Discerning the Body of Christ in CommunionPosted: July 6, 2014
“For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” 1 Corinthians 11:29.
What does this verse mean?
There are (at least) 3 major superstitions regarding Communion that should be avoided:
(1) that a communion service is a re-sacrifice of Jesus Christ and effective to obtain forgiveness of sins;
(2) that the communion bread is the Son of God and should therefore be worshipped;
(3) that Christ is somehow within the bread and therefore eating the bread is receiving Christ.
All three superstitions are based upon scriptural misunderstandings.
Early Reformers, like Jan Hus and John Wycliff, were burned at the stake for their deviations from Rome’s blasphemous ‘transubstantiation’ doctrine, yet many Protestants moved slowly toward a complete and proper understanding of the Lord’s Supper – to one based on scripture alone and free from pagan superstitions. Rejecting Rome’s ‘host’ worshipping idolatry, and their false sacrifice of the mass, many Protestants nevertheless retained notions of Christ’s ‘real presence’ as spiritually present inside the communion elements.
Jesus Christ’s real human body was the ‘bread’ given at the cross of Calvary for the sins of the world. The bread in communion is just a commemorative act – it is only a symbolic remembrance of what Jesus did.
So the ‘bread’ that saves us is only Jesus Christ’s body that he gave for us on the cross. It is received only by faith in the preaching of the gospel (John 6:28-29). The gospel message is that Christ Jesus died for our sins and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
In contrast, the bread taken in a communion service is just an occasion when the people of God can outwardly demonstrate and commemorate their commonly held faith as members of Christ’s spiritual body (1 Corinthians 10:16-22; 11:17-34). The symbolism of the bread shows Jesus’ death, and by eating it together, that shows the communion of the people of God who have all together trusted in Christ. The ceremony is not called a ‘sacrament’ – it is called an ‘ordinance’ (1 Corinthians 11:2).
1 Corinthians 11:29 does not mandate that we recognize Christ’s body inside pieces of bread, but rather that our communion services should be conducted in an orderly fashion so that proper symbolism of the bread and wine can be clearly discerned.
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