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[This is a most needed lesson. Please read it
carefully and thoughtfully– R.N.]
IT IS APPARENT TO MANY that something needs to said, and teaching needs
to be done with regard: appropriate thanksgiving at the Lord’s table
(Luke 22:30). After all, Jesus our Lord set the example and said, “This do
in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). New converts are bound to be confused
when they hear thanksgiving offered in so many different ways often
inappropriately. And most of the time a person who makes the mistakes
receives no correction, and over and again the same mistakes are made. Often
brethren who have received no instruction, either from the pulpit or
privately, are asked to serve at the Communion table. Some have never
learned correct and appropriate thanksgiving. It is no wonder mistakes are
made and the thanksgiving is mis-worded.
The elements in the Lord’s Supper are nothing more than common bread and
grape juice in a common drinking vessel until they are sanctified through
prayer and blessed by the Lord. Even our daily food is “sanctified by the
word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4). When Jesus instituted the
Communion, the Scriptures tell us He blessed the elements. Then He declared,
“this is my body,” “this is my blood” (Matthew 26:26,28), “this cup is the
New Testament in (ratified by) my blood” (Luke 22:20).
Jesus was not telling the apostles that the elements had become literally
His body, His blood, and literally the new covenant God made with His
people. The word “is” is a copula of “symbolic representation.” These
elements were symbols of what they represented. (Yes, they are
representatives; not literally the body and blood of Christ). They were
symbolic only after they were sanctified by thanksgiving of Jesus (set apart
for a particular use). They became significant by divine arrangement and
recognition. They are of spiritual purpose and value and must be received as
such, otherwise, we eat and drink damnation to ourselves “not discerning the
Lord’s body” and are “guilty the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians
11:27,29). This is serious!
When our Lord gave His apostles the Communion, He set the example for them
and for us, and He said, “This do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Jesus
“took bread, and gave thanks” (Luke 22:19). I have actually witnessed
brethren serving at the table who failed to offer thanks. The apostle Paul
wrote to the Corinthians “the cup of blessing which we bless” (1 Corinthians
10:16). This is fundamental. To follow the example of Jesus we offer thanks.
For what? We offer thanks for the elements that comprise the Lord’s Supper.
After we offer our thanks, the next thing in order is to ask the Lord to
“bless or sanctify” the bread; to “sanctify the cup of blessing.” When we do
this, the bread becomes symbolically the body of Jesus and the cup with its
contents becomes symbolically the “cup of the Lord” (1 Corin- thians 11:27).
Our thanksgiving is directed to God through the name of Jesus. But I have
heard, more than once, a brother waiting on the table make the error of
thanking God for shedding His blood for us. God did not die for us. God sent
Jesus to become our sacrifice for sin (John 3:16). It was Jesus who died on
the cross and shed his blood for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:27).
There are brethren who seem to think they have to explain to God the meaning
of the elements. They say, “We thank thee for this bread which is the body
of Jesus.” And again, “We thank thee for this fruit of the vine which is the
blood of Christ, and this cup which is the New Testament.” God knows the
significance and meaning of the elements. The true meaning of the Communion
should be taught to the members of the Church before the observance; not in
the prayer. We who commune need to understand before we partake, so as to do
it without eating and drinking damnation to ourselves.
In (1 Corinthians 10:16) the apostle Paul says, “The cup of blessing which
we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we
break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” In this Paul reminds
us that we are to give thanks for “the cup of blessing” which is the
“communion of the blood of Christ.” He also tells us that the bread is the
“communion of the body of Christ.” He reminds us that this is what we give
thanks for. And when the thanks are given and the Lord sanctifies these
elements, they have spiritual significance; they have sacred purpose. If we
use scriptural language in our thanksgiving, we can’t go wrong.
All our prayers are addressed to God. “We give thanks to God and the Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ...” says the apostle Paul (Colossians 1:3). In
giving thanks at the table of the Lord it is appropriate to thank God (1)
“for the bread which to us is the communion of the body of Christ” (2) “to
ask the Lord to bless (sanctify) it for its intended use or purpose.” It is
also appropriate to solicit His help to partake of it in the right way.
There is no reason to embellish the prayer nor to lengthen it unnecessarily.
It is not a time for a long prayer or flowery speech, nor the exercise of a
When one offers thanks for the cup, he can say, as an example, (1) “We thank
thee for this cup of blessing” (which language is scriptural and covers both
the container and its contents). (2) “Please bless it for its intended
purpose.” (3) “Help us to partake of it in the right way and with the right
attitude,” or words to that effect. And every time we partake, it is for the
purpose of reminding us of the greatest sacrifice ever made–the crucifixion
of the Son of God and all that He suffered to purchase our redemption and to
give the hope of eternal life. It is a memorial service. We do this to show
His death till he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Let the man who officiates at the “table of the Lord” be absolutely sure to
offer prayer that is scriptural and appropriate. For he has an awesome
responsibility of wording an acceptable prayer to God for his own benefit
and the benefit of the assembled saints, in order for the observance to be
acceptable to the Lord. “This do in remembrance of me,” said Jesus.
