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Eucharist / Holy Communion / the Lord's Supper / the Lord's Table / Mass
Not commemorating Christ's historical death; but celebrating the New Covenant established by His death!
 
'Access Reserved'..?
Admission Reserved
Front entrance to
Salem Full Gospel Church
Bothasig, Cape Town, South Africa
(as at December 2010).
 
Across the landscape of Christianity, virtual signs of 'access reserved' often stand at the door to the Lord's Supper. Is this right?
  Closed or Open Communion? — What should it be?
To
answer this, we need first to understand the Biblical perspective on this most sacred celebration of the Christian Church.
  Holy Communion —  what it is,  and  what it is not!
Paul's
correction of the Corinth Church is part of Holy Scripture because it is a lesson for us today.
 
He writes that the Lord's Supper, which the Corinthian Christians thought they celebrated, was not really the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion, for they celebrated it in contradiction of its essential validating character –
 "When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper that you eat." 
1 Corinthians 11:20.
Regardless
of their individual sincerity in worshipfully eating what they understood to be a celebration of the Eucharist or Lord's Supper, God who administers all true blessings, did not see it as such! Why?
 
Because they were not – "discerning the Body"!
1 Corinthians 11:29
In this
Scriptural context the word 'Body' here refers, not to a mental image of the crucified Christ as a pious focus for our mind, but to our view–of / attitude–toward God's people gathered together in faith as Christ's living representative-presence on the earth (the local church); not the sacrament, BUT – the people
the people for whom Christ died, ALL the people for whom Christ died – non-selectively!
 
the people to whom He gave His Spirit at Pentecost for the continuance of His ministry, the only people to whom His Spirit has been given.
This truth
of the Body had been made clear for us in the Bible's preceding chapter. The word "body" is the body of believers with whom the celebration is fulfilled! There is no other meaning, if it is read within the sequence of its own context.
So it says for our understanding today –
 
"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?
 Because there is ONE Bread, WE who are many are one Body, for we all partake of the one Bread
[Christ]." 
1 Corinthians 10:16-17.
This emphasis
on unity among believers (because they-together are one as Christ is one) is based on the representative nature of Christ's gathered congregation. It – the local congregation bound together in the love of God – is collectively to represent Him.
 
 
Therefore in Corinth, attitudes among the Christians toward each other which in any way degraded this unity ("divisions") negated the reality of their celebration of Communion/Eucharist.
 "... when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you" 
1 Corinthians 11:18.
Their
failure to consider/value/view each other appropriately, as collectively being each a part of Christ's Body meant that they, no matter how unintentionally, in effect despised "the Church of God".
1 Corinthians 11:22.
It is
against this background that the believers are therefore instructed in remedy to –
 
 
"wait for one another ...lest you come together to be condemned [by God]."
1 Corinthians 11:33-34.
In
other words, the picture here is not of individual celebrants receiving the sacrament from ministering clergy.
 
 
Rather, it is a group celebration of the Redeemer's redemptive act on behalf of all, by which the celebrants share and are part of each other's spiritual identity and welfare.
Less than this is not the Lord's Supper in His sight!
 
 
This holy act is simply Christ's congregation corporately expressing its essential shared identity in Him as His Church as a consequence of His atonement. Therefore, the attitude of the participants toward each other has a decisive effect on whether that celebration is recognized by God as the 'Table of the Lord'. Only seeing each other as co-inheritors in Christ and so 'one body', Christ's Body on earth, allows the spiritual dynamic of this celebration to be true, or it is false.
 
 
The spiritual inclusivity of this corporate/shared event declares our mutual identity, and calls us to account in practice regarding the goal in this present world of our holy redemption in Christ, namely – a unity no less than that of God Himself. As the Lord Himself expressed it in His prayer to our Father –
 
Christ's prayer for us: "I do not ask for these only  [the eleven apostles], but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.
The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me,
that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved Me
."
John 17:20-23.
Accordingly,
no form of ministry or Christian service can take precedence over this goal of total unity in the love of God –
"if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing
."
1 Corinthians 13:2.
Sadly,
this New Testament perspective on the celebration of Communion has been lacking through most of Christian history – a lack that has laid this sacred act open to much misrepresentation and abuse, to the damaging of Christ's heritage in His people.
 
 
Yet the need to limit this celebration, to those who have some form of Christian character, has been a driving influence in its administration for most of Christian history.
 
