“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:26-29).
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “communion” as a group of people sharing the same religious faith; a sharing in or celebrating of the Eucharist or Holy Communion. The word “communion” also carries with it the connotation of fellowship. Therefore, in partaking of the communion service, one does so as an act of fellowship with the other saints of God. The New Testament fellowship actually means that all those who partake of the Lord’s table are walking in the same light of the Word of God. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). This is true fellowship or communion. Metaphorically, we are partaking of the Lord’s body as we observe this ordinance; we are in fellowship with Him.
A Time of Self-Examination
The Communion service must be partaken of with the same sacredness as was intended by Jesus when He instituted the ordinance. Therefore, much soul-searching and reverence should be exhibited before a person partakes of the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine which is grape juice. Examination of one’s personal life must be exercised before he partakes of the Lord’s Supper, lest he be found in the state of condemnation before a holy God. The lives of every participant must be fashioned by the Word of God. The apostle in 1 Peter 4:17 states, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”
“Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:27-31).
The word “unworthily” means irreverently. People who have no sense of godly reverence will partake of the Holy Communion with no respect for the cruel punishment and death that Jesus underwent to purchase salvation for mankind. By partaking in such an irreverent manner, it would be as though they, themselves, had crucified Jesus or given their consent for His death. They would be condemned with those who actually crucified the Saviour.
Criteria for Participation
“For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 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. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? what shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not”(1 Corinthians 11:18-22).
Paul, in the first letter to the Church at Corinth, details the criteria for participating in the communion service. Anyone who causes divisions within the Church should refrain from partaking in communion (verse 18), and heretics should not participate (verse 19). Verses twenty through twenty-two admonish participants not to make the Lord’s Supper a social feast. There should be no greed in the members’ and ministers’ lives (verse 22) nor should there be an intemperance or drunkenness (verses 21 and 22). Those who are known to despise the Church – the government, doctrine, and other practices – are cautioned not to participate in the service. Less fortunate members should not be despised or disallowed from participating in the fellowship (verse 22).
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