Tag Archives: Communion

Feedback; Jesus and communion…

I had a question emailed to me recently asking about what Jesus would have used for the bread and wine during the last supper.  Of course, those are the elements that make up our communion, or memorial.  The bread He used would have been the matzoh prepared for Passover specifically.  At the time, it was hand made, without yeast (which represents sin).

The wine used was probably a bit weaker than our modern wine, but because of the fermentation process and the time in which Jesus lived, it surely did contain alcohol.  As for what we “should” use today, or the closest we could get, would probably be Kosher for Passover matzoh and for Passover wine as well.

I don’t believe we should be legalistic about the elements used; however, the symbolic nature of these specific elements always help me to focus on Christ, and to see how He completes the images of Passover.  Here is one of my articles that goes into the details of Matzoh: The Bread  As for what a church can use, I personally think some type of unleavened bread is only proper, though, again, it is a symbol and not to be turned into something legalistic.  I personally think members should be given a choice between juice and wine, since there are good reasons why some people don’t drink, as well as juice being available for those under 21.

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Sacramentalism vs. Faith

I’m going to go into a pretty deep subject here, and it is always good to define terms and look to scripture before discussion.  The main themes in this article are sacramentalism, faith, and grace.

What is sacramentalism? First, an attempt at a neutral, secular, definition: Dictionary.com gives these two definitions for “sacramentalism:” 1) a belief in or emphasis on the importance and efficacy of the sacraments for achieving salvation and conferring grace. 2) emphasis on the importance of sacramental objects and ritual actions. Sacramentalism, in church terms, is usually defined also by example.  Those denominations that practice and believe in sacramentalism have various sacraments that are used within their churches. Examples include baptism, communion, marriage, confession/penance, confirmation, ordination, last rites, foot washing, etc… etc… Sacramentalism, as defined in the earliest tradition is indeed a vehicle for grace; a “special” way of receiving the grace of God through action.

Faith. I won’t spend too much time here on faith, as I’ve defined it previously in another article here: What is Faith? The important points that pertain to this current conversation is that it is by grace we are saved through faith.  Faith is trusting with great confidence, not just a head belief, but an actual trusting with confidence.  Of course, when Christians talk about faith, we mean faith in God.

Grace. I’ve also defined and discussed grace in a previous article here: What is Grace? Grace is unmerited or unearned favor.  Again grace is God’s to bestow.  God’s grace is a marvelous thing, and we should desire it in our lives, in fact, God’s grace is necessary for salvation, and for forgiveness.  It should be no wonder that the topics of sacramentalism, grace, and faith are so important in Christendom, and rightfully so.

The main area of debate surrounds the idea of the sacraments as vehicles of God’s grace.  Do the “sacraments” literally convey God’s grace to us in a special, or mysterious way that is unattainable any other way?  Do the sacraments contribute to our salvation?  What does scripture reveal to us about these things? (I’m not debating whether these actions are good or bad; obviously the ones called for in scripture serve their purpose and are a good thing.)

Well, there are no references to “sacraments” or sacramentalism in scripture.  I mean that in the sense that those words never appear there.  Now, of course baptism is mentioned, and taking the bread and wine, foot washing, marriage, etc… However, go to a search engine and do a search on “grace.”  Grace is not seen in connection with these acts.  When these acts are described, grace isn’t connected to them.  Grace and faith, on the other hand are clearly connected by the writers of scripture and these are both rooted in and spring from Christ.  Bear with me:

John 1:16-17 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Acts 20:32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

Romans 1:3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience  to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Ephesians 6:24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.  Amen.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

What’s my point?  There are certain denominations, such as the Roman catholic church, the United Methodist church, and others, that still, in the face of scriptures on grace, insist that grace is tied into the sacraments, instead of being unmerited favor from God.  Notice that, in the case of salvation, that we are saved by grace through faith, not a sacrament.  That instantly defeats any notion put forth that we must be baptized in water in order to be saved.  Also, note that the common benediction when you look up grace scripture, like in Ephesians 6:24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. There’s no jumping through hoops, no need of an intercessor or mediator between you and God; we’ve already got one: Jesus Christ.

In Christ, grace is ours and we already have direct access to the throne of grace.  When Christ died for us the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom giving us direct access to God.  God gives us grace, and it is connected with faith in Christ.  All these churches peddling the idea that sacraments convey grace, or are used as a vehicle for grace, are muddying the waters with something not to be found in scripture.  What leaps to mind, as my brother pointed out, is the quote by Kirk in one of the Star Trek movies; “What does God need with a Starship?”  God does not need a vehicle to convey Grace; God Himself is that vehicle.  For those in Christ, a huge victory was won when we could go directly to the throne of grace with no need of any vehicle, and salvation is by grace through faith.

