Greetings in Jesus’ Name
It’s time to begin our service this evening. I welcome you all here, and I especially want to send my love and greetings to all the people who have reached out over the past couple of weeks. Thank you all for your kind words and blessings. I truly appreciate the support of everyone. I hope and pray you are all enjoying this holiday season. Today is New Year’s Eve; it is the end of the year.
I want to remind everyone who gives so generously that today is the last day for any donations to be included on the statement for this year. We will be sending those out to everyone we have an address for once we get into next month. We have never solicited donations, but I am thankful for everyone who does contribute. We are a registered non-profit, which we opened to handle the financial side of the mission. Since we switched to online-only services, we have been able to direct almost all donations toward helping severe cases of people exiting the Message cult. If anyone wants to contribute, there is a giving link on our website, ChristianGospelChurch.org. We will be sending out those donation statements next month.
Let me also say hello to all our friends around the world. Keep praying for the saints in Israel; things are very tense over there still. I heard from the saints there this past week, and they are still well and in good spirits. But let’s continue to lift them up in prayer. Let’s also keep in our prayers all the brothers around the world who have undertaken to help people leave the Message cult and start walking with Christ. There are so many ministers now on this side of things, and many of them are doing tremendous work. Let’s continue to lift them all up in prayer.
I know, for many of us, today being New Year’s Eve has historically been a time of taking communion or the Lord’s supper. Although we don’t personally do that at the church I come from, almost every other Message church we fellowshipped with did. It was a common practice. I’ve had more than one request to take a message on communion, and that’s what I’ll be doing this evening. It fits well with this passage of Ephesians that we are examining because there is an element here that connects directly with communion or the Lord’s supper.
So, I invite you to turn with me to Ephesians chapter 2, and I will read from verse 13 to 16.
13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.Ephesians 2 (English Standard Version):
Let us pray.
Lord God, thank you for this year we have passed through, for the multitude of blessings you have given us. I thank you for prospering the mission and for the many souls who have found escape from the cult and embraced saving faith in Christ. Lord, as we take a few minutes to look at these scriptures tonight, we acknowledge that we are not able to partake in the Lord’s supper together in an online service as we were able to do in our in-person service. But Lord, I pray you touch the hearts of each one listening, and if it is their desire to partake in the Lord’s supper, lead them to an opportunity where they can do that among fellow believers in Christ. Bless our study of the scripture. In Jesus Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
Well, brothers and sisters,
Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, is a topic that holds great importance for many people, often influenced by the deep emphasis placed on it by the Catholic Church. I’ll be honest; the Lord’s Supper has not received much attention where I come from. We would typically observe it two or three times a year, at the end of a regular sermon. Detailed examinations of the Lord’s Supper weren’t common. We had our way of doing things, with some casual explanations about the choice of bread and wine.
Now, different places emphasize communion to varying extents, and this subject might feel more important to you than it does to me. I might say things in this lesson that could rub some people the wrong way, but I encourage you to approach communion in a way that aligns with your convictions and understanding of Scripture. In this lesson, I’ll share the best of my understanding today, recognizing that others may have different perspectives.
As we delve into this topic, I’d like to break this lesson into four parts:
- First, let’s discuss how the Lord’s Supper was instituted by Christ and what Jesus said about it.
- Second, we can examine the symbols represented in the Lord’s Supper.
- Third, I’ll walk you through the main ways professed Christians view communion, highlighting different points of contention.
- Lastly, let’s discuss a positive way to approach each of those points of contention.
It’s worth noting that this topic could easily be expanded into a four or five-part series. Many excellent ministers have taught on this subject, and I recall hearing a lesson by Alistair Begg that explored communion over two or three parts. He explained various viewpoints, providing a comprehensive look into the subject. I appreciate when someone covers multiple perspectives, even if I don’t fully agree, as it allows listeners to hear all sides and form their conclusions.
However, today, I won’t give a comprehensive overview. I want to be clear about that. I won’t cover every aspect and detail. If you have a specific question or point you’re hoping I’ll address, feel free to send a message, and I’ll do my best to direct you to relevant resources.
The Lord’s Supper
So let me start by talking about when the Lord instituted communion. We know he did that on the night before he was arrested and taken to the cross. The story of the last supper is found in each of the four gospels. On that evening, Jesus and his disciples ate the Passover meal together in the upper room in Jerusalem. The Passover meal and everything about it were entirely symbolic, from the lamb they ate to the bitter herbs, to the unleavened bread, to the way they dressed when they ate it. Every single aspect of that meal was symbolic, all pointing to Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he was about to make on the cross.
