There is a considerable amount of confusion surrounding Communion (a.k.a., the Lord’s Supper). It is often misunderstood, and even more often under-understood. Therefore, this is the fourth post of a series answering some questions that I have been asked about Communion. It is my prayerful hope that these blog posts will be beneficial for you by answering nagging questions you might have, by helping you to think more clearly and deeply about this special gift from God to us which we partake of every week, by perhaps correcting some of your faulty thinking with regards to Communion and even the gospel itself, and by enriching your understanding of and appreciation for the unmatched love of God for you in Christ.
Why do we receive Communion the way we do?
The Many Ways
Jesus gave us a clear command in instituting His Supper. But He chose, in His perfect wisdom, not to give us many detailed instructions as to the precise way of partaking of it. While there certainly would be wrong ways and less-than-helpful ways, there is no one way to serve and partake of Communion. Many churches do it by passing a plate of bread or crackers and a plate of little cups of juice or wine. Some churches have people come up front to be served. Others have people come up front to tear off a piece of bread and to dip it into the juice. And more. While one or more practices may be most common for us, at PRC, we have used a variety of methods and will continue to do so in the future. Why? Because we believe that they each teach something different.
The Many Emphases
The passing of plates allows everyone to partake of the bread and juice at the same time, signifying and emphasizing the community we have in Christ (I Corinthians 10:17; 11:17-34).
The serving of it by others up front emphasizes the fact that Christ came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).
The tearing off of the bread and dipping it into the juice emphasizes the reality of His flesh being torn and covered in His own blood for us who believe. And, further, it points to the breaking of the bread (Mark 14:22) and the “one” bread from which many are receiving (I Corinthians 10:17).
Going up front to pick up your Communion bread and juice can emphasize the necessary response to Jesus calling us to come to Him by faith (Matthew 16:24; 22:4; John 5:37-43; 6:37, 44-45, 63-68). It also allows time before partaking of the Communion Meal for families to pray together and for parents to briefly explain Communion to their children (who are spectators to all of this) (Deut. 6:4-9; Ps. 78:4, 6; Eph. 6:4b).