Do you know if Holy Communion is a Sacrament?
Do you know if Holy Communion is a Sacrament? The following is a sermon transcription that will hopefully help you to understand from the Bible the importance of Holy Communion.
Is Holy Communion a Sacrament?
(adapted from a sermon by Pr Simon Chin)
Jesus Christ had to die on the cross for the sins of men.
All men die because we have sinned against God. Sin came into the world through one man and its consequence is death. Not only is there physical death, we lose the spiritual status as sons of God and die spiritually. There is also what we call a second death, an eternal death. On the last day, God shall come and judge men for their sins. Sinners will be cast into the lake of fire to suffer eternal punishment. This eternal death comes as a consequence of sin. But because our Creator loves us, He took upon Himself the work of saving men from sins by becoming a man. On the cross, He died and shed His blood so that through His blood, sins can be forgiven. Through this way, those of us who believe in Him, repent of our sins and they are washed away by His blood in baptism. We keep our faith in Him, obeying His Word and remaining in His salvation grace, so that on the Day of Judgment, we may receive eternal life.
Jesus instituted the Holy Communion.
The passage in Mt 26:17-20, 26-29 describes the time just prior to His crucifixion on the cross, when He took of the Holy Communion with His disciples. It was the Jewish Feast of the Passover. God in flesh was a Jew. Therefore He partook of that Feast of the Passover together with His disciples using unleavened bread. It was while eating this that He instituted the Holy Communion. Verse 26 says “He took bread, blessed and broke it. Then He gave it to His disciples and say “take, eat, this is My body.” This was a mysterious thing to say. Instead of saying, “take, eat, this is bread which can be eaten,” He said, “this is My body.” Then He took the cup containing grape juice and gave thanks. There He gave it to the disciples, saying “drink from it all of you for this is My blood of the new covenant.” This was another strange statement. Although He gave them grape juice, He said “this is the blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” This is the Holy Communion Sacrament which Jesus Christ later instructed His disciples to always perform.
Another passage, 1 Cor 11:23-26, records Jesus instituting the Holy Communion. In fact, this one was revealed to apostle Paul while he was in Arabia. The mystery of the Holy Communion was revealed to Paul so that he was able to record what happened the night of the last supper and teach the commandment of our Lord, which is to always perform the Holy Communion in remembrance of Him. Not only did He say, “Take, eat, this is My body which is broken for you” but He also said “do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after He had blessed the cup, He gave the cup to His disciples, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, this do as often as you drink it in remembrance of Me.”
This was the command He gave the twelve apostles during the last supper to do in remembrance of Him. After the last supper, while Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas brought soldiers who apprehended Him. Although both King Herod and the High Priest knew that Jesus had not done anything wrong, much less anything that deserved the death sentence, He was finally crucified on the cross because the Jews wanted it to be so. Jesus resurrected from the dead on the third day and appeared to the disciples and many people. On the fortieth day of His resurrection, Jesus was taken up in the clouds to heaven and the angels testified through the apostles that He will come again. Before He was taken up to heaven, Jesus commanded His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit; He will come to them as the Holy Spirit and abide in them. About 120 disciples returned, gathered together in an upper room, prayed in one accord, and waited for the promised Holy Spirit to be fulfilled upon them. Ten days later on the day of Pentecost, the promised Holy Spirit was poured on them and they began to speak in an unknown tongue. The sound of their tongues was so loud that it was heard by the whole city and people gathered around the house where these disciples were. All who gathered marvelled because they heard the disciples speak wonderful things of God. Many Jews who heard Peter preach were cut in their hearts and that very day, three thousand Jews were baptized. The disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, henceforth obeyed the command of Jesus, preaching the gospel wherever they went, and becoming the church of the Lord. Acts 2:42 described how these disciples continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teachings and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread and in prayers. This breaking of bread was the Holy Communion performed by the disciples.
Since then, Christian churches have been performing Holy Communion. However, the concept/understanding of the significance of the Holy Communion has slowly been corroded and come to differ over these 2,000 years of Christian history. Some people see the Holy Communion as a mere command of the Lord; they don’t consider it as a sacrament.
Is Holy Communion a Sacrament?
What is a sacrament? A sacrament is not only a command from the Lord, it is first instituted by Jesus Christ, and the act of these sacraments pertains to receiving the grace of salvation. Many churches perform the Holy Communion but believe that it is merely an act of obeying the Lord’s command; it is a performance, a rite to remember that Christ died for us, and that the Holy Communion is merely a symbol of the body and the blood of Christ. They perform Holy Communion, but hold different concepts about it and do not believe it is a sacrament pertaining to eternal life.
For instance, Roman Catholics believe in transubstantiation. They believe that the bread is really the body of Christ and the wine is physically changed into the blood of Jesus. A special type of bread which melts when placed on the tongue is used. When they partake of the Holy Communion, this Holy Eucharist is placed on the altar and worshiped because they believe that it is Jesus Christ.
We also understand that the Lutherans, who reformed the church in the year 1517, hold a different concept. They believe that Jesus Christ physically coexist with the bread and the cup. In other words, during the Holy Communion, Jesus enters the bread and the grape juice. They see Holy Communion as a sacrament and believe that the partaking of the Holy Communion is participation in the body and blood of Christ, but they do not believe that taking the Holy Communion has a direct involvement with salvation.
John Calvin and his reformed church believe that the bread and cup is not the body and blood of Christ; it is only a symbol. Instead of describing the Holy Communion as a sacrament, they prefer to see it as an “ordinance” or the “Holy Communion Ordinance”. They do not believe that they are eating the flesh or drinking the blood of Christ and that this is just a symbol of the body and the blood of Jesus. They believe that through faith, the presence of God in the Holy Communion will give them blessings. Their belief is quite different from that of the Roman Catholics and the Lutherans.
