The Lord’s Supper (January 21, 2018) – Greg Robbins
On the evening before his crucifixion, Jesus shared a final meal with his disciples (recorded in Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). During this final meal, which Christians refer to as the “Last Supper,” Jesus shared bread and a cup with his disciples. Jesus explained that the bread represented his broken body and the cup represented his shed blood.
Following the example of Jesus, the first Christians began to celebrate the “Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20) during their weekly assemblies (Acts 2:42, 46, 20:7 – the “breaking of bread”; also 1 Corinthians 11:20). For the past two thousand years, Christians have gathered to remember and celebrate the saving benefits of Jesus’ death on the cross by participating in “communion” (a term derived from the Greek word koinonia meaning “fellowship” or “participation” – 1 Corinthians 10:16) or the “eucharist” (a transliteration of the Greek term for “giving thanks” – Matthew 26:27).
What is the nature of the Lord’s Supper?
The bread and juice of communion represent the broken body and shed blood (1 Corinthians 11:24-25) of Jesus on the cross. Historically, some Christian groups have interpreted Jesus’ words more literally. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that during the Mass the elements are literally transformed into the real body and blood of Jesus. This doctrine is known as “transubstantiation.”
Somewhat related to the Catholic interpretation, other Christian traditions (e.g. Lutherans) have historically maintained that Christ is physically present with (the doctrine of “consubstantiation” = “real presence”) the elements, though the elements’ physical substances remain the same.
While Christ certainly is present with his church during the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; Matthew 18:20), we believe (along with many other traditions) that the most natural way to interpret Jesus’ words is metaphorically or symbolically.
On many occasions, Jesus used metaphor to communicate spiritual truth (for example, John 6:35, 51). We believe that the Lord’s Supper is best described as a memorial (Luke 22:19), with the bread and cup representing the body and blood of Jesus. Christians should remember the sacrifice of Jesus, along with his love, grace, and salvation, when they partake of communion. This weekly commemoration should remind us of our salvation, identity, and future hope in Christ.
How often should we observe the Lord’s Supper?
We offer the Lord’s Supper on a weekly basis each Sunday morning. While the New Testament records no explicit commands regarding how often Christians should participate in communion, apparently it was the practice of the early church to “break bread” (Luke’s description of the Lord’s Supper) on a weekly (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:20) and possibly on a daily (Acts 2:46-47) basis. Paul’s comment in 1 Corinthians 11:26, “for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup,” implies that Christians have liberty concerning the frequency of their participation in the sacred meal.
Some Christian groups observe the Lord’s Supper on a quarterly or even yearly basis. Their rationale is that when communion is taken weekly it becomes routine or even trivial. Clearly, we should be careful not to allow communion to become a spiritless ritual. Nevertheless, we believe that the spiritual blessings available through participation in the Lord’s Supper are too vital to the life of the Christian (and corporate church) to take infrequently.
The communion event provides every believer with a specific occasion each week to join with fellow Christians in remembering and celebrating the salvation and identity shared in Christ.
Do you have to be a member of RCC to partake of communion?
Our church practices an “open” communion; that is, you do not have to be a member of the church to participate in the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper belongs to Jesus, not the church. We affirm that participation is between the individual Christian and Christ; however, to fully experience the meaning and blessing of communion requires that a person be a believing Christian.
Paul’s serious teaching in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 implies that a person taking communion should understand the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross, as well as have a love for and commitment to the local church.
How old should a child be to participate in communion?
The Bible is silent on this issue. A good standard to follow is to have children wait to take communion until they are old enough to be baptized into Christ. When a child is old enough to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, then they are probably ready to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This will vary from child to child according to their physical and spiritual maturity.