Previously I addressed the question, “What is communion?” The majority of Christians would agree with most of what I wrote about why we observe communion. As a quick refresher, communion celebrates the cross of Christ and the forgiveness that He died to offer. Communion also is a time to repent and “get right” with God, to proclaim our faith in Christ, and celebrate unity as a church. There are also many other questions which circle communion, such as how do you practically take communion, does communion save us, who should serve communion, and should you use wine or juice?
HOW? How do we celebrate communion at Cornerstone? If you go to a variety of Christian churches, you will see several different ways communion is observed. We wanted to get a 150 foot long table, all sit on one side, and take communion that way, but we couldn’t find one that long (sorry, cheesy Last Supper joke). At our church we have a communion table. On that table are two glasses of juice, and two plates of crackers. There are also three candles. The three candles, which all look different, represent the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. This reminds us that the entire Trinity plays a part in our salvation.
At our church, you walk forward to the communion table to take communion. Two leaders from our church will be there at the table to serve communion. One holds a plate of crackers, and when you take your cracker, he will say, “The body of Christ was broken for you.” You will then take a step and stand in front of the person holding the glass of juice. As you dip your cracker in the juice you are told, “The blood of Jesus was shed for you.” At that time you eat your cracker.
Why do we do this in front of the church? Many churches, when they do communion, pass out the cracker and juice. First, we want our time of communion to be public and a proclamation. Going forward and walking up to the communion table is a public matter. Second, this way of doing communion is more personal. Each individual is told that the blood and body of Christ was sacrificed for you personally. After they take their cracker many look up to the cross hanging on the stage to physically remind themselves that Jesus died for them.
HOW OFTEN? Some churches do communion quarterly, some monthly, and some weekly. For years, we did so quarterly. When the elders and I discussed what communion looks like Biblically and studied it out, we moved to weekly communion. There were several reasons for this. First, if communion is a reminder of Jesus’ death on the cross, why not be reminded of it more often. You could say, “How would a Christian forget? Isn’t the cross the center of their faith?” But we are human, and we need reminders. Communion itself was designed to be a reminder. I also say that the cross is multifaceted. While it represents salvation, there are so many other benefits as well. Sometimes I need to be reminded of the cross through communion to remember that my sins have been paid for by Christ’s sacrifice. Other times I’m reminded that one day, because I am saved, I will be in Heaven and not sin any more, or have any more pain or tears.
Second, we take communion every week in order to keep a short account with God. It is easy to sin, and not repent, and “move past” those sins. By doing communion weekly, we have a chance to keep in a right relationship with God.
Third, it allows our church body to keep unity in our church. I have seen an increase in unity at Cornerstone since we began weekly communion. As I taught in the previous post, you should not take communion if you and another believer in the church are at odds. If we take communion quarterly, and you skip it because you are fighting with someone else, you can let that relational issue linger for months. But if you are taking communion weekly, it should be a reminder that you should reconcile problems between you because the clock is ticking towards the next communion.
Fourth, and this is really the main reason: we see a template in Scripture for taking communion often. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42) This talks about how the early church regularly met for prayer, fellowship, and communion. For those who would advocate monthly or quarterly communion, my question is would you recommend the same for prayer? Acts 20:7 says “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” This passage talks about those who met for weekly worship, celebrated communion. We can even look at I Corinthians 11, and observe that this was a part of the Sabbath and worship service.
Fifth, we also believe at Cornerstone that Jesus and the cross are the center of all worship. Communion every week allows us to flow directly from the sermon to communion. In every sermon we have a communion meditation which allows people to reflect on the sermon. Because we believe the entire Bible is tied to the cross, we believe that we can celebrate what we just heard in the sermon through communion.
JUICE OR WINE? I’m not sure that there is much controversy here, but thought I would address this. I believe that wine was used at the last supper. Some churches now use wine and some use juice. I visited a church in Troy, NY that offered both for individuals to decide. We use juice, and no one in our church has made it an issue.
DOES COMMUNION SAVE? There is some division among Christian churches on this very question. One paragraph will not justify my answer to some, but for the length of time, let me say the answer is no, communion does not save. Faith in Jesus’s work on the cross to pay for our sin saves. Paul is clear on this in Romans 10:9-10 “ because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”. I say this in love to those who believe in transubstantiation, but communion cannot save you. Romans 6:9-10 says”We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. “ Paul is clear that Jesus only died once. This is actually good news. It says that our faith in the death of Jesus on the cross is what saves us. We don’t lose our salvation or have any less of it if we miss taking communion for some reason.
WHY COMMUNION AND MUSIC? At Cornerstone we enjoy music and sing during communion. This may seem odd for some who do not do this as part of their tradition. There are several reasons for it. One reason is while it is corporate, it is also personal. So while it is a public declaration of faith, the music also distracts from the personal aspect. Second, the songs we sing during communion are cross-centered. We desire to celebrate communion by singing about Jesus’ love and sacrifice for us on the cross.
Third, almost every week at Cornerstone, because I am usually helping serve communion from the front, I see one or two people not taking communion. This actually encourages me as a pastor. It means that people are taking the unconfessed sin and unity part seriously. Almost every time I notice someone skip communion, I usually see them partaking of it again next week. Music is a distraction from people looking around to see who is taking communion and who is not. Lastly, music gives people time to meditate and reflect on their relationship with God and others. As music plays, people can take time to repent to God maybe concerning something they heard in the sermon. It can allow them time to pray and ask God to show them any unconfessed sin in their lives, then ask God’s forgiveness, and then walk up to take communion.
I hope this explains some of the ways and reasons why we observe communion at Cornerstone. For some who have never been to Cornerstone, who are believers in Jesus for their salvation, you will be able to jump right in and participate with us. For others who are still seeking God, I hope you will still come to church. When you come, I hope that this article will help you understand what you are watching as we worship our Lord and Savior.
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.