As the supper meal was finished, Jesus took a cup of wine and some bread and passed it to his disciples. With the bread, he broke off pieces and gave a piece to each of the disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body, which is broken for you.” Then he took a cup of wine and passed it around, saying, “Take and drink; this is my blood, which is offered for you.”
It’s important to remember that this was the same wine and bread from the Passover dinner. Jesus was plainly telling them that the symbols of the Passover meal were pointing to him. This context is crucial. For hundreds of years, the Jewish people had been taking the Passover meal, always pointing to Christ, even though they may not have understood it. When Jesus said, “As often as you take this, you do it in remembrance of me,” he was not simply talking about future times but pointing out that all the times the Jewish people had been taking the Passover meal for hundreds of years, they were looking toward him.
Jesus was emphasizing that the Passover meal was pointing towards him, embedded in what he was saying. It was in this context that he instituted communion, taking elements of that Passover meal and telling them that in the future, as often as they partook of it, the bread and the wine, it would be something they would do looking back in remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ.
This sets up a powerful contrast: the Passover meal looking forward to Christ’s sacrifice, while the Lord’s supper or communion looks backward to the same sacrifice. Both the Lord’s supper and the Passover meal point to the same event; they are closely related, using the same elements and symbols, all pointing to Christ. The Lord’s supper, in some ways, is a limited continuation of the Passover commemoration—a mini Passover meal with the purpose of commemorating the sacrifice of Christ.
This is how Christ introduced communion to his disciples. As we read through the rest of the New Testament, we find that the early church followed the Lord’s instructions. The church community periodically gathered together and took the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Jesus and his sacrifice. Paul discusses it most extensively in the book of 1st Corinthians, but references to it are found across the New Testament. At its most basic purpose, the Lord’s Supper provides a time to reflect on the sacrifice of Christ when he died for our sins so that we could go free.
As Jesus said, “As often as you do this, do it in remembrance of me.” It’s important to note that this is the only thing Jesus said about it at the time. He didn’t add or attach any other significance to it there in the upper room—just that when we do it, we do it to remember him.
There isn’t really anywhere you can go in the Bible and find detailed procedures for communion. What we have is the example of Jesus giving it to the disciples in the Gospels and the little bit Paul wrote about it here and there. Most of the things people tend to make an issue out of, relating to communion, are things that aren’t clear in the scripture. We’ll discuss some of those later in this lesson.
For now, let’s leave it with this: Jesus served them bread and wine from their Passover meal, and he said, “As often as you do it, you do it in remembrance of me.” It really was that simple.
Now, the next thing I would like to talk about is the symbolism in the Lord’s Supper. We’re not going to talk about every single symbol involved, but I want to discuss the main symbols.
In examining the symbolism, it can help us better understand the meaning behind communion. Jesus Christ himself told us the basic elements of the symbolism behind the bread and the wine. He said the bread represents his body, which was broken for us. The scripture says that they broke the bread into pieces as he gave it to the disciples. You can imagine Jesus tearing pieces of the bread off. As he tears the bread into pieces, he says, “This is my body, which is broken for you.” This refers to Christ offering his body on the cross, enduring the Roman beatings, nails, and a spear in his side. Jesus literally offered up his body to be beaten and broken as a sacrifice to pay for sin. His body was marred beyond recognition. In part, the broken bread represents his broken body in sacrifice.
There is another element of symbolism in the bread I want to point out. We have one single piece of bread, which is then broken into multiple smaller pieces for the disciples to eat. If we turn to 1st Corinthians, Paul explains the symbols of the bread a bit more. You can turn there with me; it is 1st Corinthians chapter 10. I will read verses sixteen and seventeen.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10
16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
We notice that Paul is drawing attention to the bread in particular in those verses. As he notes how this single piece of bread is broken up into smaller pieces, Paul explains that this bread symbolizes the unity of the church. Christians are one body, one church, united with each other in Christ. There is one bread, and we who are many are one bread. The breaking of the bread into pieces also symbolizes how the body of Christ is made up of many different individuals, yet we are all one in Christ. Because that bread was just one single bread before it was broken, Paul is telling us in verse 17 that when we take and eat that bread, it is not only a commemoration of Christ but a symbolic act of unity. Taking and eating that broken bread symbolizes the unity of the church that we all have in Jesus Christ.
Let me read verse 17 again:
17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
As I have been speaking about unity in the last few messages, I wanted to make sure I pointed this out to you. Paul uses communion, the breaking of the bread, as one of his key pieces of evidence of how unity works in the body of Christ. In this verse, we read what makes us all one in unity. Paul is saying that we are in unity with each other because we have all partaken of the one bread, and that one bread is Jesus Christ. The symbolism of communion lies at the very heart of Paul’s teachings on unity.