= = = = = = =
OPEN OR CLOSED COMMUNION
By Paul O. Nichols
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, the Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod, and some
other religious sects believe and practice “closed communion.” And now we
have members of the Church of Christ who are advocating this practice. To
some, the term “open communion” means open to anyone, saint or sinner;
anyone who wants to partake is welcome to do so. The term “closed communion”
means it is only open to the ones whom they judge to be worthy, and closed
to others... and they have the authority to make the determination. Neither
of these positions is correct.
The fact is, the Lord’s supper belongs to the Lord, and only He has the
authority to either open or close it. No man has been delegated such
authority. We have been given an example and all the instructions we need to
observe it in the way that pleases Him. These instructions apply to all
alike. Jesus is our King, and if we are given an invitation to the King’s
table, it is His doing, and we are His guests, invited to eat and drink with
Him and with one another. If we eat and drink without His invitation or in a
way which displeases Him, it is He who will deal with us; not the other
guests. They have no such control. It is the “Lord’s table” (1 Corinthians
Only Christians are supposed to partake of the Communion, that is, only
those who have “obeyed from the heart that form or doctrine” (Romans 6:17).
When a person is baptized, no one but the Lord knows whether he does it from
the heart. And if he does not, the Lord makes no mistake by adding him to
the church. That person has only gone down into the water a dry sinner and
come up a wet sinner. He is not a Christian.
If a member who is not living a Christian life partakes of the Lord’s Supper
without God’s approval, no one but that person is held accountable. Other
Christians will not be condemned for his sin. He communes to his own
damnation (1 Corinthians 11:29).
The word of God teaches that we must worship God “in spirit and in truth”
(John 4:23,24). To worship in spirit means to be sincere of heart and
spiritually minded. One cannot simply go through a form or ritual, and call
it worship. This has to do with the “inner man.” To worship God “in truth”
is to worship according to what He has specified in His word. The apostle
Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi, “For we are the circumcision,
which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no
confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). Ours is a spiritual service,
done according to God’s directions. Each worshiper is responsible for his
own attitude in his service to God. If he does not worship in spirit, his
worship is vain. But no one else is condemned for his wrongdoing. In the
instructions for the proper observance of the communion the apostle Paul
taught the Christians at Corinth that each person was to scrutinize himself
(1 Corinthians 11:28).
The communion service is a congregational duty (1 Corinthians 11:18, 33). We
do it in memory of Christ, because He died for us and we believe He is
coming again (1 Corinthians 11:26). While it is a congregational observance,
yet each communicant is to “examine” himself’ before participating. Paul
warns that if one eats and drinks “not discerning the Lord’s body “that he
does so “unworthily” and in so doing he condemns himself. Because of the
failure to commune in a proper way many of the Corinthians were spiritually
weak, some were sick, and others were already dead as far as salvation was
concerned (1 Corinthians 11:28-30).
Some people misunderstand and therefore misapply what the apostle teaches in
first Corinthians chapter five. No where in this chapter is Paul teaching
about the Communion in particular. He is giving instructions about
fellowship and personal association in general. The terms “not to company”
(v. 9) and “not to keep company” (v. 11) and “with such an one no not to
eat” all have reference to the same thing. That is, associating and
socializing with unruly members of the church (and the writer specifies
certain sins), which might suggest to them that they are acceptable in their
sinful state. A person has control over his own table and whoever eats
there, and can invite whomsoever he will. But what person in a congregation
is authorized to examine other people who partake of the Lord’s Supper? The
only authority anyone has in this matter is the Lord Himself.
A man may refuse to eat with one he thinks is unworthy, but in so doing he
deprives himself of the blessing of communing with the Lord and with his
fellow Christians. If an individual unscripturally partakes of the
Communion, he alone is accountable to the Lord. No one in a congregation has
the authority to control another person’s partaking. “Who art thou that
judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth”
(Romans 14:4). “So then everyone of us shall give account of himself to God.
Let us not therefore judge one another anymore...” (Romans 14:12,13). “But
let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of
that cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28).
The Lord’s Supper is a serious and sacred matter, and everyone should be
properly instructed before the observance. All need to understand who is and
who is not eligible and scripturally qualified to sit at the King’s table to
commune with Him and with His faithful servants who are all citizens of His
kingdom. Concerning this matter the apostle says, “For if we judge
ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31). Amen.
Paul O Nichols
Overland Park, KS 66221-2839
[We appreciate the above articles and commend their teaching.
Far too many brethren are either unaware of the need or simply not concerned
enough to study for themselves and strive to "do Bible things in Bible