Why is it Called the Lord's Supper or Communion?
The Lord's Supper is also called "the Lord's table" (1 Corinthians 10:21), "holy communion," "cup of blessing" (1 Corinthians 10:16), and "breaking of bread" ( Acts 2:42 ). In the early Church it was called also "eucharist," or giving of thanks (Matthew 26:27), and generally by the Latin Church "mass," a name derived from the formula of dismission, Ite, missa est, i.e., "Go, it is discharged."
What is the Purpose of Communion?
- To commemorate the death of Christ: "This do in remembrance of me."
- To signify, seal, and apply to believers all the benefits of the new covenant. In this ordinance Christ ratifies his promises to his people, and they on their part solemnly consecrate themselves to him and to his entire service.
- To be a badge of the Christian profession.
- To indicate and to promote the communion of believers with Christ.
- To represent the mutual communion of believers with each other.
The elements used to represent Christ's body and blood are bread and wine. The kind of bread, whether leavened or unleavened, is not specified. Christ used unleavened bread simply because it was at that moment on the paschal table. Wine, and no other liquid, is to be used (Matthew 26:26-29). This is a permanent ordinance in the Church of Christ, and is to be observed "till he come" again. (Adapted from Easton's Bible Dictionary)
The primary biblical text on the nature and meaning of the Lord’s Supper/Table and Communion is 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. Here are ten brief observations on what we see in this text.
1) The Lord's Supper is primarily (but not exclusively) designed to elicit or to stimulate in our hearts remembranceof the person and work of Jesus: “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:25).
2)This remembrance is commanded. Participation at the Lord's Table is not an option. Prolonged absence from it is spiritually unhealthy and willful neglect of it may be grounds for church discipline.
3) This remembrance entails the use of tangible elements: bread and wine. It isn't enough simply to say, “Remember!” The elements of bread and wine are given to stir our minds and hearts. The physical action of eating and drinking is designed to remind us that we spiritually “ingest” and depend upon Jesus and the saving benefits of his life, death, and resurrection. Just as food and drink are essential to sustain physical existence, so also the blessings and benefits that come to us through the body and blood of Christ are paramount to our spiritual flourishing.
4) It is a personalremembrance. We are to remember Jesus. The focus isn't on Abraham or Moses or Isaiah. The focus is no longer on the Jewish Passover or the night of his betrayal or anything else. The focus is Jesus. “Do this in remembrance of ME” (1 Cor. 11:25).
5) In this remembering there is also confession. In partaking of the elements we declare: “Christ gave his body and blood for me. He died for me.” This is one among many reasons why I reject the practice of paedo-communion (the giving of the elements of the Table to infants). If one cannot and does not personally and consciously confess that the bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of Jesus sacrificed for sinners, he/she should not, indeed must not, partake of them.
6) In this remembering we also proclaimthe Lord's death till he comes. This, then, is not merely an ordinance that looks to the past. It is an ordinance of hope that points to the future.
7) To partake of the Lord's Table in an unworthymanner (v. 27) is to take it without regard to its true worth, not yours. To partake unworthily is to come complacently, light-heartedly, giving no thought to that which the elements signify. I. H. Marshall explains:
"In some Christian circles today the fear of partaking unworthily in the Supper leads to believers of otherwise excellent character refraining from coming to the table of the Lord. When this happens, Paul's warning is being misunderstood. The Lord's Supper is the place where the forgiveness of sin is proclaimed and offered to all who would receive it. Paul's warning was not to those who were leading unworthy lives and longed for forgiveness but to those who were making a mockery of that which should have been most sacred and solemn by their behaviour at the meal” (116).
To partake in an "unworthy manner" thus entails at least three things: (a) calloused disregard for others in the body of Christ (see vv. 20-22); (b) an attempt to combine participation at pagan (demonic) feasts with participation at the Lord's table (see 1 Cor. 10:14-22); and (c) flippant disregard for what the elements represent (vv. 23-26).
8) To be “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (v. 27) is to treat as commonor profanesomething which is sacred. The Lord's Supper is not just another meal.
9) Hence, we are to “examine ourselves”(v. 28). We are to test our motives and attitudes as we approach the table to be certain we are partaking for the right reasons and with the right understanding of what the elements represent. This is yet another argument against paedo-communion. If one cannot obey this Pauline command one is not prepared or qualified to partake of the elements.
10)Finally, failure to do so may lead to divine discipline(1 Cor. 11:29-34). Such chastisement from the Father is in order that believers may be spared the condemnation that comes to the unbelieving world. Some in Corinth had already suffered the discipline of God (“weak and sick”); some had even died physically (“sleep”). And this was an expression of God’s gracious commitment to preserve his people “so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Cor. 11:32b).
Why Do Protestant and Catholic Churches View Communion Differently?
