Communion at Home?

We trace our roots to the American Restoration Movement. Thomas & Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone were dedicated to seeing their churches return to simple Biblical Christianity. So many divisions had occurred in the Church over matters of opinion, and because over disagreements over things that are never enumerated in Scripture.

The Restoration Movement sought to restore simple Christianity in order to bring unity to all Christians everywhere. And one of the major ways they did this was through the Lord’s Supper.

If you grew up in the Church of Christ like me, you might be surprised to learn that the practice of the Lord’s Supper was once a battleground for division. We assume it’s always been done this way and there’s really nothing to consider that is new. But in the not-so-distant past the Lord’s Supper was a point of division, not unity. The Campbells ultimately broke their denominational ties over the issue of who could partake of the Lord’s Supper. The denomination they were a part of required people to pass a test and receive a coin as proof that they were worthy of partaking, and only ordained elders were allowed to distribute the elements. The Campbells saw no such exclusion in Scripture and welcomed all who professed faith in Christ to participate.

The desire to welcome all at the Lord’s Table led the Campbells, and similarly Barton Stone, to seek a way of practicing Christianity that was consistent with the Scriptures, and nothing more. They sought to unite in Christ, and in Christ alone. Nothing other than faith in Christ would be required for fellowship.

Some Christian traditions are struggling right now with how to share the Lord’s Supper. Sincere belief that only some can distribute the elements and only some can partake is causing real struggles for some congregations. But we view Scripture differently.

Here are some reasons why you can (and should) take communion at home, and why I believe you can do so on more than just Sunday.

  • If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are ordained by God as one of his priests. (1 Peter 2:5-9)
  • All the early believers were committed to “breaking bread” in their homes (Acts 2:42, 46)
  • It seems that the early church gathered to break bread on the first day of the week, at least in Troas (Acts 20:7). Historical writings from the 1st and 2nd century tell us that the practice varied from place to place.
  • Notice, however, that the church was ok with eating the Lord’s Supper after midnight, meaning this meal took place on Monday morning (Acts 20:7-11 shows they “broke bread and ate” after midnight).
  • Luke informs us that the early church had the practice of eating the Lord’s Supper daily (Acts 2:46).

I’m not trying to change your theology of the Lord’s Supper with this article, but I do want you to rest assured that you aren’t doing anything contrary to Biblical practice if you choose to eat the Lord’s Supper with your family at home.

I’m praying home church will be a blessing to you this week. Don’t forget to tune in to either our website, our Facebook page, our YouTube channel for some announcements, a time of prayer, and a message from God’s word on Sunday at 10:00am.

Sinning Against The Body and Blood of the Lord

What does Paul mean when he tells the Corinthians not to eat the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner?” 

“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 11:27 NIV

I have heard many teachings on the Lord’s Supper over the years, and most of the conclusions based on this verse indicated we need to spend this time focusing on the sacrifice that Jesus made. We need to visualize the cross, the suffering of our Savior, and the blood that was spilled. This should be a somber, quiet, and sad occasion.

The problem is the above describes an altar (a place of sacrifice.) We have often confused the table with an altar. We, however, are called to gather around a table, not an altar!

The first thing we need to realize is the Lord’s Supper was originally part of a meal. It was a time of feasting and celebration, not mournful reflection. Yes, a full meal that fed hungry people. This was not a sip of juice and a pinch of cracker. People were eating their fill. “Supper” is the evening meal. And the explicit problem with the church in Corinth was the wealthy were arriving early and eating all the food, leaving the poor hungry. Paul indicates this type of “dinner” should be done at home, not in worship gatherings. (1 Cor. 11:20-21) Paul further states that their actions show that they “despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing.” (v. 22) So the problem Paul is referring to is the Church being divided by not eating the Lord’s Supper together as equals.

Paul reminds them that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice was for all of them (v. 24 – “you” is plural, as well as plural “drink” in verse 25). 

So how do we eat and drink in a worthy manner according to Paul? John Mark Hicks summarizes this passage well in his book, “Come To The Table.”

