When Christians Commune

“…Do this in remembrance of me.” — 1 Corinthians 11:24communion1.JPG

When saints commune with Christ a marvelously wonderful scene unfolds. As a fine-cut diamond has many facets and is beautiful to behold from any angle, so also, the Lord’s Supper, which is a multi-faceted aspect of Christian worship, dazzles the spiritual senses of the believer. Let’s spend a couple of moments taking a few quick glances at some of the fascinating facets of this sacred supper.

In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 we read, “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 partake of the one loaf.” Thus, the Holy Spirit reveals that participation in the Lord’s Supper is an occasion for both declaring and celebrating our oneness with all believers.

Through the eye of faith, we see Jesus’ sinless body crucified on the cross—an innocent victim paying a debt He did not owe. We shudder as we contemplate the scene. Jesus, beaten and bruised, is nailed to a cross. We agonize at the thought of streams of blood flowing from His thorn pierced brow. When, through our mind’s eye, we see the spear tear through the flesh of His side; there is an emotional tidal wave which wells up inside. Thus, when saints commune, we do so, as Jesus instructed, in remembrance of Him. (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:24-25)

Though there are no words spoken, except prayers of gratitude, saints make a mighty proclamation in communion. Paul’s inspired words to the Corinthians were: “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) The message is clear! Indeed, our Lord Jesus died for our sins and shed His blood for the new covenant. This we remember full well. But, the Christ who died and was buried in a tomb was also resurrected on the third day. He is alive! Thus, each time we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim not only His death, but, also, His resurrection. Praise the Lord! He is coming again!

As much as communion is a time for considering these things, it is also an occasion for introspection. We are behooved to examine our own lives in light of the extreme sacrifice, which Jesus Christ made for each of us. The Word of God is very specific in this regard. In 1 Corinthians 11:28-29, we read the following: “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” When Christians commune, we should each ask ourselves penetrating questions such as:

— Since God loves me so much, how am I showing my love for Him in return?

— Since Christ has done so much for me, how am I lovingly serving Him in response to all He has done?

— Considering that His sacrifice was for my sins, am I living in such a way as to honor Him for the price He paid for my freedom?

So much more could be said. Hopefully these thoughts are sufficient for the purpose at hand. Truly, the moments we spend surrounding the Lord’s Table in memory of Him are of monumental significance for God’s holy people. For, when saints commune, we’re standing on holy ground in the presence of our Great Redeemer!

© Bill Williams

December 4, 2006

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
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17 Responses to When Christians Commune

  1. Bill,

    He gave us SO much and we give Him so little. This can change though….today! Worship and give to Him and He will surely outgive you!

    Blessings,
    Jim

  2. Greg England says:

    He did that for us and all we can bring to the table is our sinfulness … and yet he accepts us because the Father has declared us righteous!

    One thing we do at Long Beach is to be very intentional about communion. We never just “do communion” but always have one of the brothers share how this moment is meaningful to him. Admittedly, some of those devotions have been barely tolerable, but the majority are very meaningful. Some have been so meaningful that I would forego the sermon that morning because the communion devo was so much better than anything I’d prepared.

    Thanks for this reminder, Bill.

  3. Kathy says:

    It’s all about Him – about His sacrifice – about His love for us – as Oswald Chambers says,it’s all about what it cost God to save us.” We sometimes, even often forget what the LORD’s table represents in cost to God.

    Jesus could look down the centuries from the Cross, see our sin, die for it, and then hold His forgiveness in safekeeping until those sins nailed Him on the Cross again. In spite of it, He still pours out that reserved forgiveness on us. How can we NOT declare His death until He returns for us? How can we NOT remember Him during His Table time, His Communion, His Sacrament?

    Thank you, Bill for reminding us of these most precious moments in our spiritual life.

  4. Cecil Walker says:

    Your thoughts reminded me of some of our Preacher’s closing comments this past Sunday. His lesson was on the difference between “trying” and “training” spiritually.

    He asked:
    What would our church look like if everybody prayed as much as you do?
    What would our church’s budget look like if everyone gave the same percentage of God’s blessings to the church?
    What would our church look like if everyone studied their Bible as much as you do?

    It was a powerful sermon.

  5. Bill I appreciate your leading us to reflect upon the grace of communion. Many congregations certainly need renewal in this area … some simply dismiss this precious time.

