There are many opinions concerning the partaking of the Lord's Supper, commonly known as the Communion. The vast majority of Protestant denominations do not partake of this act of worship on a weekly basis, citing a concern that somehow it might lessen the impact of this event in the spiritual lives of their congregants. The Roman Catholic Church has long held to the belief that once the emblems (the bread and the cup) have been properly blessed by a priest and are consumed by the believer, they then become the literal flesh and blood of Our Lord. But what does the Bible say concerning this? After all, the Bible ought to always be our authority on all spiritual matters.
First, the Lord's Supper was instituted by Jesus, Himself on the night that He was betrayed. Matthew, Mark and Luke each record this event. Paul also recounts the event as well in 1 Cor. 11:23-32. And for our purpose we will use this account.
"For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take eat, this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
"In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 1 Cor. 11:23-25
Here are the points that the Lord makes. First, the bread and the cup are emblematic of His body and His blood. The point that they are emblems is made clear by the Lord's statement, "Do this in remembrance of Me." This makes it clear that the objective hear is for the believer to "remember" the Lord's sacrificial death on the Cross. A death that Christ died in the flesh. The idea that the Lord's flesh and blood is what is consumed is absent from the Lord's words. It is the symbolic ritual that is in mind here.
Second, the Lord makes a point of reminding us that the cup "is the new covenant in My blood." Jesus' death on the Cross fulfilled the first covenant, the covenant made by God with Abraham. It replaced this covenant with a New Covenant. Why? Because the first was imperfect. Heb. 8:7, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." This covenant offers us "eternal redemption" through His death. Heb. 9:12, "Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." The price of this covenant was the blood (life) of Christ Jesus. It is certainly the "why" of "Why we partake?" By reason of logic those who partake must be those who are now under this New Covenant, those who have through belief, repentance of sins and baptism have had their sins removed and have been born again by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38, Jn. 3:3-6)
Now let's continue our look at what additional comments Paul the Apostle makes in 1 Cor. 11:26-29, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
But let a man examine himself and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."
First, Paul tells us that this observance is an ongoing act of worship that the church should continue to observe "till He comes." Obviously this coming is the Lord's return to claim His Church. While this is certainly not a "Thou shalt do this every week." it certainly implies a regular event. Compare this with what Luke the author of Acts states in Acts 20:7, "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight." It seems that the purpose of the Church of Troas' coming together is by context, to "break bread." The fact that this occurred at such a late hour likely rules out this being a meal. The more likely meaning is that they came together to partake of the Lord's Supper and their custom was to do this weekly.
Secondly in verse 26 Paul states a second purpose in this observance, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes." Here we find that the Church is in this act of worship "proclaiming the Lord's death." In essence we are bearing witness to the world that Christ Jesus has died for our sins.
Thirdly, Paul warns all that those who partake must be mindful not to partake "unworthily". To do so will bring judgment upon the offender. The reason why is given to us in verse 29, they are "not discerning the Lord's body." The likely offense here is that the offender did not pause to remember the suffering and death of the Lord. After all it is His body "broken for us" and the cup of His shed blood to give us redemption that we partake of.
But there is a second and equally valid interpretation that may also apply to "not discerning the Lord's body". We know the Church is the Lord's body as well, (1 Cor. 12:27, Eph. 5:30). So what if this "not discerning the Lord's body" also refers to those who have sinned against their fellow believers and have yet to repent and ask for forgiveness?
Consider the Lord's teaching in Mt. 5:23,24, "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there, before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
Jesus is literally saying that offenses against our brethren that we have not made right will make our worship to God null and void. This is why He states so clearly a need to go and be "reconciled" before God's throne is approached. Should not the same mandate apply to the Lord's disciples when they come together at the Lord's table? In each instance we are entering into an act of worship and fellowship (communion). My firm belief is that Paul's warning of "not discerning the Lord's body" is two-fold. First I MUST remember the Lord's death for me. Second I MUST NOT be at odds with a brother in Christ. After all, this act of worship is just as much a corporate act as an individual act.
In summary the Lord's Supper should be observed as part of the Sunday acts of worship. We do in fact assemble because Christ died for us. It would be fruitless to even attend church services if Christ did not die to save us! So why not proclaim His death to the world each Sunday? Are we so weak in our conviction that we fear an inability to pause and remember His death? This weekly reminder can only make a Church stronger.
Also, this observance is a memorial. The emblems are only symbolic, but no less important to the truly regenerate. To read any type of supernatural purpose or experience of transubstantiation into this act of worship is just that; to be reading something in the text that is absent!
Finally, it is a serious occasion. It requires us to "discern" our remembrance of our Savior's death and our relationship with our brethren. If either is not present then we ought to decline that invitation to partake until we can do so in good conscience.David Miller