Communion/Lord’s Supper

(1 Cor 11:18-34) 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.

Eph 4:3-6,

3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;

5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

(EXCERPT GOD ‘ONE’) What makes us “ONE”? IT’S NOT THROUGH:

CONSENSUS – a general agreement to an opinion. There is no challenge to one’s belief and commitment, just an affirmation of the items we can agree to believe together. One denomination can have consensus with another denomination when their doctrinal statements agree, even though their practice and ministry focus may differ. (e.g. brethren church government and the Christian and Missionary Alliance; or the Baptists and the Associated Gospel). However, this may be good unity, but it is not ‘oneness’.

NEGOTIATION – this is where all parties compromise to reach a minimum standard of agreement. The ecumenical movement for example, seeks a minimum standard of belief in the name of unity.

The verses below are not making it difficult to be ‘one’ but makes clear the basis of oneness.

Rom 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

1 Tim 6:3,4 If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, 2 Tim 4:3

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

“Doctrine is despised, truth is neglected and experience without biblical guidelines is glorified, especially new experiences. …The call for unity under the banner of a false love that won’t correct becomes one of the chief means of legitimising the deceptions of the last days!”[1]

“Michael Green suggested at the International Conference of Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam in 1993, “Don’t talk about the new birth, talk about liberation… Identify with and befriend secular society. Become one with them…” James 4:4

4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

CONSENSUS AND NEGOTIATED AGREEMENTS MAY ESTABLISH UNITY BUT DOES NOT CHARACTERISE ‘ONENESS‘!

‘ONENESS’ is when we are committed to a third party’s will. Christ’s priestly prayer in John 17 illustrates that third party being God the Father. John 17:11

11Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. John 17:21

21that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

THIS ‘ONENESS’ DEMANDS WE DIFFER ALL OUR PERSONAL RIGHTS AND AMBITIONS TO THE CAUSE AND WILL OF GOD. There is no charter of rights with God.

19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognised among you.

1 Cor 11:19

The passions of people-their pride, and ambition, and bigotry, and unenlightened zeal. Christ evidently meant that his church should be one; and that all who were his true followers should be admitted to her communion, and acknowledged everywhere as his own friends. And the time may yet come when this union shall be restored to his long distracted church, and that while there may be an honest difference of opinion maintained and allowed, still the bonds of Christian love shall secure union of “heart” in all who love the Lord Jesus, and union of “effort” in the grand enterprise in which ALL can unite-that of making war upon sin, and securing the conversion of the whole world to God.[2]

(EXCERPT FROM CONVICTIONS)

Also let us not despise another for his differing convictions as though one conviction is holier than the other! Rom 14:3

3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. CONCLUSION

Personal convictions in the grey areas of faith, no matter how strongly held or rationally presented, cannot establish restrictions applicable to the entire Body. Only those things that are clearly illustrated from Scripture as sin are binding upon the whole body.

20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.

21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. (EXCERPT GDKING)

When we have guests over to dinner we put out the table cloth, a place setting, and the better dishes. We do not have much in the way of silver plates and such, but what we have is brought out. We do this, not to brag but to honour our guests. Would mere paper plates and plastic forks do when the Prime Minister comes to our home, or even Billy Graham? Maybe they will not be insulted. BUT GOD IS OFFENDED.

A very graphic example of this is from a church I interim pastored in MB. The communion table was set. The bread was soda crackers broken up, and the juice tasted different. This people honoured the Lord through communion with dried out, left over crackers and Cool Aide. An insult to the King. If you were in prison and all you had was thus, it would be holy.

I insisted they use Welch’s pure grape juice. If we were to use wine, would we use cooking wine, or fine wine? And the bread – fresh, not week old bread ready to be tossed into the dumpster by the bakery. We had to also deal with the kids of the church, who after communion and the service, come to the kitchen to rip off hunks and devour the bread as a snack. The left over is even to be treated with respect, even feeding it to God’s birds is more holy than treating the element with contempt!

Do we insist on the best to brag about our piety? Do we use the best because we deserve the best? No, but because our king deserves the best of what we can provide!!

No respect for one another in mutual love of Christ who, being God washed the disciples’ feet. We are to be humble in submitting to one another. We are not in it for ourselves but for one another in Christ.

Eph 5:21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.

Communion is one of the top holy routines we follow. We must practice utmost respect for each individual that partakes of the table of the Lord.