Notice too, that one of the early apostasies was that one of the vehicles of grace is sinning.  Romans 5:20 listed above speaks to that.  Should we sin in order to get more of God’s grace; of course not!  How many times do we also need to be told that grace doesn’t come through works?  Grace, remember, is unmerited favor.  Those that believe in the sacraments are actually advocating grace comes through action, instead of faith, which is completely contradicted by scripture.  Now, am I saying that we should not take communion or be baptized?  Not at all.  If you want to call these “symbols” of faith, I’m all for it.  The term “ordinances” is often used to show that particular churches do NOT see these actions as sacramental, but rather acts that show forth the faith that is already there.  In the case of communion, it is clear in scripture that we are doing the act in remembrance and are showing forth Christ by performing the act.

In the near future I hope to write more articles touching upon these things, and bringing some of this to light that believers sitting in different denominational pews may not realize their denominations are pushing and preaching.  These things also are connected with church “hierarchy” which, if defined by things like “ordination,” can split the body of Christ into those supposedly gifted in some way above and beyond the rest of us when it comes to administering the “sacraments.”  It also has implications for the oft repeated phrase; Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship.  The idea of “sacraments” makes Christianity into religion once more, and constrains our relationship with God, which is a no-no. More to come…

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Sidetrack; More talk about transubstantiation…

I have more to write on my Romans passages, but I was reading in Matthew last night, and came across another example of the Lord using a food parable to get His point across in a similar manner that He was attempting to do in John 6.  Of course, John 6 is the often referred to chapter in John when someone is trying to promote the idea of transubstantiation.  You can read my post on that chapter, and transubstantiation here: John 6 and Transubstantiation (pt. 1).

Let’s look in Matthew;

Matthew 16:5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? 9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

First notice that the apostles tried to take Christ literally.  He’s talking about bread and leaven…He must be referring to the literal, right? Nope.  Next notice that Jesus does not correct them outright; He makes them get to the conclusion on their own.  He gives them the non-sinful equivalent of an eye roll.  They do eventually catch on to the truth themselves; Jesus was being metaphorical.

I also note that when He brought used the idea of bread and leaven here, that He was speaking about doctrine.  That further supports that idea that He was also speaking of doctrine, or partaking of the the words of life, in John 6, not His literal body.

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This is My Body, This is My Blood;

I’m giving a concrete example of another issue in Communion today.  These words of Christ are indeed important ones.  These words are part of the scriptural support that many from a Roman church background give in support of transubstantiation.  They have a right, and a duty, really, to take these words very seriously; but are we to take them literally?

It’s possible.  But, as always, we must look at other possibilities, such as figures of speech for illustrating purposes.  Figures of speech are used in scripture; metaphors and parables quite regularly.  In trying to explain why Christ used such strong statements; this is My Body, this is My Blood, I’ve always known precisely what I’m trying to get across, the question was what was a good example of this language when used in metaphor.

First, it is important to point out that I do indeed take His words seriously, but I believe context, and the whole context of scripture does not support transubstantiation; I touch on Jesus’ words here in my second part in my posts on transubstantiation.  But do we, as humans and as “teachers” ever employ such strong words in non-literal, analogical language?  The answer is yes we do.

I was pondering over what example would be a clear one, and then it hit me…a blast from my past.  I remembered seeing these commercials on TV quite regularly as a kid.  Note the language that is used, along with the visuals; this is meant to make a lasting impact and give people a visual cue to go off of.

Do we have visual imagery used in conjunction with Jesus’ words; This is My Body, This is My Blood?  Yep.  My last post was on the Matzoh used in this instruction from Jesus.  Matzoh being a visual picture of Christ’s body.  The wine, red wine, is a visual of His blood. When He said these words, He held up the visual symbols.

“This is drugs.”  Is that literally drugs in that pan?  Of course it isn’t; it’s sizzling grease.  “This is your brain…” Is that literally a person’s brain? Nope; it’s an egg.  The point is this shows a perfect example of this style of language, and also shows why it is used.

Humans are very visual creatures, and it is a lot easier for us to remember things when they are “attached” to visual images.  Christ knew this very well, and so, taught His disciples what He wanted done in remembrance of Him, and to show Him forth in a visual, as well as verbal way…as in the commercial, they were not to be taken literally, but figuratively.

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Communion; The Bread…

In Communion, The Lord’s Supper, the eucharist (meaning thanksgiving, not transubstantiation), we have two elements present; the bread and the wine.  What kind of bread would the Lord have broken in “the last supper?”

