The Holy Communion Sacrament—What Is It All About?
FF Chong—London, U.K.
A sacrament is defined as follows:
it is a practice instituted by the Lord Jesus
it is directly related to receiving salvation;
Jesus explicitly commanded His disciples to
The True Jesus Church has three
sacraments, and these are entirely based on the teachings of Christ and the
apostles. The Holy Communion is one of these.
There are two parts to this
sacrament. Paul referred to the cup as "the communion of the blood of
Christ" and the bread as "the communion of the body of Christ"
(1 Cor 10:16). The Greek word for communion has the meaning of "having fellowship,
participating, and sharing." The use of the term − the Lord's Supper − to refer to
the Holy Communion is found only in 1 Corinthians 11:20. Other terms are the Lord's Table (from 1 Cor 10:21), and
the Eucharist (from the Greek word
for "giving thanks"; Lk 22:17, 19; 1 Cor 11:24). Some believe that the
expression “breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11) probably refers to
receiving the Lord's Supper with a common meal known as the Love Feast (2 Pet
2:13; Jude 12).
The institution of the Lord's
Supper (Mt 26:17–30; Mk 14:12–26; Lk 22:1–23; 1 Cor 11:23–25) took place on the
night before Jesus died, at a meal commonly known as the Last Supper. Some have
suggested that the Last Supper may have been the Jewish Passover meal, first
instituted by God in the days of Moses (Ex 12:1–14; Num 9:1–5), although there
continues to be considerable debate over this. What is indisputable, however,
is that the Lord’s Supper was instituted at the time of the Passover feast (Lk
Jesus is the Paschal Lamb (1 Cor
5:7). Instituting the Holy Communion during the Passover feast typifies the
suffering and death of Jesus. The slaughter of a lamb on the Passover was
intended to save God’s people from being killed together with the Egyptian firstborn.
The angel of destruction passed over all the blood-marked houses. Peace,
protection, and redemption were thus produced by the sacrifice of the lamb. Analogously,
Jesus’ death frees us from the snare of death.
THE BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS
Jesus’ words about the Holy
Communion, recorded in the three Gospels, put beyond any shadow of doubt that the
bread and cup are truly His body and His blood (Mt 26:26–29; Mk 14:22–24; Lk
22:19–20). Paul confirmed that he directly received the teachings on the Holy
Communion from the Lord (1 Cor 11:23). What he shared with the church in
Corinth was basically a reiteration of Christ’s teachings on the Holy Communion
(1 Cor 11:24–25). Hence, the words of Christ and the teaching of Paul were
completely consistent with one another.
In other words, it was never a
problem for the Gospel writers and the apostles to understand exactly what
Jesus taught. However, after the turn of the first century, especially after
the demise of all the apostles, the church began to have deep problems understanding
the truth on the Holy Communion. With the departure of the Spirit from the
church, different schools of thoughts rapidly sprang up, producing complex
explanations, which obscured the essence of the Lord’s teachings. These varying
concepts include Transubstantiation
Transubstantiation, a concept used
in Roman Catholic theology, is the change of “bread and wine,” in substance,
into the flesh and blood of Christ, even though the elements appear to remain
the same. Consubstantiation was the concept developed by Martin Luther who
believed that Christ's body and blood are truly present "in, with, and
under" the bread and wine. However, the elements do not actually change
into Christ's body and blood.
So, how do we explain the mystery
of the Holy Communion? Physically and visibly, the bread and cup (juice) remain
unchanged after the consecration. But in the Spirit, the bread and juice are respectively
the body and the blood of Jesus. The key difference between the True Jesus
Church’s view and those of others stems from the understanding of the work of
the Holy Spirit: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.
The word that I speak to you is “Spirit and life” (Jn 6:63). In the True Jesus
Church’s view, it is the Spirit that makes the difference—without the presence
of the Spirit, no transformation would occur; and it is in the Spirit, that
these ordinary elements become the body and blood of Christ.
When we believe and follow exactly
what the Bible teaches, we allow the Spirit to work; He thus gives us spiritual
life through our physical participation in the Holy Communion. This can be
further explained by using the example of baptism. During baptism, the water
remains physically as water. However, with the presence of the Holy Spirit, when
the baptismal mode is adhered to, blood in the water is availed for the
forgiveness of sins. It is the abiding presence of the Spirit that transforms
sacraments, achieving the necessary spiritual effects when these sacraments are
performed physically in strict adherence to the teachings of the Bible.
PARTAKING OF THE FLESH AND BLOOD OF JESUS
After conversion, we are given a
new lease of life. By partaking of the body and blood of Christ, this life
grows unto eternity. However, the extension from temporal to eternal is only made
possible by the working of the Spirit.
Critically, we must respond to the
Spirit’s work by keeping ourselves holy in the Lord while waiting for His
second coming. Doing this extends our life after physical death. Remaining in
the Lord with the help of His Spirit, we will be raised on the last day to
receive eternal life (Jn 6:53–57, 61–63). This is why Jesus says, whoever eats
His flesh and drinks His blood shall have eternal life (Jn 6:54).