Phil 2:4-8

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,

7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;

24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

In the meantime, prominent British pastor John R. W. Stott, who acknowledged that suffering is “the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith,” has reached his own conclusion:

I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. … In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it weboldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering. The cross of Christ. … is God’s only self-justification in such a world’ as ours.[3]

25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

COVENANT, NEW

The new agreement God has made with mankind, based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The concept of a new covenant originated with the promise of the prophet Jeremiah that God would accomplish for His people what the old covenant had failed to do. What the old covenant could not do is to make one clean inside; the old covenant (of the Law) could only deal with the outward acts of sin not the inward motivation to sin.

Rom 8:3-4

3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,

4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Heb 9:12

Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

This NEW COVENANT is indeed the new way God deals with the sin issue, but it is not a new thing with God but planned for the day when the fullness of the time had come…

Gal 4:4-5

4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,

5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

A covenant is no mere agreement or contract; its a commitment – a binding promise.

Noah Gen 9; Abraham – Gen 22:16; 17:7; King David 2 Sam 7:12; 22:51 CONDITIONS GOD BIND’S HIMSELF TOO.

My blood Eph 1:7-8

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace

8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

God cannot sentimentally forgive any sin, He would cease to be holy. But he can forgive sin when payment has been made. Christ is that payment for sin and all who accept that payment on their behalf have the right to become the children of God – Jn 1:12

The “one body” (the universal church) in connects with the “body of Christ” in in the sense that the entire church of Christ is organically related to the living, glorified human body of Christ now in heaven. The “one [loaf of] bread” , representing Jesus the “bread of life” , is eaten by all believers at the Supper, symbolising their unity and common participation in the one body of Christ .

First, the Lord’s Supper is a time of remembrance… Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me”

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

We constantly remind ourselves through the communion what is so central to our salvation, fellowship, and merit before God or Lord and King – Jesus death.

27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

Being unholy in attitude and heart before the table of Christ is to be the same as those who, despising Christ, shouted for His crucifixion.

28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

Not discerning the significance of His death and our call to sanctification in Him. Who takes lightly the Saviour. (e.g. cool aid and the blood).

30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.

The holiness of the communion can never be underestimated; we must be very serious and pious to this.

Ezek 22:26

26 Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them

32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

“God does not punish the Christian for sin. God disciplines His children, but He doesn’t punish them. The distinction is this: punishing carries the idea of satisfying justice for a crime. But Christ satisfied the Father’s justice. Therefore, God does discipline us, that is He brings problems and struggles into our lives so that we will not stray from the main road. He is not angry with us but disciplines us so we can mature.

“…..remember God will always disciplines in love. God cannot be angry with us, nor can he punish us since Christ received the punishment for us. All the ammunition of God’s justice was exhausted on Him. Therefore whatever happens to us is designed for our good, that is, to lead us to a more meaningful relationship with God…. Confession removes all guilt but not necessarily all consequences. God uses these circumstances, the dilemmas of the Christian life in general, to develop rich qualities within us. Therefore we can experience a joyful relationship with God, even when facing problems that are our own fault.” ERWIN LUTZER – FAILURE THE BACK DOOR TO SUCCESS.

33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.

34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.

SUPPLEMENTARY HISTORY COMMUNION

(1.) Communion (koinwni/a) therefore “properly means the sharing something in common with another. Hence, in the Christian sense, it signifies the sharing divine converse or intercourse (1 John 1:3); and as this takes place, sacramentally, in the Lord’s Supper, the word, in a third stage, signifies a joint participation in a spiritual sense of the body and blood of Christ, i. e. of his Spirit (John 6:63) in that sacrament (1 Cor 10:16).

(from McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 2000 by Biblesoft)

LORD’S SUPPER

The table being again set, the celebrant then repeated the commemorative words that opened what was strictly the Paschal supper-a solemn thanksgiving and reading of Ps 103-104.

(From The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

LORD’S SUPPER

In ante-Nicene times the following order was observed: the prayers, the kiss of peace between man and man, and woman and woman; the offerings for the feast, the poor, and the clergy; and the communion of the partaking of the consecrated elements. The wine was mingled with water, and the communicants, standing, received both elements in the hands of the officiating deacons. Portions of the sanctified bread were sometimes borne to their homes by the members, where the family Communion was repeated in kind. The custom of the apostolic church for all communicants to make offerings of bread and wine and other things, to supply the elements of the Eucharist and gifts to the poor, was continued through all the early history of Christianity and in a modified form until the twelfth century.

(From The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

LORD’S SUPPER

In participating by the Holy spirit in the body of Christ which was offered once-for-all on the cross, the members of the church are stimulated and enabled by the same Holy Spirit to offer themselves to the Father in eucharistic sacrifice, to serve one another in love within the body, and to fulfill their sacrificial function as the body of Christ in the service of the need of the whole world which God has reconciled to himself in Christ (1 Cor 10:17; Rom 12:1).

