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Why Do We Take Communion?

Five reasons to share in the Lord’s supper (take communion)

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: What is communion? What are reasons we should take communion?

Part 2 of a 4-part series on “Key Christian Practices”

Part 1      Part 2      Part 3      Part 4

Taking communion: Introduction

While teaching in Capernaum, Jesus said something that confused many of his disciples and upset some of them (John 6:25-66). In fact, some were so upset that they stopped following him (John 6:66).

What did Jesus say that was so alarming? He started out by telling his listeners not to “work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27). Then he surprised them by saying that he is the bread of life, and that to have eternal life we must eat his flesh and drink his blood. Here are a few verses from this long passage:

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” (John 6:51-56)

Jesus obviously was not suggesting his followers become cannibals. Instead, he was helping them understand his true mission on earth. Although he helped meet people’s immediate needs, his true mission was to provide himself as a sacrifice for our sins and offer us eternal life with God. He gave himself—the bread—for the world (John 6:51). He shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 26:28).

Later, shortly before he was crucified, Jesus ate a meal with his disciples (sometimes referred to as the “Lord’s Supper”). At this meal he took this theme one step further, referring to the bread and wine they were about to eat and drink as his body and blood.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)

When Jesus did this, he was showing us that our relationship with him should be much more than thinking of him as a teacher or religious leader. It should be one of recognizing that he shed his blood for our sins and offers us the amazing privilege of being intimately connected to him—part of his body.

Related: How can I enter into relationship with Jesus?

What do you think?

1. What does the bread represent?

2. What does the wine represent?

3. Why do you think Jesus used the illustration of eating his flesh and drinking his blood to signify our relationship with him?

The New Testament tells about Christians taking communion

We read in the New Testament that Jesus’ followers took communion (another word for sharing in the Lord’s Supper) when they got together. Believers do the same thing today, sometimes at church, sometimes in their homes. The apostle Paul gives us an overview of this practice in the following passage:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, 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. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:23-32)

Five reasons we take communion

1. We remember what Jesus did for us.

It’s easy to get so caught up in daily life that we forget about Jesus’ sacrifice for us and the life he offers us. When we take communion, we are reminded of him.

After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:17-19)

What do you think?

4. Why do you think Jesus thought it was important to give us something to do to remember him?

5. Is it possible to take communion without thinking about what Jesus did for us? If so, how can we remind ourselves to avoid slipping into this habit?

2. We examine our hearts and rededicate ourselves to Jesus.

Before taking communion, we examine ourselves for ways we have sinned and ask for God’s forgiveness (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). Then when we take communion, we can rejoice in Jesus’ love, forgiveness, and abundant life.

Make it personal

6. How can taking communion revitalize us spiritually and emotionally?

3. We may become healthier.

Paul wrote that if we eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, we are sinning against the body and blood of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). He added, “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 11:30).

Although Jesus instituted communion primarily for spiritual reasons, we can see there’s another benefit to it. When we examine ourselves and take care of sin, we may end up becoming healthier. Sometimes illness is the result of our sin—although it’s often for other reasons (such as accidents or viruses). For example, drinking too much can destroy your body. Committing sexual sins can result in sexually transmitted diseases that can ruin your health. When we examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:27-29) and turn from sin, we end up living healthier lives.

What do you think?

7. How can taking communion result in us living healthier lives?

4. We celebrate being part of the body of Christ.

Taking communion is an individual act of reflection and worship, but it is also a reminder that we are part of Christ’s body, for all of Jesus’ believers together form his body.

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

Related: You are part of the body of Christ

What do you think?

8. Why is it good to remember you are part of the body of Christ when you take communion?

5. We proclaim the Lord’s death.

When we take communion, we are doing more than participating in a ritual. We are proclaiming that we believe in and are rejoicing in Jesus’ sacrifice, and that he took our sins upon himself.

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

What do you think?

9. What does it mean to “proclaim” the Lord’s death when taking communion?

Digging deeper

Read John 6:25-66. Ask God to help you deeply understand this passage.

Memory verse

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

Personal application

1. What did Jesus mean by saying we must eat his flesh and drink his blood?

2. What does it mean to “proclaim” the Lord’s death (1 Corinthians 11:26) when taking communion?

3. Some of Jesus’ disciples stopped following him when he said they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. What would be a more mature or trusting thing to do when you are confused by something Jesus says?

4. Why did Jesus refer to himself as bread?

5. What can you think about as you take communion to avoid it becoming a meaningless ritual?

6. Why should we examine our hearts before we take communion?

7. What does the Bible mean when it says you are part of the body of Christ?

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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