What is communion? Most of us who are Christians have taken part in a communion service or two at our church. I have always understood communion as a remembrance of the Lord’s Supper, and that is correct, to a point. Communion service is something that takes place at every church around the nation at least once a month. It is a set time, set schedule and the oyster crackers and the grape juice are set out before the body of believers gathered together. Each church does communion differently, some do devotion that evening, and some do worship songs, while others may do both or something different. Whatever the case may be, it is not about what we do during the service, but it is about what Christ has done for us.
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you; that the Lord Jesus, on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat, this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore, whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-29
Paul tells us that he received from the Lord directions about communion. The Corinthian church had been infiltrated with pagan gods, and some had one foot in the world and one foot in Christ, and they were partaking of the body and blood of Jesus Christ every time they came together to celebrate the Lord’s supper. Paul is trying to get them to understand that communion is more than just gathering together and eating some crackers and drinking some juice. There is a great significance in communion, and we should not take it so lightly.
Communion means fellowship. It means that we share an intimate bond of fellowship with one another and with Christ. It speaks of unity, in Jesus and with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
Communion proclaims that we are one in Christ, joined to Him through His body and blood, and we are one Body in Christ, joined by His sacrifice. When we take the cup we are proclaiming that Jesus Christ shed His blood for us on the cross so that we might have forgiveness of sins. When we take the crackers we are proclaiming that He died for us, that His body was the sacrifice God sent to take the punishment for us. We are proclaiming that we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is who He says He is, and that we believe in Him, body and soul.
When we come together as a body during communion, we are proclaiming that we are one, we are united to Christ and Christ is united to us. “By partaking of the cup and the bread the communicants are linked together in unity.” (International Bible Encyclopedia) When we take the cup and we take the bread we are proclaiming that the effects of Christ’s death (His body and Blood) are real, they are true and we believe.
That is why Paul tells us to go and examine ourselves before we take the cup and the bread. If we do not believe in what Jesus did for us on the cross, then you should not take communion. You cannot take the cup and the bread if you do not believe, if you do not accept Jesus Christ. Paul tells the Corinthians that because they are eating and drinking in an unworthy manner many in their fellowship are weak and sick. (1 Corinthians 11:30) We must go and examine our hearts before the Lord before we partake of His cup and His bread.
What Paul means by examining ourselves, is that we need to go before the Lord and be genuine. We need to test our hearts, we need to pray and seek Him before we partake of communion. We must ask ourselves; do we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for us? Do we believe that He bled for our sins? Do we believe that He was raised on the third day? Do we believe? Do we have one foot in the world and one foot with Christ? Do we desire unity and fellowship with Christ and our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord? Examine your heart before the Lord before you take of the communion.
Paul says that we are also to remember the Lord. As we partake of communion, we are to remember the Lord Jesus Christ, who He is, and what He has done. We ask ourselves if we believe, if we are willing to be united to Christ through His body and His blood. “Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we have a new covenant relationship with God-but many of us live as if there is no inner transformation; there is no cleansing from sin; there is no word and will of God in our hearts; there is no new and close relationship with God.” (David Guziak, Blue Letter Bible)