Communion: A Symbol We’re Already Familiar With
It’s the passage that your pastor recites every time he introduces the Lord’s Supper (a.k.a, Communion or Eucharist). “This bread is My body, which is broken for you… This cup is the new covenant in My blood… Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” These are the words of Jesus, quoted by the Apostle Paul in First Corinthians 11.
To institute the Lord’s Supper, Christ took an ancient practice (the Passover celebration) and gave it a powerful new meaning. Eating the Passover meal had already been a standard tradition in Israelite culture for hundreds of years. But Jesus’ divine adaptation of it became an honored practice of the Christian Church. Two thousand years later, Communion is still regularly celebrated around the globe.
What did it take to transform this Jewish tradition into a new universal Christian practice? We see the combination of three factors: (1) a description of the new symbolic practice, (2) an explanation of the uniquely-Christian reasons for the new symbolic practice, and (3) an unqualified command to perform the new symbolic practice. Regarding Communion, each of these components was provided by Jesus, taught by the Apostles, and maintained in the pages of Scripture for Christians throughout history.
But here’s the interesting thing: the practice of (and meaning behind) the Lord’s Supper has no unique relationship to modern Western culture. Yet, separated from its initiation by 2000 years, believers today feel quite comfortable with continuing this ancient practice. Because of the three key components listed above, Christians affirm that Communion was intended by God to extend well beyond the local First Century churches.
However, it would be easy for modern churches to find reasons to give up this tradition. For example, Christians today could simply say…
- “The Lord’s Supper is not understood by the average person on the street nowadays. If we practiced it in our church, visitors would be confused.They may even consider leaving if we start talking about eating Jesus’ body and drinking His blood.”
- “Jesus and His disciples were Jewish, and they were employing a Jewish practice. But we’re not a Jewish church, and we’re not trying to import Jewish culture into our church.”
- “People today want substance, not rituals. The Lord’s Supper was only a symbolic tradition — the reality is in Christ Himself. Just experiencing Jesus personally is more than enough for us.”
In spite of responses like these, the Lord’s Supper is a solid component of Christianity — both historically and biblically. Most believers would agree that if a congregation decided that Communion is no longer relevant, they could not base their discontinuation of it on the teaching of Scripture. Read more
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