That is the reason we are in unity. There is no other reason. We are in unity because we have all partaken of Christ, and the unity of the faith is something spiritual, which Jesus Christ created 2000 years ago when he went to the cross.
That is something really important to catch here with communion. The bread is a symbol of our unity in Christ. If you have partaken of Christ, then you are in unity with the body of Christ. That is exactly what Paul is saying there in verse 17.
The truth is that you have unity from the moment you are saved, and that truth is quite literally baked into the communion bread itself. If you don’t believe that you have unity from the moment you are saved, then you don’t believe in what the Bible very plainly says about communion.
Now, let’s talk about the wine. Jesus told us that the wine symbolized his blood, the blood he would shed for us to pay for our sins. Paul explained the same right there in verse 16. Let me read it again:
16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? …
So that is a very clear understanding of what that symbolizes. I would point out to you again here is that Paul talks about the cup, singular. Back in the upper room, Jesus spoke about the cup singular. He had just one cup that he passed around. There is an indication in what Paul writes that this cup, which represents the blood of Christ, is also something that acts as a symbol of unity.
Now, if we go ahead to 1st Corinthians chapter 11, I want to add one more verse here. Paul writes here, saying:
“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”1 Corinthians 11:26
What I would like you to catch in verse 26 is that Paul says “drink this cup.” That phrase, “drink this cup,” lets us know the emphasis here is on what is in the cup, not the cup itself. You don’t drink a cup; you drink what is in the cup. I am pointing that out because most scholars who look at this will tell you that the way the word “cup” is used could mean a container or what is inside the container. In other words, “cup” could also mean beverage. This is also an act of unity—everyone taking of the same cup is an act of unity.
If we go back to Ephesians chapter 2, I will read our verses there again and let you see that. I will read verse 13 first. Paul writes in Ephesians 2
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
There is a degree here to which these verses we have been studying the last few messages are related to communion. When we take that cup and remember the blood of Christ shed for us, part of what we are recognizing is that this blood is what brought us near to each other—people who were once far off, separated from each other. This blood, which the cup represents, is what healed those divisions. This blood, which the cup represents, brought us near to each other, and this is how peace is made between us.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.
So, it is important to recognize this aspect of the symbolism too. Just as the bread represents our unity, the cup also represents this unity. In that respect, communion is not only a symbol of the sacrifice of Christ but also a symbol of the unity and the peace created between the members of the body of Christ by his sacrifice.
Paul actually bases a lot of what he says about unity on the Lord’s Supper itself. Unity of the believers is a very important secondary symbol of communion, one that is totally overlooked in the places we come from.
So that is a summary of the symbolism involved in communion. Let’s move now into the third part of this lesson, and I want to talk about the contentions around the Lord’s supper among professed Christians. There are quite a few.
Contentions around the Lord’s supper were actually part of key issues of the Protestant Reformation, and some of these contentions are very old, going back five hundred years and more.
The first one I want to point out to you is the Roman Catholic view on communion. They believe a number of things generally rejected by the Protestant churches. The Roman Catholics generally call communion the Eucharist. If you ever hear that term, the Eucharist, that is talking about the Roman Catholic version of communion. The first contention I want to point out to you is that the Roman Catholics believe communion is necessary for salvation. It’s not enough to have faith in Christ; you also have to take communion to be saved, according to the Roman Catholics.
They call communion one of the seven sacraments, and they believe you must have all seven sacraments to be saved. For communion specifically, they go to the verse where Jesus says unless you drink my blood and eat my flesh, you have no part of me. They take that verse to be speaking of communion and then say you can’t be saved unless you take communion. So, the first contention is the idea that you need communion to be saved.
The Roman Catholics also believe you need to have communion to stay saved. Every single service, they have communion at their churches because they believe if you step away and quit taking communion regularly, you are separated from Christ. They believe that when they cut someone off from communion, they are cutting that person out of the church. So, the second point of contention is that you need to keep having regular communion to stay saved.
Now, the third point of contention is that they also believe that the wine and the bread are the literal blood and body of Christ. They call that transubstantiation. They believe that when the priests pray over the wine and the bread, it is literally transformed into the body and blood of Christ. They believe that when they take communion, they are literally drinking the blood and eating the literal body of Christ. The priest, when he prays over the bread and the wine, says a prayer in Latin, and the words the priest says in that prayer are “Hoc Est Corpus,” which means “This Is My Body” in Latin. This is also where the phrase “Hocus Pocus” comes from. “Hocus Pocus” is Latin for “This is my body.” They base it on the verse which says unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no part with me.