Consequently, to eat and drink worthily is not about private introspection, but about public action. Paul is not stipulating a kind of meditative silence on the cross of Christ or an introspective assessment of our relative holiness. On the contrary, to eat in an “unworthy manner,” in this context, is to eat in a divisive manner like that which existed in Corinth. The church must examine itself about the manner in which the supper is conducted (1 Cor. 11:28). There may be many ways to eat the supper unworthily (e.g., 1 Cor. 10:18-21 where Corinthians ate unworthily because they ate with a dual commitment, serving two masters), but the specific unworthiness in 1 Corinthians 11 is a communal problem, not an individualistic one. The church eats worthily when it eats as a united community embodying the values for which Christ died.”

John Mark Hicks, Come to the Table: Revisioning the Lord’s Supper (Abilene, TX: Leafwood Publishers, 2012).

Josiah’s Passover & The Lord’s Supper

This week we wrap up our series Great Is Thy Faithfulness. We’ve taken an overview of the Hebrew Scriptures through the lens of God’s faithfulness. We’ve discovered that Yahweh keeps his promises regardless of what we humans do. We also discovered that our actions affect the way God’s faithfulness impacts us. When we live the life he calls us to then his faithfulness is a blessing. When we live contrary to his faithfulness, our sinful actions have painful consequences. This is what we saw the last two weeks as we looked to the 8th century BC in the prophecies of Hosea and Isaiah. The sin of Israel and Judah will bring painful consequences to the people, but God will remain faithful to heal and to save when they repent.

This week we turn to 2 Kings 22 and look at the story of Josiah. About 100 years after Hosea and Isaiah the 8 year old Josiah became king. Following the wicked reigns of his father and grandfather, Josiah chose not follow in their footsteps. We read that he was much like King David, and today is recognized as the 2nd greatest Davidic king.

All of Jerusalem had forgotten Yahweh. His temple had fallen into disrepair and had become the site of worship for Baal, Asherah, and star worship. Josiah ordered to restore the temple of Yahweh, and during that restoration a copy of the Torah was found (presumably Deuteronomy). Nobody knew about God’s word, or what to do with it. When Josiah heard the Torah read, he ripped his robes and sent his advisors to the prophet Huldah to confirm if what they were reading was true. 

The female prophet told these men that indeed the word of Yahweh was true and the punishment foretold in the Torah was coming. But she also had a word of peace for Josiah because of God’s appreciation for his heart. This destruction would come upon Jerusalem, but because of Josiah’s repentant heart, it would not happen during his lifetime.

Josiah calls all the people of Judah and reads aloud the Torah (as prescribed in Deuteronomy). When the people heard the words of Yahweh, they all pledged themselves to keeping the covenant. All of the idols and instruments of pagan worship were destroyed and removed and Josiah issued this decree:

“Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” – 2 Kings 23:21 NIV

In celebration of the renewed hearts and renewed commitment to Yahweh, the people eat the Passover.

Every Sunday at our gathering, we renew our hearts, we renew our commitment to Yahweh, and we eat the Lord’s Supper, a reapplication of the Passover by Jesus on the night he was betrayed (Mk. 14:16ff).

This week as we gather to worship, let us recommit to the mission and the covenant that Yahweh has made with us. And then let us eat the Passover of Jesus.

Sermon Text for 11/24/19 – 2 Kings 22:1-23:23; Mark 14:16-25

Mark 7:1-23

Our reading this week comes from Mark 6:14 through the end of chapter 7. I want to focus on one passage specifically from chapter 7.

Mark gives us a little background on how the Pharisees had created traditions and laws that God did not, and gives us an example of how they tried to bind these traditions on others (similar to what we talked about in our sermon Sunday.) The particular tradition in question here had to do with ceremonial hand washing. We know from history that Pharisees often monitored the washing jars (these are the same that Jesus used to change water to wine in John 4), and would threaten and punish anyone who didn’t observe this tradition.

