Have you ever considered the importance of the bread and wine that Christians consume during worship services? It’s not just you. Who started communion?
For millennia, Christians have celebrated a tradition commonly denoted as communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist.
During Communion, the elements of bread and wine represent Jesus’ flesh and blood, respectively. It certainly does sound odd. Why, therefore, do Christians speak of partaking in Jesus’ flesh and blood? Are we eating people?
Where Can We Find Communion In The Scriptures?
All three synoptic gospels recount the Lord’s Supper as its institution: Matthew (26:26-29), Mark (14:22-25), and Luke (22:14-20), with some interesting similarities in John’s Gospel (6:51-58, 13:1-20). According to Luke’s account,
“And when the hour came, he reclined at table and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise, the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’”
After Christ instituted Communion, we may find the first references to Communion in Acts 2:42, 1 Corinthians 11:23-34, and the Catholic Epistles (likely in James 2:1-4 and Jude 12).
Some experts argue that the “Love (Agape) Feast” and the weekly Eucharist were two separate types of meal celebrations in the Early Church. This may have been the case for the early followers of Jesus, but by the end of the first century, there appears to have been just one regular meal shared by Christians: Communion.
The passages in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11 where Paul explains how to observe communion properly are the most authoritative in the Bible. It explains how Christians should regard Communion.
“Whoever, therefore, 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. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” – 1 Corinthians 11:27-29
There is a precedent for communion that predates Jesus’ words in Matthew 26 by thousands of years. The Israelites greatly understood the ritual of spilling blood as a means of repentance.
The sacrificed animal’s death bought the offender’s life, made it possible for their misdeeds to be forgiven, and opened the door for the people to be reconciled with God.
As Hebrews 9:22 explains, the shedding of blood is required for forgiveness. “For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21
Should We Treat Holy Communion, the Eucharist, and the Last Supper as the Same Thing?
Although the terms “Holy Communion” and “Eucharist” are sometimes used interchangeably, there are important distinctions.
Eucharist is a noun that originates from the Greek eukharistia. The Catholic Church refers to the bread and wine used in communion as the Eucharist because of its belief that these elements represent Christ’s Body and Blood.
As may be seen in Matthew 26:27, the term meant “thanksgiving” in the early church: And when He had taken a cup and given thanks (eucharisteo), He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.”
The Eucharist and Communion: What’s the Difference?
Alternatively, Communion can be used as a verb. Being “in communion with the faithful” or “communion with God” describes what we do.
In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, Paul uses the Greek term “koinoea.” To participate in pagan ceremonies, he argues, is to adopt the beliefs and practices of the pagan society, which is why believers should avoid them.
“Is the bread that we bless not a communion (koinonea) in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” – 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
To sum up, the Eucharist and Holy Communion relate to the same sacrament, a re-creation of the original. It is what Jesus instituted during His final meal on earth, therefore the term “Last Supper.”
The Importance of the Last Supper
This last supper Jesus has with His followers is essential because it reveals the value Jesus put on the community. One of his central messages was the need for Christians to get together for meals and fellowship to serve one another.
It encourages us to wait expectantly for His second coming and the establishment of His millennial reign. We are invited to identify with and share in Jesus’ death through the sharing of the Last Supper.
Christians who respectfully observe the sacrament of the Eucharist share not just the bread and wine but also the very flesh and blood of Christ and are strengthened in their faith by receiving the blessings of His sacrifice.
Why Do We Participate in the Holy Communion?
As if this were not enough, God’s bountiful nature provides us abundant sustenance through communion.
Consider 1 Corinthians 10:18 and what occurs during temple offerings. We see that those who consume the sacrifice derive some advantage from what occurs on the altar.
“Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?” – 1 Corinthians 10:18
Is it possible that the spiritual sacrifice of Jesus is shared with the faithful as they physically participate in the communion elements?
To quote John Piper: “By faith—by trusting in all that God is for us in Jesus—we nourish ourselves with the benefits that Jesus obtained for us when he bled and died on the cross.”
He paved the way for us to be reconciled to God and restored to a state of holiness. Jesus made it possible for us to be free from anxiety and fear and to look forward with optimism. He gave them freedom from disease, insight into how to live in the light, and the courage to do so.
This rite is a cause for joy and a shield against spiritual danger.
So, who started communion? Communion is significant because it is a mandate that we must follow. Jesus wants us to recall that He is the one who delivers all we require every time we take a bite of bread and drink a glass of wine, and even while we are sitting at the tables in our own homes. He provides not only the material sustenance that we require to live but also the spiritual sustenance that we require to go on our journey with Him.