There are times I have stepped back and asked myself, “Is what we do at church tradition or what God wants?” It’s not that all church tradition is bad, although I do think we need to take time to evaluate what we are doing from time to time. On Mother’s Day, for example, our church gives out a carnation to each woman honoring mothers and women. You can’t find this tradition in the Bible, but I think it is a nice and kind thing to do, so we will continue to do it.
What about communion? Is this something that is overdone? Is it just some medieval tradition, or is there purpose behind it? When the elders and I took a step back in early 2016 to talk about why and how we celebrate communion, we made some changes, but I believe ones that push to a more Biblical understanding of communion.
Not familiar with communion? For those who have not witnessed communion in a church service, a pastor or leaders of the church handout juice/wine and bread in some way, to people who partake in the ceremony.
When you think of communion, you may think of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper. Even someone who has never been to church could describe this painting. While Jesus looks more European than Arab in this painting, it is a great depiction of what Matthew 26:17-30, and Luke 22:19-20 depict as part of Jesus’ last meal on Earth.
The apostle Paul reiterates this idea of communion in I Corinthians 11:17-31. These passages explain the multifaceted purposes behind communion: celebrating, repenting, proclaiming, and unifying.
CELEBRATE: Scripture tells us that Jesus is our sacrificial lamb. I Corinthians 5:7 “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Revelation 5:12 “saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’”
I Corinthians 11:23-24, 25 explains how eating the bread reminds us of the sacrifice of Christ. It is often a more reverent time, as people meditate on the deep pain Jesus experienced on the cross. But it is a celebration because it reminds us of His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. These can only come through Him. Communion doesn’t save us, but helps us celebrate our faith in His sacrifice for salvation. Our sins have been paid for and we are free from the condemnation of Hell.
REPENT: Communion is a time to get right with God. What does that mean? Well, at Cornerstone we teach that those who are saved can’t lose their salvation. If that is the case, why “get right?” I like to explain it this way. Let’s say that you walked up to your biological father and punched him in the face. Would the fact that you punched him in the face negate the fact that he is your biological father? No. That being said, would the fact that you punched him in the face put a damper on your relationship? Absolutely, it may even put a damper on your face. It is the same way with God. If you have been saved, and you sin, it doesn’t mean that you are no longer a child of God, but it can hurt your relationship with Him.
Communion is a great time to be reminded of God’s forgiveness, therefore it is a great time to repent of sins in your life so that you may heal your relationship with Him. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If you are celebrating His death on the cross, what a great time to repent of sins in your life. I Corinthians 11:27-32 explains that communion is a time to examine our lives and see if there is any sin between us and God. If you have sin you have not repented of, you should not take communion.
PROCLAIM: I Corinthians 11:26 says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Communion is a time to proclaim to others the grace, mercy and forgiveness of Jesus. There should be times where people who don’t believe in God come into our churches because they are searching for God. There are also children who are watching, or maybe others who attend regularly who have not yet put their faith in Jesus. Communion is a great time to watch others proclaim their faith in Jesus. This should be a sign for others who are watching to consider communion, and ultimately Jesus as the Savior of the World.
UNIFY: Communion has the word “commune” in it, the idea of unity. In some senses, it seems odd that since we are saved as individuals, this would be a corporate endeavor. I Corinthians 11:18 says that we are to do it as we “come together as a church.” This proclamation is to be observed publicly in the service. It is a time to proclaim that we are unified as a church. What we teach at Cornerstone is that if someone has a major problem, or has sinned against someone else at church, that they should not take communion until they have made things right with the person wronged. If you have division between you and someone else in the church and take communion anyway, you have broken the message that communion intends to send.
There are many other questions that circle communion, but celebrating the cross, repenting of known sins, proclaiming our faith, and unity among believers are the staples of communion. How often should a church celebrate communion? In what way should the bread and juice/wine be served? Should wine or juice be served? Why doesn’t Cornerstone teach that communion is part of salvation? What does communion look like practically at Cornerstone? I will be writing a second article on communion in the next couple weeks to attempt to answer these questions.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.