Contend Earnestly: What Is My Responsibility For Communion?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What Is My Responsibility For Communion?

So, in the last post we went through a little on what communion is. Trying to show that it is more than merely symbolic, but not actually eating the flesh of Christ. There is, like most theologies, a balance. What I would like to focus on in this post is what we, as Christ's bride, should be focusing on as we come to the table.

Please offer up any suggestions or questions you might have in regards to the thoughts on this series.

When we come to communion, we come to celebrate a great and glorious Saviour. We come to remember all who Christ was, we come to remember how Christ died, how brutal He was slain, why He was slain and we are to proclaim that slain Lamb, who came to save sinners. We do not come to the table to remember what we have done, what we have accomplished, why we should be saved, but we come to remember what He has done, what He has accomplished and How Christ saved us through His blood.

This is the wondrous exchange made by his boundless goodness. Having become with us the Son of Man, he has made us with himself sons of God. By his own descent to the earth he has prepared our ascent to heaven. Having received our mortality, he has bestowed on us his immortality. Having undertaken our weakness, he has made us strong in his strength. Having submitted to our poverty, he has transferred to us his riches. Having taken upon himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were oppressed, he has clothed us with his righteousness.
John Calvin

The calling to remembrance happens in both 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 and also in Luke 22:19 and it is quite the term to use as our Saviour calls us to understand where our eyes should be...not on self, but on Him.

Why Are We to Remember?

The first question when we come to the Lord’s Supper should be on understanding what Christ meant when He said, “Do this in remembrance.”

Remembrance meant to the Jews: to recall information or events, with a focus on responding in an appropriate manner ; mention, remind, cause to remember (proclaim, tell, i.e., assert truths about one, as one speaks publicly, implying that this information has been known before

So to the Jews, the word remembrance actually was very close to the word proclaim. To remember meant to proclaim, that is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:26 that when you share in the Lord’s Supper you are proclaiming the Lord’s death.

We must understand that we are Christ’s remembrance, we are the ones who carry the remembrance of what Christ did through the nations, and it isn’t just what we say but is who we are. The Puritan’s used to preach and say that if there be any doubt in their message to look at their lives as living proof of the saving power of Christ. Can we say the same? Can we say that we truly are Christ’s remembrance?

Look to Joshua 4:1-7

We can see here that these stones were set up as a memorial, they were set up so when others asked, what are these here for, why are these stones gathered? People would answer and reconfirm, to bring remembrance what the Lord had done.

The parallel in the New Testament comes in 1 Peter 2:4-10

We are the very living stones for Christ. We are just as those stones who were set up for remembrance for the Israelites. Yet, because of Christ, we are no longer dead stones, but living stones. We are here so that when
people ask, what are these stones, these people, here for, what do they represent, why are these stones gathered together? People, and we, will say they are here as a living remembrance of the Living Christ who came and died for His people. We are the stones that proclaim what Christ did just as the stones were set up for the remembrance for what the Lord did at the Jordan.

The question is when we come together for the Lord’s Supper is, is Christ glorified in us? Are we remembering the way that we are told, are we proclaiming his death? When people see us do they see living stones that tell the story of Christ. That show the transforming power of Christ so that we too can be described as Paul described in 2 Corinthians as a sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him.

Paul warns that we must examine ourselves, we must test ourselves because we are who people look to, to see Christ. Just as Hebrews 1 says that Christ is the radiance of God’s glory so shall we be for Christ, we need to be as the moon is to the sun; a reflection of the majesty, splendor and holiness of the risen Christ.

If we do not pass this examination, if we do not pass this test, and we still drink of the cup and eat of the bread, we are judged because we are falsely proclaiming who and what Christ is.

Look to 1 Corinthians 11:28,29

When we come to take of the Supper we are here to worship our God through remembrance. We are not here to just do a ceremony, we are not here because we have to be here, we are not here to make an appearance amongst the brethren, we are here to remember what the Lord did for us. Our complete focus is to be on Christ, and not on ourselves. That is why we are told that if we take in an unworthy manner we drink judgment on ourselves.

Why are we to examine? We are to examine so that we may bring our sins to the cross, so that we will remember how lowly of sinners we are, so that we will cry out like the tax collector did in Luke 18 when he said, "Oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner." When we examine ourselves and realize who we are and the remembrance of the righteousness imputed to us by our Saviour, how can we have any anger or malice towards another? For we are in deep debt to our God just like they.

