Communion is the LORD’s supper. This supper is the same one that was instituted in the upper room the night Jesus was betrayed. The LORD’s supper was instituted through these words:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then he took the cup, and gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you I will not drink this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Mathew 26:26-29)
And also likewise in these words:
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; 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 same manner he also took the cup after the supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
In these verses we see God’s commandment to partake in the LORD’s supper from the words “Do this in remembrance of me” and to do it often by the words “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”
What is the sacrament of Holy Communion that Jesus institutes?
It is in those passages that we see Jesus taking both the Cup, (filled with wine or “fruit of the vine”), and the bread and gave thanks for it. He then gave it to them saying, “this is My body…” and “this is My Blood…” This is to say that the bread is His (Jesus’) body and the cup is His (Jesus’) blood. This is not to say that it is solely His body and solely His blood because in verse 26 of 1 Corinthians 11 Jesus calls it bread, after He himself says it is His body, when he says, “for as often as you eat this bread” and likewise it is wine because Jesus also says, “this cup,” and “I will not drink this fruit of the vine,” again after Jesus calls it His blood. Therefore assuredly it is both His body and bread in one, and blood and wine in one.
In addition, because the body and the bread are in one and the blood and wine are in one, we know that the body and the blood are not separate from each other. We know this because the bread is not solely body, for then we would eat flesh and Jesus would not have referred to as bread after He called His body. Likewise, the wine is not solely blood, for than we would only drink blood, and it would not be referred to as the fruit of the vine after it was called his blood, but the body is In the bread and the blood is In the Wine at the same time that we eat and drink it. So if it is both body and bread than the body cannot be without the bread and the bread cannot be without the body, in this sacrament, so we say that the body is With the bread and likewise the blood is With the wine. But it is also true that we cannot see the body nor can we see the blood. Therefore because it is In and With the bread and wine, so it must be Under it and unseen as well. This is why the body and blood are In, With and Under the bread and the wine.
The body and blood of Christ should also not be thought of as dead like the sacrifices of the Old Testament. Christ only died once for the salvation of all (Romans 6:9, 10). Unlike the sacrifices of the Old Testament Christ’s sacrifice was perfect and eternal. It was perfect because God is Perfect and Christ Is God and therefore cannot Sin even though He was tempted to sin while He was on this earth. Moreover it was eternal because Christ did not offer his sacrifice in the temple that was created by man and temporary, but rather He entered into Heaven which is forever.
Hebrews 9:11-15 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 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. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Who Ought to Partake Of Communion?
It is important to know who should partake of communion because it is the Lord’s body and blood. Therefore those who ought to partake are those that are prepared and not only understand this, but also understand what that means. Therefore we look to where it is written, “but let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (1 Corinthians 11:28)
Those who examine themselves must first recognize these words, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) By the knowledge and the acknowledgement of this verse the sin that they and all people have committed are known to the individual. It is because of this knowledge of sin that we repent and seek forgiveness for our sins; that is why this sacrament was instituted to show visibly that our sins our forgiven (“which is shed for many for the remission of sins”).It is also important that the examiner should not only come seeking forgiveness from God, but also reconcile with those who they have sinned against. “Therefore if you bring your gift to the alter and there remember that your bother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mathew 5:23,24)
It is in this seeking of reconciliation and forgiveness, through the commanded repentance (“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations”’” (Ezekiel 14:6)) and the calling of our own hearts by God’s grace (“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)), that we are reminded of these words “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you” (1 Corinthians 11:24) and “Drink from it all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Mathew 26:27,28).
