Posted by: Drew Van Gorder | 09/10/2014 | 1:46 pm
Who should be permitted to take communion? Why should we care? What does communion mean? These are all questions that I have asked myself repeatedly and it’s a question that many theologians, denominations, councils, and Christians down through the ages have asked themselves. Is this bread and wine the actual body and blood of Christ? Is it merely a symbol; a mere memorial of Christ’s death; or is there more to it than that?
I truly believe with all of my being that there is more going on with the taking of communion than meets the eye. In 1 Corinthians 11:27, Paul writes concerning the taking of communion that, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord bin an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” The question then becomes, “How can someone be held accountable concerning the body and blood of Christ if they have only eaten mere bread and drank mere wine? Certainly something spiritual is happening when we take of these two material items!
Paul writes further when he says in the same book and chapter in verse 29, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” This Greek word for “discerning” can also be translated in this passage as “recognize.” So therefore, if someone eats and drinks from this table of Christ’s without recognizing or discerning who he is and what he’s done, then what they’re doing is not good; in fact it may be one of the most dangerous things that they ever do because it is the judgment of God that they are incurring.
Elders (particularly those who are teachers) will be judged more harshly by God because of that which they have been called to. James writes in warning to the saints, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Then again, the anonymous writer of Hebrews instructs the congregation in Hebrews 13:17a, “Obey your leaders and submit to them” but then shifts again to warn the elders, “for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” The one who leads and/or teaches then, is accountable for how he leads, how he teaches, and also for that which he permits under his oversight.
When Jesus held the first communion on the eve of Passover in the upper room with his apostles, he did not break bread and offer the cup of the New Covenant until he had first dismissed Judas, who did not believe. In John 13:27-30, John writes “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.” So therefore, Judas never “ate” the bread, but rather Christ handed it to him and then dismissed him before all of the apostles took of the bread and the cup.
So what was the qualifying factor of taking communion that night with our Lord? Was it something pure about the men present? Absolutely not! …Peter would deny Him..
So what was the qualifying factor of taking communion that night with our Lord? Was it something pure about the men present? Absolutely not! Wasn’t it already predicted by Christ that shortly after the supper that Peter would deny him three times (John 13:36-38)? Wasn’t it the remainder of the apostles that abandoned the Christ and fled when he was kidnapped in order to be led to his crucifixion (Matthew 26:56)? No one is therefore pure enough that we can approach communion in our own righteousness. Was it that all of the men present had been baptized? Clearly not! Had not Judas been baptized (or even been baptizing) along with the other apostles (John 3:26, 4:2)? So therefore, baptism also cannot be the determining factor, for Judas was still dismissed from the Lord’s Table. The only element present within all of those who were present at the first communion was faith. Faith is the only proper response to our Lord’s call to come and die to ourselves; living only for his glory.
Conclusively, we can draw a few principles regarding communion from these texts:
1. Communion is not just bread and wine, it is a Spirit saturated event wherein we glorify God’s only Son through obedience to this sacrament in recognition of his material death or spiritually profane his most holy sacrifice on the cross reaping material affliction.
2. It is unloving and spiritually irresponsible, due to the nature of communion and its implications, to allow those who have not recognized the identity of Jesus as the Messiah to partake in communion. Therefore, those who are not true believers should not be permitted to join in communion
3. It is also unloving not to warn and give pause to those who desire to take from the Lord’s Table who are believers to first repent and ask for forgiveness for their transgressions.
4. Elders who distribute communion within their congregations will be responsible for what they’ve taught to those who follow their teaching; even so much that God will hold them to a higher standard than another believer.
5. The qualifying factor in taking of communion is not by anything that we can do (including baptism), but by God’s abundant grace and our confession of faith.