There is in the Lord’s Supper a constant renewal of the covenant between God and the church. The word “remembrance” (anamneesis) refers not simply to man’s remembering of the Lord but also to God’s remembrance of his Messiah and his covenant, and of his promise to restore the kingdom. At the Supper all this is brought before God in true intercessory prayer.

Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Copyright 1984 by Baker Books. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

LORD’S SUPPER, VIEWS OF

Calvin. Calvin’s view of the Lord’s Supper appears to be a mediate position between the views of Luther and Zwingli, but it is in fact an independent position. Rejecting both Zwingli’s “memorialism” and Luther’s “monstrous notion of ubiquity” (Inst. 4.17.30), he held that there is a real reception of the body and blood of Christ in the supper, only in a spiritual manner. The sacrament is a real means of grace, a channel by which Christ communicates himself to us. With Zwingli, Calvin held that after the ascension Christ retained a real body which is located in heaven. Nothing should be taken from Christ’s “heavenly glory — as happens when he is brought under the corruptible elements of this world, or bound to any earthly creatures… . Nothing inappropriate to human nature [should] be ascribed to his body, as happens when it is said either to be infinite or to be put in a number of places at once” (Inst. 4.12.19). With Luther, Calvin believed that the elements in the Supper are signs which exhibit the fact that Christ is truly present, and he repudiated Zwingli’s belief that the elements are signs which represent what is absent.

Inasmuch as the doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Supper was the key issue in the eucharistic debate, it is obvious that Luther and Calvin agreed more than did Calvin and Zwingli. The latter’s conception of Christ’s presence was “by the contemplation of faith” but not “in essence and reality.” For Luther and Calvin communion with a present Christ who actually feeds believes with his body and blood is what makes the sacrament. The question between them was the manner in which Christ’s body exists and is given to believers.

In his response to this question Calvin rejected the Eutychian doctrine of the absorption of Christ’s humanity by his divinity, an idea he found in some of his Lutheran opponents, and any weakening of the idea of a local presence of the flesh of Christ in heaven. While Christ is bodily in heaven, distance is overcome by the Holy Spirit, who vivifies believes with Christ’s flesh. Thus the Supper is a true communion with Christ, who feeds us with his body and blood. “We must hold in regard to the mode, that it is not necessary that the essence of the flesh should descend from heaven in order to our being fed upon it, the virtue of the Spirit being sufficient to break through all impediments and surmount any distance of place. Meanwhile, we deny not that this mode is incomprehensible to the human mind; because neither can flesh naturally be the life of the soul, or exert its power upon us from heaven, nor without reason is the communion which makes us flesh of the flesh of Christ, and bone of his bones, called by Paul, ‘A great mystery’ (Eph 5:30). Therefore, in the sacred Supper, we acknowledge a miracle which surpasses both the limits of nature and the measure of our sense, while the life of Christ is common to us, and his flesh is given us for food. But we must have done with all inventions inconsistent with the explanation lately given, such as the ubiquity of the body, the secret inclosing under the symbol of bread, and the substantial presence on earth.” (Tracts, II, 577)

Calvin held that the essence of Christ’s body was its power. In itself it is of little value since it “had its origin from earth, and underwent death” (Inst. 4.17.24), but the Holy Spirit, who gave Christ a body, communicates its power to us so that we receive the whole Christ in Communion. The difference from Luther here is not great, for he held that the “right hand of God” to which Christ ascended meant God’s power, and that power is everywhere. The real difference between Luther and Calvin lay in the present existence of Christ’s body. Calvin held that it is in a place, heaven, while Luther said that it has the same omnipresence as Christ’s divine nature. Both agreed that there is deep mystery here which can be accepted though not understood. “If anyone should ask me how this [partaking of the whole Christ] takes place, I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either my mind to comprehend or my words to declare… . I rather experience than understand it.” (Inst. 4.17.32)

Summary. While each of the positions delineated above sought to do justice to the Holy Supper which the Lord has given his church, and while each has in it elements of truth, Calvin’s position has received widest acceptance within the universal church. Moreover, it is the position closest to the thinking of contemporary theologians within both the Roman Catholic and Lutheran traditions. It is a position which sees the Lord’s Supper as a rite instituted by Jesus Christ in which bread is broken and the fruit of the vine is poured out in thankful remembrance of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, having become, through their reception and the sacramental blessing given by the Holy Spirit, the communion (that is, a partaking) of the body and blood of Christ and an anticipation of full future salvation.

Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Copyright 1984 by Baker Books. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

[1] Dave Hunt, Berean Call, Dec 95

[2] (from Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

[3] as quoted in Lee Strobel’s book The case for faith Harper Collins/Zondervan

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