Do you have anything against your brother? Then your focus isn’t on Christ but on yourself. Do you have sin that is uncared for and not despised in your life? Then your focus isn’t on Christ but on yourself. Do you come to the table wanting something besides worshiping and remembering Christ Jesus our Lord? Then you go for the wrong reason, because the Lord's table is only about Christ, it is only about remembering what He has done and who He is, and not about us.

We should come focused as Paul focused and said for to me, to live is Christ and John the Baptist said that He, Christ, should increase, but I must decrease.

We, the living stones of Christ come only to proclaim the risen Christ through the remembrance of Him. We are Christ’s living stones of remembrance.

Remembering the Body

First, Christ says, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” The first thing we must remember is who Christ was. we are to remember Christ’s body through the breaking of bread, Christ like David was born in Bethlehem which means “house of bread.” Bread was the staple in Jewish life to bring nutrients to the body, it sustained the body and made the body strong and gave the body energy. We are told to break bread to remember Christ’s body, the one who is now our sustenance, the one is our power and strength the one who gave us the Spirit to empower us and make us his bold witnesses, we are told through this to remember his body.

“For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. John 6:33-35

To the Jew, when someone’s body was mentioned it was more than just mere flesh, it meant the essence of who that person was, it described everything about that person. So when we see that Christ says this is my body and tells us to do this in remembrance, we are to remember His life, remember what He did on this earth, His ministry, His words, His teachings and yes remember His sinless life.

We must remember that He came and lived amongst us. He was the God/Man; 100% God and 100% Man. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.

1 Peter 2:21-22 says, For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you can example for you to follow in His steps,

1 Peter 3:18 says, For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the 1spirit;

1 Corinthians 5:21 says He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him

This meant by implication that to know something meant to participate in, so Paul is saying that Christ, whether inward or outward, had no knowledge of sin based on experience.

I know of a father losing a son but I don’t know how that is, or how that feels, Christ knew of sin, but had no personal experience of sin.

Why is this important for us to know and remember His perfect life? Hebrews 2 and 4 both tell us so that we can confidently come to our Saviour who was tempted in all things yet without sin, so that we can draw near to Him and find mercy in the time of need.

The other reason leads us into our last point. We must remember His perfect life because of the blood that He shed. He had to be a perfect sacrifice and Hebrews 7:26-28 tells us why.

The other priest’s offerings were done out of the blood of animals, but this sacrifice was done from our perfect Saviour who knew no sin. We are to remember the life of Christ who in Luke 2:52 was said to be increasing in His wisdom, showing His humanness. And in forgiving the sins of the prostitute in Luke 7 shows His Deity. This is the Christ we remember.

Remembering the blood

The last is to remember the blood, Christ says, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Hebrews 9:22

We are told that the blood had to be shed. His blood had to be shed to cover our sins, our filthiness before our Maker so that we should share in the glories of heaven instead of the depths of hell. To remember this we must look to John 19 to remember His perfect sacrifice.

John 19:1-6; 16-30

Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him.

It is important to note that before this happened, the night before it was said that as Jesus was praying His sweat became blood. There is actual medical evidence of this, and when it happens that the skin in response becomes very fragile, so the flogging to come was going to have a higher impact than any other human had ever felt.

This scourging happened by taking and beating Christ using a whip of braided leather thongs, which encompassed metal balls and sharp bone and sometimes nails to tear the flesh off the person, it was so brutal that most didn’t live through this and many times the spine became visible. The usually beat them with 39 lashes because experience told them that 40 lashes would kill the man. And remember that Christ’s flesh was very thin and fragile at this time because of the night before.

It is recorded by Josephus that “certain rebel Jews were torn to pieces by the scourge before being crucified”

Read John 19:16-30

Note that Jesus' thirst is from another condition known as hypovolemic shock caused by extreme loss of blood and so because the heart is pumping large amounts of blood to try and recapture the loss of the blood the person becomes very thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the volume of blood lost.

The crucifixion was so bad that as they drove the nails into His hands and His feet it is said to try explain this pain would be to take that same nerve that causes pain when you bump your funny bone, the ulna nerve, and take pliers and squeeze and crush that nerve, that would be similar to the pain at this point.

This pain that our Saviour, our Creator went through was one that He knew He would have to endure for our sake.

And Hebrews 12:2 tells us that we are to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross!

This is what we are to remember and proclaim at the table. The precious blood that was spilled in our place, so that we would not be cast into the darkness but that we would be in His glorious light worshipping Him forever.

