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 (Q and A on Biblical Doctrines)
Chapter 12: Holy Communion
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Q1 What is the Holy Communion?

The Holy Communion is a sacrament in which believers partake of the bread and the cup of the Lord Jesus—which are His body and blood—in remembrance of His death (Lk 22:14–20; cf. 1 Cor 11:23–26). In the Bible, the Holy Communion is referred to variously as “the Passover” (Lk 22:13, 15), “the Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor 11:20), “the Lord’s table” (1 Cor 10:21) and “the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42).  

Q2 Where, in the Bible, is it recorded that Jesus instituted it?

There are four biblical passages that record Jesus’ institution of the Holy Communion: 1) Mt 26:26–29;  2) Mk 14:22–25; 3) Lk 22:14–20;  4) 1 Cor 11:23–26.

From the account in Matthew, we learn that Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is My body” (Mt 26:26). Next, He took the cup, gave thanks and said, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mt 26:27–28). His words, “My blood of the new covenant”, describe the role of His blood in forging a new relationship
between God and ourselves.

Q3 What are the differences between the Holy Communion and the Old Testament Passover?

Jesus’ institution of the Holy Communion during His final Passover meal with the disciples marked an important transition: He turned a Passover meal belonging to the old covenant into the Holy Communion, belonging to the new covenant. Under the old, the Jews observed the Passover with an unblemished lamb (Ex 12:3–11, 27); under the new, Jesus became the Paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us (1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:18–19). His blood was the basis of the “better covenant” (Heb 8:6). Hence, when Jesus took the cup, He said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Lk 22:20; cf. 1 Cor 11:25). 

Q4 Can the cup remove our sins?

The Holy Communion cup contains the blood of Jesus which marks a new covenant. The Bible does not teach us that the forgiveness of sins comes from drinking it; rather, it comes from our being washed in the blood of Jesus through water baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Jn 5:6, 8; Rev 1:5).

Q5 What materials should we use for the Holy Communion?

Following the example set by Jesus, we should use one unleavened bread (1 Cor 5:8; 10:17) and one cup containing the “fruit of the vine”, which is grape juice (Mt 26:29). The absence of leaven (yeast) in both the bread and the cup is spiritually significant: leaven symbolizes “malice and wickedness” (1 Cor 5:8)—qualities that can never be associated with the Lord. This is because Jesus was “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet 1:19; cf. Heb 9:14).

Q6 What is the nature of the bread and cup?

It is significant that when Jesus took the bread, He said, “This is My body” (Mt 26:26), and when He took the cup, He said, “This is My blood” (Mt 26:28). From these words, we understand that the bread and the cup cannot be regarded as mere symbols: after consecration, they become the body and blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and the word of the Lord.

Q7 What blessings are associated with the Holy Communion?

When we partake of the Holy Communion, we are assured of a number of blessings:

Communion with the Lord. Paul says, “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?” (1 Cor 10:16).

Spiritual life.  Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53); “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). 

Fellowship. Paul says, “For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Cor 10:17); “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Rom 12:5).

Resurrection on the last day.  Jesus says, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:54). When we partake of the Holy Communion, we have the hope that we will be raised up on the last day with a glorious spiritual body, to be like the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 15:42–53; Phil 3:20–21).

Q8 What is the significance of the Holy Communion?

The Holy Communion enables us to:

Remember the Lord’s death.  Jesus says, “Take eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor 11:24);  “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor 11:25). In our lives, we should always be mindful of the Lord’s grace,  and the Holy Communion offers us a regular opportunity for reflection. By observing it, we allow God’s love to touch us continually.  In this way, we can become like Paul, who was able to say, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

Proclaim the Lord’s death. Paul says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Cor 11:26). Jesus died for the sins of mankind. By keeping the Holy Communion, we are declaring to everyone their need to believe in Jesus, to be reconciled to God and to be saved by the life of Christ (Rom 5:10).