Of course the answer can be found in the Jewish roots of our faith, and the time of the feast of Passover (and preparation for it, and the feast of unleavened bread) which Jesus and the disciples would have been in the midst of.  Would He have had a perfectly round, white wafer, such as the RC uses in their celebration of Mass?  Would it have been a big loaf of white bread, full of yeast as used in some churches?  No; it would have been Jewish Matzoh (AKA: Matzah, Matsah, Matzo, or Matza).

It would have been Matzoh specially prepared for Passover.  Matzoh is unleavened bread; bread with no yeast, or leavening agents.  Why is this important?  Well, first of all, yeast or leaven represents sin.  During the time leading up to Passover, Jewish families would purge all yeast from their houses.

Why else?  Because Jewish Matzoh paints a visual picture of Christ Himself, and it explains in more depth Jesus words; this is My Body.

Matzoh is unleavened, representing Christ as having no sin.  It’s appearance is striped, bruised, and pierced; as His body would become for us.  In the picture above, you can see the striped appearance, and the bruised appearance, and if you held a piece up to the light, you can see light coming through the piercings in the bread.

Within the Passover meal, there is a particular piece of Matzoh used (I’ll explain all the images in Passover a bit more at some later date), that is hidden, then taken out, and broken.  It was this piece of Matzoh that Christ would have blessed and broken.  The blessing would probably have gone something similar to this: Blessed art Thou, o Lord Our God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.  If you hear the resurrection in this blessing, you are spot on!

Notice that the bread was indeed broken.  This bread is like a thin cracker and breaks quite dramatically.  It was all a visual of what Christ’s own body would go through for us; He would be bruised, striped by the cruel whips of the Romans, pierced by nails, and a spear…His body broken (not His bones, but His body, His flesh); He is sinless, as the bread is unleavened.  This bread is again, like a picture.

Now, does one have to use this bread in communion?  No, I don’t believe so; it should not be a legalistic issue.  However, it is a valuable lesson in our roots, and also why Christ chose that type of bread to represent His body.  (I also think it shows a stark contrast with the RC’s white, unpierced, unstriped, unbruised, and unbroken hosts that they choose to use in their celebration of the Mass.)

I do think that using Matzoh aids us in remembering Christ’s sacrifice, as we have a picture, or a type of Christ right before us while partaking…and after learning a lot of this from Levitt Ministries I do prefer to partake of Matzoh in communion when and where  possible.  Again the aim of communion is to “keep our eyes” on Christ, and remember Him.

If you are interested in obtaining some Matzoh, either for your church, or for home communion, or just for studying/eating, you can find it at larger grocery stores, or if you are like me and live in a very rural area, you can find “for Passover Matzoh” online.  Some Matzoh is cleared by Rabbi’s for Passover use, and some is not (just look on the box).  The difference is in how long it takes to make.  Often times you can only get Matzoh marked for Passover use around…well, Passover.  However, I’ve been able to find it online all year round.

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Showing forth Christ…

I was going to write about Morality and Ethics in the season ender of Doctor Who for today…but as I thought about the show I actually was drawn to write about something else…something a bit more serious.  The show really did bring this to mind, with the Holy Spirit’s help I believe…remember I’m a fan of being on the look out for the “sacred” in the “secular.” One of the scenes in the Doctor Who finale involved a character pledging to remember the Doctor, and honor his memory…to carry it on in a way, as the Doctor is about his business.

Within Christianity, in the act of communion; the taking of the bread and wine, we are to remember Christ at His own command.  He makes it into an imperative; do this in remembrance of Me.  We know how serious this is, as Paul underlines the fact that we need to partake in a worthy manner.  As I explained in a previous post, this verse has been misconstrued by different preachers to mean that we as humans must be worthy to partake; not so.  See my previous post here for more detail on that:  Communion; Unworthily vs. unworthy.

Paul also teaches: 1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. And that verse is what struck me as I mulled this over.  I realized an important point; we are not just showing the Lord’s death to our fellow humans, though that is important too.  There are others watching as well; the holy Angels, the fallen angels, The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; God Himself.

Communion is one of the ways we communicate and act on our faith…think of it from Jesus’ point-of-view in the limited way that we can.  We partake to remember Him, to Honor Him, and to show Him.  While we partake the object of our remembrance and honor is right there with us, as He always is.  But think how He must feel amongst us as we do so!

I don’t know about you, but as I read about the time when Jesus went to pray and asked Peter, James, and Mark to stay and watch and they fell asleep as He prayed.  I have to admit I ask myself, “would I have been able to stay awake in the same situation?”  Jesus wanted their company, and asked them to come, yet they fell asleep in an hour when He did not wish to be alone.