The Protestant churches have differing views on this too. None of them believe the elements are the literal body and the literal blood of Christ. Some of the Protestant groups believe that, spiritually, Christ is present in the wine and the bread, and so, in some spiritual sense, you are eating and drinking Christ. That is the view of Lutherans, for example. Then you have other Protestant groups, like the Baptists and like the places we come from, and they believe the elements are entirely symbolic. It is not literally the blood and body of Christ, and Christ is also not spiritually in the wine or bread either. To them, it is just wine and it is just bread, and they are just symbols. So, the third contention is the literal blood and body of Christ. Is it spiritually Christ, or is it just symbolic?
Those three are the main doctrinal contentions among the Protestants. Now, within Pentecostalism and the message churches, there are some other contentions I want to point those out to you too.
A fourth contention is how often you should take communion, and there is a wide variety of views on that, from taking it every single service to just taking it once a year to never taking it all.
Then there is a fifth contention, and it is around the bread. Some say it has to be unleavened bread, and it has to be one single piece, and it has to be broken up at the time it is served. That would be the view where we come from.
Then there is a sixth contention, and it is over what kind of wine you should drink, and some will insist you have to drink kosher red wine.
Lastly, there is the seventh contention, and again, this is fairly niche to the message. There are message churches that insist you must do communion out of a single cup, where everyone drinks from the same cup.
So, those are the seven things I see as main contentions around communion that are probably of concern to us. As we go into the last part of this lesson, I want to briefly touch on each one of those items and try to give you a healthy way of looking at them. If you have any other questions, you are welcome to email us. Lord willing, I can try to answer that for you at a later time.
Looking At These Contentions Reasonably and Scripturally
So the first contention we mentioned is the belief that you need to take communion to be saved. I will say right away that is not a belief I have. Communion is something that, I believe, we put into the same category as baptism. It is something Christ instructed us to do, and it is something we should do out of respect for him and respect for the scripture. But it is not something that confers salvation.
Jesus said, “whosoever believes on him has passed from death unto life.” It is faith in Christ that brings salvation—faith alone, in Christ alone. It’s not communion that saves us. Paul said, “if we believe with the heart, and confess with the mouth, we shall be saved,” and that is the moment that salvation takes place—the moment at which we believe. Once we believe, Jesus commanded the disciples to baptize everyone who believes. So, baptism comes after salvation, after believing, and communion is the same.
Paul said whoever partakes of the communion unworthily partakes damnation to himself. So, we realize in what Paul says that communion is only for those who believe in Christ. I firmly believe that, just like we should not baptize an unbeliever, we should not give communion to an unbeliever either. We are not to be the judge of who believes and who doesn’t. If someone confesses faith in Christ, that should be enough for us to accept it at face value. If they are being dishonest about that, it’s between them and God. So, don’t take the communion unworthily; only take communion if you already believe in Christ as your savior.
Communion is not something that saves a person; it is something that we do in remembrance of Christ. Recall that is all Jesus said about communion: “As often as you do this, do it in remembrance of me.” There is not another reason for communion expressed in scripture, except to commemorate and remember what Christ did for us. There is nothing in scripture that would really give us the idea that it imparts salvation.
So, just like baptism, as a believer in Christ, we should look for an opportunity to be baptized once we come to faith in Christ. As believers, we should also seek an opportunity to have communion, and we don’t do those things to be saved, but we do those two things Christ gave us as ordinances to observe, and we understand that he gave us those things for our benefit.
Now, the second contention was that you need to regularly take communion to stay saved. Of course, if communion didn’t save you to begin with, then it also really doesn’t have anything to do with staying saved either. Communion is something you do in remembrance of Christ, not something you do to keep yourself saved.
God knows our circumstances. We may not always be in a place where we have a regular opportunity for communion. Some people become homebound as they grow older; others have medical or health issues. You might be allergic to wheat or grapes; you might have a condition that prevents you from swallowing, or you might be hospitalized. There are various reasons a person might not be able to take communion, but that doesn’t mean they lose their salvation. There are other perfectly legitimate circumstances that may put us in a position where taking communion is just not possible for us, and God understands that. He knows our hearts, and you can examine yourself. It’s one thing to avoid taking communion; it’s another thing to just not have an opportunity. Whether we have communion or not, we are still God’s child.
God is not going to be unhappy with you if you just don’t have an opportunity, but if we are actively avoiding communion, we might want to examine our hearts because communion is something Christ asked us to do.
Literal, Spiritual, or Symbolic?
So that takes us to the third contention: Is the blood and the body of Christ literal, spiritual, or just symbolic?
