10 Lessons on the Lutheran Faith

Lesson 10:  Holy Communion

a resource from www.lutheran-resources.org

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Lesson 10

 


Getting Started
 


 Why do you think Christians want to go to the Lordís Supper?

Why do you think some Christians do not believe in the true presence in the sacrament?
 


The Bible Teaches
 

Much debate rages in the Christian church, about just what is the Lordís Supper. We learn from Jesus and St. Paul what this supper is.
 

  • NAB Luke 22:19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
  • NAB 1 Corinthians 11:27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.

We see that the Lord Supper:

    • Has bread and wine
       
    • Is the true body and blood of Christ
       
    • Is given to us for the forgiveness of sins.
       
    • Must be received with faith as to what it is and faith in Jesus otherwise we sin against the body and blood of Christ.

Can we be sure that this is the true body and blood of Christ and not just a symbol. 1 Corinthians 11:27 {above demonstrates so} as does 1 Corinthians 10:16.

  • NAB 1 Corinthians 10:16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?

Our God is a good and gracious God. It is His desire to pour out His mercy upon us to wash away our sins.

  • NAB John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

By placing all our teachings in relationship to this revelation that our God is a God of mercy and grace through Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection, we can receive a proper understanding of all the teachings of the Bible including the Lordís Supper. We learn then that the Lordís Supper is one of the ways that Jesus distributes the forgiveness He wins for us on the cross.
 
 

  • NAB Matthew 26:28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

With the forgiveness of sins come the gifts of eternal life, salvation, and strength for new healthy and holy living here in this lifetime.

  • NAB 2 Corinthians 5:15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
  • NAB Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

St. Paul tells us that we are to prepare for receiving the Lordís Supper.

  • NAB 1 Corinthians 11:28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

To properly receive the mercy of Jesus given to us through the Lordís Supper, we should be repentant of our sins, have faith in Christís gift of dying for the forgiveness of our sins, and as a result of His gift, have the desire to amend our lives.

  • NAB Psalm 38:18 For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin.
  • NAB 2 Corinthians 13:5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you -- unless indeed you fail the test?
  • NAB Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

There are essentially three ways of viewing the Lordís Supper in Christianity.

We have already discussed the Lutheran view, that the Lordís Supper is the true body and blood of Christ with the bread and wine to give the forgiveness of sins.

The Catholics view the sacrament as a source of grace, but not complete forgiveness, but more as a partial boost of strength to which we must complete. They also believe that the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ so that the bread and wine are no longer present.
 

Other church bodies follow the teaching of Zwingli and Calvin  who said that the finite is not capable of the infinite. As such he taught that the true body and blood of Christ could not be in the sacrament, therefore it must just be a symbol. It is only bread and wine which symbolizes for us the death of Jesus for our sins. Instead of being a source of grace it becomes a function to perform as an act of obedience.  Others believe Jesus is present spiritually, as He is always, but not physically. 

Because such differences exist in Christendom we follow St. Paulís direction in our relationships with other church bodies.  We understand Paul to prohibit a proclamation of unity where disunity actually exists. 

  • NAB Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
  • NAB Romans 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.

We learn from Paulís teaching on the Lordís Supper that more is going on at the Lordís Table than merely receiving forgiveness of our sins. The has a two-fold consequence.  Through the forgiveness of sins offered in the real presence, our vertical relationship with God is restored and strengthened.  But also, our horizontal relationships with others are being restored and strengthened. 

  • NAB 1 Corinthians 10:16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.

When we go to the Lordís Table, we receive His body and blood which unite us with God and with others. But false teaching separates us. It breaks the unity that God desires to make with His Supper. Where there is supposed to be a common confession and a genuine unity, through disagreements on Biblical teachings we actually have disunity.  As such we should not commune together when we have a disagreement on Biblical understandings.

This is what moves Paul to make such a point about communion in 1 Corinthians Ch.11

The problem in the church of Corinth in Chapter 11 is differences and divisions. Because of this they are sinning against what Jesus is doing with the Lordís Supper.

  • NAB 1 Corinthians 11:17 But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. 20 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper,

Paul shows us this is a most serious matter.

  • NAB 1 Corinthians 11:27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.

 
In recognition of these concerns the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synods practices close{d} communion. This practice recognizes the importance of comprehension, confession, and belief in regards to partaking of the Lord's Supper.  This practice also recognizes the communion is a making of a public statement of faith and agreement with the teachings of the church that is sponsoring the communion service.  This means that normally only those who hold to the beliefs shared by the LCMS  commune in LCMS churches and that we commune ourselves only at LCMS altars.  Members in good standing with a LCMS congregation or a church in fellowship with the LCMS are readily admitted.  Others are asked to visit with the pastor so that they can receive instruction before communion.  It is the desire of this practice that all can commune in good conscience, fully aware of what they shall receive, and ready to proclaim a public confession in unity with the altar and people with whom they are communing.  This policy also recognizes there will be circumstances when emergencies or the need for extraordinary pastoral care will arise.  Pastors of the LCMS may make allowances in such circumstances for the goal is always the best spiritual care for the individual possible.  

To learn more about communion please read: 

The Sacrament of the Altar    and    Fellowship in the Lord's Supper

 

 
  copyright Rev. David D. Reedy, 1999-2005