Question: Greetings. Thank you once again that you make yourself available for questions. A friend and I were wondering about communion. We both used to attend churches and we partook in communion or The Lord's Supper and we are wondering about this now that we do not go to church. Could you elaborate on this subject or direct me to the studies where it is discussed. Thank you again, May God richly bless you.
Response: Good to hear from you again, and thanks for your question. I have written the following about communion in general which I quote here as background to answering your question:
Covenants in general in the ancient Middle East required two parties and a formal blood-sacrifice for ratification wherein both sides agree to abide by the terms specified. A biblical covenant is an agreement made by God on mankind's behalf, wherein God undertakes to bless all those who faithfully follow Him. God's part is two-fold: He supplies blessing (culminating in resurrection and eternal life), and He provides the blood-sacrifice (the gift of His Son, necessary to redeem us from sin so that we may be blessed). Our part is to keep faith with Him (i.e., accepting Christ and continuing to trust Him, believe Him, obey Him, follow Him: cf. Gen.15:6). God's covenants are formalized promises that provide those who have set their hearts on following Him with a strong basis for confident hope, because God has not only promised the eternal life and concomitant blessings we eagerly await, but has irrevocably bound Himself to fulfill them. Therefore although part of these covenants' fulfillment is still yet future (requiring those who accept God's gracious offer of salvation which is at the heart of both covenants to trust Him while waiting patiently for fulfillment after the pattern of Abraham's faith and patience), fulfillment is absolutely certain for all who embrace the promises and persevere in faith. Both Old and New Covenants are ratified by blood: the Old through the shadow of animal blood, the New through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross (where the reality of His death on our behalf and in our place [and wherein He did not bleed to death: Jn.19:30-37] is symbolized by the phrase "the blood of Christ": Heb.9:16-22). God promises, formalizes the promises, and pays the most severe price to fulfill the covenants He has established - the price being the sacrifice of His only beloved Son. We benefit from His unconditional and glorious act of grace, if we but trust in Jesus and stay faithful to Him. Whether it be present day believers who partake of the communion which proclaims the completed reality of salvation through the blood of Christ (Matt.26:26-29), or believers of the past who partook of sacrificial meals "of covenant" that foreshadowed the future reality of salvation (Ex.12:1-12; cf. Gen.31:51-54), our participation "proclaims the death of Jesus until He comes" (1Cor.11:26) and so pledges our continuing faith and faithfulness. The old, shadow covenant(s) (cf. Ezek.16:60 "covenant of youth") and the memorial, "New" covenant (cf. Ezek.16:60 "everlasting covenant) thus both proclaim the salvation to which we are heirs and partakers by the work of God through our continuing faith in Jesus Christ [from "Covenants" in Part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series].
Thus "proclaiming the death of Jesus until He comes" (1Cor.11:26) really is the reason why Jesus gave us this one genuine "sacrament" in which we are to participate, because by doing so we show the world (and remind ourselves) that He has bought us and that we believe in Him and have received the blessings of His work on the cross. That is why Jesus says "keep on doing this in remembrance of Me" (Lk.22:19; 1Cor.11:24). The context of 1st Corinthians chapter eleven makes very clear the solemnity of this one and only true ritual of the Church wherein Christ's Person (bread) and work on the cross (wine) are clearly and graphically represented, and wherein our participation in His Person and work is likewise tangibly and powerfully represented by our eating of these symbols, a very clear representation of our abiding faith in Him and His sacrifice for us (cf. Jn.6:25-59). Compare my comments in Coming Tribulation: Part 2A:
Jesus Christ Himself gave us the ceremony of communion (Matt.26:26-28; Mk.14:22-24; Lk.22:17-20; 1Cor.11:23-26), a ritual of remembrance of Him and His work and the only true Christian ritual, and even this has been abused - for its true purpose is not to "impart" grace or fellowship or anything else, but to remind believers of Him and His work and the choice we have made to follow Him.
This last point is important for your question because there is even in evangelical circles the sense abroad that somehow only a communion service presided over by an ordained pastor and occurring in a local church setting could ever be legitimate. Scripture does not, in my opinion, support that view. Jesus told His disciples and, by application, told us all, to "keep on doing" communion until He returned in order to preserve our memory of Him and our sense of commitment to Him (and to make that obvious to all the world thereby). That is the point of communion - to proclaim and remind and focus on that koinonia-oneness with the Son whom we believe, love and serve (i.e., "communion" is a translation of koinonia which means "oneness" or "fellowship"). Communion is most definitely not a vehicle for "dispensing grace" (as it is commonly misrepresented to be whether overtly or subliminally).
I see no scriptural reason why believers who, for whatever reason, are not blessed with having a large group with which to fellowship or a church building or a formally ordained pastor should be restricted from practicing communion in their own small group worship. Indeed, the first communion was conducted by our Lord in a small, secular room with a small group of individuals whom the "formal" world regarded as heretics. It is not the size of the group, nor the type of building, nor the academic qualifications of the group leader that matter. Rather, the key to proper communion lies in the hearts and in the spirits of those who partake. Proper understanding of what the ceremony means (see above), and reverence in conducting the ceremony are the true points at issue:
(27) Therefore whoever eats the [communion] bread or drinks the [communion] cup of the Lord in an unworthy way is guilty [of offense against] the body and the blood of the Lord. (28) So let [each] person evaluate himself and in this manner (i.e., following confession of all sins remembered in such reflection) let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (29) For the person who eats and drinks eats and drinks judgment for himself if he does not evaluate his body [aright] (i.e., refusing first to repent and confess). (30) It is for this [very] reason that many among you are sick and infirm – and not a few have passed away. (31) But if we were evaluating ourselves [so as to repent and confess], we would not be falling under judgment. (32) And when we are being judged [for this offense], it is by the Lord that we are being disciplined, to the end that we might not be condemned (lit., "terminally judged") along with the world.
1st Corinthians 11:27-32
Thus this final point is one of central significance. Communion is the one remaining ceremony authorized for Jesus' Church, the one time we approach God to remember Him in an formal way. Therefore the seriousness of the event and the extreme importance of our doing so in a wholly sanctified way cannot be understated (cf. Lev.10:1-3). And it is certainly fitting when we remember Him in communion to remind ourselves that we are here to walk as He walked. There is certainly value in doing all this in a formal church setting. But as long as we have examined ourselves first, and as long as this ritual of remembrance is conducted "decently and in good order" and in full understanding of the significance of the Person and work of our Lord as represented in the communion elements, then I see no reason for we who are Christ's Body to shy away from remembering Him in this way outside of what has become traditional. After all, looking to the scriptures instead of tradition, this ritual of remembrance was given to all of us. It is most certainly not the property of a special few ordained by one denomination or another, and is nowhere restricted to a particular venue such as a church building.
For [on this matter] I received [directly] from the Lord what I passed on to you, namely that on the night on which He was betrayed He took bread and having blessed it He broke it and said, "This is my body which is [offered up] on your behalf. Keep on doing this in order to remember Me". And in the same way [after eating] He took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant [made] by my blood. Keep on doing this as often as you drink [it] in order to remember Me".
1st Corinthians 11:23-25
I hope this is helpful. You might have a look at these links too:
Communion and the Blood of Christ.
The Leftover Baskets of Bread and Fish in John 6.
Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.
The Last Supper.
The Lord's Supper and Confession of Sins.
The Meaning of the Communion Memorial.
In Him who is our heart and our life, the One we remember to the end, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.