Notice the question that they ask in verse 5:

“Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” Mark 7:5

Notice this has nothing to do with honoring God, but the tradition of the elders. Jesus condemns their actions, and addresses the problem with their hearts by quoting Isaiah. He summarizes this by saying

“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” Mark 7:8

Do we ever put our traditions over God’s commands? There is nothing wrong with a tradition until we start holding that tradition just as sacred as the words of God. I have seen some Christians come unhinged at the very idea of altering anything we do. You wouldn’t believe the outrage I received years ago when suggesting we move the Lord’s Supper to a different time in the service! And when the silver colored communion trays were replaced with gold colored ones? Yes…we’re often guilty of this as well.

The Pharisees were refusing to help their own families, specifically their fathers and mothers, by dedicating something their families need to God. Follow this scenario with me. You wake up tomorrow and find someone starving to death in your yard. He begs you for some food, but you decide you can’t buy him a breakfast because you might give that money to God someday. This is basically what the Pharisees were doing, and teaching others to do…even when those in need were their own parents.

But Jesus works to address their misinterpretation of the Scriptures. He tells them that people aren’t defiled by what they eat, which is a huge departure from Jewish practice. This is such a departure from the norm that Mark includes a parenthetical clarification:

“(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)” – Mark 7:19

Instead, Jesus clarifies that what comes out of someone makes them unclean…their actions, their words, their thoughts. To summarize the teaching of Jesus here: Don’t focus on the external, but the internal. Get your heart right, then the external will correct itself.

Seek God, and work to get your heart inline with what God truly calls us to.

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 6

Last time we explored the significance of the cups of wine used in the Passover celebration. This article will examine a reference that Jesus and Paul make to one of theses cups.

The third cup comes right after supper. This cup is mentioned specifically in Luke 22:20 – In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” This third Passover cup is known as the Geulah which means redemption, and is sometimes called the cup of blessing. As mentioned previously, the phrase “new covenant in my blood” is an allusion by Jesus to Jeremiah 31:31-34. “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…”  The passage ends with the words: “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.”

It is a powerful statement Jesus is making by taking the cup of redemption, or cup of blessing, and interpreting it as God’s new covenant with humankind. The third cup reminded the Jews of God’s blessing by redeeming them out of slavery in Egypt on the very night of the original Passover. In a similar, but far greater way, God will redeem his people once, for all time through the events that would begin the very night that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. This was to be a new feast to commemorate God’s eternal redemption of his people.

The apostle Paul alludes to this third cup in his letter to Corinth. The church in Corinth was apparently involved in consuming food that had been sacrificed by pagans to their idols. Some saw nothing wrong with eating the food, while others were deeply offended by this claiming the Christians were worshipping idols in eating these feasts.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17 – The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, since all of us share the one bread.

Barclay offers the following commentary on Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians. “…a man who has sat at the table of Jesus Christ cannot go on to sit at the table which is the instrument of demons. If a man has handled the body and blood of Christ there are things he cannot touch.”

Those of us who have entered into “the new covenant in [Christ’s] blood” have pledged our faithfulness to him. Eating this feast is worship, and when we eat the bread and drink from the cup, we are not only reminding ourselves of his sacrifice, we are recommitting ourselves to this new covenant in Christ which excludes worshipping any other god.

All Christians who eat the Lord’s Supper are “one body” in doing so. Unfortunately we still allow idol sacrifices to divide us today. We often place our allegiance to our denominations, our worship preferences, our schedules, our convenience, as well as other idols before our allegiance to unity in Christ. In many ways, we fail to remember the body (church) of Jesus when we eat this feast.  May God forgive us for our lack of unity, and may God strengthen our bond to him and each other through the body and blood of Christ.

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 5

Last week we explored the significance of the blood being applied to the doorposts of the houses of Israel. God had spared the children of Israel because the blood of the Passover lamb had been applied to their homes. In this article we will look at the wine used in the Passover celebration, and the symbolism that Jesus applied in the Lord’s Supper.

A cup of wine is not mentioned in Exodus 12, and nobody really knows when this tradition was added to the celebration, but it was in place by Jesus’ time, and two references are made to drinking from it as part of the ceremony. (Luke 22:17, 20) The participants of the Passover celebration each have a cup of wine, and on four separate occasions would use the wine in their cup. Each time the cup has a specific name and symbolic significance in the ceremony.

