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Discussion > What does the Bible say about communion?

Reading 1 Corinthians 11 17-34 would be helpful before reading what I have to say.

I'm trying to understand why we practice the juice and bread ritual.
As the Bible shows, Jesus modeled communion with his supper. And in 1 Corinthians 11, it is described as a community meal.
17 ..."when you meet together"
18 ..."when you meet as a church"
20... "the Lord's supper..when you come together"
21..." to eat your own meal"
23-29 talks about bread and wine
But then it goes back into a meal again:
33..."gather for the Lord's Supper"
34... "really hungry, eat at home"

So what is Jesus doing with the bread when he says "Do this in remembrance of me?" Sounds like he ripped it in half. Then what? Mathew 27 "He gave it to them". 1Corinthians 11:21 and 33-34 alludes to sharing (or not sharing) during the Lord's supper. What if this is what He meant?

"Share the meal in remembrance of me. Love each other as yourselves because I love you so much that I bled a horrible death. Examine yourselves. Are you truly gathering to remember the way I love you and to share that love? Or are you always first in line to fill your plate?"

What if the Lord's supper is exactly that? A supper. A community of believers feeding each other, welcoming each other, caring for each other?

After all, what does a sip of juice and a nibble of bread have to do with supper?... It's definitely PART of a supper.

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJami

Jami, Thank you for your thoughts and insights!

I agree that historically, the Lord's Supper might have been more like a modern "pot luck".

There are so many different views on the subject, with most people feeling that it is a holy act that must be overseen by a priest or pastor. Catholics believe that they encounter God during communion (Eucharist), while Protestants generally see it as a symbol of remembrance.

I decided to look up the history of communion, to find out just how our modern practice of communion came to be. My search was certainly not exhaustive, but from what I can tell, the short answer is: Tradition! People have been practicing communion in the popular bread and juice/wine way for centuries.

The long answer seems to be that around 100-300 AD, as people began to meet in church buildings as opposed to homes, communion also migrated. At the same time, Christianity was becoming legalized in certain places, and the "Early Church Fathers" like Augustine were living, leading, and writing. They are important because they continue to influence Christians and churches today as leaders use their ideas and interpretations of Scripture, especially in the Catholic church.

Some of these early church leaders can be sub-categorized into the "Desert Fathers". These were leaders who established monasteries, advocated ascetic living (living poorly, but helping others), and practiced mysticism. Mysticism at it's core, is being influenced more by experiences, especially seeming supernatural ones, over Scripture. They introduced a lot of interesting traditions into the church body.

Although the Protestant Reformation changed some key things that had been happening in the church, Martin Luther was a Catholic priest. As such, he still advocated communion to be done by priests with all the previous sanctimonies. And it stuck.

I thought this was an interesting article on the history of communion from a Catholic perspective, although I don't know where she gets her info about the Jewish Passover. Is she describing an ancient Jewish one like Jesus would have participated in, or a modern one?

Here's a question for you: If you were to host a communion, what would it look like? Where would it be held? Who would lead, or would anybody lead?

November 8, 2013 | Registered CommenterA Christian

I've been pondering your question for some time, meaning last night and this morning!

1 Corinthians 8 talks about eating food sacrificed to idols. In 10-13, it basically says, that if you know the truth to be different from a week Christian's "truth", and you encouraged them to do what they believe is wrong, then you would be sinning against them and Christ.

So, I would host the communion in the traditional way so as not to "destroy" a week Christian.

After all, God wants our heart, not our traditions.

Which is not what I want to say at all, I think I've just learned a lesson in pride. Thank you Jesus for having me run down this bunny hole just to hop back out into the camp I came from!

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJami

An interesting and unexpected answer!

Just to play devil's advocate (no pun intended), you said, "God wants our heart, not our traditions". Since our customary way of practicing communion is based solely on traditions of men (and in the Catholic church, taking communion/Eucharist is in large part responsible for salvation), would it strengthen or weaken a sibling in Christ to advocate a way that relies less on traditions and more on the heart?

Similarly, the Bible calls us to be "peacemakers" and to strive for unification as the Church. Indeed many skeptics point to the variety of denominations, sects, and even Bible versions as an example of just how un-unified Christians are. Still, Jesus caused major division among His own people by, among other things, defying the many traditions the Israelite church leaders enforced.

