Throughout the Protestant Reformation, the Lord’s Supper was one of the most contentious theological issues in the church. Theologians like John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Ulrich Zwingli vehemently disagreed with one another over the meaning of this sacrament.
But the Lord’s Supper is actually meant to unite the church. As we consider the missionary task to take the good news to all the nations, we’d be foolish to ignore the way that the Lord’s Supper unites believers around a common meal that reminds us to reflect on the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What is the Lord’s Supper?
The Lord’s Supper is the meal that Christ instituted the night before he died. The Supper was given to the church as a means of grace to strengthen, unite, and remind believers of Christ’s work in his death, burial, and resurrection.
We see it clearly expressed in the Gospels (Matthew 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:14–23). In the words of Luke: As he did so, he said, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then after they ate, Jesus did the same with the cup. He said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my new blood.”
The Lord’s Supper is for Believers
According to Scripture, participation in the Lord’s Supper is restricted to those who are baptized believers. In 1 Corinthians 11:27, Paul warns readers that “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” Paul teaches his readers that it matters who takes the Lord’s Supper. This is not a simple memorial to remember Christ’s sacrifice. This is not a meal for every person. This is a family meal for Christians, a means of grace for those who have been united with Christ through faith and baptism.
In Colossians 2:9–12, Paul writes that Christians are buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Christ through faith in the powerful working of God who raised Jesus from the dead. It is through baptism that Christians are united with Christ, and it is through the Lord’s Supper that the faithful continually receive his nourishing spiritual benefits.
The Lord’s Supper Reaffirms Our Faith in Christ
The Lord’s Supper presents a picture of Christ’s sacrificial atonement. When Christians eat the bread and drink the wine, they remember Christ’s body and blood were broken for us (1 Corinthians 11:23–26) and receive the Supper as a means of grace. Christ was crucified on our behalf to make us right before God.
The Lord’s Supper is a meal for God’s people to gather around to reaffirm our commitment to Christ, to remember his sacrifice for us, and to receive spiritual nourishment
In the Supper, Christians are certainly remembering Christ’s sacrifice, but that is not all that is happening. Like the Word that is preached and baptism that is received, the Supper strengthens believers (Romans 16:25). Week after week, Christians should come to the Lord’s Supper as sinners before a holy God and receive the forgiveness of sins with full assurance that they will be pardoned because of the righteousness of Christ (Romans 5:18). The Lord’s Supper is a meal for God’s people to gather around to reaffirm our commitment to Christ, to remember his sacrifice for us, and to receive spiritual nourishment (John 6:51).
The Lord’s Supper Unites the Church
Believers ought to recognize the necessary corporate aspect of the Supper. When Christians take the Lord’s Supper, they should observe it within the context of the local church with the gathered people of God (Acts 2:42). This Supper is administered by the elders and serves as a way of publicly affirming our own need for Christ (1 Timothy 3:1–13; 1 Corinthians 11:27).
Communion is a unifying act where we join with our church to corporately reaffirm our commitment to Christ.
This meal is not an individual act where we commemorate our own commitment to Christ and remember what he has done for us. Instead, communion is a unifying act where we join with our church to corporately reaffirm our commitment to Christ. As we take this bread, we are unified with the congregation around us and reminded of the congregations across the globe, who take and eat, remembering what Christ has done for us and receiving nourishment from the wine and bread.
The Lord’s Supper Strengthens and Nourishes Us
When we eat the bread and the wine in faith, we’re receiving strength and nourishment from Christ, and we’re reminded of our need for him. Just as bread and wine give life to our bodies, Christ’s body and blood give life to our souls. When we take the Lord’s Supper, we remember that we need Christ. In the Supper, our faith increases as we look to Jesus together.
In baptism, Christians profess their faith publicly to one another. In the Lord’s Supper, they reaffirm each other’s faith. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper remind, strengthen, and unite Christians together.