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What is Communion and Why Do Christians Observe Communion?

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Communion Elements

Communion Elements

Image © Marcus Buckner
Question: What is Communion and Why Do Christians Observe Communion?

Other Names Associated with Christian Communion

  • Holy Communion
  • The Sacrament of Communion
  • Bread and Wine (the Elements)
  • The Body and Blood of Christ
  • The Lord’s Supper
  • The Eucharist
Answer: Unlike Baptism, which is a one time event, Communion is a practice that is meant to be observed over and over throughout the life of a Christian. It is a holy time of worship when we corporately come together as one body to remember and celebrate what Christ did for us.

Why do we observe Communion?

  • We observe Communion because the Lord told us to. We are to obey His commands:
    And when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."
    1 Corinthians 11:24 (NIV)

  • In observing Communion we are remembering Christ and all that He has done for us in his life, death and resurrection:
    And when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."
    1 Corinthians 11:24 (NIV)

  • When observing Communion we take time to examine ourselves:
    A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.
    1 Corinthians 11:28 (NIV)

  • In observing Communion we are proclaiming His death until He comes. It is, then, a statement of faith:
    For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
    1 Corinthians 11:26 (NIV)
  • When we observe Communion we show our participation in the body of Christ. His life becomes our life and we become members of each other:
    Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
    1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (NIV)

Three main Christian views regarding the bread and the wine during the practice of Communion:

  • The bread and the wine become the actual body and blood of Christ. The Catholic term for this is Transubstantiation.
  • The bread and the wine are unchanged elements, but Christ's presence by faith is made spiritually real in and through them.
  • The bread and the wine are unchanged elements, used as symbols, representing Christ's body and blood, in remembrance of his enduring sacrifice.

Scriptures Associated with Communion:

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." Matthew 26:26-28 (NIV)

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." Mark 14:22-24 (NIV)

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." Luke 22:19-20 (NIV)

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (NIV)

And when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:24-26 (NIV)

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:53-54 (NIV)

Symbols Associated with Communion:

The Bread & The Wine

More Communion Resources:

The Last Supper (Bible Story Summary)
What is Transubstantiation?

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