(transcript of the video above from Bryan Chapell)
Protestant Evangelicals and Roman Catholics differ over the nature of communion. And I think, if you just come from a fairly, if you will, shallow, almost elementary sense of they just differ over whether the bread and wine actually change into the body and blood of Jesus, or don't, you say, "Well, so which is it?" And you have to say, actually, that isn't the core issue. The core issue is what's being accomplished in communion. And more than just the change of elements. I mean, everyone would say that the wine still appears and tastes like wine and the bread still appears and tastes like some wheat substance.
So how's it becoming body and blood? Well, this goes way back to Aristotle, who divided things between their accidents, the way they appeared to us, and their actual essence. And Roman Catholic theology was able to kind of say, "You know what? The accidents, the things that appear to our senses, are staying the same, but the essence before God is changing."
And Evangelicalism Protestant theology says, "No, actually, it still is wine and it still is bread. It hasn't changed its substance." So that transubstantiation view of Catholicism is different than most Protestant views, which is, it still is the same substance that it was. But what we're really debating is not the substance. We're really debating what's accomplished in communion.
Roman Catholic theology would say that the grace of God that is necessary for us to do God's will and therefore be justified before God, is communicated in these elements. That there is a grace that is actually being infused into us by the sacrament, which enables me to live right before God, which will be the reason that I can stand just before God.
Evangelical Protestants are saying, "Actually, something quite different is going on. It is not that grace is being infused into me by these elements. But rather in partaking of the Lord's supper, I am recognizing what Christ's death and resurrection have already accomplished. That is, I already stand justified before God. And by his Spirit, he makes me able to obey him. But it's not my obedience that makes me right before God. It's the grace of God that makes me right before God. And my humility before God in partaking of these elements is to say, 'Lord, you supply what makes me right before you. My performance is not what makes me right before you.' As opposed to, 'Lord, you supply what I need in order to be able to perform what's right for you.'"
Now, those are narrow distinctions that even the theologians will debate. But I think, for the average person, it's not is it really bread or not, is it really wine or blood. The real thing you have to decide is, is what I'm doing infusing enough grace into me so that I can do what's going to make me acceptable before God, or am I recognizing this shows what God has already done for me? So that now with my status of being holy before him, by his grace alone, I am made able and willing to serve God, because I'm already holy before him through his grace, not my performance. And we'd say, as Evangelicals, that gets to right at the heart of the gospel, that I believe that what Jesus did for me is what makes me right before him, not him helping me to do what makes me okay to him.
A Communion Prayer
Lord Jesus, I bow before you in humility and ask You to examine my heart today. Show me anything that is not pleasing to You. Reveal any secret pride, any unconfessed sin, any rebellion or unforgiveness that may be hindering my relationship with You. I know that I am Your beloved child, having received You into my heart and life and having accepted Your death as penalty for my sinfulness. The price You paid covered me for all time, and my desire is to live for You.
As I take the bread representing Your life that was broken for me, I remember and celebrate Your faithfulness to me and to all who will receive You. I can't begin to fathom the agonizing suffering of Your crucifixion. Yet You took that pain for me. You died for me! Thank You, Jesus. Thank You for Your extravagant love and unmerited favor. Thank You that Your death gave me life—abundant life now, and eternal life forever. As You instructed Your disciples, I, too, receive this bread in remembrance of You.
And in the same way, as I take this cup representing Your blood poured out from a splintered cross, I realize that You were the supreme sacrifice for all my sin: past, present, and future. Because of Your blood shed for me, and Your body broken for me, I can be free from the power and penalty of sin. Thank You for Your victory over death. You took the death that I deserved. You took my punishment. Your pain was indeed my gain. And today I remember and celebrate the precious gift of life You gave me through the blood that You spilled.
Each time I take communion, Lord, I want to recommit my life, my heart, my thoughts, my everything to You. Fill me today with Your powerful Spirit. As I leave this place, help me to hold this fresh remembrance and the story that never grows old close to my heart. Help me to share its message faithfully as You give opportunity.
In Your Precious name, amen.
Adapted from A Prayer Before Taking Communion by Rebecca Barlow Jordan
This article originally appeared on SamStorms.com. Used with permission.
Sam Storms is an Amillennial, Calvinistic, charismatic, credo-baptistic, complementarian, Christian Hedonist who loves his wife of 44 years, his two daughters, his four grandchildren, books, baseball, movies, and all things Oklahoma University. In 2008 Sam became Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Sam is on the Board of Directors of both Desiring God and Bethlehem College & Seminary, and also serves as a member of the Council of The Gospel Coalition. Sam is President-Elect of the Evangelical Theological Society.
