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Communion

September 7, 2006

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 Lord’s Table—1 Corinthians 10:16, 17—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 Lord’s Table draws church members together into fellowship through the sharing of the common symbols for the Lord’s blood and body. A church unifies through conjointly partaking of these common elements 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 other’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.

Heav’n above is softer blue, Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen;
Birds with gladder songs o’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!
Heav’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.

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Categories: Brandenburg, Lord's Supper
  1. September 7, 2006 at 7:02 am

    What does ‘not discerning the Lord’s body’ in verse 29 mean? (This question is for each moderator).

  2. September 7, 2006 at 11:58 am

    Bill, we could discuss this on several levels. If you are “not discerning the Lord’s body”, then you fail to see the Lord’s body. You fail to see your local church as the Lord’s body. But you also fail to see the Lord’s body in each member. 1Co 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

    This might be a good topic for a later post. It fits with this post, particularly at the end, but it deserves fresh attention. Maybe later.

    DM

  3. September 7, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    I can appriciate that.

  4. tjp
    September 7, 2006 at 12:34 pm

    Bill,

    Good question. As I understand it, “not discerning the Lord’s body” simple means not showing proper respect and reverence for it. It is treating lightly holy things. In this case it is expressing dishonor toward the physical body of Christ (and the part it played in our redemption) which is symbolized in the bread.

    Mallet Factor gave an answer, but I’m not sure it’s the best one, though it certainly is a possible one. The context of the phrase you ask about has nothing to do with recognizing the body of Christ local, but with respecting the body of Christ literal, that is, the one He bore our sin in and the one we remember during the communion observance.

    In short, a person who fails to “[discern] the Lord’s body” is “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27). That is, he is charged with irreverence toward holy things and thus invites the chastisement of God, as the context reveals.

    I trust I didn’t confuse you.

  5. September 7, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    tjp, not to jump to my own defense here, but I think that the body of Christ local is the body of Christ literal, or at least that is what Eph. 1:22-23 would indicate.

    On the other hand, you are right that we are to discern the Lord’s actual body. As I said, I think there are several levels that apply, that being one I didn’t mention. There are others as well, I think.

    DM

  6. September 7, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    I appreciate the dialogue here. I believe the Lord’s body in 1 Corinthians 1:29 is….(drumroll)…..the church. I believe we have grammatical reasons. Is this a failure to recognize the Lord’s physical body? I don’t believe so, since the Supper is always referred to as bread and cup and body and blood, never just “body.” I believe that it contextually goes back to 1 Corinthians 10:17, with the problem being in the church itself, and I believe the next verse, 11:30, also bears this out. In every other instance Paul is talking about the Supper, he says “body and blood.” And he will also bring the qualifier “of the Lord.”

    V. 29 makes sense of the digression in 10:17, where Paul singles out the bread: one loaf, one body. The eaters of the one loaf are that one body. When Paul uses “body” alone, he means the church. They are not just any body, but the Lord’s body, and not discerning that will result in abuses of unity and of holiness. Their lacking in that discernment has resulted already in sickness and death. They were not just some social club that got together for a shindig. They were Christ’s organization on earth gathering for eternal purposes.

  7. September 7, 2006 at 8:26 pm

    I changed two words to clarify something that I said in my article.

  8. September 7, 2006 at 8:40 pm

    Which ones?

    🙂

    So how many did you leave the same?

  9. September 7, 2006 at 8:57 pm

    I had a choice of which ones to change, so I left “discern” and took out “and blood” and liked how it looked when I was done. Less is more sometimes.

  10. michael mcneilly
    September 8, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    Could we not also interpret the taking of communion as one time a year. Could we not say that as oft as ye eat and drink could mean at the yearly passover time? I think that we ought to give credence to it at least.

  11. Young Fundy
    September 8, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    I’m hoping that Sharper Iron will offer some type of cyber-communion soon. All of the participants could have the elements right at their computer station and we could all participate when JJ gives the word. That would be so special and the tone would be awesome! I don’t think we would ever need to have “thread closed” on that!

    Just Kidding!!!!!

  12. September 8, 2006 at 10:05 pm

    Bro. McNeilly, you may have commented on the wrong article. Mallet Factor was the Oft sermon. And then you didn’t have a question mark after “year.” A+ for tact, however. We are all nodding all around on giving credence. (whispering: what is credence?)

    Young Fundy, while partaking, perhaps we could talk about how humble we are and how that it is so good to have the scorners (scoffers in the ESV) gone. Since strife ceased when the recent scorners/scoffers were cast out, that either means that they really were scorners or that they were the only ones actually doing any sharpening. You take your pick. Oh, and please.

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