He’s asked us to partake of bread and wine…and I think it gladdens His heart when we actually do so with our focus on Him…when we stay “awake.”  Again, I don’t believe one must take communion in a group, or even in a church (that is another post for another time), but I think it is fascinating to dwell on the fact that even if one is alone in their house partaking, they are still showing Him forth, and also fulfilling Christ’s command.  We are also showing Him forth to ourselves; it helps us to remember Him, and increases our faith because it is an act of faith.

I don’t mean it in the “presenting the sacrifice to God” as the Roman church teaches; far from it…I’ve always found that a bit arrogant; the High Priest Himself is who offered up The Sacrifice, and it was only done once, and only had to be done once.  No, we are showing forth, not offering up.  But, think about us, we enjoy it when someone remembers something hard that we have done for someone else, and that feeling of joy and acknowledgment surely is no sin.  We are remembering Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that were for us, to save us, to redeem us.  His body broken in horrible ways symbolized by the broken bread, and His blood shed for us, for the remission of our sin symbolized by the wine.  When we remember, honor, and show Him forth, surely that makes Him glad of the remembrance…in fact, think of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit looking on.

This same idea would hold true for baptism as well…we should not forget that while our fellow humans can be present, our audience is not limited to them. This idea should also raise within us the awareness that these things are not light matters; they are very serious indeed.  This ties in to a post that I need to write soon; home communion and the fact that you can partake in your home even if you don’t attend an organizational church.  We should not allow that fact to stop us from showing forth Christ, and following His command that we partake in remembrance.

Related posts:

John 6 and Transubstantiation and Transubstantiation (pt. 2)

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Communion; Unworthily vs. unworthy…

I discussed the doctrine of transubstantiation in two parts which you can find here; pt. 1 & pt. 2.  I mentioned that I was going to comment on Paul’s injunction about taking communion unworthily, and that we are to examine ourselves.  Throughout different denominations, teachers have been misusing these verses to try to lay a guilt trip on people for their sin when partaking of the bread and wine; however, if one looks at the verses in question, things start becoming clear.  We are indeed to examine ourselves, and we are not to take unworthily, but what exactly does this mean?

1 Corinthians 11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

I hold that the bread and wine are symbols (not “just” symbols or “mere” symbols, but symbols full of meaning, that serve several purposes), as taught by Christ and Paul (and even James indirectly). However, there is power in the act, or in the taking. Why do I say this? Because one can eat and drink temporary “damnation,” or rather rendered judgment (in the Greek; krima), or sickness on themselves, according to Paul. Eating and drinking without remembering Jesus and His sacrifice leads to this.

Of course, in Paul’s example, there were people eating and drinking the bread and wine after they were drunk, and/or they had come to have a full meal together, and did not set apart the bread and cup, but rather drank and ate hungrily without thinking on Christ. They weren’t taking it worthily…in other words they were partaking in an unworthy manner.

The Greek word used for “unworthily” is anaxious, which is an adverb describing the act (remember, adverbs describe verbs, not nouns), not the person.  Worthiness in this context is not about the person taking the communion, it is about how it is taken. We aren’t to examine ourselves before partaking, we are to remember Christ.  So, from scripture, we are not to examine ourselves, for worthiness, that takes our “eyes” off Christ, and puts them on ourselves. The only way to take unworthily is to take not remembering Christ’s sacrifice, and by so doing, we fail to remember Him and fail to show forth His sacrifice.  So to examine ourselves means to make sure we’re remembering Christ, that we aren’t just eating because we’re hungry (or drunk). None of us are worthy, as far as that goes, so there’s no examination necessary when it comes to our being unworthy.

Anyone who tries to get people to examine themselves for things like sin when partaking of the bread and wine are doing the very thing Paul warned against; taking our “eyes” and minds off of Christ, and neglecting to take in rememberance of Him.  Now, there is a responsibility on the part of the person taking the bread and wine to realize what it is symbolic of…this is why non-Christians should abstain from taking communion; they don’t believe in Jesus as the Son of God, and therefore would not be partaking in remembrance and faith in Him, nor to show forth His body, broken for us, and His blood shed for the remission of our sin.  Again, I look forward to going more in depth about how Passover fits in with communion, and remembering Christ’s sacrifice for us in a later post.

I owe much of this teaching and understanding to the late Dr. Gene “Doc” Scott…his teaching on this idea has helped to refocus believers hearts and minds onto Christ.  If a person’s sins were going to stop us from taking communion, none of us could partake.  Communion, or the taking of the bread and cup is one of the straightforward symbols and acts that Christ Himself instituted, and instructed us as believers to do.

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