#655. WHAT IS COMMUNION? (26/9/22)
This week, as we continue in our Devoted vision series, we are looking at Communion. If we are to build the church according to God’s vision, we must be devoted to remembering what the death of Jesus means through taking bread and wine together.
Summary: Communion is the remembrance of Jesus’ death for our salvation. The elements of bread and wine are best understood as symbolic of the incarnation and death of Christ for us.
‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’ (Acts 2:42-43)
TERMS FOR COMMUNION
There are various ways of referring to ‘breaking bread’:
Breaking bread (Acts 2:42, 20:7)
The Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 10:21)
The Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20)
Communion (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 ‘Koinōnia’ meaning ‘fellowship’, ‘Participation in’ or ‘communion’).
Eucharist (At the institution of the Supper - Matt. 10:26-27; Mark- 14:22,23; Luke 22:17-19; 1 Cor. 11:23-24 - Jesus ‘took bread, gave thanks, and broke it’. The verb (εὐχαριστέω) eucharisteó means ‘give thanks’ and gave rise to the liturgical term Eucharist.)
WHAT IS MEANT BY ‘BREAKING BREAD’
When we read of ‘breaking bread’ in Acts 2, this has two things in mind:
i. EATING TOGETHER
They were devoted ‘Breaking bread’ (v.42). This probably also contains the idea of eating together (see v. 46) and is an important part of church fellowship and should be a regular feature of all of our lives. Eating together is so helpful if we want to deepen our fellowship. Having worship services is important, but without an informal setting of eating and having fun together, relationships will not reflect that family that God has in mind. Eckhard Schnabel, writes:
‘The “breaking of bread” is best understood as a reference to the ordinary meals that the believers regularly shared, during which they remembered Jesus’ death on the cross for the forgiveness of sins and for the establishment of the new covenant, linked with the command to remember Jesus and his sacrifice during meals. (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary)
As they had meals together, they, it seems, chose a moment to remember the death of Christ for them by sharing bread and wine. We see this modelled by Jesus, at the institution of Communion at The Last Supper:
‘While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ (Matt. 26:26-28)
VIEWS ON THE LORD’S SUPPER
i. Transubstantiation - Unlike Roman Catholics, we do not hold that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus in some mysterious way. In this view, the once for all act of the cross is repeated each time one takes what they call Mass.
ii. Consubstantiation - Here the phrase: ‘this is my body…blood’ is taken literally to mean that the bread and wine remain bread and wine, but, somehow, the true body and blood of Jesus are also present.
iii. Symbolic view - (Our view): ‘This is my body…blood’ is best understood as symbolic - these elements represent His body and blood. It seems best to understand in Communion that:
The bread and wine remain bread and wine. They are physical symbols and reminders of what Jesus has done.
He is present by the Spirit and meets us according to our faith.
We are to take both elements in remembrance of Jesus. Like the Passover, where they were to remember their redemption, likewise we are to remember our redemption and the New Covenant that Jesus has given to us.
I think that it’s also important to state that the type of bread or wine (it can be fruit juice) is not important. Jesus wants us to remember and celebrate our justification and hope rather than fulfil details of a religious rite. It can be done by any group of Christians without the need of some kind of ‘priest’ involved.
Could you have a meal with a Christian friend or a group and break bread together? How could you make hospitality and Communion a greater feature of your life outside of what the church organises?
TOGETHER IN SEPTEMBER
During September 2022, at CCP, we are having 'Together' meetings instead of our usual Community Groups. You are very welcome to attend these gatherings.
Please come to the church building at 7:30 pm on Wednesday evenings - refreshments and a meal will be available.