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What exactly happens when we take communion?


Is there a divine transformation of the bread and wine taken at communion?

Thank you for your question.

Taking Paul’s account which Christ gave directly to him by revelation:

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

Putting aside the nonsense of transubstantiation, what Christ clearly means is - this bread represents my body; this cup represents the new covenant in my blood.

The meeting together of baptised believers to share bread and wine memorialises the sacrifice of Christ and done regularly by successive generations serves as a testimony to his sacrifice until the day that Christ returns.

26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

As you probably already know there is more to the act of eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ in symbol than just a memorial meal.

This becomes clear at the watershed of Christ’s ministry. He makes a statement that effectively separated the ‘men’ in understanding from the ‘boys’.

John 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.

58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

What he means by eating his flesh and drinking his blood becomes clear from Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well.

John 4:32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.

33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?

34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

From this we understand that ‘eating’ is a metaphor that Jesus uses for ‘doing’.

We meet this at the beginning of his ministry.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Natural life depends upon eating but Eternal life depends upon doing.

John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

Coming together to break bread and drink wine is intended to provide a time of self examination to consider whether the way we are living conforms to the commandments of Christ.

27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

It is not a matter of whether we are free from sin because all sin, but rather whether we are showing the self-sacrifice for others in our lives that Christ demonstrated to the ultimate for us in his.

This is the self-examination that needs to take place before we eat and drink.

28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

If we don’t understand the relationship between ‘eating and drinking’ and ‘living in obedience’ to the Lord’s commandments then we are not discerning the Lord’s body.

There is nothing magical about the act of communion, the regular face to face encounter with the reality of self-sacrifice even to the point of an agonising death is meant to help us keep self-sacrifice in the forefront of our minds.

The danger is that communion can have no effect on our day to day behaviour.

As James reminds us:

James 1:23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:

24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Communion then is like looking at ourselves in a mirror alongside our Lord, comparing our lives with his and seeing what manner of man or woman we really are. Resolving to be more like him in every way because we represent him in this world.

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

I hope this helps.

Glenn Smith

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