I can rule out literal pretty easily. When Jesus said, “drink my blood and eat my flesh,” he was not talking about his literal flesh and literal blood. When he gave his disciples the last supper, he didn’t open his veins to fill the cup; he didn’t cut off a piece of himself for them to eat. No, he gave them wine and bread. If Jesus was really talking about drinking his literal blood and eating his literal body, then he would have given that to the disciples in the upper room, but that is not what happened.
We realize the context of that was the Passover meal they were eating; Jesus was the fulfillment of those symbols. When he said, “eat my flesh and drink my blood,” Jesus was not telling the people to be cannibals; he was trying to tell them he was the fulfillment of those symbols. He was the bread which came down from heaven; he was the manna from heaven; he was the bread of life; he was the Passover sacrifice, which they ate symbolically each year. The elements were not something that was literally Christ, but it was something that was symbolically Christ.
So, I feel very comfortable just totally dismissing the idea that the blood and body are literally the wine and the blood. There is plenty more we could say about that, but I will just leave it at that—it is just wine, and it is just bread, just like the Passover lamb was just a lamb, and the Passover bread was just bread. They are just symbols of the Savior; they are not literally the Savior.
But what about the spiritual aspect, like Lutherans and people like that would say—is the Lord spiritually in the bread and the wine, or is it just purely symbolic? I will tell you what I believe at the present—I believe the bible is not clear on that. I don’t know of a verse that clearly tells us one way or the other. There are some verses which I think give me the idea it’s purely symbolic, and then there are other verses which give me the thought that there could be a spiritual thing related to it. I am not going to examine those things very deeply right now, but I will just leave that up to you to look into. Personally, I don’t think it really matters one way or the other. The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things. That is a saying I really like. And whether it’s spiritual or purely symbolic, what does it matter if you are taking communion? Whatever it is, you are getting it, and the point is just what Jesus said: When you do this, do it in remembrance of me. If we are getting a remembrance of Christ out of it, we are getting the thing Jesus wanted us to get.
The fourth contention was how frequent we should take communion. That is a pretty easy one to answer. Jesus said, “as often as you do it, do it to remember him.” In that, I think Jesus very clearly was saying, do it as often as you will. He didn’t specify doing it every week, every month, or every year; he just said, “as often as you do it.” Whatever that looks like, do it to remember him. If it was important for there to be a certain frequency, Jesus surely would have said so.
If you look in scripture, it’s pretty clear they were not doing it every day. In some cases, at least some people would go very long periods without it. Take Paul locked up in jail; how often do you think he was taking communion in jail? It seems clear that there is no standard in the Bible on how frequently you should take communion. The frequency is something we can agree on as individuals or as a church community. Whether you want it every week, every month, every year, or whatever, it will be just fine. Just don’t be in a position where it’s something you are avoiding altogether. A church community should be able to agree to have communion together from time to time.
If we want to use the scripture to give us a good thought, we could consider the Passover supper, which was done once a year. This is just my own opinion, but I think once a year would be a perfectly acceptable frequency. In my experience, most every church I have ever known takes communion at least once a year. If you were in my community, and we were sitting down to decide on the frequency, that would be my suggestion—to have it at least once a year. But it doesn’t have to be that way; that is just my opinion, and you are entitled to yours.
Now the next contention would be concerning the bread. Where I come from, there was a lot of emphasis put on the fact that it had to be unleavened bread. They would say that because on Passover, the only sort of bread they would have eaten was unleavened bread, and that is certainly true. Jewish people still make unleavened bread for Passover; in Hebrew, they call it Matzo bread, and you can find it in a lot of grocery stores.
A lot of emphasis was put on that; it had to be unleavened bread, and it had to be broken up at the time it was served. Having communion bread that was already broken up or pre-cut was a no-no. If you are from the places we come from, the communion bread we had was really not Matzo bread; it was not the typical Jewish bread of Passover meals. Looking back, it seems strange how we sort of obsessed over doing it just like the Passover bread, but then the communion bread we had was actually quite different from Passover bread. There are a lot of odd little things like that I see looking back.
What is right and what is wrong, and what really matters? Here is what I will tell you: I think it is definitely correct for us to say that Jesus was serving unleavened bread to the disciples; that is accurate. But does that necessarily mean we have to use unleavened bread today for communion bread to be valid? If I used a French bread recipe instead of whatever communion bread recipe the old church used, would that make the communion bread invalid? Would it make the communion invalid in the eyes of God? I don’t think so.
