Communion is defined as sharing; intimate fellowship or rapport (Merriam-Webster).
What do Christians so intimately share and why? What you’ll discover is that our communion ritual has its beginnings in God’s covenant with Israel and the Passover celebration – something we’re certainly encouraged to participate in.
In fact, Jesus was celebrating the Passover Seder when He announced that His body would be broken and His blood shed for a new covenant with God. Jesus then encouraged His disciples to remember His coming sacrifice whenever they partook of the Passover elements – probably because of their fulfillment with His coming, death, resurrection, and salvation.
The Passover flat bread and lamb’s blood had significance then . . . and now. Let’s take a quick look at the communion components before discussing how they’ve been used to represent God’s actions and fulfillment of fulfillment of His words through the prophets:
- The bread: from the Passover, and as our ‘bread of life’ – Jesus.
- The wine: blood the Passover Lamb and Jesus shed for salvation.
Old Covenant/Passover fulfillment:
- The bread – matzo – had no yeast and represented the urgent departure of the Israelites from Egypt. Its holes and stripes represent OT prophecies about the piercing and beatings our Christ would endure (Isaiah 53:3-5).
- The wine represented the blood of the old covenant between God and Israel. Today, Jews celebrate the Passover with a Seder meal that includes matzo and four cups of wine: Sanctification, Deliverance, Redemption/Blessing (1Corinthians 10:16-17), and Hope – usually associated with the return of Elijah.
New Covenant fulfillment:
- The bread represents the ‘bread of life’ (Jesus) broken for us to offer salvation from God’s judgment to the world (John 6:35-58). The matzo bread was broken and hidden in a specific manner during the Passover celebration. Jesus did this and made His comments about being broken for the forgiveness of sins while conducting the Seder. God asked Him to do this and He accepted the assignment: inhabit a human form, live a perfect life as a blemish-free sacrificial lamb, and then be sacrificed at the exact time the Passover lambs were to be sacrificed.
- The wine represents the blood Jesus shed for salvation as our ‘Passover Lamb’ (Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Corinthians 5:7). It is the Seder Cup of Blessing and the covenant cup (like in a traditional Jewish wedding). One of the many prophecies and ‘dress rehearsals’ Jesus fulfilled (and is still fulfilling) was that of a traditional Jewish bridegroom. Let’s look at these things in greater detail.
Wedding – Covenant – fulfillment:
God called Israel His ‘bride’. We are called the ‘Bride of Christ’ because He and we have been fulfilling the marriage covenant since Jesus’ time on earth. No other relationship between humans should be as close as that of a husband and wife, so the comparison makes sense. Here are but a few steps that have, and will be, completed:
- Choosing of a bride: The father of a potential groom would search for a wife for his son. We have been selected as a pure bride for our Christ (2Corinthians 11:2).
- Contract (covenant) – first cup of wine (Matthew 26:27-28). When a suitable bride had been found, the two families would meet to discuss the potential union. If the young man and woman agreed, they would essentially say, “I will be yours if you will be mine!” This is akin to what God said to His bride, Israel. To cement the deal, the couple would drink from a cup of wine called the “cup of covenant”.
- Separation and the building of a home (John 14:2-3). After vows, the giving of gifts, and ceremonial bathing (like the baptism we experience), the couple would separate for a short time. The boy and his father would prepare a home for the couple. This betrothal separation would normally last a year in a traditional Jewish wedding process; however, we continue to wait. Why? Because God’s timing is His timing, and He’ll wait until the number of those who’ll accept His mercy has been met.
- Marriage and second cup timed by the groom’s father. This is also the final Seder cup and the second covenant cup in heaven: Matthew 26:28-29; the gathering for the marriage: Matthew 24:21-36; the marriage: Revelation 19:5-9). The father of the groom, at a time known only to him, would summon the groomsmen to announce that it was time for the marriage ceremony, which consisted of a supper and second cup of wine. The groomsmen made their announcement with shouts and trumpet calls.
We now understand that communion is a way of remembering the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf and reiterating our vow in the new covenant with God through Jesus. Should everyone take communion? No!
First, only those who have promised their lives to God and our Christ should consider engaging in the ritual.
Second, there are unsuitable ways to take communion (remember that drinking the cup of covenant serves as a reiteration of our vow to ‘be a faithful bride’ until our groom returns).
- With an impure heart (1Corinthians 11:23-28). Taking the cup during communion while practicing sinful behavior (akin to being an unfaithful bride) is a contradiction and a lie. This is why we must be careful!
- For the wrong reasons (1Corinthians 11:20-22). In this case, some of the people in Corinth were using the communion table for eating and drinking – even getting drunk! This was a total abuse of the ritual, which is meant to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and our covenant. It also reeked of gluttony . . .
In summary, Jesus’ sacrifice of flesh and blood mirrored the Passover Lamb of the old covenant with God and paved the way for the salvation of all mankind in a new one. Followers of the Christ remember His sacrifice and the new covenant (synonymous with a human marriage relationship) by taking symbolic bread and wine together.
Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!
And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!