Keep our covenant with God. Jesus says, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Lk 22:20). God had previously made a covenant with the ancient Israelites, but they failed to honour it, with the result that He disregarded them (Heb 8:9). However, God spoke of a new covenant through which He would take away man’s sin (Rom 11:27). This covenant was later established though the blood of Jesus Christ. Today, we can enter into it through water baptism. Thereafter, we have a duty to keep the covenant faithfully: if we sin again wilfully, we will be despising the blood of Jesus that has sanctified us (Heb 10:26, 29).

Anticipate the Lord’s second coming. When we partake of the Holy Communion, we are anticipating His second coming (1 Cor 11:26). Jesus says, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Mt 26:29). These words encourage us to remain alert and to prepare for that day.

Q9 Are there prescribed times for holding it? 

Many denominations have a tradition of holding the Holy Communion specifically on Sundays and also during their Easter season. However, this is not taught in the Bible; it simply states that we should hold this sacrament on a regular basis: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Cor 11:26).

Q10 Does the “breaking of bread” recorded in Acts 2:42 refer to the Holy Communion?

In the Bible,  the “breaking of bread” refers to two things, depending on the context: a fellowship meal and the Holy Communion. Examples of those contexts that indicate a fellowship meal include the Lord’s breaking of bread with two believers in Emmaus (Lk 24:28–31); the early Christians breaking bread from house to house (Acts 2:46–47); Paul breaking bread with the believers in Troas (Acts 20:7); Paul breaking bread with his travelling companions during a storm at sea (Acts 27:35–36). 

However, there is good reason to believe that the breaking of bread mentioned in Acts 2:42 refers to the Holy Communion. It reads: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship,  in the breaking of bread,  and in prayers.”  Here, the specific context is the religious life of the early Christians: the breaking of bread is mentioned alongside other matters directly relating to their faith—keeping the teachings of the apostles, fellowship and prayer.

Putting matters of context aside, the important point to note is that the early Christians “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine”,  which would have included the commandment to observe the Holy Communion (Lk 22:19;  1 Cor 11:23–26). Hence,  when Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about the Holy Communion, he addressed them in a manner that indicated their familiarity with the sacrament (1 Cor 10:16–17; 11:17–34).   

Q11 Who can partake of the Holy Communion?

The Holy Communion is no ordinary meal. It is a communion or fellowship with the Lord (1 Cor 10:16) and between the believers: “For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Cor 10:17). Therefore, only those who have entered into the body of Christ through water baptism (1 Cor 12:13) can partake of it—in the same way that only circumcised Israelites were allowed to eat of the Passover meal (Ex 12:43). 

Paul teaches us to examine ourselves before we partake of the Holy Communion, lest we be found unworthy and judged for “not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Cor 11:27–29). He warns us of the possible consequences, which are sickness and even death (1 Cor 11:30). For this reason, anyone who has committed a mortal sin—a sin that cannot be forgiven (1 Jn 5:16)—should refrain from it.  

Q12 With what attitude should we partake of it?

The bread and cup are holy. Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body of Christ will be judged (1 Cor 11:29–30). Therefore, we need to adopt the right attitude, which entails that we:

Uphold the truth. We do this by accepting the Bible’s teaching concerning the Holy Communion—to understand that it is a holy sacrament through which we commemorate and proclaim the Lord’s death (1 Cor 11:24–26) and receive His spiritual life (Jn 6:54). We should partake of it in recognition of the truth, lest we “be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27).

Examine ourselves. Before partaking of the Holy Communion, we should examine ourselves to determine whether we have a clear conscience (1 Cor 11:28). Elder John says, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (1 Jn 3:21).

Discern the body and blood of Christ. We need to understand that we are partaking of the body and blood of Jesus: “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Cor 11:29).

Q13 How should we give thanks for the grace of the Lord?

After partaking of the Holy Communion, we should show our gratitude by keeping the Lord’s commandments, living holy lives and serving Him. We can also learn from the words of Paul:

            For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

            Romans 14:7–9


© 2012 True Jesus Church.

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