What Have We Done With Communion??
by Rick Campione
23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come. - 1 Corinthians 11:23-34
Starting in verse 23 of his letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle of grace was instructed by the risen Christ about information he received and NOW wanted to deliver to us as members of the Body of Christ! Jesus Christ, on the same night He was betrayed, took bread, gave thanks, broke the bread and said: "Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me." In verses 25 and 26, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes further about Christ's instructions (to us) in the same "template" as before: "After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament IN MY BLOOD: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
It is essential that the diligent bible student must first understand who the bible is addressed "to", who is spoken "about", and in "what" context words or a passages are used. If we use the same principle here, we can find out some awesome aspects of what Jesus Christ told Paul to tell us about concerning "communion". I am afraid though, that what Christ would want and would approve of today under His administration of grace, is quite different from what is practiced and taught in many churches across the world. With context and audience in mind, many scholars would agree that Paul is quoting from what Christ told the 12 apostles (ref: Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:17-20). However, we must note that starting in verse 24 of 1 Corinthians 11, that Paul "received of the Lord to deliver to us" that when we break bread or drink we are to remember Christ until He comes again!
This foundational principle is cross-dispensational in that its principles apply to all programs of God including:
Present day saints or those members of the Body of Christ, who in this current dispensing of grace have simply believed that Jesus Christ died, was buried and rose again for their sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-10). (Note: We are most certainly instructed to think of Him when we eat and / or drink! Lastly, we anticipate His return by being caught up to meet the Lord Jesus in the air.)
The Kingdom Saints (Little Flock - Luke 12:32) or what Christ told the 12 apostles in regards to remembering Him. (ref: Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:17-20). These saints anticipated Christ's return to Israel at the base of Mt. Olive and would eventually embrace the "one Body truth" Paul would teach them as He received it from Christ!
The Tribulation Saints who will embrace Christ as their King and await for Him to physically touch down on the earth (Zechariah 8:3-8), should indeed remember Him when they eat and drink.
You may be asking "Brother, what are driving at?"
Here's my point on this topic: Do you think people in general like to eat? How about in your home town? How many restaurants, burger stops and other fast-food joints are there? In my little Italian-American hometown, there are dozens of restaurants and diners of which one can choose to eat at. The choices seem unlimited! God in His infinite wisdom, love and perfection was definitely on to something! If on average, we eat three meals a day (some more, some less) than at a minimum should we not think of Him three times? We should indeed think of Him more, but at least when we eat and drink, shouldn't we ponder His finished work on our behalf? Shouldn't we dwell on The One that gave up so much for us so that we can bask in His grace, liberty, freedom and righteousness???
In my home, communion has a taken on a different meaning nowadays. It's not because we are model Christians or holy "beyond perfection" or have attained, but instead, sinners who have embraced the truth of what God would approve of concerning the completed, sufficient and finished work of His Son! Folks, I am not talking about making a public, prayer demonstration to show ourselves super-Godly. I am simply talking about a thankful heart! Unfortunately today, communion has become a ritual, a rite, and in many instances a way of salvation. Jesus Christ NEVER intended this and He through the operation of the Holy Spirit instructed Paul to teach us differently concerning this practice. As one example, how many churches argue or even divide over the amount of times in a month they should practice communion? It is believed that we are to be quiet in the sanctuary or "solemnly reflect" our attempts to get right with God, when in fact He has already proclaimed us "right" through faith in Christ! In other churches the accomplishments of the cross and the riches of His grace would rather be replaced by pomp and circumstance, gold and silver as well as guilt and bondage. In the midst of it all and if we are really honest with ourselves, we are too busy trying to "look sorry" and too concerned with our outward demeanor in response to the "ceremony" at hand. The ironic thing of it all is that when the service ends and the coffee and donuts are served that would be the BEST time to hold communion! Man as always, perverts (or makes opposite) what God would approve of and it is no different in this particular issue. Please understand this ministry fully embraces communion as a relevant part of the believers doctrine in this glorious age of grace. However, it is the METHOD and MOTIVATION I question in how we as members of "The Body of Christ" are to execute these God given instructions....
I challenge all believers to remember it was Paul who told us that he had received instructions from Jesus Christ that were to be taught to us for our learning and edification under His glorious dispensing of grace!
We as one body should honor, celebrate and enjoy this blessing corporately and individually whenever we eat or drink.
Please note that the verses in 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 in are meant to memorialize "The Last Supper" which was indicative of a future time where Jesus Christ Himself would again drink from the fruit of the vine with a believing Israel as His Bride. Here (referring to the Last Supper), believers must note Christ was proclaiming what was prophesied in Jeremiah in regards to the coming of his new covenant (testament) with Israel (see Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Mistakenly, the verses in Corinthians 11 (otherwise known again as "The Last Supper") cannot be a reference to that event for the bible specifically says in Matthew 26:17-29: "Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the Passover. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
The events as recorded in Matthew in regards to how we should view "communion" TODAY are distinct in this dispensing of grace; note:
Christ Himself said He would keep the Passover.
