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Communion (Part 3) - When, Where, Why, and How Communion is to be Observed

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IV. When should it be observed?
1. There is no specified time or frequency given in the Bible for communion to be observed.
2. The commandments concerning when communion should be served are the following:
A. "...this do in remembrance of me." (Luk 22:19)
i. This verse tells us that communion is a commandment that is to be done.
ii. All church members must partake of communion when the church observes it, since Jesus said "this do."
iii. There is no opting out of communion for church members.
iv. If a church member doesn't feel like taking it because of unconfessed or unforsaken sin in their lives, then they must confess that sin to God and then take the Lord's supper, making sure to discern the Lord's body (see Section VII).
B. "...this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup,..." (1Co 11:25-26)
i. These verses tell us that communion is to be kept frequently.
ii. Oft adv. - often
iii. Often adv. - 1. a. Many times; at many times, on numerous occasions; frequently. Opposed to seldom. 2. In many instances; in cases frequently occurring.
C. "ye do shew the Lord's death till he come." (1Co 11:26)
i. This verse tells us that communion should be kept up to the time of Christ's Second Coming.
ii. Till prep. - II. Of time. 5. a. Onward to (a specified time); up to the time of (an event); during the whole time before; until.
iii. Until prep. - II. With reference to time. 5. Onward till (a time specified or indicated); up to the time of (an action, occurrence, etc.); = till prep. 5.
D. "...when ye come together to eat..." (1Co 11:33)
i. This verse tells us that communion can be observed at any time.
ii. When adv. II. Relative and conjunctive uses. 4. As compound relative (cf. what C.*), or as correlative to then (implied and sometimes expressed): At the (or a) time at which; on the (or an) occasion on which. c. Indefinitely or generally: At any time, or at the several times, at which; on any occasion that: most commonly with vb. in pres. tense.
E. From the previous four verses, we see that communion should be kept frequently at various times until the return of Jesus Christ; but they don't specify exactly when or how often it is to be kept.
i. The pastor is the steward of God (Tit 1:7; 1Co 4:1-2).
ii. Steward n. - 1. a. An official who controls the domestic affairs of a household, supervising the service of his master's table, directing the domestics, and regulating household expenditure; a major-domo.
iii. Therefore, since the scripture doesn't specify exactly when and how frequently the church is to observe communion, the pastor, as the steward of God, whom God has given the duty of supervising the service of His table, decides when and how frequently the Lord's supper will be served.
iv. The Minneapolis Church keeps the Lord's supper once per month.
v. This frequency is often enough that we are regularly reminded of the Lord Jesus Christ's death for us, but not so often so as to become a thoughtless ritual.

V. Where should it be served?
1. Communion is a local church ordinance (See Section III).
2. Every instance of communion being observed is in a local church.
A. Jesus instituted the first communion service (Mat 26:26-28; Mar 14:22-24; Luk 22:17-20) in the Jerusalem Church which He built (Mat 16:18).
i. This was the church in the midst of which Jesus sang praise unto God (Heb 2:11-12 c/w Mat 26:30 c/w Mar 14:26).
ii. This is the same church which met together after Jesus' ascension with 120 members (Act 1:13-15), and which had 3000 members added on the day of Pentecost who observed the Lord's Supper (breaking of bread) (Act 2:41-42,47).
B. Paul gave the Corinthian Church much instruction concerning how they were to partake of the Lord's Supper (1Co 11:20-34; 1Co 10:16-21; 1Co 5:8,11).
C. Communion was to be served when the church came together to eat it (1Co 11:33 c/w 1Co 14:23).
D. The principle of Paul's instruction to the church at Corinth concerning communion is applicable every local church, as Paul taught the same thing in every church (1Co 4:17 c/w 1Co 11:1-2).
3. Therefore, since communion is a local church ordinance, and every example of communion being partaken of in the scripture was in a local church, communion ought to only be served in a NT local church.
A. This means that a communion service should not be conducted in private outside of the assembly of the church such as in a hospital room, home, etc.
B. This means that communion should not be offered at a parachurch organization such as a Campus Crusade meeting, etc.

VI. Why do we observe communion?
1. To remember Christ's death (1Co 11:24-25).
2. To have a common union (communion) with the body of Christ, the local church (1Co 10:16-17).
3. To show the Lord's death until He returns (1Co 11:26).
A. Shew v. - variant of show n. and v.
B. Show v. - II. To cause or allow to be seen or looked at. 2. a. trans. To bring forward or display (an object) in order that it may be looked at; to expose or exhibit to view.
C. The communion service should bring forth the remembrance of Christ's death for all to see.

