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What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself. Where is this written? The holy Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul, write thus: Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Take, drink ye all of it. This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. What is the benefit of such eating and drinking? That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? It is not the eating and drinking, that does them, but the words which stand here, namely: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins. Which words are, beside the bodily eating and drinking, as the chief thing in the Sacrament; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins.
The word "communion" can carry a range of meanings. Its common application is the Lord's Table. It can also refer to the fellowship of believers in which case it signifies the spiritual intimacy that believers share by reason of our common heritage as members of God's household (John 1:12). This is the communion of saints of which saints of all church ages are partakers. The writer of Hebrews speaks of brotherly love (Hebrews 13:1). Communion may also be expressed by the unity of the members of the Holy Trinity. This is divine communion which is exclusive to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus stated in that "I and my Father are One." By this Jesus defined not only the unity of the Godhead but also underscored the special communion that He enjoyed with His Father. Communion is the celebration of the unity of the Body of Christ. One of the defining marks of communion is the partaking of the Lords Table. The believers celebrate this event not only in honor of Christ but an expression of the unity in Him. Water baptism is also an expression of the communion of the church. We are all baptized into Christ and in Him do we find individual and collective expression of our faith. It is the evidence of our belonging to Christ and that the world and its allures are now being behind us. Finally our baptism in the Holy Spirit seals our redemption and unifies us In Christ. The Spirit is the agent of our communion. He unites and edifes the church and unites us in love.
The purpose of the Lord's Super is for the Christian to meditate on the Lord's suffering on the cross. In the early days of the church Christians met on the first day of every week for that purpose. "And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me" (1 Cor. 11:24-25). In fact, the only place in the Bible where we are told why Christians met for worship on the first day of the week was in Acts 20, verse 7. "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." That purpose for the Lord's Day meeting in mentioned again indirectly in 1 Cor 11:20-21. "When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken." This suggests they were not coming together for the Lord's Supper as they should have done. Instead they were coming together for a common meal.
The second part of communion is the part I'd like to talk about. The cup in the Lord’s Supper serves as 2 reminders: We are to look back to the shed blood of Christ and forward to the Lord’s second coming. In other words, for all Christians, there will be a last sharing of the bread and the cup on this side of eternity. When they meet once again, they will be in Christ’s presence and celebrate once again. At the close of communion, the members of a small church in Wisconsin (where I'm from) raise their cups in anticipation and say, “Next time." Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:26, "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come." What the Wisconsin church meant by their special tradition at the close of their communion services (for a number of years now) is adapted from an ancient Jewish closing of the Passover meal. Since it is the hope of every devout Jew to celebrate the Passover at least once in David’s city, the Jewish custom is to end the meal with a toast. Passover participants raise the cup and say, “Next year, in Jerusalem!” (I heard this a lot when I was in the Holy Land as a visiting pastor).
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