The "new testament" was to Israel as prophesied in Jeremiah 31 His blood would be shed for "many" and not "all" at this point.
As members of the Body of Christ, we must not read ourselves into Israel's promises unless we attempt to minimize who we are and what we have in and through Jesus Christ. Further, when we practice communion under this dispensation of grace, our emphasis should be on the risen Christ for He is ALIVE sitting at the right hand of the Father and we should be celebrating His accomplishments for us in a completely different light than when He was on earth yet to be delivered "for many". In addition, communion as Jesus Christ revealed to Paul should provoke us to be thankful for the position, blessings and righteousness we have because of Him who loved us!
In verses 27 through 28 of 1 Corinthians 11 some interesting doctrines have been developed by today's church leaders.
27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
Pastors and teachers have convinced believers that:
If they partake in communion in an "unworthy fashion" (such as sin in your life, not having the right heart or any number of subjective reasons), that they will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord with the implication being (or in other instances stating) that they have "fallen out of fellowship with God" if they should partake in communion! Yikes! ---are you kidding me??? Or many teach people could lose their salvation or be guilty of the body and blood unto damnation which would result in the loss of eternal security!
But if THIS is what I believed when reading these verses in 1 Corinthians 11, and I knew there was a chance I could do something during communion to mess up, logically then, I would NEVER partake in this event! Think about it.... Why would anyone want to risk damnation? Furthermore, what could I do that made me unworthy to the point of losing my salvation that I never earned to begin with? In other examples, many fundamental teachers believe that these verses somehow apply to non-believers who partake in communion "unworthily" due to their sinful lifestyle. The above reasons are not consistent with the reason why we are to "commune" as members of The Body of Christ.
When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. - 1 Corinthians 11:20-22
Paul had heard that there were divisions and although he didn't want to believe it, he knew better! In addition, there were heresies among the Corinthian saints to the point where Paul encouraged those "who were approved" to step forward. Paul rebuked the carnal Corinthians and reminded them in verse 20 that when they did come together, this was NOT the Lord's supper.
So what was going on here and what was the real issue? Check it out:
Some believers were hungry while others were actually drunk! Did believers not have a place to go? Why were those who had food not sharing with those who lacked? Worse, they were showing off! The church at Corinth is in many, many ways a reflection of our congregations today. Unfortunately, most of our churches have become show places for fashion, wealth and automobiles as those who "do without" are forced away because they don't measure up to the standard which is established by the church's command media of perfect, holy people. Sound doctrine is set aside and replaced by appeal, aesthetics and apathy versus "rightly diving the word of truth". The Corinthian believers were celebrating communion in an "unworthy" fashion through their gluttony, selfish motivation and ignorance of the purpose of this "love feast". They would fall under further condemnation (also known as damnation) by Paul himself unless they examined themselves in the matters discussed. Paul wanted these saints to "commune" with a clear conscience of love so that believers could celebrate their oneness in Christ....that was the issue friends!
As we close out this article on communion, the last several verses of chapter 11 describe the conduct of those involved in the celebration feast. Many were weak and sickly because they were famished and were only coming to the feast to get fed! Paul questioned them saying "are their not houses of which to eat in"? To the wealthy he rebuked: "21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? what shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not."
On the other end of the spectrum, others were so drunk, they passed out or slept and Paul addressed them as many who sleep! These verses are in many instances interpreted that God inflicted some type of "on the spot death judgment" killing believers due to their sin. This is in error for "God has not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation". Friends, either we are in Christ, safe from judgment or we are under the wrath of God! If God exacted what a friend of mine calls " a pound of flesh" every time we sinned, the Body of Christ would ALL be home with Him! Or there are the legalists who would bemoan, "they were probably never really saved at all... " Paul goes on to tell us that when we are judged we are chastened by the Lord so that we would not fall unto further rebuking. How, you may ask, are we chastened by the Lord in this dispensation of grace then? The word "chastened" in verse 32 is described in Strong's as:
To train children
To be instructed or taught
To those who are molding the character of others through reproof or admonition. (warning)
Since we know that we are no longer under His wrath, how will the Lord chasten us? Through the bible my friend. The rest would be set in order when Paul again returned to Corinth.
Before we close on this controversial topic, I want to be sure to emphasize that communion is not a mandated ordinance out of fear but instead a love feast to bring to remembrance what Christ accomplished on our behalf. More importantly, the very essence of the message of grace expounds upon and teaches the believer about the liberty and freedom a person has in Christ! It is now a matter of us studying to be "workers" in order to stand APPROVED of, by God at the Bema Seat Judgement where all BELIEVERS will one day give an account for what they were entrusted with.