Delving deep into Scripture
Spiritual Aspects of Holy Communion
SPIRITUAL ASPECTS OF HOLY COMMUNION
At the “last supper”
Matthew 26:26,27 …as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink all of it.”
With the bread and the wine Jesus was not just referring to his death on the cross, but he was also including all the suffering he incurred during his entire life which had given him an obedient heart and such a meek and broken spirit. The bread is the Word of God, and the Word is “Jesus.” He wants them to eat that part of the Word which is his “broken-ness,” if you please.
When he took the cup he said (and I think a better translation) “Drink of it, ALL of you.” There is an implication here of the unity and the communion he was wanting them to have, and this could only be achieved as they would do as he did, and pour out their lives for one another. Jesus did not just pour out his life at Golgotha, but he poured out his life all of his life, he sacrificed himself; he gave himself in serving others. This was pleasing to the Father. If you will, notice Jesus in Isaiah, how many times he died to self BEFORE he was killed.
Isaiah 53:1-7,10-12 Who has believed Our Report? And to whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before Him [the Father] as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and, we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed [regarded] him not. Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem [consider] him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth…When You shall make his soul an offering for sin…[God] shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:…because he has poured out his soul unto death…
“Take, Eat…Drink!” The Master was telling them to eat his “broken-ness” and to drink his “poured-out-ness.” The Lord wants us to have a broken and contrite spirit. We are to imitate him who was meek and lowly of heart. And we are to pour out our lives for one another. Serving, washing the feet, giving of oneself, preferring others before self, this is the very essence of Christianity.
One of my sisters tirelessly cared for her mother-in-law in her last years. She never complained, though it was very tiring, inconvenient, constant, and tedious.
Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.
1 Peter 5:5 Be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility
Philippians 2:3 Let each esteem other better than themselves.
Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.
Jesus had said to them,
John 6:48-51 “I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
This was very upsetting to those Jews who heard him speaking.
John 6:53,54 Then Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoso eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Of course, he had not wanted them to cannibalize him, but he wanted them, to partake, to eat of his nature, to receive, to share his broken-ness and poured-out-ness. He was teaching how they must change to come into relationship in him.
John 6:56 “He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him…He that eats of this bread shall live forever.”
Eat. Drink. Dwell. Although they had seen the miraculous power Jesus had with God, this particular teaching was so repulsive, that many disciples chose to not follow him any longer. When many Christians these days find out the kind of sacrificial life Jesus requires of his followers, they don’t want to seriously participate, either. Do you want to have holy communion with Jesus? Have a broken spirit. Christians are not offensive; they’re not defensive; they don’t stick up for their rights; they don’t fight back; they turn the other cheek; they go the extra mile. Do you want to have holy communion with God’s people? Make of yourself a drink offering; pour out your life; serve others; think of others as better than self; give yourself where needed; develop an eye to see the needs of others.
One way we can serve God’s people is by inviting them to dinner. And what do church folk talk about as they sit at the table? They chat about the things of God, the things they have experienced in Christ today, stories of glorious things that happened in the past, even the Scriptures. Around this they have fellowship. From the very beginning of the church it has been that way, and I want to encourage it today. A meal doesn’t need to be fancy. It doesn’t need to be a huge feast. It doesn’t need to be a lavish table. But however, it should have blessed conversation and holy communion.
Malachi 3:16 Then, they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another.
On the Day of Pentecost, the church began a custom of eating meals together in one another’s homes.
Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart…
Where did they break bread? Having meals? From house to house. In the love, the care, the sharing, they were fulfilling the commandment of Christ.
John 13:35 By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.
What is it that ultimately evangelizes? Is it the great miracles? Is it the outstanding sermons? Is it magnificent church buildings? Is it the well-trained choir? No. It is the love the saints have for each other. I mean that sacrificial love. I mean that broken-ness. I mean that poured-out-ness. I mean that giving and that sharing. Those things make others know that something is different about us. Love will draw like bees to honey.
So here they were, inviting one another for dinner, and all the while sharing Jesus with one another,
Acts 2:47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
What was the result of that “holy communion” between the saints? The church grew. The Lord added to the church. You want to grow the church? You want to spread the Gospel? Invite people to dinner in your homes. We’re so concerned about bigger church buildings. Let me tell you, there are so many people coming, there’s such a huge harvest of souls coming, there’s not any building you could build or buy that will hold them. Don’t waste your money on building, buying, and improving real estate! It will ultimately never be adequate. All you’ll be able to do is invite a few to your home. It is not the food; it’s the sharing, the giving, the loving. And I do believe that is the Way and the Will of God Almighty for these last days.
