Communion is an important aspect of the Christian’s relationship with both Christ and each other. It involves remembering who Christ is, what He has accomplished and what He is doing and will do in the future. It also is a way for us Christians to celebrate Jesus’s sacrifice for us in the corporate setting of the visible church. Plus, most importantly, it was commanded by Jesus for us to observe this ritual until He returns.
Due to my extensive travel, I’ve experienced quite a variety of communion styles. As an adult, I’ve lived in 3 different countries and 17 different cities in 8 different states here in the U.S. I have attended well over a dozen churches on a regular basis and many more churches one or more times while seeking a church after one of my many moves.
I’ve seen communion served every Sunday, the first Sunday of the month, the last Sunday of the month, once every 3 months and once every six months. I’ve seen cracker crumbs, bread crumbs and wafers as the “bread”, but I’ve always seen a thimble of grape juice as the “wine”. (Although when I was on a short-term missions trip to Belize, the little rain-forest church we visited ran out of grape juice so 7-Up was used -- I sure hope that I’m not going to hell for that sacrilege!)
Something else I’ve seen churches do differently is deciding just who can partake in the communion service. I’ve heard pastor’s tell everyone that only members of that church can partake, I heard others say that only Christians is welcome to eat and drink and I’ve seen pastors include everyone present.
So, with all these different who’s, how’s, and when’s that are out there, let’s see what the scripture says about communion.
Who should or can partake in Holy Communion? To me, this is a simple question to answer – believers. Those who know the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did for us are the ones to partake in Holy Communion.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.
I also believe that this can include the young children of believers who are old enough to know of Christ but too young to have reasoned out their belief. I realize that this is not spelled out in scripture, so it is my opinion only.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell of the first communion; Matthew tells it like this in chapter 26:
26 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.” 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[b] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Here is where I’ve heard several disagreements: some say we must use real wine because that’s what Jesus did (and I believe that He did), some say grape juice is alright even if Jesus was drinking wine. Some say we should use a loaf of bread, others say any bread, i.e. crackers, are okay to use.
We can’t be too concerned with what the actual substance is that we are using to remember Christ during this ritual. Jesus said “Take this cup…” yet I’ve never heard a preacher discuss what a “cup” is! If we are following Jesus’ word to the letter, how is using a thimble to drink from anywhere close to drinking from a cup?
Please, Jesus was having a meal when He commanded us to do this, so why are we sitting in a pew and not at a table with a full spread of food before us? I actually brought this up to the pastor of a church I attended once because the church members had a pot luck on the last Sunday of every month and we celebrated communion on the first Sunday of every month. I asked the pastor why we don’t combine the two to be even more like the actual event in the Bible; but he just said no, that things were good the way they were (I’m paraphrasing).
One thing we should always remember though is that when we are to have communion, we do so with respect of others, to wait until we all are ready. 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 spells out how to partake of communion; some feel that this passage refers to unconfessed, personal sin, but I do not. We all commit so many sins of both commission and omission in ignorance that we just can’t confess every sin by name; we’d never be able to take communion!
Paul says in verse 18, “I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you…”; and in verse 29, “For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves”; the context here is of a divisive church, not a healthy, loving church. It isn’t personal sin that should keep us from communion, but church-body sin. Do not take communion if your local church body is at odds within itself.
Lastly, when should we celebrate communion together? 1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” I see no specific time-table to follow in this matter. If you want to do it every Sunday or twice a years, do what you feel the Lord asking you to do.
I personally would like to do it every Sunday, right before the pastor speaks. This would help to get everyone in the right frame of mind to learn and grow in the Word.
In closing, let me quote Jesus in John 6:46-51:
“No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Jesus is the reason for communion, not wine or grape juice, not bread or crackers. Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life, and I hope you know Him as such.