Communion is still for today
Communion is a valid command from our Lord (“do this in remembrance of me”) that the church should continue practicing (Luke 22:18-20) because it is a way for believers to proclaim the Lord’s death until His return in a manner that demonstrates our faith in the spiritual death of our Lord (that is what the blood represents). The bread symbolizes Christ’s body (who He is), and the wine, His blood (our redemption). Communion is an acknowledgement of our faith in Jesus Christ. Passages that mention it directly include Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:15-20, 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). However, it is often misunderstood.
Where and when we practice communion doesn’t matter
For one thing, it matters little where and when we do it because all that is not as important as that we do it (as long as our motives and attitude are pure). What do we mean by this? Well, we can do it as many times as we want. Additionally, this practice has nothing to do with who we do it with but everything to do with what goes on in our hearts (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). What matters is that we don’t sin while we partake and remember what our Lord did for us on the cross, hence the bread to represent His body and the grape juice or wine to symbolize His blood. Communion is something we can do independently, assuming we have no choice. The presence of other believers has nothing to do with the effectiveness of good prayer, reflection, and meditation. We don’t technically need other people with us to celebrate communion for Christ’s sacrifice to mean anything to us.
However, we can do it with other believers in a congregation, which is the better option if we can afford it. And we shouldn’t contemplate Christ’ s death only when we practice this. Instead, we should make it our goal to remember what Christ did for us every day as often as possible. So it is not supposed to be a “one day a month” or “every two weeks” affair only, but an ongoing experience we dally with in our hearts at all times.
Common meals are another excellent option we can employ to remember our Lord’s death. Jesus never said how and when we could celebrate it (as in, when where, and how). As already stated, participating in a gathering of believers is the first and best choice. But we don’t have to confine the Lord’s supper to just that alone. We can pray, break bread, and partake of the symbolic beverage at our diner tables. The more, the better!
Communion is for everyone
Something we need to address here is, “who does our Lord want to participate in communion?” The answer is everybody! Jesus told His disciples to do it in remembrance of Him and pass the practice down to the church they would establish later on. The question we must pose is, “Why would anyone not want to remember what Christ did for them?” When we partake of the “Lord’s supper,” we proclaim His death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). It is a legitimate teaching passed down from our Lord to His disciples and then the church (1 Corinthians 11). And because of its spiritual significance, it is more than just a ceremonial tradition.
Examining what Scripture has to say about communion
Now that we have mentioned everything above let us briefly examine some of the passages that speak of the Lord’s supper. First, we will read Luke 22:16-20, which will speak for and explain the other two instances of communion described in Matthew and Mark. Therefore, we will only examine Luke’s account because that is all that is necessary. Additionally, we will take a look at some other famous passages that involve the Lord’s supper, including its abuse (1 Corinthians 11:20-22; 27-34).
16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” 17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 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.
Jesus referred to the millennial feast or wedding supper of the lamb after the tribulation’s close (Revelation 19:7-10) as when He would partake of the bread and cup at the millennial supper.
Our Lord gives the command to His disciples to continue this new ritual which represents and is symbolic of His body (which was given for us) and His blood (which was shed for the remission of sins). Jesus’s blood was the new covenant, which meant that circumcision did not continue or that water baptism did not become the sign of the new covenant. Jesus’s blood was that sign and the fulfillment of the old and the beginning of the new.
With the above said, do we literally “eat” Christ’s flesh and “drink” His blood? That is not what John 6:53-58 means (we will not interpret all of it here). The cup and the bread were symbolic of what would happen to Jesus. The fact that communion was instituted and celebrated BEFORE Christ’s death on the cross proves that no physical or spiritual phenomenon occurs when we participate in the Lord’s supper. In other words, we don’t drink our Savior’s literal blood or eat His literal flesh any time we eat the bread and drink the cup. There is not one Bible passage that supports this false conclusion. Communion is a ritual of remembrance or “re-presentation” involving elements that represent the body and blood of Christ. The sacrifices of the OT looked forward to this sacrifice of sacrifices. Today, we look back at what Christ did for us, and communion is another way to help us do that.
John 6:53-58 doesn’t teach that we should or can eat Jesus’s flesh and drink His blood because no one has done that. The Bible doesn’t mention anyone doing that at all. As we explained above, the bread and the beverage of communion do not transform into these. Instead, we “eat” and “drink” Jesus by surrendering our lives to Him through faith by accepting His person and work. Jesus said that He is the bread and water of life, metaphors to describe His eternal nature and the salvation He offered. Whoever believes in Him will live forever. But whoever does not will suffer both physical and spiritual death. Jesus had just fed the 5,000 by providing them physical bread. But what He wanted to give them was spiritual, eternal life through His death on the cross, something the people had to receive through faith.
It is astonishing how many people have taken something so simple and turned it into silliness. We can only imagine what Jesus and the apostles would think if they were here to witness all the “mysticism” going around in the world today. So many have and continue to make the same mistakes that Israel made when they misunderstood what Jesus said about Himself. In John 6:63, our Lord said that “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you-they are full of the Spirit and life.”
