Recently asked by a new believer:
Why do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper and what does it mean?
Here is our response:
What’s in a Name?
There are two different names which are often used to identify the Lord’s Supper. Formal churches call it the “Eucharist,” which means “to give thanks.” This describes the first aspect of the Lord’s Supper. We are “giving thanks” to God for sending His Son to pay the price for our sins.
Less formal churches usually call the Lord’s Supper “Communion.” This is our English translation of the New Testament Greek word “koinonia” koy-nohn-ee-ah”), which means fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation. The New Testament writers used it to describe the sharing, intimacy, participation, and fellowship which believers have with Christ and one another. Communion is the outward demonstration of our participation in the body of Christ, the church. We have received fellowship in His church through the “new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20)
The Use of Symbols
The “elements” or “ingredients” used for Communion are simple: bread and wine. Today, because of the abuse of alcohol, in an effort to avoid causing another to stumble, out of love, we use grape juice in place of wine. But Jesus gave these elements new meaning.
He gave bread and wine to his disciples, then declared, “… 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, and as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor 11:24-25). Jesus never intended for the bread and wine to be more than symbolic. Yet symbols are powerful tools for worship. They make spiritual truths more easily understood through visible representation. They connect past events with the present. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “remember your sins are forgiven, your life in this world is renewed, and you have the eternal life, because My body was broken for you,; My life’s blood was poured out for you. Thus, the crucifixion is connected with our lives today.
A Way to Refocus
God uses “remembrance” to refocus the lens of our lives in order to bring our thoughts, desires, and motives back into agreement with our profession of faith. We all experience some degree of drifting away, at times, from God. Communion is one of the many ways that God helps us keep our lives aligned with Him.
How does communion do this?
- It reminds us that all our sins have been forgiven and we have been cleansed, because He suffered and died in our place. This creates a thankfulness towards God, which produces true, heartfelt worship.
- We realize, once again, that the life we now live is a gift from God. Therefore, we should no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
- It bridges the gap between His first and second coming. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes” (1Corinthians 11-26). It reminds us to live each day in the imminent anticipation of his return.
Encountering God Anew
Each time we observe the Lord’s supper, we encountered God anew. It provides us with direct access to God. It provides us with a time to receive forgiveness for our sins, strength against our weaknesses, and courage in the face of our fears.