I recently put together a study in which I did my best to present a parallel lineup of three major views about “the bread and the cup” – Communion. I figured that this would be a good study to translate into blog form; one post for each viewpoint. This part #2.
The major theological premise behind each of these is that what people believe about the Church largely dictates what they believe about communion (ecclesiology over-arches sacramentology).
Various key words marked with an asterisk (*) have definitions provided in a glossary at the end of the post.
First, a systematic theological approach:
What’s it called?
The Sacrament* of Holy Communion*.
What is the Eucharist?
It’s a spiritual encounter with Christ to strengthen our faith alongside the Preaching of the Word*: a sacrifice of praise & thanksgiving
What happens during Communion?
Either Jesus comes among us in a spiritual sense,
or we’re spiritually lifted to Christ’s heavenly presence
What does Communion do?
It strengthens our faith, which in turn grows us in grace towards salvation*.
How is Communion ‘done’?
It’s done after the Preaching of the Word*, with the Words of Institution*, with bread & wine, led by the pastor.
… because that leader is:
a representative of the Apostles, to whom Jesus gave authority to lead the Church.
… because the Church is:
the gathering of God’s people to worship Him
in Word & Sacrament*, in community*.
Therefore, who may receive the Eucharist?
All baptized confessing* Christians may receive.
Now for a look at some key passages of scripture:
Read it spiritually: the bread of life that we receive at Communion* is spiritually Jesus’ body
This shows Jesus was talking about spiritual food, not his physical body.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
Partaking celebrates our spiritual communion* with Christ and all other Christians.
1 Corinthians 11:24
Either the act of breaking the bread is Jesus’ body,
or this bread is Jesus’ body spiritually
1 Corinthians 11:29
Non-believers shouldn’t partake because they don’t believe in Christ’s atonement*.
Communion symbolizes Jesus’ High Priestly ministry in heaven.
* Glossary of terms:
Atonement: the total work of Christ’s incarnation, suffering, death, resurrection, & ascension.
Communion: a participation in, or enactment of, a state of unity.
Community: a group of people with differing roles, including pastoral leaders whose roles are more or less defined.
Confessing: both confessing the Christian faith, and the ability to confess one’s own sins.
Preaching of the Word: technically referring to a sermon, but generally referring to the reading & proclamation of the Gospel.
Sacrament: literally a “means of grace,” classically “an outward visible sign of an inward spiritual grace,” applied to communion it refers to the belief that something objectively real goes on with the bread & wine that objectively affects us.
Salvation: not just “born again,” but the whole sweep of new life, sanctification, and glorification in the life to come.
Word & Sacrament: the ideal of Christ being revealed in the Church through both the Scripture and the “Breaking of Bread.”
Words of Institution: Jesus’ actual words declaring the bread & wine to be His body & blood.