    However, I have a slightly different understanding of the verses under consideration. I believe that vv 28 and 29 are to be understood in light of the situation at Corinth. In this case the situation is not that the Corinthians are not devotional or sorrowful enough for their sin. I do think this is a legitmate thing for us to reflect on at the Table for sure. But at Corinth the manner of eating was the issue. The poor are left out, being discriminated against, and the rich are being little piggies. The Corinthians are letting Roman social status govern etiquette the Supper. Paul commands them to “wait” for each other (v.33) (see 11.21, 22 as well on the mistreatment of fellow believers)

    As I read it, “discerning the body” in this context then is not creating a mental picture of Jesus on the cross rather the Body of Christ is the gathered family … especially the poor. Paul has already identified the body and believers in 10.17.

    It seems to me that the Corinthians are not recognizing Christ’s body because they are mistreating each other. Thus to discern that body is to recognize the communal dimension of the Supper with our brothers and sisters. It can never be the “Lord’s” supper as long as it is a private or individualized moment. It is the Lord’s when we see that we are “together” the body and care for one another in an appropriate manner … including taking care of the poor at the communal meal.

    At any rate I am not trying to be contentious, I just thought I would share my understanding of the text.

    For what it is worth,
    Bobby Valentine

  6. Royce Ogle says:

    A great post, beautifully put. And, great comments, especially Bobby V.

    Another facet of the supper in my view is the reminder to look for His coming. (I have been in the coC now for 6 1/2 years and am still waiting for the first lesson or sermon on the 2nd coming of Jesus. He IS coming!) Jesus said, “Do this ’til I come” or something really close to that quote.

    My wife and I recently visited a coC in Southlake Texas where before we celebrated the Lord’s Supper, a couple, a man and his wife, both spoke with such sincerity and clarity that the result was one of the most worshipful times I could remember for a long time around the table.

    In most of the Baptist churches I was a part of we celebrated the Lord’s Supper only 4 or 5 times a year, (I don’t prefer that..) but some of those services were very, very special. The whole service was anchored by the supper. I have seen people come weeping to give their hearts to Christ and many times have seen folks baptised after one of those special times of holy worship.

    Great post and a great blog.

    Grace and Peace,
    Royce Ogle

  7. John M. Kenney says:

    I had to admit, after reading this that I am not where I need to be with God. That’s the reason for the poem I posted tonight, Bill. I want him to renew me and restore me to the joy I had in the beginning. Thanks for letting God use you to minister to me.
    I like this blog’s look very much.

  8. Maggie says:

    I have always been a very introspective person when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. Recently, our pastor has been encouraging us to not concentrate on ourselves, but on Christ, in celebration of all He did for us, and the live we can live in Him.

    Not to say that introspection doesn’t have it’s place. I read on another blog in blogland recently that when it says, “Do not partake in an unworthy manner”, it’s not talking about self evaluation, but about not hogging food as some were doing…again, self centeredness and self being the thing to avoid.

    I was convicted that to spend more time reflecting on Christ and thanking him, and less time on me. Always a tender balance in the realm of introspection…intensity versus abandon, reflection vs. celebration.

    Great post, Bill!

  9. Maria Toth says:

    Beautiful language, Bill!
    Thank you!
    God bless
    Maria in the UK
    http://www.inhishands.co.uk

  10. Matt Dabbs says:

    “Discerning the body” – Paul here certainly does intend for the Corinthians to realize he is not just talking about Christ’s physical body but also the body of Christ, that is the church as well – As Bobby already mentioned.

    I have been trying hard over the last year or so to really put that into practice. Our pews have a handy way of individualizing worship. It is hard to be very aware of the community of faith that surrounds us on any given Sunday morning, etc. As I take communion I now try to really put into practice what Paul said here. I think about Jesus and his sacrifice but I also think about the Christians sitting all around me. Sometimes I will pray for them as well that God will protect and bless them. Recognizing what Paul is saying is important but I think we need to challenge oursleves to be more community focused during communion. Look around you to the others in the room. Don’t keep your eyes closed the whole time. Pray for others. Pray that God will strengthen your relationships with others in the congregation, etc.

    Good post. Take care

  11. Dee Andrews says:

    Back a year or two ago now we had an ongoing, in depth study in our Sunday morning adult class about the Lord’s supper in its history throughout the years in the church and it was very interesting and inspiring to me. John Mark Hicks has talked a lot about (and written extensively about) the communion and what it means to come to the Lord’s table and his blog is well worth reading and keeping up with, although he doesn’t always post real often. (And of course John Mark and Bobby above have written their excellent book together recently that’s a “must read.”

