Early on in the history of the church, Christians gained a skewed but yet terrible reputation from those who were outside of the faith. This reputation did not come from how they acted towards people, but it was creative speculation of what went on when the church gathered out of the view of the public. This reputation was based on a few misunderstandings, but specifically, people had begun to circulate the idea that this new religion actually practiced cannibalism. This false notion came from the early church’s practice of the Lord’s Supper, the partaking of the blood and body of Jesus Christ. To this day the Lord’s Supper remains as an important part of church life, although thankfully the stigma of cannibalism has long since diminished.
All three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) record Jesus initiating the first communion service after the sharing of the Passover meal in the upper room. This is the official beginning of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper, commonly known as “communion” in light of the King James Version’s use of the word in 1 Corinthians, is an ordinance of the Lord, given to the church to uphold. It is a visible and tangible reminder of what was accomplished on the cross, what has been done in our own spirits and what awaits us in eternity. This physical picture is for our spiritual encouragement and nourishment. Contemplating and meditating on the finished work of Christ draws us closer to God and further from our flesh. It is a time of solemn reflection and attitude correction. In taking proper steps for preparation and participation, one draws themselves into closer communion with God. This is not by a magical or mystical element in the bread or wine but through prayer and dedication to God.
For some, it may seem strange that communion is a repeated occurrence in the church. If it is so powerful and important, then why is its impact not one of permanence? The answer is not what is wrong or missing in the Lord’s Supper but the reason communion needs to be repeated is that there is something wrong and missing in the heart of man. The Lord’s Supper is an intentional time of recalibration of the heart for the purpose of worshipping the Lord and growing spiritually. We all need this intentional time of reflection, but that should not excuse us from examining our hearts even when communion is not on the church schedule.
The upholding of communion needs to be done for our own sake but also because it was commanded by the Lord to his disciples, with the expectation that the church carries it on until he returns (1 Cor. 11:26). Ever since the original Passion Week, churches all across the world have participated in communion on a regular basis in order to follow Jesus’ command. When Jesus ascended back into heaven, the disciples were tasked with leading the church under the power of the Holy Spirit. When they decided what a church should look like, they fell back on what Jesus had instructed them to do, and the Lord’s Supper was deemed to be one of those practices that form life in the church. To this day, as we are left with Jesus’ commands found in Scripture, we uphold the Lord’s Supper as a direct ordinance from our Lord.
Since communion is an occasion ordained by God, there are a few ways in which God chooses to use communion in order to bless His church. One way that God uses communion to our benefit is to restore our fellowship with one another. By releasing grudges or grievances that we hold against each other and reuniting in a restored community, we gain God’s blessing through loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Lord’s Supper is a time in which God seeks to restore relationships between people, and He rewards those who show the humility to both apologize and reconcile with another believer. Just as God blesses the church by using communion to restore interpersonal relationships, He also uses it to restore, renew and strengthen our spiritual relationship with Him. Communion is a time for us to seek God’s will in our lives, particularly how He wants us to live our lives and what changes need to be made in order to live a life of deeper faith. The Lord’s Supper is an intentional time for us to grow in knowing the Lord but it is also a time when we contemplate what it would take for us to have that same growth in the time period between communion services. Whether it is over the course of one week or several months, long lasting heart change is what God desires the Lord’s Supper to produce. To simply contemplate is not the goal, but obedience is the key. By seeking the Lord for help in being compliant is one of the deepest ways in which God chooses to use communion.
The Lord’s Supper is a physical reminder of a spiritual reality. Jesus body was broken, His blood was spilt and our sins were atoned for. The gospel is the heart of communion, for without the gospel we are only left with bread and wine. The truth is that we are blessed to be able to celebrate God’s grace towards us in freeing us from our penalty of sin and His adoption of us into His family. Because of the cross, we can enjoy communion with God.