This topic is adapted from PursueGOD Video YouTube channel. This is part 6 of 10 in the Basic Practices for Growing Christians series.
As you grow in your faith, you will encounter two important practices that the church does together. These are the ordinances of baptism and communion.
Definition of Communion
People use different titles for this ordinance. It may be called the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, or Communion. The title “communion” speaks of close fellowship and intimacy. In the New Testament, communion is the ultimate act of worship for Christians. Different churches do communion in different ways, but the mechanics of the rite are secondary compared to the underlying meaning of communion.
How Communion Relates to Baptism
In the Bible, the Church is seen as a bride to Jesus Christ. The ordinances can be understood in terms of that relationship. Baptism is like a wedding ceremony, where the relationship has a clear, visible moment of beginning. Communion reflects the ongoing relationship characterized by growing intimacy over time. So a person is baptized only once but receives communion repeatedly throughout life.
Communion Replaces Passover
Jesus instituted communion on the occasion of the Jewish Passover festival. The significance of Passover to the Jews is now reflected in the ordinance of communion. Passover was a reminder of God’s great saving work for Israel. It prophetically pointed forward to the saving work of Christ. A lamb without blemish was sacrificed to save the people from death. Likewise Jesus wanted his followers to have a tangible way to remember the sacrifice he made for our salvation from sin.
Matthew 26:26-28 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.
So communion reminds us how much Jesus loves us, what he did to show that love, and how much he desires ongoing intimacy with us.
The Purpose of Communion
In Revelation 3:20, Jesus told the church at Laodicea, “If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” In this manner, communion is like sitting down with Jesus at his table. There we partake of Jesus as the bread of life (John 6:35). It’s normal for humans to forget what matters most. But Jesus invites us to partake of communion on a regular basis in remembrance of him.
Communion not only points back to what Jesus did for us in the past, but also point forward in time.
1 Corinthians 11:26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
Communion declares the meaning of Jesus’ death until he returns again. On the night Jesus instituted communion, he foreshadowed this. As he passed the cup to his followers, he said, “Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).
There are two errors to be alert to when taking communion. The first is partaking in an unworthy manner.
1 Corinthians 11:28 That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup.
Communion is a time of introspection. We examine ourselves to remove anything that might hinder the intimacy we can have with Jesus. Thus the communion table is an opportunity to experience God’s grace and to get back into fellowship with him whenever we have strayed.
The second error is partaking without knowing God. Communion is for believers. Intimacy with Jesus flows out of a relationship. If that relationship does not exist, it is not appropriate to participate in an action that expresses the relationship.
If you have been taking communion without understanding what it is all about, this will help you to experience it in its full significance. If you haven’t been in the habit of taking communion regularly, it should now become a central part of your relationship with God.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Read Matthew 26:18-30. What do the bread and cup represent?
- Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. Why do you think the act of “remembrance” is so emphasized?
- Why do you think we are told to remember Jesus using the symbol of bread and juice, as opposed to building a statue?
- Read 1 Corinthians 11:26. How do we “announce the Lord’s death” by observing communion?
- Read 1 Corinthians 11:27-28. Why do you think it is important to examine yourself before taking communion?
- Explain how baptism relates to communion. Do you think a person should be baptized before taking communion? Why or why not?
- Read Acts 2:42-27. How important would you say communion (the Lord’s Supper) was in the early church? Explain.
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.