I don’t really know of anything in scripture that would give me the idea that a particular form of bread was absolutely required. If all I could get ahold of was a loaf of Italian bread, I think God would honor that. I believe whatever bread was available would be acceptable to God.
The idea that it has to be a particular sort of bread seems to contradict the things that Paul wrote in Romans chapter 12, 1st Corinthians chapter 6, Colossians chapter 2, or Galatians 3. The Bible says we are free from the law, and unleavened bread is a commandment from the law. It’s not a rule Jesus gave us. To make unleavened bread a hard and fast rule does not really have any solid basis in anything. Jesus did not give the disciples a bread recipe when he instated communion. So, if we have a different bread recipe than what they had at that Passover meal, I believe God is still going to honor it.
That is a good thing too because if you come from the churches I do and you think you are using the Passover bread recipe when you make communion, you are just silly. That is not Passover bread; Matza bread is Passover bread, not whatever that bread is we were eating.
Now, all of that said, I don’t know of any church that uses leavened bread in their communion. I looked into it, and pretty much every single Protestant church, and even the Catholic church, uses unleavened bread. The only church that seems to use leavened bread is the Eastern Orthodox church. So, most anywhere you go, you are going to be served unleavened bread at communion. I don’t fully understand why this is even an issue other than our message preachers were just trying to pretend we had some special understanding.
The second part concerning the bread is that it be one bread that is broken. In the scripture, it’s pretty clear that there is one single bread, and it is broken into multiple pieces. That is an important part of the symbolism of communion, and I looked. That is the same everywhere too; even the Catholic church, with their little wafers, those wafers all start out in a single loaf of bread that they break up and put into a container together.
If the bread is pre-cut before the communion service begins, is that a problem? I have to say I don’t think so. If you were asking me, I would much prefer to see the breaking of the bread happen as part of the service itself, but if the pieces are pre-cut from a single bread before the service, does that make the communion invalid in the eyes of God? I have to say I don’t think so.
So long as it came from one bread, it doesn’t really matter just when it was broken off. I think again, our leaders who made an issue out of these sorts of things were really just ignorant fools who didn’t know how the other churches made communion bread. They falsely assumed they were using leavened bread; they falsely assumed it had not been broken from a single bread.
As best I can tell, most anywhere you go, communion is going to be from a single unleavened bread, which may have been pre-cut up into pieces. The church I came from never had a single bread; never once did we actually have a single bread. They always made multiple breads, and as far as I can tell reading from scripture, that was not acceptable in the early church. While our leaders were getting obsessed over the bread recipe, they somehow missed the scripture that said it had to be one single bread. If you have a really big congregation and can’t make a single bread that big, I think it would be okay to make more than one. That is something we can all understand. But the church I came from was not that big; they could have made it from a single bread if they wanted, but they didn’t.
So, the sixth contention was about the wine. What kind of wine should it be? This is something else a lot of people where we come from make a big issue of. Like the bread, we realize the wine they would have been using here at the time of the Lord’s supper would have been the same wine from the passover meal. So, we might wonder, what kind of wine were they using? How could we find that out? You can go back to Exodus chapter 12, and you can read the instructions around preparing the passover supper in that chapter. The Bible actually does not give any instructions about what to drink. There is nothing about wine or any sort of thing to drink. You can look the whole Bible through, and there is not really anything in scripture to definitively tell us what Jesus served the disciples in that cup at the Lord’s supper.
There are some things we can use as clues to maybe narrow it down. Jesus referred to the cup as the fruit of the vine. So, that would seem to indicate what was in the cup was probably something that came from grapes because grapes are the fruit of the vine. He also said it was his blood, so it would be fairly reasonable to assume it was red in color.
But those are just logical deductions. The Bible does not specifically say those things. It just says it was the fruit of the vine. Grapes are not the only red fruit that grows on vines, which you can make wine from. There are other things that also grow on vines in the land of Israel, from which people make wine. But it is pretty reasonable for us to assume it was probably grapes because that is the most common thing.
And besides the Bible, we could also look to Jewish traditions to get an idea of what it probably was. If you look into Judaism, by tradition, they drink Kosher wine at Passover. You can look into that to find out what that was made from. It would be pretty reasonable for us to assume that, although the Bible does not specifically say so, they were probably drinking Kosher red wine made from grapes at the Lord’s supper.
Now here is the thing. Is the Lord’s supper going to be invalid and not count if you use something besides Kosher red wine made from grapes? If you have French red wine instead of kosher red wine or if you have kosher red wine made from strawberries rather than grapes or if you have non-alcoholic red wine or you name it, if it’s not precisely kosher red wine made from grapes, does it count? And I really believe it doesn’t really matter. If it’s the fruit of the vine, it fits the definition Jesus gave it, and I really think that is good enough.