Many assemblies in the early days of the church simulated the Jewish Passover seder meal, since it was so meaningful in its types and shadows of the sacrifice of Jesus. The Passover was of the Old Covenant, and it led to ritualization in the church. Don’t ritualize! Just break bread in your homes.
The earliest church broke “bread from house to house,” and they also frequently had church suppers they called “love feasts” (Jude 1:12).
O Lord, everybody’s home,
Eating and drinking and waiting on the Lord.
O, rejoice, the family’s all together.
The Jews regard mealtime in a very holy way. They acknowledge that God has provided food from the earth to sustain their earthly bodies while they still abide upon the earth. They say grace both before AND AFTER meals. On the Sabbath they break a loaf of bread and pass pieces around the table for all to partake. This Godward gesture is a spiritual strength to the Jewish family.
Jesus never was a Levitical priest; he was of the order of Mel-khi-se-dek. Therefore, it would be more fitting to consider the communion Jesus (in the person of Melkhisedek) had with Abram. He served Abram “bread and wine.”
Genesis 14:18-20 And Melkhizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine: and He was the priest of the Most High God. And He blessed him, and said, “Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the Most High God, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And Abram gave Him tithes of all.
That bread and wine served by Jesus-Melkhisedek was the symbolic bond of their covenant-relationship. Yes, Jesus truly is the fulfillment of the Passover. The Law is fulfilled. However, Jesus was not a priest of the Law, but an eternal priest after the order of Melkhisedek. He serves us His bread and His wine. It is the bond of our covenant with Him.
Psalms 110:4 The Lord has sworn, and will not repent, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melkhizedek.”
Jesus is a priest forever. He is OUR priest forever. He is still serving us broken-ness and poured-out-ness. Eat Him. Drink Him.
Paul addressed some of the abuses that occurred in the Corinthian church.
1 Corinthians 11:20-22,33,34 When you come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating everyone takes before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? Have you not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise you the Church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not…Wherefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that you come not together unto condemnation (KJV).
1 Corinthians 11:20-22,33,34 When you come together to eat, it isn’t the Lord’s Supper you are eating, but your own. For I am told that everyone hastily gobbles all the food he can without waiting to share with the others, so that one doesn’t get enough and goes hungry while another has too much to drink and gets drunk. What? Is this really true? Can’t you do your eating and drinking at home to avoid disgracing the church and shaming those who are poor and can bring no food? What am I supposed to say about these things? Do you want me to praise you? Well, I certainly do not!…So, dear brothers, when you come together…wait for each other; if anyone is really hungry he should eat at home so that he won’t bring punishment upon himself when you meet together (TLB).
So, they had some wrong notions about the church breaking bread. Above all, Paul wanted them to see the holy relationship of the community of believers. The word “communion” means “united with.” Paul wanted the saints to see the sacred fellowship of the Body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 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 being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
(The “cup of blessing” was/is the third cup of wine of the Passover Seder. It was and still is drunk as part of grace [blessing] AFTER the meal has been eaten. The bread is the half loaf of matzah that had been hidden in the home during the seder, found, broken, and then eaten by the family. It is called by the Greek work A-fi-ko-men, “after the meal,” dessert.) Jews do this ritual at Passover to this very day.
And that one broken-bread is Jesus. We are all partakers of him AND of one another. Paul had explained to them that, not only were the twelve present at the last supper, but Paul, himself, an apostle also, had received a vision of this event, and was himself, as it were, a first-hand, eye-witness of this hallowed event.
1 Corinthians 11:23,24 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus 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.” After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, “This cup is the new testament [covenant] in my blood: this do, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come.
When Jesus said, “This is my body, which is broken for you,” he could not have been referring to his bleeding body on the cross, because “not one bone was broken” of his body. No, Jesus was referring to the broken-ness that he had experienced in the hardships, trials, and crosses during his entire lifetime. Had not Jesus suffered much his whole life, he could not have been able to agree to the torture he received at its end. He could not have submitted to the cross had He not been crossed many times before. He could not have agreed to death had he not been in deaths often (2 Corinthians 11:23) before. Neither can we.
The bread is “broken-ness.” The wine signifies “poured-out-ness.” When we sacrifice ourselves for others, we “show the Lord’s death” that is working in our life. Paul wanted us to understand that the death that had worked in the Lord’s life, all of his life, not just at Calvary, but all of his life, was to work in us. As Jesus had a broken spirit, was meek and lowly, so are we to be. As he gave himself to others and for others, so ought we. So then, it is not the actual food that goes into our bellies, but it is the attitude that comes from our hearts that is important. Our lives are to demonstrate Jesus’ death. Our lives are to demonstrate Jesus’ death.