It is in those words that one knows that it truly is Christ’s body that was “broken for you” and that it is Christ’s “blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” And in those words that the examiner recognizes that Christ’s body was beaten and bruised, whipped, pierced with nails, hung on the cross and pierced with a spear, and that the blood He bled and the blood He shed was for the forgiveness of both yours and my many sins. It is because the examiner knows these things that he or she wants to partake in the body and blood that granted this forgiveness. This forgiveness is fully and freely given for you and I that we might be heirs of eternal life. For it is “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8) Then being thoroughly examined by one’s self, you should know if you believe these things and are able to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
“Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 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.” (1 Corinthians 11:17-18) This means that when you are taking communion there should not be divisions among those who are partaking in this sacrament. All should believe the same because communion is altogether taking and eating Christ’s body and showing that we all are indeed one in his body (Ephesians 5:30). This does not mean that you must always be in complete agreement with your neighbor at the alter rail on every subject, but rather you should minimally believe together that there is One God and he is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You should also believe together faithfully that you have sinned and that your sins damn you to hell. At the same time you must believe that the Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven, being born of the Virgin Mary, is true God and true Man. Not only that, but that, that same Jesus has died and was raised again for your sins and mine freely and completely as a gift given to us and the whole world. Moreover, because we now believe in that gift, our sins are wiped clean as we have been brought to faith by the Holy Spirit. Again the Lord’s Supper is Christ’s body “broken for you,” and Christ’s blood “which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
It is also true that we cannot know the hearts of those around us and we cannot guarantee that there are no hypocrites at the Lord’s Supper. Therefore we are not accountable for their sins and their thoughts if there is no indication of an unrepentant heart. But as the individual, you should be pure, knowing your own transgressions and repenting of them. Not destroying the Church by foolish disputes or angry words, but building it up onto the foundation of Christ. Therefore, if you see your brother sinning go to him in Christian love and humility, so that he might repent of his sin. If he does not listen to you then take two or three witnesses and if he will not listen to both of you then bring it to the Church. But if he does not listen to even the Church then do not remain with such a person. For it is written:
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)
And again it is also written:
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Corinthians 5:4-5)
For this reason you should not remain with those who are sinning, but also being careful not to create undue strife in the church.
For the Lord’s Supper must not ever be misused because whomever misuses and sins against this supper surely does not sin only against himself, but also against Christ’s body and blood. For it is Christ’s body and blood In, With and Under the bread and wine. “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.” (1 Corinthians 11:27) It is for that reason that the people who take communion should be careful of how they take it and should prepare for it.
Who Does The Responsibility Of Distribution Fall To?
Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)
The responsibility for the monitoring of the distribution of the Lord’s Supper first falls to the Pastor then to the church and then to those who are individuals of the church. The Pastor is given this responsibility through the duties given to him by God through the church as the shepherd of the church. The first step in doing this is to first instruct his flock properly not only in this sacrament, but in all of Christ’s teachings and thereby make them prepared for it.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, (the eleven disciples v. 16) saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Mathew 28:18-20)
The second step is to ensure that people are attending the supper and finally to advise those people who are not taking it appropriately of their sin and ultimately refuse service to those who do not repent. (Psalm 23:1-3 and Acts 20:28) This should be done carefully as the Pastor is not the instrument of excommunication, but rather is highly regarded adviser to the church with they should excommunicate those who are ultimately unrepentant and sinning.
Also, the church’s policy, under the direction of the Pastor who is responsible for training the flock, should not allow it to be given to those who do not know what the supper means or who are not able to prepare for the supper. This is not to discriminate against others, or to say that we are better than another, but to protect those who do not understand this sacrament from bringing condemnation on themselves. Christian love should compel us as individuals and the church to protect those people from eating and drinking to their own condemnation. (Taking in consideration Paul’s advisement of the church [1 Corinthians 11:17-34], his recommendation to the church [1 Corinthians 5] and the process of the Keys [Matthew 18:15-20].)
How often should one take communion?
One of the questions that always comes to mind at one point and time or another, is, “Can I take communion so soon?” or its alternative, “Should I really wait that long to take communion again?” It is imperative that the individual church’s find a balance between on the one hand distributing the visible forgiveness of sins and on the other hand keeping order and maintaining the sanctity of the sacrament.
Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 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. (1 Corinthians 11:20-22)
I therefore give you this recommendation that the individual churches ought to make the decisions on the regular intervals of distribution of Communion. The pastor, as he is commanded to tend the sheep, must then monitor the behavior and the intentions of the church and the individual Christians towards Communion. Finally the individual Christians are ultimately responsible through their examination of themselves to take Communion appropriately. Therefore they must decide if they are able to take communion or when communion is not being served needing to ask the Pastor to give them communion. Through this the Church as a whole along with the Pastor and the individual Christians can determine a balance and can monitor that balance. So that if the balance is disrupted either as a whole or individually, the balance can be corrected through counseling and through instruction in both the importance and necessity of Communion.
On the individual level Christians should eagerly desire to take communion as it is a visible representation of God’s Forgiveness and of Christ’s Death. As such when an individual does not desire to take communion then it is a clear indication that there is a deeper problem in that individual’s life. That is so because a healthy Christian with a healthy understanding of their sin and the Bible seeks the forgiveness of sins both visibly (through baptism and communion) and invisibly (through preaching and pronouncing of forgiveness). Therefore if they do not desire that then there must be either an unhealthy understanding of their sin and the Bible, unrepented sin, or a schism between fellow Christians.