This blood, bringing into existence the New Covenant, bringing into existence hope for the gentile to be part of the church, the bride of Christ.

This is the kind of remembrance we are to have when we come to the table. May we take this seriously and may we understand Him more through the visible signs of Christ's death as we take part in communion.


TL said...

The silence on your communion posts are more deafening than the raging flamewars on any other perceived hill that believers love to appear that they are "wrestling" with-- This is how far the American Evangelical Church has come: they don't care, it's irrelevant, outmoded, and boring. Dude, want to kill your blog? still keep talking about communion. Want to keep your Twiggas yawning? Yep, you guessed it: mention communion again. Even though they are at odds with the historical church...and yes, pre-Reformation. Ask some people privately this question (in fact, send out an email blast): What are ways that I may experience the grace of God? You will get dozens of answers that won't even approximate the historical and biblical answers to that question. Teacher's Key: the Word preached and read, prayer, and the sacraments. Acceptable 4th answer with bonus points: church discipline. The psudeo-reformed-emergent church (by which I mean our generational hipsters who think they like neo-calvinism because they like to sip beer and watch indie movies) are basically pretending to "recapture the faith" with thug-like adherance to the "5-points"....all the while, still, waiting to be called, waiting to be asked to dance, is biblical orthodoxy.

Seth McBee said...

It is quite odd...wasn't expecting this sort of silence...again...what seems to be the case is that many are more engaging with gray areas than the actual historic faith.

Reading your is very good so far...enjoying it.

Your sister's? still sitting on my shelf...:)

Arthur Sido said...

In my defense I did put a brief "attaboy" on your facebook link to this post.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure why on other to be silent but I think I have a full grasp on what communion is:

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

We break bread because this is to remind us of when the Father pour is wrath upon and breaking the body of Jesus Christ because of our sins.

We drink from the cup to remind of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, pouring out His blood wipe away the sins we have committed and the sins committed against us in order that we are made good, righteous, holy and pure before God Almighty. It is the propitiation and expiation that He made for us so that we have might be saved to Him and enjoy Him forevermore.

Am I missing something?

Poop is Emergent Too said...

Tim, I enjoyed the smugly sarcastic defense of your denominational position as "Biblical Orthodoxy" mixed with the term "Twiggas" good stuff. It was like seeing what my blog would be like if I were Presby.


Seth McBee said...

Arthur...point taken :)

Missing something? Probably not...unless you believe that the table is merely symbolic with no spiritual aspect. The reason I say this is because I was caught up in that for most of my life as I was SBC.

Not sure if you have read all the posts I have put forth on this, but it gets more detailed to try and show my convictions of the table. I agree with your assertions but so would most Protestants, the questions start to get deeper once you ask questions like, "What is the significance of remembrance?" "What is the bread and wine point to?" etc. etc. etc.

Make sense?

Thanks for the comment.

David said...


can you explain this sentence for me please?

"Even though they are at odds with the historical church...and yes, pre-Reformation."


Arthur Sido said...

I think there is more than a passive reception of the Supper going on. It is an active and public proclamation. It is the closest thing we are going to get to the Wedding Feast in this world.

I also think we lose a lot of the communal aspect we see in the NT when we reduce the supper to a ritual that we take silently sitting in pews and passing around plates.

TL said...

@PrairieDoggin'(aka P.I.E.T., which btw is the awesomest blog name least top 10):
lol. one small clarification: i am actually considered somewhat of a rogue in my denomination. my denomination only "requires" communion to be observed quarterly. the misunderstanding is equally applied across American evangelicalism--presbys included. (any DG Hart fans out there?) no my friend, my sniper's scope loves to get presbys in its crosshairs just as much as some quietly munching armina-funda-bapto-dispy-folk.

my call for "biblical orthodoxy, pre-Reformation" is actually grounded in HOW the early church fathers understood what the apostles and Xp(don't freak out Jesus people, the Xp is my shorthand in Greek for Christ) meant. I don't want to interpret the Bible in light of the Reformation. If you read Calvin at any length, look at his citations: Jerome, Clement, Ignatious, Irenaues, Augustine. The reformation was nothing new. It seemed new because things had gone so awry. the Reformers were calling the church BACK to ancient things. Luther was calling the Church back to some of Augustines greatest articulations of the Gospel. People think I am spitting the freshest stuff from the pulpit...but its a joke. it's ancient, old, traditional....and hey very solid. truth has a way holding up over time. what should shock you, me, and dupri, is that this stuff IS sounding like the newest stuff to the american church....the shallow american church who thinks of tradition as a Knute Rockne speech and visiting the Nixon library in Yorba Linda.
Hence the importance of creeds...Check out some of Piper's very accessible articles on the importance of creeds. the 2009 church SHOULd want to only believe what the church has believed/reaffirmed in every century going back. twenty...count'em. any theology that is not reaffirmed by the broader church in every century should not only be held as suspect, but should be roundly called heresy. the excpetion finder/whiner: what about the inquisition etc?... Exactly. You won't find that reaffirmed in every century. Only the core beliefs that find thensleves reaffirmed are the "vitals" of faith.