So if I am walking through a communion line, and I get up to the front, and he hands me the wine, I am not going to ask the preacher, “Hey, can you confirm to me this is kosher red wine made from grapes?” and then make sure he says yes before I drink it. I am not going to do that. I am just going to drink what’s there. And if it looks like fruit of the vine and it tastes like fruit of vine, I am not going to have anything bad to say about it because I am doing that to remember Christ. That is the point. And if the wine recipe was important, Jesus would have said what it was.
That is where I am at.
Now if I am serving a communion, you are going to get kosher red wine made from grapes, just like you are going to get some unleavened matza passover bread that you will watch us break up from a single piece. But if I am at another church, and they don’t quite do it that way, I would not let that stop me from taking the Lord’s supper because I am not taking the Lord’s supper to quibble over the ingredients in the cup and on the plate. I am taking the Lord’s supper to remember Christ. So long as it is one bread broken into pieces and fruit of the vine, it matches the letter of what Jesus said, and it matches the letter of what the apostle said, and that is good enough for me.
And, as I said, I have looked around, and best I can tell, pretty well everywhere gives you red wine in the cup when you take communion. There are some places that use white wine if they can’t find red wine, and there are some places where it is non-alcoholic.
While there are some variances there, none of those things bother me. Preachers who get so picky about those things that they pretty well condemn you to hell if you don’t take it using wine and bread recipes – those are preachers who really have got lost in the weeds.
Now, if went to a communion, instead of bread, it was pop tarts, and instead of fruit of the vine, it was coca cola, I would be looking for somewhere else to go. But most any reputable church is going to give the right things, and the message kind of just tricked us into thinking we were the only place that knew the secret ingredients to make communion just right.
And when we get into that frame of mind where the specific recipe of the bread and wine renders the communion invalid, then we are really missing the point of communion. We are not far off trying to institute the old law-keeping rules which Paul said we no longer need to follow.
And as you think about that in Romans chapter 14, Paul said drinking wine was optional. So how do you make wine drinking optional, in Romans 14, and then say that you must absolutely have kosher red wine? Things like that, in Romans chapter 14, let us know we can’t make these sorts of things hard and fast rules because they didn’t do that in the early church, and Jesus didn’t actually spell it out in that way when he instituted the Lord’s supper either.
Now, the last contention I want to point out to you is regarding the one cup.
If you have been in the message for a really long time, this was a pretty big controversy back in the 1960s. Whether or not there should only be one cup for communion, and everyone shares it. One tape William Branham endorsed the one cup, but then the Tabernacle continued to hand out a separate cup to everyone. So that boiled over into a bit of a dispute here among the message churches around Jeffersonville. The churches I come from ended up on the one cup side of the dispute, and the Tabernacle and other churches ended up on the multiple cups side of the dispute.
So, once upon a time, that was a pretty big deal. Basically, the argument is that the Lord had just one cup, and Paul just talked about one cup. So, if you have more than one cup, it’s not the right way to have communion, and so your communion is invalid, or it’s not scriptural, or what have you.
Here is the thing, and this is really weird to me now. I didn’t think of this while I was still in there, but looking back now, I realize that even though we were on the one cup side of the dispute and Raymond Jackson made a big deal out of using one cup at different times, we actually didn’t use just one cup, just like we didn’t actually use one bread. As I reflect back on it, it’s really a weird contradiction.
If the rule is one cup, and we made such a big deal out of one cup, then why did we have more than one cup? And whether it’s two cups, or ten cups, or a hundred cups, what does that matter? None of them is one cup.
If the rule is one cup, it should just be one cup, right? And it is just so bizarre to me that even though they made a big deal out of that, we had more than one cup.
Being in a cult is that way. The leaders will say things, and you are so brainwashed you don’t even catch the contradictions. You don’t even notice they are saying one thing and doing another. You are so indoctrinated, and you are so blindly following the leaders. You can’t even realize they are being total hypocrites.
So, anyways, as we come back here to contention. Is it wrong to have more than one cup? I have to say, if it’s wrong to have more than one cup, then I have been taking communion wrong my entire life because we always had more than one cup, even though somehow we thought one cup was the right way. It makes my head hurt just trying to think about it, so I will leave this up to you.
Because I will be honest, I am still suffering some cognitive dissonance on this topic, and at this stage, I don’t think it matters. If you used multiple cups, like we did where I come from, or if you use a single cup, I am not sure there is anything that requires everyone to share a single cup, like I pointed out earlier in this message.
