What Does the Bible Say About Communion?
For some churches, communion is an occasional part of the church service meant to simply help those who partake remember what Christ did through His death on the cross. For others, it is a deeply meaningful aspect of every worship service, which allows the communion of those who partake with Christ and the saints in remembering His death and resurrection.
No matter what the specific practice of your church in regards to communion, it can be easy to lose the Biblical significance of this act if it simply becomes a routine.
Communion should not be simply a routine or ritual, but instead a celebration of a person: Jesus our Savior!
Let’s look at three helpful, biblical guidelines for understanding communion that can help you understand and also teach your children about the practice of communion in your own church, resulting in a deeper appreciation and more worshipful experience the next time you take the body and blood of Christ in communion.
What Does the Bible Say About Communion?
The Bible gives us a model for practicing communion.
“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way, after supper, He also took the cup and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:24-26 ESV
In the upper room, Jesus broke bread with His disciples and established a special way for them to remember Him. More than 2000 years later, we have the privilege of doing the exact same thing with our fellow Christians!
Specifically, we use a cup with either wine or grape juice and either wafers or unleavened bread in the communion service.
These items are a visible representation of Jesus’ body broken for us on the cross and His blood, “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28 ESV
The next Sunday you take communion, or maybe even the night before, take a moment to talk with your kids about the visual reminders that the bread and juice or wine provide for us, to help us take to heart again the sacrifice and great love of Christ for all of us. This is great even if your kids are not yet old enough to take communion. I know my two youngest are still in awe of that part of our service and love to observe it happening. Why not help them connect the physical act of taking communion with the deep meaning of the words that Christ first spoke during the Last Supper?
The Bible uses specific words to helps us understand the significance of communion.
This goes a little deep, but stay with me! It’s really meaningful.
When Jewish people would read Paul’s words in the New Testament about communion, it would help them connect its significance to their Old Testament practices as they waited for the Messiah. It can also help us understand those practices!
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” 1 Corinthians 10:16 ESV
John Gill’s commentary on the Bible says that the cup in these verses is called “the cup of blessing” in reference to the cup of wine used at common meals or at Passover among the Jews, which they used to take and bless and thank God with, and commonly called by the same name.
The breaking of bread in New Testament times was done as an act of thankfulness, and as a sign that we are all part of one body, through the death and resurrection of Christ.
Breaking of bread was meaningful to the Israelites in Bible times as well. During mealtimes, someone would literally “break the bread” while saying a blessing over the meal. There was also a special piece of bread used to “break the bread” during the Passover meal. Jesus is the Passover Lamb, and He helped His disciples to understand this by breaking the special piece of bread during the Last Supper.
How does this apply to our lives today? In communion, we are giving thanks and praise to God for His Son by breaking bread in thanksgiving and sharing a cup as we bless God’s name! Communion always points us back to Christ. When we belong to Jesus, we are united with all other believers around the world in a special way as we “break the bread” at communion. What an amazing thing to think about!
This is why some churches call communion service the Eucharist: the word literally means “having given thanks”!
The Bible encourages us to go to communion in the right spirit.
“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” 1 Corinthians 11:28 ESV
When Paul wrote this, he was addressing the disagreements that had come up in the Corinthian church. He didn’t want people sharing the Lord’s Supper with anger in their hearts toward each other. Just like in New Testament times, God calls us to come to communion with a heart that is repentant and desires to be right with God and all the people in our lives.
Does this mean we need to be a perfect person to go to communion? No! In fact, communion reminds us of the forgiveness we experience through Christ. But Paul urges us to “examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28 NLT), so that we are going to communion with a humble heart and not just “pretending” to be right with God.
The next time your church celebrates the Lord’s Supper, take a few minutes to think through the biblical meaning of this beautiful and unique part of your worship service.