communion? It makes no sense for someone to participate in an activity of which they know nothing. Likewise, it is unreasonable to expect every participant, or even any, to have an exhaustive knowledge on the subject. The act of discipling believers should give adequate knowledge for informed participation.

I believe this to be a matter of faith. The unworthy manner is to go through the motions of the sacrament without applying faith to the act. If my intellect, emotion, and understanding are not all involved in applying my faith to the action, of what good is it for me? If faith is not applied to my union with my Creator, of what benefit is it? Without the application of faith, I show disrespect for Jesus, whom I am to be bringing to remembrance in this action. Luke records in his gospel account the words of Jesus, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Paul records this also.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

1 Corinthians 11:23-25

 

That seems to be sufficient knowledge of the activity. The activity also takes place among Jesus and His disciples. I don’t believe they were sinless at that point in time. Also, Jesus does not appear to put that burden upon them. The act is actually the method for dealing with their sinfulness.

Without faith it is impossible to please God.

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.

Hebrews 11:6

 

The working definition of this sort of faith that I go by is: believing that God is who He says He is; believing that I am who God says that I am; believing that God will do what He says He will do. Whenever I come before God with this sort of faith, I can be certain that He hears me. And what am I proclaiming through this action?

For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

1 Corinthians 11:26

 

So, I must come in faith, for I am entering into agreement with God. I am entering into communion with God; not just receiving the elements. To participate ritualistically, without engaging the mind and the heart, is to receive communion in an unworthy manner.

Verses 17-22 also discuss the behavior of the people in general which degrade the sacramental value of the communion. I believe those verses also lead to the state of faith one needs to be in.

I must seek revelation from God. With revelation and discernment from God I can come before Him in a worthy manner. With revelation and discernment, I can clearly understand the gravity of this sacrament and grasp the purpose for partaking of it regularly. Greater revelation brings greater understanding and discernment.

 

Will Be Guilty

“Guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.”

To receive communion in an unworthy manner is to dishonor the Lord, whom we are to be honoring with our remembrance of His great, loving sacrifice. His life and death were all for our sakes. To come unworthily dishonors His body and blood that were given for us. I do not want to be found guilty of mocking and treating lightly the life and death of Christ.

 

Examining Oneself

I am to examine myself, therefore, to be sure that I am acting in faith and honoring Jesus Christ, who made this great sacrifice for my sake. Do I have known unconfessed sin? If so, I ought to repent. Am I at odds with someone? If so, I ought to make peace. Do I come to the communion table in faith? If my faith is lacking, I need to build it up. I can read the scripture and reaffirm my beliefs. I can seek out a teacher and learn what I am lacking. I can study and show myself approved before God.

This does not need to be a long process, and in fact should be done in advance of joining together with others for the purpose of receiving communion together. In fact, this should be an ongoing process for each and every disciple of Jesus Christ.

 

Discerning the Body

To discern the body is to rightly judge. I am to have a proper understanding of what I am doing. I must understand that this is the body and blood of Jesus Christ that was offered in sacrifice for the healing of my body and soul and the forgiveness of my sins. I am to treat it with honor and respect as it represents my Lord and Savior. To do this I must come in the right spirit; in faith.

 

Judgment on Oneself

If I fail to come in proper discernment of the body, I bring judgment upon myself. This becomes another thing of which I am guilty and for which I will be required to give an answer. That is, if I do not repent prior to my day of judgment before Almighty God.

 

Many are Weak and Ill

Illness and the weakening of the body are often caused by my sinfulness. This is not always the case, but here Paul states that it is a potential cause of what is adversely happening in my body.

 

Some Have Died

Such weakness and illness can also lead to death, whether directly or indirectly. The weakened body is susceptible to all sorts of other attacks of diseases, ailments, or injuries. Repentance could have resulted in a restoration of the body before the onset of death. Not receiving communion in an unworthy manner is even better to prevent this issue from ever occurring.

 

Back to the Exodus

God sent a deliverer to the Israelites who were slaves in Egypt. There are a great many topics in the story of the Exodus to be studied, but the Passover that was instituted is a precursor to communion. Looking at this portion of the story will reveal the parallels in the elements and the faith.

 

The Passover Meal

The night before the exodus from Egypt, the Passover meal was instituted. This is parallel to the last supper. The meal was the flesh of the sacrificial lamb; the body and the lamb of God. The blood of the lamb was shed and put on the lintel and two doorposts of the house as a protective covering, for their salvation; the blood of the Lamb of God shed for our salvation and the forgiveness of our sins.

The body of the lamb was for their healing and the blood of the lamb was for their salvation.

He struck down all the firstborn in their land, the first-fruits of all their strength. Then He brought out Israel with silver and gold, and there was none among his tribes who stumbled.

Psalms 105:36-37

 

Their salvation was the sparing of their firstborn. They also had a spirit of poverty broken off them and had all that they needed for the journey ahead and the establishment of their new residence because of the wealth given to them.

Their healing was in the fact that none among them stumbled. They were all strengthened for the journey ahead. Feebleness in old age, weakness from sickness or disease, and inability due to handicap or ailment are notably absent from the story. How can this be among millions of people? It was, and is, God’s will to heal and to save the people who will turn to Him.

Lives were spared, needs were met, and healing came about because of the sacrificial lamb. And this sacrifice all looked ahead to the cross of Christ. This was in preparation for the journey. Amazingly, this also applied during the journey. As the Israelites moved forward in obedience, these concerns were never at issue. It was only when there was a lack of faith and when sin entered the camp that adverse issues arose; when they acted in an unworthy manner.

