Looking for Grace in Communion
January 13, 2017 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
The elders of Oak Hills have decided to transition our observance of the Lord’s Supper from a monthly occurrence to a weekly occurrence. The ultimate reason behind this decision is our understanding of the meaning and significance of this meal. We understand that some may have questions and even concerns about this change. I plan to use the next few weeks of Touchpoint articles to unpack our reasoning behind the switch and try to address some of the common questions. We will also provide a time to ask questions at our annual congregational meeting on January 29.
Most conservative Bible students and scholars would agree that the New Testament is silent about how frequent the Church ought to observe communion. Jesus never commands “do this” weekly, or monthly, or quarterly, or annually. So how are we to decide how frequent to partake in communion? We believe the meaning and significance of the meal would encourage a regular and frequent observance.
Our Confession of Faith succinctly states the meaning of communion:
Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein he was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood, called the Lord’s Supper, to be observed in his church, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death; the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto him; and, to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other, as members of his mystical body. (WCF 29:1)
Let me highlight three points from this statement:
1. Communion is a perpetual remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice. We are prone to wander and forget. One of the chief charges God has against his people in the Old Testament is that they forgot him and all that he had done for them. Why else would they chase after idols? God, in his grace, has instituted a tangible, physical activity to help us remember how sinful and needy we are and how sufficient and gracious Christ’s provision is. Yes, we hear reminders of this in the Word preached (if the Word is faithfully preached). But God chose to give an additional means of this grace that engages our senses of touch, taste, smell, and sight. God knows we need perpetual reminders of his grace.
2. Communion is a seal of all the benefits we receive from Christ’s death. Have you ever wrestled with doubt? Could God really forgive you? Could you really grow in holiness? Could God truly accept you as a beloved child? Most of us, if not all of us, struggle with real doubts. Do these make us lesser Christians, or, maybe, even threaten our security and assurance? No! Our salvation rests in Christ’s complete work alone. Even if our faith is like shifting sand, we rest in and are secure in grace alone. Communion is a seal and assurance of that grace for us. As the Heidelberg Catechism teaches, “as certainly as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me, and the cup communicated to me…his body was offered and broken on the cross for me and his blood shed for me” (Q/A 75). Communion is an assurance from God of his spiritual nourishment and care for us.
3. Communion is a bond and pledge of our communion with Christ. This statement encapsulates what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:16, “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?” Christ is not physically present with us. We cannot see the Holy Spirit. The bread and the cup we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands and taste with our tongues is a bond and pledge of Christ’s spiritual presence and fellowship with us. We hear Christ’s promise in Matthew 28:20, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” In communion with have physical elements that serve as a pledge of that promise.
The elders have come to believe that if God has provided such a significant means of grace for us through communion, why wouldn’t we want to partake in it more frequently? More can and needs to be addressed with this change for our church. I’ll come back to this next week.