And this is so very critical. People in the church think it is not all that serious, if they happen to offend someone or get offended or fail to have a right disposition. How wrong! Jesus has baptized us together in his body, the church, to see and test how we interact. Upon this will we be judged! God “proves” us by our relationships with the church.
vv 27-32 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s Body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For, if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
The most important thing is: discerning the Lord’s Body. Does that mean we are to only contemplate our bleeding savior upon the cross? Or, does it mean that we are also to consider the Lord’s Body, which is the church? Of course, we don’t ever want to forget the suffering and death of Jesus. But, herein we are being instructed about the seriousness of relationship with the other members of the church, “the Lord’s Body.” Paul tells us that many church members who had bad attitudes toward one another or had offended someone or not forgiven someone were under Christ’s judgment. Once having become a member of the Church, one is thereafter ALWAYS taking communion.
Which is it? a bad thing or a good thing to be under judgment? You might quickly say judgment is bad. But, if God is judging us now, it is because of His Love to us. He wants us to escape the wrath of the Day of the Lord. Our priest is dealing with us now to spare us from wrath later. Be very sorry for someone in the church who is doing wrong, and God is NOT dealing with him. Do consider carefully anything (especially your health) that is not going right for you. Judge yourself. Reflect on the possibility that God could be the cause, and then make some quick changes. And, be thankful that He is dealing with you.
God is serious about our fellowship with one another; this communion with the saints is the very “reason-to-be” (raison d’etre) for the church. If we would be unfaithful, complaining, irritable, selfish, assaulting, divisive, rude, insulting, back-biting, or uncooperative here in this life, do you think we will do better in heaven? Why no! We’d be a security risk. We’ll not make it.
Taking In Jesus’ Death
The will to do-the-Will-of-God requires a great deal of death to our old nature. Eating his flesh and drinking his blood means taking into ourselves his “broken-ness” and his “poured-out-ness.” It means reckoning ourselves dead to our old selfish ways.
1 John 3:16 By this we know the love of God, because He laid down His Life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
This is taking Jesus’ death into ourselves. Paul encourages us to
Romans 6:11 reckon…yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 15:1 …not to please ourselves.
Romans 14:8 Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
Colossians 3:3 You are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
Philippians 3:10 …being made conformable unto his death.
Romans 6:3-5 Don’t you know, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life [now]. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.
Paul quoted (Romans 8:36)
Psalm 44:22 For Thy [God’s] sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.
The essence of holy communion* is that Jesus’ death and Jesus’ resurrected life become manifested IN us. Everything we do in this life is to become a denial of our present life in favor of that life-to-come. It takes the death of Christ working in us to permit His Life to become manifested now and also eternally.
2 Corinthians 4:10-12 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the Life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you.
2 Corinthians 4:10-12 These bodies of ours are constantly facing death just as Jesus did; so it is clear to all that it is only the living Christ within [who keeps us safe]. Yes, we live under constant danger to our lives because we serve the Lord, but this gives us constant opportunities to show forth the power of Jesus Christ within our dying bodies. Because of our preaching we face death, but it has resulted in eternal life for you (TLB).
Epaphroditis nearly worked himself to death in serving the church. But, he was thoughtless regarding his own life; he was pouring it out on Christ.
Philippians 2:30 For the work of Christ [Epaphroditus] was nigh unto death, not regarding his life.
Paul got to a place in his life that “living” and “dying” became the same:
Philippians 1:21,22 For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better. Yet if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ. I really don’t know which is better (NLT).
Acts 20:24 I do not count my life as dear unto myself.
It becomes obvious when you consider Epaphroditus and Paul that they could not have achieved the death and the life of Christ had they been isolated by themselves. It is only in membership in the Body of Christ that we can be worked on till the very last vestige of Self has been exposed and destroyed. Not just membership in the Church, but communion with its members accomplishes God’s desired result: that we become like Jesus.
Romans 8:29 From the very beginning God decided that those who came to Him…should become like His Son.
Revelation 12:11 They loved not their lives unto the death.
It is important that we come together with the brethren. And “fellowship with the saints” does not just mean when the church has a meeting on the weekend, but every day. And, as often as we do this, we show the Lord’s death in our relationships with one another. The greatest thing Christians do is “serving,” especially in the household of God’s people
Dennis Moel was born in 1941 and raised a Jew in Frankfort, Kentucky but his knowledge of Judaism and of the Bible was miniscule. Coming to Christ at the age of 28 transformed his life. While serving as a pastor and family counselor, he has also devoted himself to espousing the riches of God’s Word. His three children appear in illustrations in the books he has authored.