- Daniel Klassen
The Benefit of Communion
“Oh, learn to pity your own soul," wrote the 17th century Puritan Ralph Venning, "for he who sins offends and wrongs God, but also wrongs and destroys his own soul.” While sin’s intent for the Christian is to destroy wholly, God's intent is completely the opposite. In the Lord's Supper, we see God's intent to benefit the soul of the believer.
Communion is sacred for the Christian because it is a physical reminder of a spiritual reality. This is the first benefit. It reminds us of the priorities of the Christian faith. Many distractions can be found both within the Christian community and without that cause us to lose sight of what matters most. Some want to progress towards a cultural friendly Christianity; others wish for things to be more traditional, still others are caught in the thick of squabbles over the order of service or even the decorations in the church. Distractions must be put away (some preferably for good) at the table of communion, for there we are forced to realize the thing of utmost importance. Therein, we are blessed with a needed reminder.
If we are Christians, we are gospel people; we are Christ's people. Therefore, our priority is Christ, and communion, being the physical representation of Christ and his passion, acts as a reminder of him. By taking and eating the bread and drinking the wine, we are reminded that Christ's death is paramount to our faith. Indeed, we are reminded of the very thing on which our faith is built. By the very act of eating and drinking, we are placing an importance on this event that we do not place on anything else.
Christ's substitution in our place is our only hope and plea before God. Without Christ, we have nothing to present when we stand before that holy and righteous judge. We are doomed, for we cannot appease this God by our works. The more we see our unrighteousness before God, the sweeter Christ becomes to us. With great joy and thanksgiving, we partake of the bread and of the cup. This act is our thankful reminder of a past event that ensures a joyous hope of a bright and glorious future.
God is not looking for perfection in those who eat and drink, but rather he is looking for faith. To eat and drink unworthily, as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:27, is to eat and drink without a wholehearted trust in the reality the bread and the cup represent. In the context of the passage, Paul is referring to the fact that many saw this as another opportunity to fill their stomachs. They had no regard for spiritual significance of the bread and wine. Furthermore, verse 29 states this same idea, that the one who is judged is the one who "eats and drinks without discerning the body." In other words, judgment falls on those who do not trust in the Christ this supper represents.
Of course, this does not do away with the popular teaching on this verse. Though the passage does not mention the idea of seeking forgiveness from brothers and sisters you have wronged, such is a good and proper practice with biblical warrant. Jesus, preaching his Sermon on the Mount, gives us this practice in his teaching on anger (Matt. 5:21-26). It is the outpouring of faith to seek forgiveness from brothers and sisters you have wronged. In fact, you display that you have nothing of value to present to God, but are prone to sin. By seeking forgiveness in your preparation for communion, you demonstrate that all your hope is in Christ.
There is a true story told of a church that decided to increase the frequency of communion in their church. Going from twice a year to weekly seems like quite a shift that would take some time to get used to, but this church managed. However, something unexpected happened, something the leadership of the church had not anticipated. They found that their counseling sessions with the married couples in the church decreased dramatically. What had happened was that these couples were forced to deal weekly with the sin they committed against one another. Before this, they could let the bitterness and unforgiveness fester for half a year before they had to deal with it – a recipe for certain marital disaster. Because communion requires a certain preparedness – a judgment of self, pastors had to counsel fewer troubled marriages as they increased the frequency of communion.
Not only is there a present benefit, but there is a future benefit which also accompanies the Lord's Supper. As we partake, we not only look back to the atonement provided for us by Christ, but we look forward to that day when we will finally partake of that supper with Christ himself. This is why we partake of this ordinance often, for we are "proclaiming the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor. 11:26). This meal is not only a display of confidence in the work of Christ that happened in the past, but it is also a display of hope of the Lord's return.
 Venning, Ralph. “The Sinfulness of Sin.” Monergism Books,