The Lord’s Supper is one of few things Jesus for which Jesus left specific instructions. “This do . . .!“ Jesus gave a directive. Apparently, the earliest followers of Jesus followed those instructions.
Because, some decades after Jesus gave His directive, Paul arrived in Corinth to plant a new church. This apostle would spend 18 months in Corinth. When Paul departed, the Corinthians were practicing communion. In Paul’s first letter back to the Corinthians he spoke of communion three times. It is evident that communion was part of the activity of a rather young church. Keep in mind; Gentiles made up the Corinthian church. There was no history of the feast of Passover for most of these new saints. They had been worshippers of idols. In the eighteen months in Corinth, Paul taught the Corinthians about the Passover and established the practice of communion. They were following Jesus instructions, “This do in remembrance of me!”
Let’s not make the Lord’s Table something it is not.
- Catholicism had much contention about a doctrine known as transubstantiation. Transubstantiation teaches that the bread and wine become the physical body and blood of Christ. That teaching is erroneous.
- In the Midwestern United States, (and perhaps elsewhere) a small group of Pentecostal adherents practices “spiritual communion.” These adherents to “spiritual communion” do not physically take the bread and wine. As they present it, to do would be to crucify Jesus afresh. This teaching is also in error.
- Less than 30 years after the crucifixion, mistakes were being made. The Apostle addressed several concerns as to their behavior.
Let’s not make the Lord’s Table something it is not. Do not practice communion, even in a baby church such as Corinth, in ways that are unbecoming.
The Profundity of Communion
Let’s allow communion to be what it is! Something profound resides in taking communion. There is a spiritual dimension. The remembrances communion forces on me, move me beyond the bit of unleavened bread and the little cup.
In this, communion is like a picture of a family gathering from 25 years back. The family gathering is a memory filed away in a mental vault. Happen on the snapshot, and the picture stirs that memory back to life. That tiny bit of unleavened bread and the cup make me recall something I desperately need to keep fresh in my mind.
Communion takes us to Calvary
In communion, I meet the Jesus of Calvary. Here I come to know His body broken and His Blood shed. In communion, I discover the Jesus Isaiah prophesied about, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquity . . . “ (Isaiah 53:5).
Meeting Jesus on those terms, with Him in that condition may not be our favorite view of Him. I seem to prefer meeting Him in Acts 1 and Acts 2. In Acts 1, I get to meet Jesus, resurrected and ascending into heaven. In Acts 2, His Spirit comes into me. Acts 1 and 2 are glorious experiences. But there is no glory without redemption. Calvary is redemption on display for all to see.
Do some people have a Pentecostal experience without ever meeting Jesus at Calvary? Perhaps. Acts 2, 10 and 19 do not present the gospel. Instead, we find the outcome of the gospel in those chapters. The gospel is “the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The gospel begins at Calvary! Communion is spiritually impacting. It forces me back to the foundation of my salvation.
Communion Calls for Introspection
In communion, I am asked to examine myself. There is a spiritual quality to introspection. Communion is a time of assessing my vulnerability. Assessing my vulnerabilities can do nothing but help me comprehend His grace. As we will see, worthiness to take communion is not found in my merit. Worthiness is found in having stopped for assessment. The Selah moments to “pause and consider” myself are spiritually impacting. Remembering His body and His blood cannot be rushed.
The Jewish Passover meal is an event requiring preparation. There is no “fast food” version of Passover. Leaven is thrown away. Each home was swept to assure that all leaven is gone. Bitter herbs had to be purchased and the meal properly prepared. The patriarch of the family readied himself to lead his family to recall the Jewish history of deliverance. In modern times, Passover remembrance includes everything from Egyptian captivity to the horror of the Holocaust. In my slap-dash, fast paced world, to slow down for preparation and process is spiritual.
Communion Calls us to Remembrance
In communion, I remember. Interestingly enough, I am asked to remember an experience in which I did not personally participate I was not on the hill called Golgotha. I did not see His blood flow, and I’ve no personal knowledge of the visage so marred that no man could know it.
The Corinthian believers were also not at Golgotha. They were likely better able to “remember” than me. Residents in Corinth knew about the horrible experience that was known as crucifixion. Crucifixion was one of the Roman empires preferred methods for execution. Rome ruled Corinth, just as Rome ruled Jerusalem. The harshness of Roman judgment would have been well-known in Corinth. Paul’s converts may not have seen Jesus die on the cross. They had known of other people who had died similarly. I must do my absolute best to establish a memory, of which I only know the outcome.
Teaching about the Lord’s Supper in a way that explains the how and why matters. Preaching communion as a call to commitment also matters. Paul said, “Christ and Him crucified” defined his message. The Lord’s Supper helps take me to the cross on which Jesus died.
You may be planting a new church, much like Paul at Corinth. Perhaps you lead an old church settled in a rut. You and your people need the Lord’s Supper.
Practical Exercises in Communion
I taught or preached this material over four consecutive Sundays. If you are interested, the teaching and preaching can be heard at SpringfieldCalvary.church or at CarltonCoonSr.com. Our church also took communion each of the four Sundays. It was a first for me – both in teaching and repeating communion Sunday after Sunday. It was likely just for us as a church. Perhaps it was just for me.
I know I needed the four Sundays. Something deeper was taking place in me. I’m not often tearful, whether alone or in a group. Each of these four weeks, the preparation and preaching brought me to tears. It helped more than me. In the four weeks, our church’s amalgamation of converts, mature saints, restored believers, wounded warriors and hungry seekers came close to Jesus. During this time, we came to know:
- Not the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount.
- Not the Jesus who fed 5,000 men.
- Not the resurrected Jesus.
- Not the “walk on water Jesus.”
Instead, we became better acquainted with the broken Jesus. The bloody Jesus who provided us a new covenant was front and center. We cannot yet know the extended implication for them or me. At the moment, I’m content. It was right for us.
Communion as God’s Strategy
On other occasions, communion has been part of God’s strategy for me in trying times. The most memorable was a time when I was a new pastor. It fell my lot to counsel, console and address thirteen cases of sexual sin in 12 months. These occasions of moral infidelity happened in a church of 120 people.
Such an experience is not the making of a pastoral honey-moon. I’m not comfortable with the idea that “a spirit of adultery” can wreak havoc. Perhaps I miss something, but I don’t find Satan or his minions having that sort of ability. What I do see, is Paul warning about three forms of leaven. These were fornication, wickedness, and malice. He called on the Corinthians to sweep out the leaven lest it corrupts them all. Known sin, not confronted will spread its influence into the “whole lump.”
Back to my situation. I spent time in prayer. Eventually, I felt to call a “Saint’s Meeting” to address the matter. Getting things in the open goes a long way toward healing them. Some people who had fallen into sin sat in the auditorium that evening. The discussion included the facts of the repeated moral failures. It was a somber, “pause and consider this” experience.
As their pastor, I prayed a prayer of repentance for us as a body. Following my prayer, there was a time of prayer and “examination.” Finally, we took communion. Together we went to Calvary and did our best to remember His body broken, and His blood shed. Things changed – immediately. Our church was never perfect. None are. Human failing continued. However, it was not an epidemic. In time, great revival ensued.
Consider communion! Teach communion, preach communion, and practice communion.