VII. How should we observe communion personally?
1. We must examine and judge ourselves before partaking of communion (1Co 11:28; 1Co 11:31).
A. Examine v. - 1. trans. To try, test, assay (precious metals, etc.). Said both of personal and material agents. Also fig. Obs. (#1 went out of use in 1400s) 2. a. To test judicially or critically; to try by a standard or rule. Obs. exc. with mixture of sense 3 or 6, to one or other of which phrases like to examine oneself, one's conscience, etc. now chiefly belong. 1526 Tindale 1 Cor. xi. 28 Let a man examen him silfe and so let him eate of the breed and drynke of the cup. 3. To investigate by inspection or manipulation the nature, qualities, or condition of (any object); to inspect in detail, scan, scrutinize.
B. Judge v. - 1. To try, or pronounce sentence upon (a person) in a court of justice; to sit in judgement upon.
C. Judgment - 1. a. The action of trying a cause in a court of justice; trial. b. Phr. to sit in judgement: (a) lit. to sit as judge, to preside as a judge at a trial; (b) fig. to pass judgement upon (see 6), to judge, criticize (with an assumption of superiority).
D. In other words we are to look at ourselves critically and investigate, inspect in detail, try, and scrutinize our hearts before we take communion.
E. This is why it's important to prepare for communion before you get to church.
2. Examining ourselves is necessary so that we do not eat and drink of the Lord's supper unworthily (1Co 11:27).
A. Unworthily adv. - 1. Without being worthy, fit, or qualified; without having sufficient merit or ability; unmeritedly.
B. Worthy adj. - II. With various constructions. 7. a. Of sufficient merit, excellence, or desert to be or have something.
C. If we take the Lord's supper unworthily, we shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord (1Co 11:27) and we will eat and drink damnation to ourselves (1Co 11:29).
i. What does it mean to be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord?
a. Guilty adj. - 1. That has offended or been in fault; delinquent, criminal. Now in stronger sense: That has incurred guilt; deserving punishment and moral reprobation; culpable.
b. To be guilty of the body and blood of Christ is not to be personally responsible for it as were the Jews who called for His death (Luk 23:20-25; Act 2:23,36; Act 3:14-15; Act 4:10; Act 5:30; Act 7:52; 1Th 2:14-15), and as were Herod, Pilate, and the Gentile soldiers who carried out His murder (Act 4:27).
c. Only those individuals were guilty of the death of Christ in that sense.
d. To be guilty of the body and blood of Christ is not to be guilty of His death in the sense of it being one's own sin which caused His death (Rom 4:25; 1Co 15:3).
e. All of the elect are guilty of Christ's death in that sense, not just those who eat the Lord's supper unworthily.
f. To be guilty of the body and blood of Christ in the context of 1Co 11:27 is to be guilty of disrespecting the bread and wine which are emblems of Christ's body and blood which are to be eaten in remembrance of his broken body and shed blood (1Co 11:24-25).
g. "...every unworthy communicant, or that eats and drinks unworthily, may be said to be guilty of the body and blood of Christ, inasmuch as he sins against, and treats in an injurious manner, an ordinance which is a symbol and representation of these things; for what reflects dishonour upon that, reflects dishonour on the body and blood of Christ, signified therein." (John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)
ii. What does it mean to eat and drink damnation to ourselves?
a. Damnation n. - 1. The action of condemning, or fact of being condemned (by judicial sentence, etc.); condemnation.
b. Condemnation n. - 1. The action of condemning or of pronouncing adverse judgement on; judicial conviction; expression of disapprobation or strong censure; the fact of being condemned: as in ‘your condemnation of me’, ‘my condemnation by you’.
c. By eating the bread and drinking the wine unworthily, we bring on ourselves condemnation and censure from God.
d. The damnation is identified as sickness and physical death in the context (1Co 11:30).
e. The damnation is not eternal condemnation which the world gets, but is rather a chastening from the Lord (1Co 11:32) which He only gives to His children whom He loves (Heb 12:5-11).
f. There is no eternal condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).
3. In order to take the Lord's supper worthily and avoid eating and drinking damnation to ourselves, we must discern the Lord's body (1Co 11:29).
A. To eat the Lord's supper unworthily is to eat it while not discerning the Lord's body (1Co 11:29).
B. Discern v. - 1. trans. To separate (things, or one thing from another) as distinct; to distinguish and divide. 2. To recognize as distinct; to distinguish or separate mentally (one thing from another); to perceive the difference between (things).
C. We should separate Christ's death in our mind when we partake of communion.
D. We should not be thinking of anything else when taking communion.
E. This is why it's important to examine and judge ourselves ahead of time so that we are not thinking of our unconfessed and unforsaken sin when we should be thinking of Christ's sacrifice for us.
F. The Corinthians were not discerning the Lord's body, but rather some were feasting to the point of drunkenness while others had none and were hungry (1Co 11:21).

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