When I say, let me make us a cup of tea, that does not mean one single cup, and the same is true with the way the word cup is used in scripture around communion. It does not necessarily mean one single container.
So, it’s really hard for me to see anything that says that you must, hard and fast, always use one single cup. It seems to me it was never intended to be that strict.
And that said, a common shared cup would probably be more in keeping with what Jesus did in the upper room. But ultimately, when we look at the words of Jesus, his emphasis is on what is in the cup, rather than the cup itself.
And if all the wine came out of one vessel and was poured into multiple cups, I don’t really see how that breaks the symbolism of unity.
So, I think it’s really just a matter of conviction. Do what seems best to you, and respect what others do as is best for them. If they pour the wine into a common cup, I would take it. If they pour the wine into separate cups, I would take it. The point is that I am taking the fruit of the vine in remembrance of Christ’s shed blood.
And in that, I am fulfilling the letter of what the Lord asked us to do. If my heart is right in it, then I will also be fulfilling the spirit of it, and then I will get the benefit of it.
As I bring this lesson to a close, let me go back one more time to Ephesians 2 and read verse 13 and 14 to you.
13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.Ephesians 2
English Standard Version
That is what communion is about right there. It is remembering what Jesus did. It is bringing us near together, to each other, in an act of unity. And through that act of communion, we are partaking of the symbols of the unity that Christ created between us. We are recognizing the sacrifice he made, of his own blood and his own body, to set us free from sin and to give us peace and unity with each other, through him.
And if you are desiring to take communion, hopefully the local churches in your area are providing that from time to time. As much as I have looked into it, most all the Protestant churches out there have a form of communion I think is perfectly acceptable. The Methodists, the Baptists, the Pentecostals, the Presbyterians. Yeah, some of them precut their bread, and some of them use multiple cups, and some of them use non-kosher or non-alcoholic wine. And that does not match the way we have had communion in the past. But those other churches are within their Christian liberty to choose to do that. There are going to be a lot of Methodists and Baptists and Pentecostals all up in heaven with us. And God is not going to reject them because of their communion bread recipe. That is just silly.
And if I was in a position where I was offered communion by a Baptist or a Methodist or a Pentecostal, I would have no problem taking it. Because, here on this side of the doomsday cult we have escaped, I recognize some of those people are my brothers and sisters in Christ. And even though we may not experience a perfect union here below, we are certainly united in Christ, in whom we all have faith.
Now, if you are not comfortable sharing in a form of communion unless it perfectly matches your personal convictions, that is okay. There is nothing wrong with that at all. You are entitled to your convictions on the matter. And if I found myself in a position where I had no community to take the Lord’s supper with, I would have no problem at all driving down to the grocery store and buying some Jewish matza bread and some Jewish Kosher red wine and having a communion at home with my family. I am a minister. But there is nothing in scripture that says you must have to have communion served to you by a preacher. I believe any child of God is entitled to serve a Lord’s supper. Just do it respectfully, don’t turn it into a party. You can read 1st Corinthians chapter 10 and 11, and that will tell you the things to NOT do at a communion.
But, for those you are far off, and who have no access another way, having it at home would be perfectly acceptable according to scripture if you are comfortable with it. And these verses right here we are looking at in Ephesians are verses read in many communion services.
13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.Ephesians 2
English Standard Version
And in those two verses, you have both his body and his blood, both the wine and the bread. And I think it presents it here as a very beautiful picture.
I am so glad to know that each of you is my brothers and sisters. And today, because of distance, we may not be able to share a cup or break from one bread together. But you and I certainly are one in Christ. This life is busy, that’s for sure. But we have eternity. We are never going to run out of time. And before it’s all over with, we will have plenty of time to get to know each other and stand together in the glory of God and in the presence of Christ.
I hope this little lesson has helped a bit to think about communion. May God bless you, and we will be back again with you next year.
Let’s close in prayer.
Lord God, we thank you for your loving kindness towards us. Thank you for the sacrifice of our savior. Thank you for his shed blood which has brought us near to each other and has brought us peace, with each other, and with you. Thank you for breaking his body, which has broken the wall that divides men and God. It is written in the scripture, this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. And the day that scripture is speaking of is not just any old day but it is speaking specifically about the day wherein our Lord and Savior died to pay for our sins. Let us rejoice and be glad in that day.
Lord, that is what we do when we take the Lord’s supper. We remember Christ, and we are glad for what he did for us in that day. As we are coming near the end of the year, tomorrow starts the year 2024. We place ourselves before you, at your service. Search our hearts and lives, make us ever more like Christ. Guide our steps and help us to be a light to those who walk in darkness. This we ask in Jesus’ Name. Amen.