    Thanks for giving us all of these things to think about Bill and all of you who have commented. I need to talk with our elders here about changing “how” communion is done here, because it isn’t very fulfilling to me most of the time, if at all, and it’s a real struggle for me to be in a “place” where I need to be during that time. A real struggle. And that ought not to be so.

  12. Greg England says:

    Bobby makes a good point. Speaking of discerning the body … several years ago a very beloved preacher died in a boating accident. The Sunday following his death, the preacher seemed to completely ignore the emotional pain of that congregation and preached on something to do with selecting elders or necessity of baptism (don’t remember) rather than discerning the body and bringing a word of peace and comfort from the Father.

    Then, where I now preach but before I came, during the communion one of the elders passed out cold. People came to his attention and EMTs were called in. While they were taking him out on a stretcher, the man presiding (is that the correct term? seems far too formal) over communion, himself an elder, went right on with the prayer for the juice as if absolutely nothing had just happened! Those who remember it say it was the most awkward non-communion they could imagine, much less experience.

  13. Thanks Dee for the kind words about Kingdom Come. John Mark and I hope we will make what Dan Brown did in about five minutes, 😉

    We have tried a number of things to heighten the sense of “communion” with the Body. We frequently have a “meet and greet” just before the Supper. We have encouraged people to share a moment with the one sitting next to them in prayer. We have all taken the bread and “wine” together to proclaim our oneness. As of yet I cannot convince them to move to the “fellowship” hall (i.e. COMMUNION hall), sit around the tables, have a good old fashion lunch and then break bread in the midst of that.

    None of this is to suggest that we shun the traditional quite time that most associate with the Supper. But it is to say that we need to embrace the full range of NT teaching on the subject.

    Thanks again Bill for prompting our thoughts and providing some great seeds to build upon.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  14. Kathy says:

    Bobby, your thoughts brought to mind a singles ministry fellowship we celebrated at the church I attended in San Diego.

    All ages and groups of singles came together for a dinner near the Easter/Passover time that year. The round tables accommodated about 10 people, plus the head table. The menu was typical sedar and each table was set up with the emblems for seder which we then used later for Communion,.

    Our missionary couple to the Jews in San Diego gave us the history of each element of the menu and how each one was a foreshadow of the LORD’s table, bringing a deeper understanding not only of Passover, but more so of what we call Communion. We sang Seder songs, and then each table selected a ‘server’ for Communion using the Sedar elements as Jesus did when He gave us this sacrament. A beautiful and very moving evening for all age groups.

    At Scott Memorial in San Diego and here at Highland we are encouraged to share Communion during our family dinners, small groups meetings, at our fellowhsip meals, whenever we come together, not just Sunday morning. It has helped us to observe and remember what Jesus asked of us “…in Remembrance of Me…” and “…declaring My death until I return…”

  15. Bill says:

    Dear friends,

    Please forgive my status as the “Fantom Blogger” this week. I’ve had an incredibly full plate. However, I do appreciate the rich dialogue that you have conducted in my absence. Does it get any better than this? Thank you so much for each and every comment. Thank you, also, for sharing your understanding and insights. Because of your willingness to share, my understanding is enhanced and my life is blessed!

    Grace and peace to each of you,
    -bill

  16. Royce Ogle says:

    Bill,

    Thanks for stopping by Grace Digest and leaving your comments. I really enjoy your blog and especially this subject.

    Grace and Peace,
    Royce Ogle

  17. Maggie says:

    I’ve been part of one community of faith I enjoy where we all sing praises as we leave our pews, sing in a line moving forward to the point where two people hold the elements. The first says to us, usually by name, “Maggie, this is the body of Christ, broken for you.” I usually tear us. We tear off a peice of bread from the loaf, dip it in the cup of juice as the second person says, “Maggie, the blood of Christ, shed for you.” And you put your hand under the dripping bread as it reaches your mouth. As soon as you can sing (I’m usually broken-feeling myself for a few minutes), you sing again. We usually end celebrating with a more upbeat, or higher praise sort of song. “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” or something…something everyone knows and can sing loudly by heart. Instruments sometimes dropping out.

    Those serving serve one another at the end. Instrumentalists…usually just guitarists, as served first in silence.

    It’s a great way to increase that feeling of unity and tenderness I think.

    You might try it sometime. (The elements are covered with a towel early on, and uncovered as they are blessed by the reading of the Lord’s Supper scripture and prayers).

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