The Old Testament Passover
Nearly 3500 years ago, Moses and the children of Israel were on the eve of an epic exodus out of the bondage of Egypt. God told His people to sacrifice a lamb that was without blemish and to place the blood upon their door posts. That night, the angel of death passed over Egypt to slay the first born son in every home. There was salvation from death where the blood of the lamb had been applied. The Passover was instituted to annually commemorate this wonderful, historic deliverance (Exodus 12:12-15).
Jesus Institutes the Communion Ordinance
Approximately 1500 years later, Jesus sat with His disciples to partake of the Passover supper (Luke 22:7-16). Jesus knew that within a few hours He would be crucified on the cross as a sacrificial lamb for the sins of humanity. Jesus took unleavened bread and a cup of the fruit of the vine and administered the first communion (Matthew 26:26-29). This ordinance was instituted by Christ and was reconfirmed by the apostle Paul. “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you…” (1 Corinthians 11:23).
After the manner of the Passover, Christ established a memorial in the New Testament dispensation. Mankind is only saved from everlasting death when the blood of Jesus has been applied. What a wonderful salvation that all have access to through the blood of the lamb Christ Jesus. Jesus told His disciples to have communion “in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24b). The observance of the Lord’s supper is a memorial service that God’s people might never forget the pain and suffering of the Saviour. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
The Bread Represents the Body of Christ
The Lord’s supper is one of the few practices in the New Testament that is rich with symbolism and meaning through a literal observance. Jesus used the unleavened bread of Passover and said, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you…” (1 Corinthians 11:24). Christ was nailed to the cross and He was pierced with a spear. His body was broken that we might be saved. The bread is a symbol of that crucified body. Unleavened bread is also a symbol in scripture of the body of Christ, the Church of God. “For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17). As the bread is unleavened and compact, many grains come together in one undivided loaf. People with different personalities and backgrounds are joined together in unity in one body when they are changed by the saving power of Jesus Christ.
The Juice Represents the Blood and Sufferings of Christ
The fruit of the vine that Jesus used was juice from grapes. It represents the blood that Christ shed on the cross (Matthew 26:28). Grapes must first be pressed and squeezed to get juice. Christ was whipped, beaten and crucified that through His blood we could have forgiveness of sin. Every child of God has communion through the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16).
How to Administer Communion
There are many ways in which churches administer communion. It is important that the essence of the symbolism not be lost in its administration. Jesus first took unleavened bread. He blessed it, brake it and then gave to the disciples (Mark 14:22). This is the Biblical way in which to conduct the Lord’s supper. Many churches use little wafers which causes the symbolism of brokenness to be lost. Jesus then “took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it” (Mark 14:23). There was a common cup of which they all partook. This is not appealing in the flesh but it is a symbolic act with great spiritual implications. God’s people drank together from the cup of suffering of our Lord. This is truly communion, which means the act of sharing. At the conclusion of the first communion, the disciples sang a hymn and departed (Mark 14:26). There is a special blessing given when this practice is followed and God’s people depart from the Lord’s supper similar to the disciples of old. The Biblical pattern should not be tampered with or changed.
Misuses of the Ordinance
The congregation at Corinth did not observe the Lord’s supper properly. Paul reproves them and gives instruction (1 Corinthians 11:20-22, 34). The congregation had been turning the occasion into a time of feasting and overindulgence. They had mistaken the nature of the ordinance. Paul instructed them to eat at home and that the Lord’s supper was not time to fill one’s hunger. It was rather a time to remember Christ in a symbolic observance.
Communion is for the Believer
The Lord’s supper is an ordinance that is for saved people (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). Paul stated whosoever ate of the bread and drank of the cup unworthily would be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Each individual is to examine himself before partaking of communion; it is not the job of the ministry. It is a time of self-examination that goes beyond a profession of salvation. It is a time to consider one’s life, conduct, business, attitudes, etc. Many in the congregation were sick, weak and even dying because there was a lack of spiritual seriousness in partaking of the Lord’s supper. This lack was not necessarily to eternal damnation but was provoking God to judgment. The Lord was chastising them that they might not be condemned eternally as the world (1 Corinthians 11:29, 32). The Lord’s supper is a solemn act and should be entered into with carefulness and great reverence.
Commanded for All Generations to Observe
The observance of the Lord’s supper is an apostolic tradition that was intended for all generations. Jesus taught His church to “observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Paul’s instruction was to “keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” (1 Corinthians 11:2). Jesus said “this do ye” (1 Corinthians 11:25). May the Church of God be faithful to commemorate the sacrifice of Christ through the observance of the Lord’s supper until He returns.