The word “communion” is defined as the act of sharing, or holding in common; participation. The word “communion” is the Greek word, “koinonia,” and it means a partnership, participation or social intercourse, fellowship, communication, distribution, contribution, or to communicate.
Communion is a fellowship of believers gathering together to remember the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. We do so by sharing in the bread, symbolizing the broken body of our Savior, and the cup, symbolizing Christ’s shed blood. We come together as believers from time to time, and take the bread and the cup as an act of remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice.
Communion is never to be taken lightly; it a reverent act that requires us to empty our hearts of sin, thereby honoring the grace we now live under because of Christ’s sacrifice.
The Very First Communion
To better understand present day communion, it’s helpful to consider the history of this reverent act. Before Jesus was crucified on the cross, he gathered his disciples together for one final meal. It was during the season of Passover, the holiest time in the Jewish faith. During the course of this Passover meal, on the night before he was betrayed, Jesus guided the disciples in the “The Lord’s Supper,” or holy communion.
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’”
The elements Jesus used during the very first communion hold deep significance in the Jewish faith with rich Biblical history to be found in what he used and when he used them.
The Unleavened Bread is also called the “bread of affliction” because it was made and eaten in haste before the Exodus. (There was no time to let it rise). When the bread is eaten during the Passover meal, the host breaks the bread and recalls this Passover tradition by saying: “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in want come and celebrate the Passover with us. May it be God’s will to redeem us from all evil and from all slavery.” It was at the serving of this bread to His disciples that Jesus re-defined the unleavened bread, saying “this is my body broken for you.”
The Third Cup of Wine
During the Passover meal, four cups of wine are served. The third is the “Cup of Blessing.” We know Jesus took the third cup because the gospels say “after supper he took the cup”, and the third cup was the one served after supper. At this point the people celebrating Passover say: “I will take the chalice of salvation, and I will call upon the name of the Lord.” It was at the serving of this cup that Jesus said “this is my blood shed for you…” His declaration pointed to himself as the blessing and our salvation.
Paul Extends the Tradition
The Apostle Paul extends the communion tradition by leading believers in the order of the Lord’s Supper. After he recalls the passage above, he takes communion a step further, giving access to this sacred act to all believers by saying,
“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.”
I Corinthians 11: 23-28
As Paul leads believers in holy communion, we are reminded that communion is a reverent act that we participate in only after examining our heart, confessing any sin, and accepting God’s grace anew. Communion should always be approached with humility and prayer.
At 12Stone we continue the tradition of participating in communion. We acknowledge that holy communion began with Christ at The Last Supper, was continued by Paul in the early church, and exists for believers today as an act of obedience and remembrance of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He gave his life a ransom for whoever believes. There is nothing magical about the elements of bread and wine/juice in and of themselves. The Holy Spirit is present when believers assemble together to fellowship, to remember Christ’s sacrifice and to examine their own hearts as to whether they have any unconfessed sin. The Holy Spirit then gives us reconciliation to God individually, and corporately when we engage in this sacred act with pure hearts.
Communion is a holy privilege. Taking the elements gains no merit for the participant other than one of remembrance in thanksgiving for what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for all who trust in Him as their personal Savior.