Why We Do what we do
The aim of this document is to simply explain what we believe at Harvest Church about the topic of Communion. Our belief is based on our understanding and interpretation of the Bible.
Jesus instituted Communion and He encouraged His followers to continue taking Communion after His death and resurrection.
Links to the Old Testament
Matthew 26: 17-19 ‘On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?" He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.' "So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.’
There are links to two ceremonies in the account of the Lord’s Supper. It is important to look at both of these.
The first link is to the Passover. Jesus instructs His disciples to make preparations for the Passover celebration. The Passover was and still is for the Jews the celebration of Israel’s escape from Egypt and their slavery. In the book Exodus, the blood of the Passover lamb was painted on the doorframes. For those that were obedient and used the blood their first-born was spared from death. Jesus was demonstrating to His disciples and to us that He became the Passover lamb. On the cross, when His blood was spilt it would open the door to freedom. There was and is today an exchange for believers from slavery of sin and death for eternal life in God’s kingdom.
During the Jewish Passover meal wine is served 4 times. These are 4 expressions of redemption. 1. Sanctification 2. Judgment 3. Redemption 4. Cup of the Kingdom.
Although there is a strong link between what Christ accomplished on the cross and the Passover celebration. It is quiet clear Jesus does not tell us to continue with this Passover celebration. Neither do we read of the apostles telling the early church to continue with it.
The other link is a little less obvious. It is the link to the fellowship meal with God Himself. We can read of this in the Old Testament.
Exodus 24: 9-11 ‘Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.’
Deuteronomy 14: 23 ‘Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always.’
God’s desire is to dwell with His people, to be in fellowship with them. The Lord’s Supper not only reminds us of our forgiveness and freedom, it also reminds us that Almighty God wants to be close to His people. It also points to a greater fellowship meal to come. Jesus states that He won’t drink of this vine until He drinks it anew with us in the Father’s Kingdom.
Revelation 19: 9 ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the lamb.’
What a feast and celebration that will be.
The meaning of the Lord’s Supper
Matthew 26: 26-29 ‘While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."
The actual breaking of bread gives us a very clear visual image of Christ’s body being broken. He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, saying ‘This is my body’
It symbolizes Christ’s death. The also symbolizes His blood which was spilt when He was killed on the cross. Every time we eat the bread and drink the wine we proclaim and remember all that Christ did for us on the cross.
1 Corinthians 11:26 ‘For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.’
It also acts as a reminder of the Spiritual nourishment we receive from Christ. In the same way food and drink nourishes our physical bodies so our soul is strengthened and refreshed through the Holy Spirit.
Taking Communion reminds us of the unity we should have with each other. It is a time when we forget our differences and remember that we follow the same Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:17 ‘Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.’
Jesus clearly states that Communion symbolizes the New Covenant. The New Covenant was established and sealed at the cross. This New Covenant is one of forgiveness, grace and mercy that now allows us to be united with God the Father.
Luke 22: 19-20 ‘And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. "In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’
So the meaning of the Lord’s Supper really is that it acts as a reminder to all those who live for Jesus. They are living in the presence of Christ; the one who died for them and that they benefit from His death and resurrection.
Why do we do Communion?
As we have read Jesus tells us to do Communion simply to remember. When Paul the Apostle writes to the Church at Corinth he repeats what Jesus had said. That Communion was to be an aid to remember all that Jesus had done accomplished on the cross. Paul clearly sees the taking of Communion as an important part of church life.
We can also read in Acts the accounts of the early church and how they took bread and wine to remember Jesus.
Acts 2:42 ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’
So at Harvest Church we take Communion to remember all that Jesus did for us.
Who is Communion for?
It is quiet obvious that the Communion is for those that call themselves followers of Jesus. But there is also a strong and clear warning that Paul puts in his letter to the Corinthian Church.
1 Corinthians 11: 27-29 ‘Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.’
It is not simply about saying sorry for anything we might have done wrong that day or week. His stress here is firstly on 'recognizing the body' – understanding that we are united in Christ, and should examine our lives to see if we are living in a way that reflects this. How are we living? Are we in the right place with God?
How often and when should we do Communion?
The early church model is varied.
Acts 2:47 ‘They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts’
We can clearly see they break bread in their homes.
Acts 20:7 ‘On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.’
In this account we can see they took Communion on the first day of the week.
Acts 20:11 ‘Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate.’
Paul took Communion twice in the same day.
When Jesus told His disciple to continue taking Communion He didn’t tell them when or how often, simply 'do this whenever you. . .' happen to do it! So what we find is that churches do it in different ways at different times. There is no set formula, no set way of doing Communion, no timings and no pattern. The important aspects are all about remembering Jesus and the amazing New Covenant we now live under.
Who can serve Communion?
Anyone who is a believer and follower of Jesus can serve Communion. It doesn’t have to be Pastors, Vicars, Elders, Deacons or key church leaders, you don’t have to be a certain age or have been a Christian for a certain amount of years.
1 Peter 2:9 ‘ You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.’
At Harvest Church we believe in the priesthood of all believers. Again there is nowhere in scripture that states that Communion should be served by certain people. It is important that we don’t add our own rules and laws; sadly in church we can spend too much time worry about the outward actions rather than our own hearts response.
In Harvest Church you will find that Communion is done at different times, in various group settings from homes to Sunday services. Different people who attend the church also serve it.
If you have any questions about our understanding of Communion or our practice of Communion then please contact us.