Is this important? We see these changes and differences in the understanding of the Holy Communion over the history of the Christian churches. If the Holy Communion is indeed a sacrament, then it is important because once your belief is different from the bible, you will not receive salvation even if you take the Holy Communion. You are kept in the grace of salvation if you believe what the bible says and know that the Holy Communion is a sacrament, pertaining to salvation and partake of it according to the teachings of the Holy Bible. As often as you take this Holy Communion, you remember the Lord’s death until He comes. The grace of the Lord will be with you until you are received in the kingdom of heaven.
Why is Holy Communion a sacrament? How does it pertain to salvation?
1 Corinthians 11:26 says “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” In other words, you are reminded of the effect of Christ’s death on the cross and the reason why Jesus died on the Cross, why He had to shed His blood. Was it really necessary for Christ to die on the cross so that salvation is given to us? The bible clearly tells us that Jesus Christ is the propitiation for sins (Rom 5:8-10).
Christ died for sinners so that man can be justified by His blood. This is the reason why He had to come in the flesh and be crucified on the cross; by the blood that He shed, sins can be forgiven, and man can be justified by faith. This is the effect of Christ’s death. Romans 4:25 tells that it was because of our sins that He was crucified on the cross and His blood was shed. Romans 6:3-5 describes the effects of baptism; when we believed in Him, and are baptized into Christ Jesus, our old sinful self dies with Christ. We are buried with Christ in baptism into His death. Then when we come forth from the water, we are raised with Him. This is justification, born again. When we come out of baptism, we are born again, made just by the blood of Christ, no longer a sinner but a son of God. To grant us this type of grace, the sinless must die for the sinful (1 Pet 3:18). This is why Jesus Christ needed to die on the cross. Every time we partake of the Holy Communion, we are remembering the grace of Christ, how He forgives our sins and justifies us. More than just remembering the death of the Lord, we are also partaking of His body and His blood (1 Cor 10:16-17).
Paul understood that participation in the Holy Communion was not just a remembrance of the Lord’s death; more than that, it was participation in the body and blood of the Lord. “Communion” in English means “fellowship”. We are participating in the body and blood of Christ because the Holy Communion is actually the body and the blood of Christ. This is no wonder why Jesus said, “take, eat, this is My body. Take and drink, this is the blood of the new covenant.” The mystery is revealed thus and yet, we know that the bread is still made of flour and the grape juice is still juice. How can it be the body and blood of Christ?
It is not through transubstantiation, as the Roman Catholics believe, where the bread is actually the body of Christ. Neither can we say that Jesus Christ enters the bread and cup only in the Holy Communion; for Jesus Christ to be physically present, He must still be in the flesh. But we know that Jesus Christ has resurrected from the dead. His physical body has become a spiritual one and He was taken up to the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said to His apostles, “Most assuredly, I say to you, 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. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (Jn 6:53-56)
These were the very words of Jesus Christ. He says, “my flesh is food indeed, My blood is drink indeed.” So how is the bread the flesh of the Lord and the grape juice His blood during Holy Communion? When does this happen?
In John 6:63, Jesus Christ said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life”. He was not referring to the physical, the material or the fleshly, but the spiritual sense. During Holy Communion, when we say we partake of the body and blood of Christ, we mean that the bread is the body of Christ spiritually and spiritually, the cup is really the blood of Christ. Why is it so important to eat of the flesh and drink of the blood? How is it related to salvation? Jesus was referring to our spiritual life in verse 54, when He said, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” When we take of the flesh and blood of Christ, we have eternal life. We are kept in the grace of salvation and Jesus Christ continues to be our Saviour, He continues to forgive our sins. We continue to be justified by Him and we will be raised up on the last day.
Jesus Christ promises us that when we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, we will receive three types of blessings:
1) We will have spiritual life.
2) We will have eternal life.
3) He will abide in us, and we abide in Him.
That is why the Holy Communion is fellowship with our Lord. The mystery is that through the work and presence of the Holy Spirit, the bread is the body of Jesus and the grape juice is the blood of Jesus when consecrated in the name of Jesus.
The passage in Mark 14:16-25 tells us of another important concern regarding the Holy Communion. Jesus took up one unleavened bread. It was the feast of the unleavened bread, so the bread they used consisted of just plain flour, not bread made with yeast. 1 Corinthians 10:17 also tells us that there is only one bread. In Holy Communion, we use only one bread and we use the fruit of the vine, grape juice. We do not use any other juice, adulterated with chemicals, or other ingredients. This is how the Holy Communion was conducted and instituted by our Lord Jesus.
Does what we use matter? Why can’t we use more than one bread or we use biscuits? Why can’t we use Ribenna or grape wine? Why must it be unleavened bread and pure grape juice? This is because 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 tells us that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
The unleavened bread describes the holiness of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is totally pure and without sin at all. It was only so that He could be the propitiation for our sins. So when observe the Holy Communion, we do so with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, without malice or wickedness in our hearts. Through our belief in Jesus, we strive to be holy and obey His word. Every time we take of the Holy Communion, we must examine ourselves and do so with sincerity and truth.
Paul, who understood that the Holy Communion is communion in the body and blood of Christ, exhorts all in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 saying, “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” This is the body and blood of Jesus. If you do not discern, have no respect for the body and blood of Christ, you do not honour the Lord and drink judgement upon yourselves. Is Holy Communion a sacrament? Yes and that, if taken worthily, keeps us in the grace of salvation. We will receive eternal life when Jesus Christ comes. He abides in us and we will abide in Jesus. We will grow in the grace of the Lord until salvation. These are the teachings in the Bible and blessed are we if we follow them and believe according to the word of God. If we keep the Holy Communion in this manner, truly the blessings of the Holy Communion will come upon all of us.