seacrest out

David said...

Hey there TL,

What you said was fine with me. I totally agree that Calvin and the early Reformers were trying to be continuationist in their approach to Christian theology. It was the later guys in the 16thC who evidence a complete break from the past. When you read Reformed guys even into the 1580s you see them citing over and over folk like Bernard, Thomas, Prosper, Cyprian, etc. When you get post-1620s however, all that citation stops. We call it citation-depth. We can document the citation dept of given early Reformed theologians to quantify who and how often they cite a given patristic or medieval. Later tho this citation depth disappears. In the 17thC the citation depth of patristics is replaced by citations from other Reformed guys.

As to some of the later creeds, they instantiate movements away from the ecumenical theologies.

Your comments relate to the topic of the Sacraments. When I first read your comment I thought you were pointing out how much it is the case that many modern Reformed-Presyterian guys are Zwinglian-Baptist on the Sacraments and not Calvinian-Augustinian.


TL said...


Good clarification...altho i can go toe to toe with anyone using scholarly jargon such as "citation depth," I find it is usually not helpful for the average reader(who is just as smart--it is not a question of intelligence) they are just un-informed of "trade-language" and thus feel inferior. so i tend to use the verbiage of the *hoi polloi* to aid in real communicated meaning. i leave all of my scholarly language for journal articles and for the uptight-Pharisee who wants to battle. nothing wins arguments by finding and employing arcane/obscure vocabulary coupled with quoatations taken out of context. I think I am undefeated so far.

as my comments relate to the Sacraments: I find that Reformed Presbys(not mainline) actually are extremtly Augustinian/Calvinistic-- it is the non-denom-non-connectional brothers who are functionally if not really criticism of my fellow Presbys is that their practice does not match their theological rhetoric. IF they trumpet the spiritual value of say, Communion, then having it quarterly hardly makes a statement of its imminent virtue. On one hand you have the Westminster divines saying that communion was "an oblation of all possible praise," and on the other hand you have Puritan pastors handing out Communion coins after exhaustive Sessional examination--driving many highly Reformed(in theology at least) churches to have very infrequent communion...mainly out of fear.
Calvin was a staunch advocate of weekly communion(if not more during other seasons), but his Genevan elders limited him to once a month. However, he DID inform interested congregants that they could have weekly communion, as he staggered the monthly communion just right in the various churches in which he preached around Geneva, so that they could attend the one that was having Communion each week. It is also very interesting to note that most of the Reformers only corrected Rome's misunderstanding at transubstantiation and re-sacrifice of Xp. However, staggeringly, most Reformers held and continued to hold a very high view of Communion. Zwingli was merely an aberration if looked at the movement as a whole.

and just so I don't come across as a complete SOB, you are entitled to several cold frothy pints at my psuedo-humble expense anytime my bro, Tim

David said...

Hey there TL,

Ah, thanks for somewhat clearing that up for me.

I live and work in the heart of Presbyterian TRdom and the dominant view here is definitely more [early]zwingilian-baptist when it comes to the sacraments. The claim of being Calvinian is echoed loud, but in reality they deny his view sacramental efficacy.

I didn't know that Calvin was prevented from weekly communion. I read him in some of his sermons where he says to the same audience that last week we celebrated communion, next week we shall celebrate communion. I never once got the impression that one had to move around different congregations. The way he speaks in his sermons that it was last Wednesday they had communion etc.

Anyway... I think my thought was, from what Ive seen many of the Presbyterians treat the sacraments in a Zwinglian-Baptist model. And I think this dates back to 19thC American Presbyterianism, specifically some aspects of Southern Presbyterianism. I dont profess to be an expert in American Presbytian Sacramentalogy so I wont argue the point.

Take care,

David said...

Do we really want to give Seth all this blog traffic?



ha ha ha

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