October 22, 2012

Concerning Christian Communion

What does the scripture say regarding the service of communion? Here are a few excerpted thoughts.
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1Co 10:16 ESV, all)

This is not an instruction given directly at the practice of the Lord's communion, but an example given in the context of an admonition to abstain from idolatry. The emphasis in this verse is "of Christ". Paul points out that our taking of the cup and bread is a willful participation, or communion, with Christ himself. Likewise, he reasons, participation in services of idolatry is willful, deliberate and personal. These two cannot be friends, and a Christian must choose one or the other. While this verse does not instruct us in communion, it offers insight to Christ's purpose and desire for its institution.

In the next chapter, we find a passage that does instruct us. Paul rebukes the Corinthian church for their ill-treating of the sacredness of Christ's bread and cup by gobbling it for bodily sustenance. He then offers the correct view, of which this verse is part:

...Also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1Co 11:25-26)
Sometimes, symbology can be hard to appreciate. The Corinthians seem to have forgotten the real refreshing that communion represents. We might be reminded and inspired by the offering of Bible commentator Matthew Henry, who writes of the above verse (emphasis mine):

(When we commune, we) declare his death to be our life, the spring of all our comforts and hopes. And we glory in such a declaration; we show forth his death, and spread it before God, as our accepted sacrifice and ransom. We set it in view of our own faith, for our own comfort and quickening; and we own before the world, by this very service, that we are the disciples of Christ, who trust in him alone for salvation and acceptance with God.
And what a spring it is! His blood is not merely party to our restoration, or an ingredient in God's redemption stew. It is the anvil on which freedom is forged. It is the imparting power of holiness. Taking the bread and the cup is not merely lending myself to a dated tradition. It is sealing again the engagement of my soul to Christ, and renewing my vow of love to Him alone.

Let not a day slip by without bringing to mind your dependence on the blood of Christ. "His blood can make the foulest clean. His blood availed for me." Amen

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