In Remembrance of Me

In Remembrance of Me
A biblical review of  the Lord’s Supper.
 

In response to an e-mail request about communion and who should partake.
 
There are two sacraments universally accepted by the biblical-centered churches of Jesus Christ.  One is baptism, and we will address that on another occasion; the other is the Lord’s Supper also called communion, referred to in the Bible as breaking bread and fellowship.  Since I said I wanted to bring a biblical review, I will bring what the Bible says about communion without regard to particular denominational teachings.  I know that in 1215 A.D. the Roman Catholic church came with a doctrine of transubstantiation, that the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper became the actual body and blood of Christ.  They teach that each communion service causes Jesus to be sacrificed again; however, Paul writes in the book of Hebrews that Jesus’ sacrifice was for once and for all time (Hebrew 9:12 & 28).  The thing I believe that the Roman Catholics had right was the “As oft as ye meet together” understanding.  They realized that the first church in Jerusalem “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts, they broke bead in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46).   The Roman Catholics understand that there is as much scriptural direction for offering the Lord’s Supper daily as there is weekly.  We find no place in the Bible where the Lord’s Supper was a monthly, quarterly or yearly sacrament and celebration.  Acts 20:7 tells us that Paul was visiting in Troas and it was the Lord’s day (Sunday), “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.  Paul spoke to the people, and because he intended to leave the next day, kept talking until midnight.”  As important as Dr. Luke knew the Apostle to be, he is mentioned second to the communion service on a regular Sunday.  It was a little over a week since the Jewish Passover, so it was just a regular Sunday.  Everything we find in the writings of the first several centuries, the Lord’s Supper was at least a weekly remembrance. 
  At the time of the Protestant Reformation, the reformers were very concerned to do things differently than the Roman Catholics, and began monthly, quarterly and yearly remembrances of the Lord’s Supper. At this point, I will let the Lord judge the transubstantiation doctrine and the neglect of the Lord’s Supper by those that have set monthly, quarterly and yearly remembrances of the bread and fruit of the vine. 
   I was at a meeting taught by Jack Hayford of the Church on the Way in California.  There were about 300 of us there.  At the end of the service Jack Hayford asked about frequency of remembrance of the breaking of bread.  Only two of us still had our hands up when he asked about “weekly remembrance.” He asked to meet with us after the service.  We went to the platform and we visited.  My partner in weekly communion was a “renegade Spirit-filled” Roman Catholic.  He just agreed that was the Bible way to do communion.  Jack Hayford said, “I have been studying what the Bible says, and I have come to that conclusion. Yet, all my life I have been taught that weekly taking of the sacrament would make it common.”
   I asked Jack if he did marriage counseling, knowing that he did, “Of course,” he said.  I asked him, “how many times have you had a wife come and ask you to speak to her husband for saying “I love you” too much.” Has never happened, unless the husband was running around on her between times to speak of his love.  We don’t make things common by our use, but by our misuse.  Marriage vows become common when there is adultery, fornication, or emotional neglect.  Never by close communion one on one.  The same with the Lord’s Supper; it is never made common by close communion either daily or weekly, but by spiritual neglect.
   Let’ take a biblical historical review of the Lord’s Supper and a few of the types from which it comes to us.  Not everyone will agree with me that the Genesis 14:17-20 account has anything to do with communion since it was long before Christ, yet Hebrews again tells us that Melchizedek is a type of Christ (Hebrews 5 esp. verse 6).  Some even suggest that Melchizedek was a preincarnation theophany of Jesus.  I do not buy that.  Melchizedek was Priest of the Most High God. Likewise was Abraham, they came from very different backgrounds, and found fellowship in the Valley of Shaveh (that is the valley of the kings).  Abraham had  a very large settlement of his own to support.  This victory was won by 318 trained soldiers that were a part of his household plus their families, shepherds, cattlemen, farmers, servants, seamstresses, weavers, etc. Remember, they couldn’t just run to Wal-Mart for family needs.  Abraham was the priest over this entire group.  Yet he paid tithes to Melchizedek and Melchizedek hosted bread and wine, and gave his fellow priest of the Most High God a blessing. They may have also eaten a full meal just as in the latter part of Acts 2, but the breaking of bread was listed separately.  I accept this as the first spiritual meal eaten together in the Bible.  Interestingly enough, Melchizedek and Abraham were of different cultural groups, and found fellowship in a strange land, at the end of a war of recuperation.  A the same meeting in the King’s Valley, was the king of Sodom and Aner, Eshol and Mamre. I take it from the context that they were included in the spiritual meal, as well as the feast. The King of Sodom sure was included in the conversation recorded in Genesis 14.
   In Matthew 26:17 we find, “On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”  Jesus had them set up the meal, then at the meal he instituted the Lord’s Supper.  Matthew 26:26 ff, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciple saying, ‘take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, that I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” Now this account was also recorded in Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23. 
   We need to look historically at the Feast of the Passover, or the Feast of Unleavened bread as it is called.  Leviticus 23:3-8, here we are told that the bread must be without leaven.  We are told that the feast began on the fourteenth day of the first month of their calendar (Nisan).  This week is for the Passover sacrifice of the lamb that represents the sins of the people.  On the first day they are to hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. Then for seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. This day was to be a celebration of the Passover of the people by death’s angel at the end of the Egyptian captivity.  In the contest with Pharaoh of Egypt, Moses spoke for God, “This is what the Lord said, ‘about midnight I will go throughout Egypt.  Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the sons of Pharaoh, who is sitting on the throne, to the firstborn of a slave girl, who sits at her hand mill. And the entire firstborn of cattle as well…’ The LORD said to Moses, ‘This month is to be for you the first month of your year….On the tenth day kill a lamb for your family…Then you are to take the blood of the lamb and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the house where you eat the lambs. That same night that they are to eat the (lamb) meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast…. When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, He will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframes, and will Passover that house and He will not allow the destroyer to enter your house or to strike you down.  Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants” (Exodus 12).   
