Monday, July 12, 2010

The Mystery and Power of Communion: Part IV

As Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Last Supper . . . as the early Church celebrated the Lord’s Supper . . . as we celebrate today: We participate, rejoicing that the fulfillment in Communion ~ that fourth cup, consummation ~ will be celebrated at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:6-9)

The Wedding Feast of the Lamb was on our Lord’s mind that awesome and preordained night of the Passover just before the Crucifixion. For I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:16) for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:18) And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:29-30)

When we enter into Heaven (through death or through the return of our Lord), there will be no more pain for us . . . no sorrow . . . no sickness. At the appointed time, we shall all sit down with the Bridegroom and feast!! Until then, we will continue to drink from the Cup of Redemption and eat of the presence of the Lord.

As we partake, we are to do so with holiness and a pure heart and in orderly and reverent fashion. Communion is not to be an afterthought of our service – there is to be a celebration at the heart of it. One of my absolute favorite Bible teachers is Perry Stone. In his book, The Meal that Heals, Perry lays out Four Steps for Receiving the Lord’s Supper. They are (my paraphrase):

Look Inward! Deep into your heart and your spirit. Ensure that you have no hidden or un-confessed sin. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (1 Cor. 11:28) Is there a bondage or “pet” sin you struggle with? If so, repent before you receive communion. If you want to hang on to that sin, don’t partake of the Lord’s supper. Keep your spirit pure before God.

Look Outward! At your family, friends, fellow believers, neighbors or acquaintances. If you hold something against any one of them, your offerings cannot be blessed until you make amends. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Look Upward! Remember Christ’s redemptive work on your behalf with holy gratitude. Dwell upon who He is, who you are in Him. Meditate on His goodness and mercies. Think about the time to come. Jesus is coming again at an hour when none of us know. Are you ready?

Look Onward! Live your life expecting to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for your life. EXPECT to receive the power and the healing that are yours in Communion! EXPECT to receive the benefits and inheritance that are yours as a child of the King! EXPECT to declare the Word of God over you and your family and see the promises of God fulfilled! The price for all these benefits has been paid through the shed blood of our Lord! EXPECT to live out all of your days. With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.” (Psalm 91:16) Remember that Salvation is a complete work of making a person whole in spirit, soul and body.

In closing, there is no place in scripture that gives a specific age at which one should begin to partake of communion, just as there is no specific age at which one can be saved. Both Communion and Baptism are Holy Sacraments of the believer. Parents should judge whether or not their child really understands the message of salvation, the message of Baptism, the message of Communion . . . and decide accordingly whether they should participate.

Don’t take any Sacrament of the Lord lightly . . . consider the price that was paid through the Cup and through the Bread that represent the Blood and the Body of our Lord. Consider all that has brought you to the point of partaking in the holy remembrance of the Lord. Examine yourself with prayer and honesty; and ask yourself if you do, indeed, desire to come before God in obedience and righteousness. If you are then led, celebrate with joy and receive all that the Lord has prepared for you at His table!!

It is my prayer that you have been blessed by something in this study. Everything the Lord has taught me about his Word has come through the quickening of the Holy Spirit or through the teachings of great men and women of God who desired to share the Good News!! I have always been very grateful for the teachings of Perry Stone, who has been such a powerful vessel in helping me understand the Hebraic roots of my faith. I am especially grateful for his teaching on Holy Communion. Of course, more than anything, I bow in gratitude to our Lord who completed all things for me on the cross, to my Father who desired from the beginning that I would fellowship with Him eternally, and to the Holy Spirit who breathes life into His Word and into my spirit!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Mystery and Power of Communion: Part III

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven." John 6:32. Six days a week, God caused bread from heaven to fall on the ground during the night to give strength and sustenance to the Hebrew people in their journey to the Promised Land. Before manna was eaten, it had to be gathered and ground on millstones or beat in mortar to bake into flat cakes.

Like many churches, HCBC uses a Jewish bread called Matzo for the Lord’s Supper. It is the bread used during Passover celebrations today. Matzo is square when it is whole and white in color. The long rows baked into the Matzo represent the long stripes from the cat-of-nine-tails that scourged our Lord. The holes in the Matzo represent the piercing of our Lord’s hand, feet, and side. It is made without leaven (sin) and the brown spots from baking represent the bruises on the body of Christ.

As we partake of the Lord’s Supper or Communion, the bread represents the physical body of Christ. We need to well remember the wounds and agony of Jesus as He endured the torture of the cross: nails thrust piercing His hands and His feet; the brutal spear ripping His flesh as it impaled His side. The wicked cat-of-nine-tails had 9 long leather straps embedded with incredibly cruel balls of metal designed to brutally rip and tear the skin. It’s desired result was agonizing pain for the recipient receiving the lash of the beast. At 40 stripes, death would come. They stopped short to prolong His agony. Yet every stripe our Lord endured, every drop of blood He shed, every bruise upon His body had plan and purpose from the very beginning of time.

Most Protestant (Protestant meaning those churches that protested and moved away from the Mother or Catholic Church) and Spirit Filled denominations like the Assemblies, Holiness, and Pentecostal churches today recognize two basic Sacraments in the Church: Baptism and Communion. Catholic and Orthodox churches have additional Sacraments. Webster defines the word sacrament as: Etymology: Middle English sacrement, sacrament, from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French, from Late Latin sacramentum, from Latin, oath of allegiance, obligation, from sacrare to consecrate 1 a : a Christian rite (as baptism or the Eucharist) that is believed to have been ordained by Christ and that is held to be a means of divine grace or to be a sign or symbol of a spiritual reality b : a religious rite or observance comparable to a Christian sacrament 2 capitalized a : COMMUNION 2a b : BLESSED SACRAMENT

As our Catholic brothers and sisters partake of Communion or the Lord’s Supper, they believe in a doctrine called Transubstantiation, which is to say that they believe that as the bread and wine are consecrated (prayed over/dedicated to the Lord), the cup and the bread become the actual, real and substantial presence of Christ.

Lutherans and some other mainline denominations believe in a doctrine called Consubstantiation, which means that they believe that the wine and the bread coexist or are in union with each other: that the substance of the body and the blood of Christ are present (along side) as believers partake of the bread and the cup.

Most evangelical or full gospel churches believe the bread and wine are “representative” of the body and blood of our Lord. We partake in “remembrance” with faith, and in doing so we have communion with the real physical body and blood of Christ Jesus.

The Greek root of the word communion is “koinonia”, which means intimate partnership or intercourse. Yet, the Bible clearly teaches of the power and provision and healing that comes through receiving the Lord’s Supper. I am reminded of what Paul says in 1 Cor. 13:12, For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. There is a mystery in Communion that is activated through our faith.

Matthew tells us, And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Matthew 26:26-28 Luke says, And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19

The prophet Isaiah through the word of our God: He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:3-6

While we may not understand it entirely, we are assured that the presence of the Lord is indeed with us as we partake in this holy sacrament. We receive and celebrate our “sozo” (salvation) through Jesus . . . who saves, delivers, protects and heals in a complete work of making us whole in spirit, soul and body.