This article is part of our larger resource library of terms important to the Christian faith. From heaven and hell to communion and baptism, we want to provide easy to read and understand articles that answer your questions about theological terms and their meaning.
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In the eating of the bread (body) and the drinking of the cup (blood), we are remembering that Jesus has given His all to save us, suffering and dying to buy our way to eternal life.What is the most important thing about communion? ›
The Holy Communion is an important way to understand and continue to acknowledge Christ's act. This sacrifice is the basis of the Christian worldview and should not be downplayed. The Lord's supper signifies the New Covenant with Jesus Christ being the sacrificial lamb for humanity (1 Corinthians 5:7).Why do we need to celebrate the Lord's Supper or the communion service? ›
The Lord's Supper reminds us of the life and work of Jesus, and it marks us as people of his new covenant. And while doing all of this, it also anticipates that final glorious feast. The meal serves as a taste of what is to come—a taste of true life.What do I need to know before taking communion? ›
- You must be born-again. “But a person must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” – ...
- You must know your rights. ...
- You must Have a True Biblical Understanding of What Communion is.
367. What is necessary to receive Holy Communion worthily? To receive Holy Communion worthily it is necessary to be free from mortal sin, to have a right intention, and to obey the Church's laws on the fast required before Holy Communion out of reverence for the body and blood of Our Divine Lord.Is the Lord's Supper the same as communion? ›
Eucharist, also called Holy Communion or Lord's Supper, in Christianity, ritual commemoration of Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples. The Eucharist (from the Greek eucharistia for “thanksgiving”) is the central act of Christian worship and is practiced by most Christian churches in some form.What is the true meaning of communion? ›
com·mu·nion kə-ˈmyü-nyən. : an act or instance of sharing. capitalized : a Christian sacrament in which consecrated bread and wine are consumed as memorials of Christ's death or as symbols for the realization of a spiritual union between Christ and communicant or as the body and blood of Christ.What Jesus says about communion? ›
John 6:53-58. 53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.What is the message of communion? ›
Jesus instituted communion as a way for his disciples to remember his death and sacrifice. At its core, communion is a celebration, remembrance and proclamation of Christ's death. It reminds us, and declares to those partaking, that Christ was with us, Christ died for us and Christ is now alive working in us.What are the benefits of the communion? ›
The purpose of communion is to “receive from Christ the nourishment and strength and hope and joy,” said pastor and theologian John Piper. They “come from feasting our souls on all that He purchased for us on the cross; especially His own fellowship.”
Definitions of Lord's Supper. a Christian sacrament commemorating the Last Supper by consecrating bread and wine. synonyms: Eucharist, Eucharistic liturgy, Holy Eucharist, Holy Sacrament, Liturgy, sacrament of the Eucharist. type of: sacrament.Why did Jesus have the Lord's Supper? ›
One of the Church's two ordinances or sacraments, the Lord's Supper, was instituted by Jesus to commemorate his death, to symbolize the New Covenant, to point to the fellowship of a redeemed people gathered at his table, and to anticipate the messianic banquet yet to come.How do I prepare myself for the Lord's supper? ›
- Examine Your Heart For Areas of Sin.
- Reconcile with Those You Have Sinned Against.
- Forgive Those Who Have Sinned Against You. We are also called to forgive those who have sinned against us. ...
- Seek Unity. ...
- Expect To Be Nourished in Christ.
Luke 22:19-20 In-Context
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
“Let a person examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup,” Paul told the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:28). In Corinth this intended act of “communion” with the Lord had become a thoughtless and even selfish church ritual.What are the four parts of communion? ›
In addition, there are 2 more rites that open and conclude the celebration.
- Introductory Rites. ...
- Liturgy of the Word. ...
- Liturgy of the Eucharist. ...
- Concluding Rites.
There are three main ways: through a common cup from which all drink, through intinction (dipping the bread into the communal cup), or through the offering of individual cups and pieces of bread/wafers.What are the 4 mortal sins? ›
These sins are vices and are defined as contrary to the Christian virtues of holiness. They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth (acedia).What are two other names for the Lord's Supper? ›
- Holy Communion.
- Holy Sacrament.
- Last Supper.
Many evangelical churches celebrate communion periodically – monthly or quarterly. There's no clear command in Scripture as to how often we're to receive the Lord's Supper and for this reason, many churches have decided not to offer it weekly because they don't want it to become routine or lose its special status.
