The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper (communion):
- Christ's Death
When we participate in the Lord’s Supper we symbolize the death of Christ because our actions give a picture of His death for us. When the bread is broken it symbolizes the breaking of Christ’s body, and when the cup is poured out it symbolizes the pouring out of Christ’s blood for us. We are “proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26) I believe that one of the reasons for the institutions of the Lord’s Supper is to remind us that we are to boast in the cross of Christ every day of our life…not just on Good Friday.
Our Participation in the Benefits of Christ’s Death
Jesus commanded His disciples, “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matt. 26:26). As we individually reach out and take the cup for ourselves, each one of us is by that action proclaiming, “I am taking the benefits of Christ’s death to myself.” When we do this we give a symbol of the fact that we participate in or share in the benefits earned for us by the death of Jesus. Salvation is on an individual basis. You each are held responsible for taking part in the benefits of Christ’s saving work on the cross.
Just as ordinary food nourishes our physical bodies, so the bread and wine (juice) of the Lord’s Supper give nourishment to us. But they also picture the fact that there is spiritual nourishment and refreshment that Christ is giving to our souls.
Because of the nature of our church and the many backgrounds represented the leadership of ARCC wants to make certain our stance is clearly stated on this issue of “eating His flesh, and drinking His blood.” There are churches and denominations who take this text from John 6 as well as the passage in Matthew 26 quite literally…that we must literally drink Christ’s blood and eat His flesh. There are churches who believe that salvation is contingent upon this taking place during communion.
A few reasons why we don’t take this literally:
1. Jesus spoke symbolically several times before this: “I am the true vine” (John 15:1), “I am the door…” (John 10:9), “I am the bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:41). As Jesus was sitting there showing them the bread and the cup there was no confusion in that moment. No one was wondering if Jesus was Jesus or if the bread was Jesus.
2. The New Testament proclaims the finality and the completeness of Christ’s suffering once for all time for our sins. (Hebrews 9:25-28; John 19:30; Hebrews 1:3) “IT IS FINISHED” We celebrate/boast in the cross for this reason. Christ won…once and for all…the death of death…destruction of Satan.
So we believe that a man is saved by grace alone through faith alone which means we do not believe it to be through water baptism or by participating in communion (Eucharist). This is one of the reasons why we don’t do it every week (although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with doing it every week).
1. We don’t want to forget the amazing significance and picture that it brings.
2. We don’t want it to become something that it is not.
This doesn’t mean that we won’t do it more frequently in the future as scripture does not specify how often communion is supposed to take place.
“I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29) Jesus is literally abstaining from something in His perfection in glory. Every time we take the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of the glorious moment that we will drink it with Him in His presence!
The Unity of Believers
When Christians participate in the Lord’s Supper together they give a clear sign of their unity with one another. (1 Cor. 10:17) Paul warns that those who eat and drink unworthily face serious consequences. (1 Cor. 11:27-30)
Adapted from Grudem, W. (1994). Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondevan. (pp. 990-991)