Discovering the Full Meaning of Communion

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. Think about the people of Israel. Weren’t they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar?

1 Corinthians 10:16-17

When I was a young Christian, I learned that communion was an intensely personal, even private moment of fellowship between Jesus and me. It was a time for me to confess my sins and remember how much Jesus suffered because of them. It was not a time to be distracted by other people, or even to make eye contact with them. Somehow, that seemed to lessen the meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

In fact, however, Scripture teaches that the full meaning of communion includes relationships among God’s people, and not simply our private interaction with God. In 1 Corinthians 10:16, Paul speaks of the cup as “sharing in the blood of Christ.” “Sharing in” translates the Greek word koinonia, which comes to us via Latin as “communion.” Similarly, the bread we break and eat in the Lord’s Supper is “sharing in the body of Christ.” So it is surely true that the Lord’s Supper is a time for us to experience deep fellowship with Christ. (Koinonia is often translated as “fellowship.”)

But verse 17 adds something more: “And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.” Our sharing in the body of Christ through the Lord’s Supper is also an experience of our deep unity as Christ’s disciples. Communion points us, first and foremost, to the cross of Jesus. But the cross does more than secure our individual salvation. It also breaks down the walls of hostility between people (Eph. 2:11-22). It forges a new community of disciples, one that Jesus himself prayed would be profoundly one, even as he is one with the Father (John 17:20-21). So, when we remember the cross of Jesus, we celebrate our communion with him and with each other through him.

When I lead communion at Laity Lodge, I encourage people to focus on Christ and his gracious death. It’s a time for people to be renewed by God’s love and empowered for his ministry. But I also give people permission to share in communion as God’s people together. It’s consistent with the full meaning of communion for them to make eye contact, to exchange words of encouragement or a hug, or to pray for one another.

In your church context, it may or may not be appropriate for you to communicate your care for people in the ways I’ve described. But you can be intentional about celebrating the fact that our communion as Christians is not just with God through Christ, but also with his people, our fellow members of Christ’s body.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Do you experience communion as something private, or as something to be shared with your Christian family? When has the Lord’s Supper helped you experience a sense of being one with your brothers and sisters in Christ?

PRAYER: Gracious Lord, thank you for the gift of your Supper. Thank you for giving us tangible reminders of your love and grace. Thank you for the opportunity we have, indeed, the responsibility we have, of sharing communion with our fellow believers.

May our experience of your Supper always be a time of deep fellowship with you. But may it also be a time of communion with our brothers and sisters in your family. Teach us, dear Lord, the fuller meaning of your Supper, so that we might be more fully your people and enjoy more completely the benefits of your salvation.

All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because through your death we have new life, and through your sacrifice we are made one, not only with you, but also with your people. Amen.