I’m not going to get into the denominational disagreements surrounding the application and interpretation of the Lord’s Supper because that would distract from the point of this article. What I will say, however, is that this act of communion has the potential to fuel real fellowship.
Regardless of your doctrinal background, I’m sure we can at least agree that we are partaking in Christ on a spiritual level and proclaiming the truth of His death on a cross until the day he comes back in the clouds near the end of time. Entire books have been written about communion, so I won’t try to cram everything into a few paragraphs. I will, however, point out the original application of this celebration and explain how it facilitates healthy fellowship.
When Jesus conducted “The Last Supper,” it was in the context of the Passover meal, which was a celebration of Israel’s freedom and deliverance from slavery in Egypt. In Matthew 26:18, Jesus Himself stated that this meal with His disciples would be a celebration.
…Which raises a question: Why do we so often take a thimble of grape juice and a dime-sized cracker in a solemn atmosphere with sad music playing and call this a “celebration” of the Lord’s “supper?” This is what it has evolved into over the years, but I wonder how separated we are from the original application.
We have a lot of misconceptions today about the way we carry out “communion.” Of greatest importance to me, however, is how the meal used to be done. Just as Jesus performed the first Communion in the context of a celebratory meal, Communion was regularly taken in the context of what the early Christians called “Love Feasts” or “The Agape” (see Jude 1:12).
Bit by bit, and for practical reasons, the elements of the Lord’s Supper were separated from this festive meal until the Council of Carthage (AD 397) outright banned the practice of “Love Feasts” because certain aspects had become out of control. Rather than solving those issues, they shut the practice down altogether.
This original method, however, is very important because it puts Communion in its proper context: celebration.
Acts 2:46–Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. (NIV)
When the first Christians broke bread, it was in their homes with “glad and sincere hearts.” Just as the original context of Passover had to do with their deliverance from bondage and slavery to Egypt, they knew that this current expression proclaimed the Lord’s death, which procured their deliverance from bondage and slavery to sin. It’s something worth celebrating! Not flippantly, but sincerely as the Scripture above reveals.
When we break bread and partake in the cup of our Lord with glad and sincere hearts in the context of an intimate setting (like sharing a meal), we get to experience a depth of fellowship that cannot take place any other way. Spiritually, socially, psychologically, and physically, we are actively uniting ourselves under the celebration of Christ’s death, which has procured our present freedom from sin and its effects. Our hearts are bonded together through the proclamation of Jesus Christ crucified.
1 Corinthians 12:16-17–Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. (NIV)
As you see in that last sentence of that verse, such bonding results in a revelation of being Christ’s Body. When we all break bread from one loaf, each person has every ingredient in their hand–it’s not like one person has the flour and another the yeast, etc. Each person has every ingredient, and yet no one has the entire loaf. In the Body of Christ, each of us has every ingredient of Christ’s life within us, but not one of us is the entire loaf. I’m not Jesus; but I have His fullness within me, and I’m part of His Body. So are you.
This is how the Body of Christ works. Through knowing Christ, each of us has everything we need for life and godliness. We have every ingredient of His personhood available to us. But the Holy Spirit has distributed various gifts throughout the Church so that no one person can reveal 100% of Jesus’ activity in the earth. We’re all a part of Him, and only together can the whole loaf be revealed.
We need each other for the fullness of Christ to be expressed in the world. And as we come to realize this, we take each other’s needs seriously, which leads to the topic of my next post: Burden Bearing.
Check back soon for the conclusion of this series on Walking in the Light.