I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine. Our discussion centered on the ordinance of communion. He explained, “Sunday morning is the highlight of my week because it means that I can partake in communion.” He went on to explain, “this activity is so enriching because I feel in touch with Christ, at this moment, more purely than any other time throughout the week.”
I was instantly taken back to a time in my teenage years when I was questioned about my denomination’s decision not to offer communion weekly, but rather sporadically throughout the year. Being uninformed at the time, I didn’t have a cogent response, nor did I fully understand the dynamics of this issue. Now, having gone through seminary, I understand the deeper dimensions of one theological persuasion over the other. There is the big split between those who practice transubstantiation (e.g., Catholics) and those who practice consubstantiation (e.g., Lutherans). But the debate stretches even further than this dichotomy. One group partakes weekly because of the belief that sanctification rests in the act of partaking, while another chooses to view it as a memorial and partakes sporadically to avoid this “heretical sacramental view.” It is not my goal to systematically outline the full range of conflicting views, but rather to address the reality that they exist. I have one question for any of these perspectives: where’s the power?
While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My Body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
When Christ first offered the elements of communion to the disciples, it was a fresh illustration, untainted by years of repetitiveness. His command was for us to, “do this in remembrance of me.” The Apostle Paul explains this charge by stating, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes,” in I Corinthians 11:26. But, what does it mean to “proclaim His death?” Are we merely announcing that he died, or is this something altogether more profound? I would argue for the latter. Jesus death was not ordinary; it was supernatural and redemptive – Christ died so that we wouldn’t have to. But, it goes deeper still: Christ not only took what should have been ours, but He also gave what should have been His.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly place.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
These verses demonstrate that Christ was exalted and blessed by the Father for His work on the cross. But, we were also raised up to sit next to Christ in His glory. When we proclaim the death of Christ, we are not telling a somber story of the day our Lord died, we are telling a joy-filled testimony of what we have received as a result! We proclaim this testimony by partaking in the communion that we have in Christ; by living into the richness of the blessings that have been bestowed upon us. Our profession of faith in the sufficiency of his death and our strongest show of gratitude is when we live our lives not as lowly reprobates begging for God’s mercy, but has children of the Most High God, sitting at His right hand and enjoying the richness of His blessings.
So, how then should we observe communion?
I will ask my question again, “Where’s the power?” For me, the power isn’t in the elements. I once had the opportunity to speak with a World War II veteran who later became a pastor. He explained, “I risked my life for a flag. Not the strips of red, white, and blue fabric, but for what that fabric represented. This is how I see communion. When I take the elements, I am able to physically experience the illustration that Jesus used, but that illustration was intended to allude to something far beyond what can be grasped by our senses.”
How often then should we observe communion?
Once again, “Where’s the power?” As my friend expressed, “Sunday morning is the highlight of my week because it means that I can partake in communion. This activity is so enriching because I feel in touch with Christ, at this moment, more purely than any other time throughout the week.” I have meditated on these words for such a long time, but I’ve concluded that they grieve me. On September 4th of this year, my wife and I will celebrate four years of marriage. When this day comes, I will be fully reminded of the vow and commitment that we share. But, I pray that I not more aware of this reality just because I am taking the time to remember it. No, my marriage is a part of my life in such a way that the benefits and blessings of marriage are to be enjoyed and celebrated more throughout the year then they are on the one day that we take to express our appreciation. Why not so with our life in Christ? I don’t think that it matters how often you partake in the ordinance of communion, whether methodically or sporadically. The importance lies in where you place the power – in the elements and the observance or in the one that we are remembering.
So, may you walk in the richness of your heavenly blessing, not when you take the elements, but each and every day of your life.
About the Author
Devin Peterson, B.S., M.Div.
Devin Peterson is a passionate writer with a heart for prayer and intercession. He has earned his Bachelor of Science in General Ministry from West Coast Bible College and Seminary and his Master of Divinity (M.Div.) with an emphasis in Biblical Languages from Luther Rice College and Seminary. As the youngest son of Kevin Peterson (the founder of RFM) he has been a part of the ministry his entire life. Currently, he serves as President and Chairman of RFM. Devin lives in Mansfield, Texas with his wife Ashley and their 3-year-old Yorkshire-poodle.
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