When is it right to stand apart as Christians, and when is it right to stand together?

November 10, 2013 | Registered CommenterA Christian

As far as I know, Jesus combated these specific traditions: working on the Sabbath day, ritual washing of your hands, eating with sinners, and fasting. I'm sure there's more, but that's all I could come up with!

Putting in perspective the 2 greatest commandments (Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself):

Jesus said it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day. Saving a sheep in peril, feeding yourself and others, caring for the lame.

Ritual washing was simply that, a ritual and had nothing to do with the love of the Lord or others.

Not eating with sinners= no love for your neighbor.

And fasting while Jesus was with his disciples just plain made no sense. As He was there with them and abstaining from food would put them no more closer to Jesus as they already were.

The Pharisees brought these matters up not out of love for God or the people, but out of hatred for Jesus because he was magnifying their faults (pride). Which does not follow either of the 2 greatest commands.

So my answer to you, is that it is right to stand apart from other Christians when someone has love issues.

I brought my findings on communion to my dad who professes Jesus as Lord, has read the Bible a million and a half times, but still misses the point on many occasions. As I brought my points to him, he continued to retort with his speculations and not with scriptural findings. He wanted to hold on to traditional communion so badly. Then he said something that really hit me: He said that he loves communion, he feels closer to God when he takes communion then any other time. How horrible it would be for him (and me) if I took that away from him! It may not be what Jesus intended as he sat at that table of his closest followers, but I think God smiles on it anyhow. His followers desire to be close to him, and if some believe that a cracker and juice along with prayer and self examination get them there, then so be it. Some people believe they are close to him when they are in the wilderness alone with His creation. Some people believe that prayer does it, or reading the Bible and obtaining that knowledge. I will not be the one to take that away from them. I don't believe that traditional communion for all is a tradition OR heart issue. I believe that it has tradition AND heart.

On the other hand, if someone was taking communion just for the sake of blindly following a "command" or because everyone else is doing it, I believe that is when I should friendly rebuke. This is where it would strengthen instead of weaken.

I think that the way that Jesus modeled communion is VERY important. It helps with the unity subject and loving your neighbor. I believe that my house church does follow His lead on this without calling it the Lord's Supper. If someone is missing this kind of community, then I would say something to them.

There will never be complete unity in the church. In that same text in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul even says that he expects there to be factions so God's people can be identified. There is one subject that will truly keep us unified and that is our love for Jesus. Even if Christians were totally unified on every point, skeptics would have something else to tear us down about- it comes with the territory. Thankfully, I'm not here to please them, I'm here to please Jesus.

As for the Catholics... That's a whole other subject! ;-)

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJami

You have made a good argument.

But... (there is always a "but" with me) ;) How can we determine whether a person has love issues? We are able to judge actions, but not hearts.

Many things both good and bad, have been done for a professed love for God. Obedience to His word is the only true measure of love for God, "if you love me, obey my commands" (John 14:15). And maybe God has something better, if only we will trust Him and be obedient to His word.

It perhaps seems extreme to be picking on how we celebrate communion, and you are right to "Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters." (see all of Romans 14, but this is verse 1).

Some people are particular about keeping a Sabbath day on Saturday or Sunday, but it seems to me the Bible gives us freedom in that matter, as with many others. But is how we celebrate communion a "disputable matter", because it is one of the only two things Jesus told us to "remember", and because there are such a variety of beliefs about it.

Some people believe it is salvation. Should we not distance ourselves from that so we don't confuse others, thereby weakening their faith in that regard?

I certainly mean no disrespect to your dad, neither am I judging him, but if we do things to feel closer to God, are we not really doing them for ourselves?

Yes, we can become overly concerned about what others think, and there will always be plenty of arguments against this or that. Still, we should try to balance that by trying not be stumbling blocks to them.

Ultimately, God wants heart and actions.

"You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (Matt. 23:23-24)

What do you think? Is communion a "disputable matter"?

Also, a side note: Did you mean a different verse? I didn't see anything about factions in 1 Cor. 11.

November 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterA Christian