This should not, however, be misconstrued with an individual’s ability to take communion. Clearly an individual who is in a coma, dead or otherwise incapacitated and unable to take communion may still have the desire, but not the ability. In addition a new Christian or individual in the church might also have the desire to take communion, but does not have the ability because of a lack of fellowship with those believers (1 Timothy 5:22)
If you or the Pastor recognize that an individual has a lack of desire, or have a strong suspicion that they have a lack of desire, then the Pastor ought to go to that individual and both examine and council them. In that way the underlying issue can be corrected or that individual may need to be prevented from taking communion for their own safety. It is better that a Pastor refuse the service of Communion to that individual if they are unrepentant and sinning rather than to both condemn himself and the individual by allowing then to eat and drink condemnation. As an individual Christian you also should go to them in order to help them out of Love and out of your ability and use of the Keys. In that respect if they will not listen to you then bring a fellow Christian with you and then bring it up to the Pastor if they will not listen to either one of you.
If as an individual or as a Pastor keep in mind your conscience and do everything in accordance with it. It is better that you speak up even if you are incorrect because if you are correct and you say nothing you have facilitated that individual’s condemnation. That is a harder thing to bear than to bear a moment of awkwardness. (Acts 24:15, 16)
What should be done with extra communion wafers and wine?
There is an issue with what should be done with the extra wafers and wine, but this issue should not be looked upon as indicative of whether or not someone is a true Christian because we are not saved by our own works, but by faith that brings the truly good works. In this case the Bible does not say that if there is extra that it should be burned and poured out, but it also does not say that we should save the extra.
It is, however, apparent to me that it may be wiser to destroy the extra by fire and pouring out to be cautious. For if we look back to the Passover, the ceremony that Christ fulfilled and gave communion to us in its place, we find that the sacrificial lamb was destroyed by fire if it was not completely eaten (Exodus 12:10) and the blood was painted on the door frames. Therefore, since we do not paint our doors with the wine of communion, or pour wine out on the alter as they did with the blood in some of the other sacrifices, we can look to Deuteronomy 15:23, which talks about the sacrifice of the firstborn male lamb, says, “Only you shall not eat its blood; you shall pour it on the ground like water.”
This is not to say that this must be done because we are no longer under the law, and we should not paint our doors with wine, but we were taught by the law (Galatians 3:23-25), but now that we are no longer under a tutor should we forget what our tutor has taught us? No, but we should remember what was taught to us and to use it to teach us how to address things in the future. In this case it would be better that we learn from what was taught to us and that is to burn the bread and pour the wine out because it is also true that God will take care of us. Therefore we should not feel that it is necessary to keep the extras, nor worry about not having the ability to obtain more because God will provide us with the ability to get more wine and more wafers for the next communion (Matthew 6:34).
If the extra wafers and wine are kept are they sinning? The Bible does not say specifically so, so we cannot say that it is specifically so. Also we should always keep in mind that it is not bread and the wine that are the most important things, but rather the contrite and repentant heart. Without the contrite and repentant heart it is specifically warned that they are in danger of damning themselves to hell by sinning against the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (“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”).
There is also a big difference between the Passover the sacrifice of the firstborn male of the flock and Communion, where we can make intercession for believing that it is OK, and just as well, to keep the wine and communion wafers. The difference between the, is that the Passover and the sacrifice of the flock is just that, a sacrifice, but communion is not. Christ has already sacrificed his body once for all (Hebrews 10:12). Therefore we do not have the whole lamb to distribute, but just enough for the people to eat.
As many as eat and drink they will be given the Body and Blood of Christ, but if the bread has not been given out to be eaten there is no guarantee that God put his body in that piece of bread. For God knows how many will take communion and which ones will be left because God knows all things even though we do not. Also when Jesus gave the bread and wine to the disciples that is when he said it was his body, not before. So therefore, it is conceivable to think that what is given is the body and blood, but what is not given is not the body and blood. So according to conscience a person can be at peace even though they save the extra or do not save the extra. There is no sin to do it either way as long as we do not treat the Lord’s Supper with contempt, callousness, or with a lackadaisical attitude. Again we must act according to conscience.
Copyright © 2010 by Peter Kucenski. All rights reserved.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version.
Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.