 

Expectation and Readiness

The Israelites knew to be ready to move. They partook of their meal with expectation and readiness. They knew that once they had the lamb to prepare for the meal and they had put the blood on the lintel and door posts, they were not to go out the door until morning. Nonetheless, they were prepared to move in a moment’s notice.

In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.

Exodus 12:11

 

They had an expectation of their deliverance and a readiness to go when they were called to go forth and leave Egypt.

Likewise, I ought always to be ready to move in obedience to the call of God. I also ought to receive communion with expectation of my salvation, healing, and provision from Almighty God.

 

The Journey

The journey for the Israelites was an exodus from Egypt; mine is from the old lifestyle of the soulish man in the ways of this world. They left their homes in Egypt, but soon realized they were being pursued; the world and fleshly desires pursued me as I turned away from the world. They came up against the Red Sea and felt backed into a corner; I came to a point where I had only two choices: to give up and fall back into the world, or to rise up in faith and overcome the situation. By a great miracle of God, the people passed through the Red Sea as the waters parted; God always provides a way of escape with every temptation that comes to me. The people passed through the waters and came out the other side free from their pursuers; I was baptized and brought into new life. Their journey continued to the promised land; my journey continues to eternal life.

There is a rich story of salvation, deliverance, healing, and provision for the Israelites. The same story is told for me through the work of the cross of Christ. The rich story is told in His sacrifice which I call into remembrance each time I partake of communion.

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

1 Peter 1:3

 

Jesus Healed and Forgave

During His ministry, Jesus both healed people and forgave them of their sin. Why would I believe He would do any different in His death and resurrection than He did in His life, as well as what He did for the Israelites?

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24

 

What He did for the Israelites in the Exodus, He did for me upon the cross. He demonstrated it in the life He lived.

That evening they brought to Him many who were oppressed by demons, and He cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”

Matthew 8:16-17

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Acts 10:38

 

The Last Supper

Just as the Israelites had the Passover Meal before their exodus, the disciples had the Last Supper with the Lord before the day of His crucifixion.

And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Luke 22:17-20

 

It is the Lord who instituted this sacrament of communion. Paul confirmed this in 1 Corinthians 11. Jesus began the tradition and told His disciples to do this in remembrance of Him. Though the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus is certainly the central theme, that is not the only thing to hold in remembrance of Jesus. I ought also to give thanks for the example of His life, for He not only laid down His life in the dying, but also in the living of it.

The examples of Jesus were specifically: living a life of sacrificial love for others; living in communion with Father – knowing and doing His will; being in tune with the leading of Holy Spirit. These things and more are all recorded for an example of how my life is to be lived as His disciple.

And now I also have the example of the resurrected life that He put on display before His ascension to the throne at the right hand of Father.

 

The Cross

Two things took place on the cross regarding communion. First, concerning the body, my healing was provided for through the things He suffered. The offering up of the body of Jesus purchased my healing. Second, concerning the blood, my salvation was secured through the forgiveness of my sin. Life everlasting was purchased for me through the shedding of His blood.

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4-5

in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:14

 

He has borne my griefs; sicknesses. He has carried my sorrows; pains. This is clearly speaking to the physical both for Christ on the cross and for me in this new life of salvation. He not only took the beatings and the scourging for my sake, but also the physical pain of hanging on the cross.

His blood flowed for the forgiveness of my sins and the salvation of my soul. His blood first flowed in Gethsemane when He sweat drops of blood, resisting temptation. He took the whipping at the post, making me whole. His bruises were internal bleeding, delivering me from my iniquities; my wickedness. He bled from the crown of thorns, restoring my peace of mind. The pierced hands of Jesus bled, taking back my prosperity. His pierced feet also, restoring my dominion and authority. And the spear that was thrust into His side, winning my joy in His salvation of my soul.

The Apostle Paul valued the cross and all that it represented. He understood that the sacrifice of the body of Christ was for our healing and that of our physical being. He also understood that the shedding of the blood of Christ was for the forgiveness of our sin and that of our spiritual being.

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

1 Corinthians 2:2-4

 

As Paul preached Christ, and Christ crucified, the demonstration of the Spirit and of power was made manifest. His apostolic authority caused healing and deliverance to flow in conjunction with the message of what Christ did for us on the cross at Calvary. Am I seeking healing, deliverance, and forgiveness? It is in the cross of Jesus Christ; His sacrifice on my behalf. Without the cross, which is our basis for all supernatural interactions with the Lord, demonstrations of His power cannot occur in my life.

 

Communion

This is the proper understanding, in a worthy manner, of the communion I receive. I have this new covenant with Almighty God that is sealed in the shed blood of Jesus Christ and the work of the cross – His sacrifice that was offered for us. Father received this sacrifice as sufficient for the forgiveness of my sins, the salvation of my soul, and the restoration of my relationship with Him. The blood covered this spiritual transaction. The physical blessing is in the suffering of His body. It is by His wounds, or His stripes, that I am healed.

One small act of receiving communion is richly loaded with the love of God for me in all that Jesus accomplished at the cross. The picture of this begins long ago with the exodus of the Israelites from captivity. And so it is for me, as I am no longer captive to this world. My chains have been broken and I am no longer in bondage to the evil one.

Hallelujah! Thank You Lord Jesus!