Partaking of the Holy Communion also
enables us to abide in the Lord—“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood
abides in Me and I in Him” (Jn 6:56). There are three parts to this
The Bible tells us that Jesus has
given us His life. In reality, this act of giving is achieved by the Spirit when
we partake of His flesh and blood. The inseparable relationship that we have with
Christ is reflected in the life we now live; our life is the very life of
Christ and is Christ Himself.
By partaking of the Holy
Communion, we feed on Jesus. We live His life because He is alive in us (Jn
6:57–58). Through the incessant work of the Spirit in us, our lives are constantly
energized and sustained by keeping the word in our hearts.
Partaking of the Holy Communion
is, on our part, a conscious choice to abide in Him. Remaining in Him requires
us to keep the truth, which then enhances the abiding presence of the Spirit in
our life (Jn 15:7). Essentially, practicing the word in all conceivable aspects
of life is to imitate the life that Christ lived while He was in this world.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HOLY COMMUNION
The Holy Communion is a constant
reminder of the death of Christ. There are two key aspects that we must
remember. One is the great love of Christ demonstrated by His unconditional sacrifice
of His life (Rom 5:6–11). It was no mere physical death that He suffered (Mt
10:28; Lk 12:49–50; Mt 16:21; Jn 12:23–25; Heb 10:5; Mt 20:28). Instead, it involved
the excruciating experience of being deserted by God while shouldering the sins
of humanity (Heb 2:9). Such saving love is beyond anyone’s ability to repay.
The second aspect concerns how—knowing
that He has so willingly died for our sins—we should always live for Him and
not for ourselves. The knowledge of His unconditional sacrifice should be an
internal geyser, propelling those who truly fear and resolutely remain in Him
to faithfully serve Him in the way He wants us to. Like Paul (cf. Gal 2:20–21),
by partaking of the Holy Communion in truth and in Spirit, we are invigorated and
more motivated than before to better ourselves to fulfill the divine purpose
that He has for us and His church.
So, what exactly is that purpose? In
his message to the church in Corinth, Paul declares succinctly and powerfully: “We
proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Cor 11:26). The most direct and
important message from this timeless reminder is our commission to reach out to
the unbelieving world. Evangelism must always remain the top priority on the
long list of church work. Nothing can or should ever replace it. In all
circumstances, the church must remain focused on spreading the complete gospel of
salvation entrusted to her.
WHO ARE NOT ALLOWED TO PARTAKE?
The Holy Communion after
consecration is the body and the blood of Christ. The sanctified bread is the
body (1 Cor 11:24) in the Spirit. The body of Christ is the church. This fact naturally
disqualifies those who are not baptized from sharing the bread since they are
not members of the body of Christ. Jesus also says that the cup is the New
Covenant in His blood (1 Cor 11:25), which He has shed for the forgiveness of
sins (Mt 26:28). For a non-baptized person, his sins are not forgiven, which
makes it unacceptable for him to partake of the Holy Communion.
In addition, partaking of the Holy
Communion imparts eternal life (Jn 6:54), which is only possible once we have been
made alive with Christ. When a person undergoes a correctly-performed baptism, with
the presence of the Spirit, he is raised from spiritual death (Rom 6:3–5; 8:11).
In the light of Christ’s sacrificial work, it would thus be inconsistent to permit
a person who is not baptized to partake of the Holy Communion, since he has not
even chosen to be in Christ by accepting the one correct baptism.
Solemnity is the most appropriate
tone for sacraments, especially one in which the great sacrifice of Christ is
commemorated. Those who partake of the Holy Communion are asked to examine
themselves—another indication that the Holy Communion cannot be partaken in a casual
or flippant way. According to the teaching of Paul, anyone who partakes of the
Holy Communion in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of
the Lord (1 Cor 11:27). Prior to partaking, forgiveness of sins is to be sought
to ensure the wrath of God will not be poured upon us. The telling examples in
Corinth serve as a stern warning—some became sick and even died because they
took the Holy Communion lightly (1 Cor 11:30).
Based on Paul’s above teaching, it
is biblically sound to forbid those who have committed mortal sins from taking the
Holy Communion. A person who has committed a mortal sin has cut himself off
from the life of Christ and from His body, the church. Would it be right for
one who has chosen to turn his back on Christ to partake of the body and blood
of Christ? Doing so would be tantamount to treating the body and blood of
Christ as common (cf. Heb 10:29) and not giving due reverence to Christ’s
sacrifice. This would be a profanity in the eyes of God.
The partaking of the Holy
Communion goes beyond the physicality of the ritual. We partake of the flesh
and blood of Christ in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. The life
imparted in partaking of the Holy Communion is eternal and only given to those
within the church. Those who are joined to the body of Christ through baptism
(1 Cor 12:12; Gal 3:27) are raised from spiritual death. They have been
transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of light and are completely
liberated from the inextricable grip of sin. They are thus eligible to share in
the life of Christ by partaking of the Holy Communion.
As partakers, we should not only
reciprocate Jesus’ love with thanksgiving. Since we have been delivered from
destruction, our span of life on earth must always reflect God’s purpose for
individuals and the church as a whole. This means that, on a personal level,
the will to live for God in holiness and the commitment to serve faithfully should
always be our chief priority. On a collective front, the church has been commissioned
to preach the gospel to every nook and corner of the world in all
circumstances. Summoning every ounce of strength to do this work well is
perhaps the least the church can do to repay the immeasurable love of Christ.