The first cup which opens the meal is called Kiddush which means sanctification. A blessing was given thanking God for the “fruit of the vine” before taking this cup. Most likely this is the drink referenced in Luke 22:17-18 –  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

The second cup was known as the cup of plagues which reminded the Jews of the wrath of God poured out on the Egyptians in the form of the ten plagues. This was not a drink from the cup, but rather a dipping of the finger, and a drop of the wine on their plates for each of the ten plagues.

The third cup comes right after supper. This cup is mentioned specifically in Luke 22:20 – In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” This third Passover cup is known as the Geulah which means redemption, and is sometimes called the cup of blessing. (We’ll explore a New Testament reference to the cup of blessing next time.)

The fourth cup known as the Hallel or the cup of praise accompanied the singing of hymns. These hymns are in your Bible as Psalm 113-118. I don’t have room to include these passages here, but you should read through them to see what Jesus sung just before he was arrested. And though this fourth cup is not mentioned specifically, it would have been taken with the hymns sung by Jesus and his disciples. (Mt. 26:30, Mk. 14:26)

Christians don’t usually pick up on the statement Jesus was making when he used the phrase “new covenant in my blood.” This phrase is only used once in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 31:31-34. “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…”

Jesus’ statements during the Passover, and his use of the Passover emblems and traditions made it clear that he was the chosen Messiah of God, the true Passover lamb that was sacrificed once and for all to take away the sin of the world. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.” Jeremiah 31:34b

For further reading on this subject, you can visit Jews for Jesus, or Chabad.

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 1
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 2 
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 3
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 4

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 4

As we continue our look at the Passover and the Lord’s Supper, we will take a two-part look at the blood of the lamb, and the wine. Much symbolism is given to these by Jesus, but first we’ll look at the Egyptian culture that had influenced the Israelite lives in slavery.

When Israel came to Egypt at Joseph’s invitation, they were a distinct people from the Egyptians. The Israelites were nomadic, living in tents, and they worshipped the one true God. The Egyptians worshipped many gods, and lived in houses made of mud brick and stone. By the time of Moses, the Israelites began to adopt Egyptian customs, including abandoning their tents to live in houses, much like the Egyptians did. (Ex. 12:22)

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God instructed the Israelites to place the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts and lintels of these houses. You don’t enter the house by way of the doorposts and lintel, but by way of the door. What would be significant about the doorposts and lintels? Why not put blood on the door? One of the customs the Egyptians had was writing their names on the stone doorposts of their house. The name was very important to Egyptians, and having your name remain in writings after your death helped ensure your place in the afterlife. In a very real sense, the Egyptians put their eternal hope in their own names on their doorposts. As the Israelites had adopted the custom of living in Egyptian style houses, and often built houses for the Egyptians, they most likely adopted the custom of putting their names on their doorposts as well.

“They must take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where they eat them…The blood on the houses where you are staying will be a distinguishing mark for you; when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No plague will be among you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” – Exodus 12:7, 13

God wanted a “distinguishing mark” for the Israelites…something that made them different from the Egyptians. Israel had begun blending into the world around them, and adopting Egyptian customs. Other than their societal status as slaves, there was really very little difference between their beliefs and that of the Egyptians. When God has them cover over their names on the doorposts, he is asking that they not trust their own efforts of engraving their names in stone, but to trust in God’s promise, and in the blood of the Passover lamb for their salvation.

Today Christians often blend in with the world around them. As Craig Groeschel writes, “Welcome to Christian Atheism, where people believe in God but live as if he doesn’t exist.” The “distinguishing mark” for Christians is still the blood of the eternal Passover lamb. And when we are covered by the blood of the lamb, it shouldn’t only hide our names…it should transform our lives. Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me.” He expected that we would be reminded often of the sacrifice he made, and the blood on the doorposts of our heart. Participating in the Lord’s Supper should be a memorial, and transformational experience. It calls us to be different from the sin filled world around us, and motivates us to teach others why they need to apply the blood of Christ on the doorposts of their hearts.

Read the rest of my series on this topic by using the links below:

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 1
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 2
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 3

For further reading on this subject, you can visit Jews for Jesus, or Chabad.