DEVOTION – THE LORD’S SUPPER
The Eucharist, Breaking Bread, Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper—this sacrament has many names and, unfortunately, many misconceptions concerning it. We ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to His Word as we revisit this gracious gift of our Savior.
At the outset we wish to establish that this precious meal is a sacrament; that is, a sacred act graciously given us by our God. Holy Communion does fulfill the three prerequisites for the traditional definition of a sacrament. Firstly, it is divinely instituted—Jesus Himself gave us the practice on the night He was betrayed. Secondly, the Sacrament gives or conveys the forgiveness of sins, and finally the meal contains earthly elements, namely the bread and wine.
A very special bond
One of the first misconceptions about the Lord’s Supper is that receiving it is a good work on our part. Receiving Communion is not doing God a favor, nor is it gaining favor with Him. Rather, our Savior provided this meal as a remembrance of His sacrifice for our sins (“Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19) as well as giving us a means to be joined with Him in a very special bond.
Many denominations view the Lord’s Supper as a memorial and leave it at that. These churches erroneously teach that the bread and wine in the sacrament merely represent the body and blood of Jesus. The Roman Catholic teaching swings in the other direction, stating that the bread and wine are completely transformed into the body and blood of Christ. This teaching of transubstantiation goes beyond what the Scriptures teach. The evangelical Lutheran church has always stood firmly on the words of Christ Himself, “Take, eat; this is My body. . . .This is My blood of the new covenant.” (Mark 14:22-24) Jesus said, “This is my body,” not this will become, nor this stands for, but rather, this is. Luther insisted on this simple word, IS.
In 1 Corinthians Paul emphasizes this teaching of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in Communion. “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. . . . For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (11:27-29) For this reason Paul encourages the Christian to “examine himself” so as to take the sacrament in a worthy manner.
Such self-examination may follow in this manner:
First, we recognize that we are unworthy to receive this gift of Communion or any blessings from our Lord, for we daily sin much. Second, we confess our belief that Jesus Christ is the only one Who can give us forgiveness for our sins. Third, we recognize that Jesus gives us His body and blood with the bread and wine in this sacrament. A Christian thus armed is worthy to partake of the Lord’s Supper confidently and joyfully answering His Savior’s invitation, “Take, eat; this is given for you. Drink of it; this is shed for you.”
A good reason for us to use the term Communion for this sacrament is the fact that it contains three communions (joinings together) that bless us. First, we see the communion of the Lord’s body and blood that we receive with the bread and wine. Second, we are also blessed with a communion with our Father in heaven. The peace between God and man which only comes through the forgiveness of sins is ours in this meal. And finally, let us not forget the communion we share with our fellow believers; we are one in the body of Christ, until that day when we are ushered into His presence perfectly united for eternity.
May the Lord bless your reception of His holy Sacrament always!
David W. Bernthal is a retired teacher. He is a member of Luther Memorial School in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.