 
Religious initiations, such as Baptism and Confirmation, have been set as prerequisites to qualify the individual. Others have added Church-Elder-approval of the moral character of the individual. All of this adding up to the need to protect this celebration from the unworthy Christian.
 
  Safeguards?  
 
The disciplinary instruction of Paul concerning the fallen believer "...not even to eat with such a one" has even been used to this effect, as though the word "eat" made it a reference to Holy Communion. But, this is simply not true!
1 Corinthians 5:11.
The
context makes a plain reference to social relationships. It is the social relationship, typically expressed as eating together, that must be severed with those that refuse to turn away from their continuing sin; in this case it is in regard to sin that is offensive even to an ungodly world.
 
 
This discipline should not even reach the issue of participation in the most sacred celebration. It has reference to a discipline that stops all personal social association between the unrepentant believer and the believers (as individuals), with regard to a behaviour which the world would regard as ungodly. Holy Communion is therefore not even be within view.
 
The
Lord's Table today needs protection no more than the Lord's Sabbath did in the time of Jesus. As Jesus taught about the Sabbath, so also with Holy Communion. It was instituted for the benefit of God's people. It is always the benefit of the participants that is the issue, never the safety of the sacrament. 
 
 
Therefore, concerning whether a person is really qualified to have part in this holy act, the Bible makes it clear that –
God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: 'The Lord [not us] knows those who are His'",
and that it is therefore the responsibility of the individual to practice his Christian identity [if it is true] by –
'Let everyone who names the name of the Lord [who is called a Christian] depart from iniquity'.
2 Timothy 2:17-19.
Accordingly,
we may only judge by behaviour, and our judgment is always restorative in purpose.
 
 
Even Baptism, although its character associates it with entrance into the Christian Faith, the event is not in itself a precondition to celebration of the sacrament. It is the faith represented in Baptism which qualifies participation, not the event. Hence if a person considers themselves or their child not ready for Baptism, they are for that reason also not ready for the Lord's Supper. Their can be no distinction in the character of the faith required.
 
 
Baptism theologically belongs to the initiatory moment of faith, but, as an experience of the believer, it is not a precondition to Communion. Salvation does not begin with Baptism, it begins with faith. It is this same faith that is expressed in the spiritual enjoyment of this most sacred celebration, and no less.
 
 
Remember, where Holy Scripture says that "baptism now saves you", this is by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, not by His Atonement. In other words, just as the resurrection of Jesus was the physical demonstration that God had accepted Christ's atonement for our sins on the Cross, so water baptism is now the physical statement that the believer has personally surrendered to that cleansing atonement.
1 Peter 3:21
 
Nevertheless, Christian parents need to be aware that both Baptism and the Lord's Table require the same personal faith and therefore a child that is not ready for Baptism is a child that is not ready for Holy Communion. To ignore this in the administration of the Lord's Supper is to invite disrespect of an instrument of faith among those most vulnerable to disrespect.
 
Communion
belongs to the whole Congregation of Christ unconditionally!
'Congregation' does not mean registered members, or any selection or sub-group of Christians! The definition is of Christ's spiritual Body and Christ's Body alone!
The
inclusive character of Communion among God's people is so intrinsic to its celebration that anything that contradicts or lessens this threatens to annul the celebration itself – at least, as far as the Lord is concerned!
Practically
then, this means there can be –
No private Communion: 
Individual celebration, either alone, with a sympathetic person or priest, with the sick, with the dying, etc. is itself a violation of the nature of Holy Communion. It may occasion a precious time of spiritual encouragement and devotion for the sick or lonely, but it is not the Holy Communion which Christ gave to His church.
No special Communion: 
Special groups, such as Youth Meetings, Ladies Meetings, or any other group, that is not by its nature and method open to all believers, also cannot celebrate Holy Communion without violating its nature.
To also
celebrate it at particular times or in places that therefore effectively limit attendance or make it exclusive to a special interest group, no matter how small or how large, therefore contradicts the openness of Christ's salvation, and thereby denies His Cross which it claims to celebrate.
 
  To not understand this is to not understand this most sacred celebration of the Christian Church!  
To celebrate Holy Communion in any other way than that which expresses its character (of His people being one body in Christ through His holy sacrifice) is simply not Holy Communion.
There can be no fence around this event other than conformity to its own intrinsic character!
  Now see: The Presentation of Holy Communion:

The Body of Christ Symbols that Strengthen What Happened at Pentecost?

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