   In John 2:29 we find that Jesus is now the Pascal or Passover lamb of God, “ The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  Jesus was crucified the day after eating the Passover, and instituting the Lord’s Supper.  The day that the Pascal lamb had been killed for 1600 years.  He said, It is finished at 3PM in the afternoon, the very hour that in the temple, the lamb was killed.”  Jesus is for us Christians our Passover lamb.  The weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, is our Passover feast.
   Paul enlarges on the Lord’s Supper in I Corinthians 11:17-34.  Here we are told that some in the early church were serving a meal before the Lord’s Supper, and some were going hungry because there was no sharing, others were getting drunk on wine at the meal.  Paul scolds them for this, and says they have houses to eat at.  The Lord’s Supper was to be a memorial to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and a reminder that He was coming again (vr.26).  The instructions get serious in verse 27, “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty for sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.”  The New Testament holds that we are all sinners and unworthy to be in the Lord’s presence until we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:5 & 8).  This faith includes faith in Jesus that leads us to confession that Jesus is the only way to God, in repentance that changes the direction of our heart, the direction of our mind, and our direction toward God.  The faith here will allow a disciple of Christ to then bury the repentant sinner that is now a believer into the watery grave of baptism for receiving a new life (Romans 61ff).  At this point Jesus Christ justifies us by his death, burial, and resurrection.  We become worthy in Christ.  Drinking in an unworthy manner would be an unrepentant sinner that is taking the Lord’s Supper without accepting Christ, or making any move to accept Him.  Paul then continues in verse 28; “A man ought to examine himself before he eats the bread or drinks the cup.”  The only person that can know where you are with God is you being directly honest with God.  Are you just playing church, coming now and them to make a kind of show of being religious, or are you 100% sold out to Jesus Christ and are walking in his way all the way?  The truth is, the best of us in the church are probably somewhere in between those two positions.  In the examining ourselves, if our heart is right with God, we will determine to do better at walking with Jesus this next week as we partake of the loaf and cup.  If we are unworthy, we could care less, and look at our watch to see how soon we can bolt out the door and head home to dinner and the TV. 
   Paul goes on in verse 29, “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”  He goes on to point out that many in the Corinthian church had been involved in this problem, there were now many of them weak and sick, and a number of the church that had passed away because of this misusing of the Lord’s Supper.  In verse 32 he adds a caveat, “When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.” Thank God!
   The early Church continued to “devote themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).   The church then continued everyday to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God, and enjoying the favor of all the people.  “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46 , 47).
   Here is what I have observed, that the meal of bread and wine, is a fellowship meal that goes clear back to Genesis 14. For the Jews and for us, the Passover feast, communion was to be eaten with unleavened bread and unleavened wine.  That the Passover meal was once a year at the 14th of Nisan for the Jews, and the Lord’s Supper was to be a daily or weekly meal according to our assembling ourselves together.  That we were to examine ourselves and not to eat and drink unworthily.  We were to be a part of the family of God.  Just as the folks gathered under the blood on the door posts, were the ones that death’s angel passed over, they were to be family; however, slaves or strangers that came in the house under the blood were exempted from death’s angel. 
   This weekly service at our church is for all believers that come amongst us.  Children and adults in our church are expected to be baptized before they partake.  Visitors are left to examine themselves concerning their relationship with the Lord.  I choose not to make a point of the form of baptism that the guests have experienced, there is not easy way to determine or to get their sworn statement about their relationship with the Lord.  I find that accepting them to the communion table opens the door to speak to them about their total relationship to the Lord and their obedience to what the Lord expects of them including the proper mode of baptism. A great many of the Catholics that I have baptized came first to the communion table then to the pool.
   There are some that would reject anyone to the table that has not been immersed, but what about those that were immersed for the wrong reason?  Or those that were baptized by immersion by a modernist preacher that really did not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ; are they really worthy of the Lord’s Supper?  I find that all these questions lead to a very pharisaical attitude and take away from the deep meaning of the memorial service.  The old Christian church communion statement of years ago has a very true ring to it, we offer the Lord’s Supper to all believers, we neither invite nor debar.  Each must examine themselves.  In so doing, they become responsible to God for their actions.
   Jesus felt it was very important, and asked us to do this in Memory of Him.  I would rather error on the side of allowing someone to eat and drink in memory of Jesus that was not quite right with Him, than to bar someone from coming to the table that was hungering and thirsting after the Lord that was desperately seeking fellowship in the name of Jesus.