You might guess that “communion” is a special word designated for this special event ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ with His disciples in Matthew 26. You would be guessing wrong. The English term “communion” is found only four times in three verses in the King James Version, but the Greek word translated “communion” (koinonia) twenty times in eighteen verses. Only one of these times refers to the Lordâ€™s Tableâ€”1 Corinthians 10:16, 17â€”and that to describe the unity of the local church, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27), pictured through the bread and the cup.
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
The ordinance of the Lordâ€™s Table draws church members together into fellowship through the sharing of the common symbols for the Lordâ€™s blood and body. A church unifies through conjointly partaking of these common elementsÂ with their close association with Jesus Christ.
In Greek literature before the New Testament, koinonia was the favorite expression for the marital relationship as the most intimate between two human beings. In so doing it described a common life shared. Paul described this communion when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:4
The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
The husband and wife share each otherâ€™s body, declaring ownership of each other. The Shulamite said it this way in Song of Solomon 2:16
My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.
Like the groom prepares a home for his new wife, the Lord Jesus Christ has gone to prepare a place for His bride whom He will someday receive to Himself (John 14:1-3). The husband and wife relationship is modeled after the one of Christ with the church. English pastor John Wade Robinson combined the thoughts of the Shulamite and the truth of the Lord and His bride, when He wrote the words to a well-known hymn in 1876, a year before his death.
Loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know;
Gracious Spirit from above, Thou hast taught me it is so!
O this full and perfect peace! O this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease, I am His, and He is mine.
Heavâ€™n above is softer blue, Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen;
Birds with gladder songs oâ€™erflow, flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as I now know, I am His, and He is mine.
Things that once were wild alarms cannot now disturb my rest;
Closed in everlasting arms, pillowed on the loving breast.
O to lie forever here, doubt and care and self resign,
While He whispers in my ear, I am His, and He is mine.
His forever, only His; Who the Lord and me shall part?
Ah, with what a rest of bliss Christ can fill the loving heart!
Heavâ€™n and earth may fade and flee, firstborn light in gloom decline;
But while God and I shall be, I am His, and He is mine.
This is the communion between the church and the Lord Jesus Christ. I am His, and He is mine. He belongs to me and I belong to Him. We share this life and the one to come with our heavenly groom.
1 Corinthians 10:16 is the third use of koinonia chronologically in Scripture. We get introduced to the word the first time in the New Testament in Acts 2:42. “They continued in . . .fellowship.” Two verses later, Luke uses the term “common,” a related word (koinos): “And all that believed were together, and had all things common.” I am His; He is mine. You are ours and we are yours. Ephesians 4:4-6 portrays this as
one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Is there anything negative about this? Sure. Sin hinders and potentially ruins fellowship. Any love of the world brings an illegitimate partner into this God-ordained arrangement. It contradicts I am His and He is mine. Sin and unfaithfulness don’t discern the body of Christ. They belie the truth of commonality that God requires. We examine ourselves before eating and drinking to ensure this isn’t happening.
We have things common with one another in the body of Christ and we have things common with our Lord and Savior. We have communion.