I am a Baptist. Therefore, I believe in only two, blessed ordinances established by the Lord Jesus Christ. These are believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, chronologically. I will be dealing with Communion in this post as this is one of my most cherished beliefs. That is not at all to say that I am soft on baptism. I adore the doctrine of baptism! Those who were in the position to name my denomination even named it after baptism. I plan to delve into baptism at a later date. There is still something that seems so sweet about Communion that draws me to it with as much fervor and intense study as baptism. Allow me to explain my love.
Let us begin with what Communion means. Communion’s definition is “an act or instance of sharing” or “intimate fellowship or rapport.” With this in mind, we will look at the Lord’s Table. If communion means to be in a harmonious, close relationship, where can we go to find an example of this? How does this look? We will look first at marriage, then to something far more perfect.
What is marriage? Marriage, defined biblically, is a covenant relationship between two sinful people, a man and a woman, made before God and through his Holy Spirit. Scripture repeatedly says that the man and woman “become one flesh.” “Become one flesh” is not at all speaking literally. The two do not become some conjoined mass of body parts. They simply, through this covenantal relationship, love one another and learn one another such that they are spiritually “attached at the hip,” so to speak. To put it another way, they are in communion with one another by covenant bond before God. There is no real way out so they may as well be one. In a more positive light, they love one another so beautifully and intimately that they become inseparable. This permanence explains why adultery is so unforgivable. Not that God will not forgive this sin, but it is a sin that is particularly heinous. It is an encroachment upon the holy union between these two people.
But, if you have been around married people for any amount of time at all, you know that this is not always a present reality. Many times, the two are quite disagreeable and even hostile toward one another. (E.g. Jack not mowing the lawn when Sarah asks him to which leads to a large argument.) Why is this? Because, my dear friends, we are dreadfully sinful creatures. There is always, on this side of the grave, going to be a distinctly selfish portion of everyone’s psyche. We want ours, even to the dismay and disadvantage of the one to whom covenant binds us. (Which is why Jack still won’t mow.) Sin destroys communion.
What if there was a perfect example? This is a reality that can be found in the Holy Trinity. Perfect, eternal, and harmonious communion is and has been, a fact within the Godhead. This is the reality from which all communion and fellowship indeed flows. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all perfectly agree in all things. Thusly, they are never at odds with one another. God’s desire for people has been for us to enter into this level of communion with him. He did not only want to create a people to be in communion with him but wanted to demonstrate his gracious love in redeeming sinners to enter into this with him.
For this to come to fruition, God had to act. He, in the Person of the Son, condescended to take on flesh. He lived a perfect life according to the Scriptures and was crucified. This was to be our perfect sacrifice. In him, we also were crucified and died to sin, so that, in him, we might be counted as righteous through faith in him and repentance from sin. But something astonishing had to happen. The perfect, inter-Trinitarian, Communion had to be broken. This is shown in the saying of Jesus Christ on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Perfect Communion was all that Jesus Christ had ever experienced, yet for us to experience it, he had to suffer condemnation. He had to be cut off from the comfort of the love of God. He had to suffer the fiery wrath of God, the Father. Can you imagine the utterance of the phrase, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” coming from the lips of the Son himself? The weight of this phrase is crushing even to ponder. However, in the face of inevitable defeat and anguish, Christ references a Psalm. Psalm 22 begins with the expression, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Psalm 22 is fascinating, in that, it prophesies of the coming crucifixion of the Lord in great detail. But, the really exciting part is the ending.
Psalm 22:23-31 (ESV)
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. 26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 28 For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.
29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. 30 Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; 31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.
The Communion that has been severed has now been reestablished in the cross! Yet, it is not only the Son, but it is also all who are in the Son! Christ has become the mediator between God and man. Christ is he upon whom God and man may set their affections and love. Christ is the one. Communion between God and man, that had been destroyed by sin is now established in the cross.
Now, we look at the Lord’s Table. Jesus established this ordinance the night before his arrest.
Luke 22:19-20 (ESV)
19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood
Christ here establishes a supper. This is significant as eating together was the most profound way to declare friendship and solidarity. In this ordinance we come to the Table, to dine with the Father, with the common affection of Jesus Christ. We commune with God through the remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice. The establishment of the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is one of the most gracious acts God ever does. He established a means by which believers may approach God, not merely as worshipers, but as sons, through the Lord Jesus Christ. Soli Deo Gloria!