Communion should be done in a biblical, fitting, and orderly way
1 Corinthians 11:20-22
20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!
No one can celebrate communion while committing unconfessed sin. The wealthy Corinthian believers used their status as an advantage only for themselves but not for others. They were getting drunk and withholding their abundance from those less fortunate than themselves. The “elites” withdrew only with those of similar social and economic status so that they began to exclude those with whom they shared a common faith. What a way to treat one’s spiritual brothers and sisters! The wealthy discriminated against the poor in a selfish fashion while depriving them of food to eat! The Lord’s Supper (if celebrated in church and not at home by oneself) is a communal activity, not a case of “we will eat and drink only when and how we want to.” Their drunkenness also didn’t make for a good testimony but could turn people away from the faith. It indeed would be better to partake of such activities at their own homes, not in an assembling house church! The gathering was no longer a spiritual matter because it became all about status; a behavior no different than what so many unbelievers prioritized. No wonder Paul was so displeased and would not applaud these sinful acts!
27 So then, 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. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. 33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.
Verse twenty-seven describes that we should never take communion while sinning. This passage refers specifically to that point. How one goes into communion can determine the manner in which they handle it. If our hearts are not ready to celebrate the Lord’s atoning sacrifice due to still present sin, then we are more likely to partake of the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner. Both aspects are important because the “before” time can dictate the “present” time. So there is no issue with translation there. We should always confess any known sins before we partake. And no believer can practice sin during communion because that defeats the whole purpose and insults the grace of God. That doesn’t suggest that we can’t celebrate because we may have forgotten to confess a few sins in the recent past. Our Lord automatically forgives every wrong that slips our radar because we aren’t perfect, meaning our memories will never catch and bring to mind everything we may have done. God’s grace covers every sin we have and will commit, past present, and future. That is still no excuse for sin, which means we know what it is and isn’t. But what matters is that we go into communion with the right attitude of a repentant mindset to approach the Lord worthily. We cannot come to Him while clinging to sin (committing it at that very moment as the believers in our passage were doing).
Paul exhorts these wealthy believers to examine themselves before they partake of the Lord’s meal. This action would require them to reexamine their hearts and attitudes to align them to the power of the Spirit. You cannot fix a problem if you don’t know or believe you have one. Therefore, these believers needed to rethink how they were going about everything to prevent future sin from hardening their hearts and leading them to fall away from God. Hebrews 10:26 deliberately warns against negative unchecked behavior because it will continue to kill and corrode faith as it gradually gets worse. Once faith is gone, so is salvation which will bring condemnation and judgment of the worst kind at the great white throne. Paul has those negatively affected by these people in mind and those who caused all the trouble. He is thinking of everyone’s spiritual safety so that they do not develop an evil heart of unbelief, causing them to fall away (Hebrews 3:12). That is the more negative judgment they could undergo. But the sentence spoken of in verse twenty-nine specifically refers to physical discipline through sickness and premature death, not eternal death, a fact confirmed by verse thirty. Still, there is a danger for some that may allow sin to harden their hearts and drag them back into a state of unbelief.
To “discern the body of Christ” in verse twenty-nine means to see the importance and significance of the supper itself so as not to handle it with less respect as one would any other meal. But the rich weren’t doing this because they treated it like a joke.
The Lord used sickness and physical death as a means to discipline this congregation (they were still believers after all). As stated in verse 32, the reason is that they would not” be finally condemned with the world.” If a person is condemned with the world, then they will spend eternity with the world (unbelievers in the lake of fire). Our Lord corrected this negative behavior from these believers so that they would learn the lesson not to continue in sin.
Verse thirty-three states the principle we mentioned above about communion being a communal meal and not an “every man to his own group” type ordeal. Neglecting others for whom Christ died is total abuse and no worse than insulting the sacrifice of Christ. He died for all men, yet these wealthy Christians acted as if Christ’s sacrifice was all about them only. Even if this wasn’t their internal motives, their actions spoke for themselves.
Verse thirty-four restates what we have already mentioned above. This does not contradict what we stated that how one does communion isn’t what matters. Some believers may not be able (for whatever reason) to celebrate with others. Also, we can celebrate it as many times as we wish at home because the more the better! The problem was how and why the Corinthians were going about it as they were. They could have done the Lord’s supper with the poor but chose to discriminate and abuse them to a dangerous level. The issue was attitude and behavior. Some believers can’t find a worthy place to celebrate communion with others due to the dangerously lukewarm state of most churches. Or maybe those in question are older people and shut-ins. There are other possibilities as well. Believers under challenging regions and third-world countries may only have access to online Christian fellowship but nothing suitable nearby in person. Therefore, it is ok for them to celebrate the Lord’s supper alone. After all, they don’t have any other choice.