In short, weekly observance of the Lord's Supper allows us to come together in unity through Christ and fellowship in an intimate manner through the worship of Jesus Christ. This purifies the body weekly.How does communion connect us to God? ›
The true meaning of communion is to share. When you are in a relationship with the Holy Spirit you are sharing with Him and He is sharing with you, and there is a sense of communion. This is what Adam and Eve experienced with God at the beginning in the garden of Eden.What does 1 Corinthians say about communion? ›
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.Is there a psalm about communion? ›
Communion Service: Psalm 103.Why is spiritual communion important? ›
Thus, spiritual communion is truly valuable and important, since it unites us to Jesus, widens our hearts, gives us His grace and prepares us to receive Him in the sacrament of the Eucharist.What are the spiritual benefits of the Lord Supper? ›
The bread speaks of our Lord's obedience; the wine speaks of His sacrifice. Having no sin of His own, Jesus chose to bear ours. He became our sacrifice, absorbing the judgement of God. And through the shedding of His blood, He released forgiveness for us.What important effect does Holy Communion have in our life as God's people? ›
Holy Communion is to awaken our souls to love of God, and of our neighbour in God, and to make this love blossom into action. The fire of Charity enkindled in the soul by Holy Communion burns up and destroys venial sin just as material fire destroys bits of rubbish thrown into it.What are the 4 views of the Lord's Supper? ›
Baptist view (memorialism) Reformed view (spiritual presence) Lutheran view (consubstantiation) Roman Catholic view (transubstantiation)What does the Bible say about the Lord's Supper? ›
Jesus says, “I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:16; also v. 18). Just as Jesus eagerly desired to eat the first Lord's Supper with his friends (Luke 22:15), so now he eagerly waits to eat the eternal Supper with his bride.What happened during the Lord's Supper? ›
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it; and he gave to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body. ' And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, 'Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins.
It was a bad, unlucky day," Dossey said. There is also a biblical reference to the unlucky number 13. Judas, the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to the Last Supper. (See "Lost Gospel Revealed; Says Jesus Asked Judas to Betray Him.")What is the difference between the Last Supper and the Lord's Supper? ›
Last Supper, also called Lord's Supper, in the New Testament, the final meal shared by Jesus and his disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem, the occasion of the institution of the Eucharist.Why is the Last Supper so important? ›
The Last Supper is an important event in the history of Christianity because it immediately precedes Jesus' betrayal and subsequent arrest. It is also of significance because of Jesus' identification of the bread and wine as symbolic of his own body and blood.What are the two key elements of the Lord's Supper? ›
The Lord's Supper as a sacrament signifies the benefits of Christ's mediation. The bread and wine signify Christ crucified and His benefits (Westminster Confession of Faith 29.5, 7). More specifically, the bread is the sign of Christ's body, and the wine is the sign of His blood (Matt. 26:26–28; 1 Cor.How do you take communion correctly? ›
When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant.What does Paul say about communion? ›
In fact, communion reminds us of the forgiveness we experience through Christ. But Paul urges us to “examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28 NLT), so that we are going to communion with a humble heart and not just “pretending” to be right with God.What does the bread represent in communion? ›
Communion or the Lord's Supper is the breaking and eating of bread to symbolize Christ's body broken for us and drinking wine to remember the blood he shed for our sins.What prayer is said before receiving communion? ›
BEFORE RECEIVING HOLY COMMUNION: I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. I believe also that this is truly Thine own pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood.Who shouldn't take communion? ›
The saved person with sin in his or her life should not partake of the sacraments of the Lord's Supper. Additionally, the lost or the unsaved should also not participate in the Lord's Supper. 3.When should you not go to communion? ›
To be in a “state of grace” means to be free from mortal sin. As the Catechism states, “Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance” (CCC 1415).
- If you are Catholic and have not yet received First Communion. ...
- If you are Catholic and have a serious sin on your soul. ...
- If you are Catholic, but you have not observed the Eucharistic Fast one hour before receiving. ...
- If you are not Catholic.
Communion is a sacred time of fellowship with God, where believers remember Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. In this unique time of worship, believers commemorate the Lord's death through prayer and meditation. It is accompanied by partaking of a small piece of bread and sip of wine (or grape juice).What is Holy Communion remembering? ›
Holy Communion includes a profound act of remembrance that recalls the last supper Jesus had with his disciples. But it is more than just a ritual of remembering. It is primarily an act through which our connection with God, each other and our life of ministry in the world is nourished and strengthened.What is the Lord's Supper according to the Bible? ›
The Lord's Supper is a way to commune with Christ.
So the Lord's Supper is not simply “a means of grace.” It is a means of communion. This is the place where we come to commune with Christ, to experience afresh the fruit of our union with him.
By eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we become united to the person of Christ through his humanity. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (Jn 6:56). In being united to the humanity of Christ, we are at the same time united to his divinity.What 3 things happened at the Last Supper? ›
While they were eating, Jesus took a piece of bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples.What is the purpose of receiving communion? ›
In Holy Communion, we receive Jesus Christ, who gives Himself to us in His body, blood, soul, and divinity. This intimate union with Christ both signifies and strengthens our union with Him and His Church.