God has always loved us with an everlasting, and therefore, unconditional love. He blessed Abraham and told him, “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants” (Genesa 17:7). He doesn’t need a covenant to prove His commitment to us, but He makes covenant in order that we might clearly see His eternal loving-kindness. The gospel is the good news of God’s love expressed to us in covenant. Why did He make a covenant where He forgives all our sin before we were even born? Because He loves us with no strings attached! There is no other explanation.
To understand Communion, we must understand something that is at the heart of God’s dealings with man since the Garden of Eden. We must understand covenant. The idea of covenant and especially blood covenant is the foundation for everything God did to bring the man back into relationship with himself.
When man sinned, God killed an animal to provide a temporarily adequate covering for his sin. In doing so, He put the idea of blood covenant into man’s world. Starting with the animals sacrificed to cloth Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to the covenant with Abraham, we see God using covenant to have relationship with men.
The Meal Covenant In The Scripture
Every covenant ended with a meal that declared that the covenant was valid and now functional in the lives of the parties to it. The meal showed the covenant as the two representatives would eat of the same bread and drink of the same wine, telling the world that they were one. (Genesis 26:28-31; 31:44-46)
The covenant that God made with Abraham came into effect with a covenant meal, at which time Abraham killed the calf and Sarah baked her cakes; the angel of the Lord, and two angels ate and drank the meal Abraham and Sarah had prepared (Genesis 18:6-8). The meal was the signal, for the covenant promise made long ago was about to be fulfilled and Sarah would have her miracle son.
The Israelites were delivered from Egypt and slavery in fulfillment of one of the promises of the covenant with Abraham, but the deliverance was in fact a little covenant that centered in the Passover meal (Exodus 12:1-27). The door of each home had been smeared with the blood of the lamb that they were about to eat. As they walked through the bloody door, they were declaring their covenant status with God, sheltered by Him from the judgment that was to fall on Egypt; by eating the lamb, they became one with the covenant sacrifice. Their being taken from Egypt and formed into the people of God took place in a covenant meal.
The covenant made at Sinai, which we now call the old covenant, recorded in Exodus 24, came into effect when the covenant meal was eaten with God. The amazing sight is recorded in verses 9-11 of that chapter, which tell us, “Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel… So they saw God, and they ate and drank.”
God and man sat down and ate together! This was the making of the old covenant, and we must anticipate something even far more wonderful in the new and better covenant.
On the eve of His death—or, if we use the Jewish method of counting days, on the same day as His suffering and death—Jesus instituted the covenant meal of the new covenant.
19And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22:19-20)
The Old Covenant Provision
If we are going to understand what the communion is to us, we must have some understanding of what Passover was to the Hebrew people. If we were reading the story of Exodus, we’ll see that a dinner has just become a central part of the story. Why? The answer is covenant. All blood covenants had certain elements that were part of the process. One of those elements was a covenant meal.
During the first Passover, they killed the lamb and put the blood on the doorposts. This caused the destroyer to pass over their families because God said, “And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you…” (Exodus 12:13)
The blood was for the people’s forgiveness. The blood covered the people’s sins and appeased the righteous requirements of God.
But what did they do inside the house? They ate the roasted lamb and the unleavened bread (Exodus 12:8). This was to give them strength for the journey. It was not natural strength that they received. It was supernatural.
All who followed the Lord’s instructions were delivered from the plague of death that night, but that was not all of the Passover meal’s benefit. Psalm 105:37 tells us that when He brought them out (the very next day), there was not one in the estimated two and a half to three million people who were sick or unable to travel: “He brought them out with silver and gold; and among His tribes there was not one who stumbled.” That word stumbled in the Hebrew language means literally “to be feeble, weak, cast down, or decayed.”
In the natural, a group of that size would have its share of people who were suffering from disease and degeneration of body, who would not be in any shape to make an exhausting trip like the one that lay before them. So there must have been something miraculous that took place from the time they partook of the lamb the previous evening to the time of departure. The blood broke the power of the plague and death, and the body of the lamb imparted physical health and strength to these people.
We know that this lamb was a mere shadow of the real substance. So if the body of a “shadow lamb” could bring such supernatural results, how much more the body of the true “substance lamb” our Lord Jesus Christ!
The Lord’s Supper as Confirming the Covenant
1 Corinthians 5:7 says, “…For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.” Jesus Christ is considered the final Passover Lamb – the final sacrifice to break the power of the curse and death.
If you take time to study the Passover meal, you find that certain elements, particularly a portion of bread and a glass of wine, were always set aside in recognition of the coming Messiah. However, Jesus took these very elements and handed them to His disciples saying, “…Take, eat; this is My body,” and “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)
He’s telling them that from now on, they won’t partake of the Passover celebration to remember the great deliverance from Egypt, but to remember the finished work accomplished by Him for our deliverance from sin and all its evil consequences. Moreover, they are to believe that as they partake of the elements of the meal, they also partake, in a special way, of the powerful effects of His blood (which breaks the power of sin and its curse) and His body (which took our infirmities and carried away our diseases). That Body and Blood have overcome, and bring to each of us that same victory.
It should be clear that the blood and the body have two different applications. This is consistent throughout the Bible.
- The prophet Isaiah said, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…” (Isaiah 53:4). In the Hebrew, the words translated as “griefs” (choliy) and “sorrows” (mak’ob) are mistranslated in several English Bibles. The correct translation is “diseases” and “pains,” respectively. The Young’s Literal Translation states that, “Surely our sicknesses He hath borne, and our pains – He hath carried them…” This verse is quoted by Matthew in the New Testament, translated this way, and is applied directly to a context where physical illness is the subject at hand.
- Matthew 8:17 says, “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.” In the Greek, “infirmities” is „astheneia” and it means bodily weaknesses. So we can see very clearly that Isaiah was saying that the Messiah would take upon His own body, our bodily weaknesses, sicknesses, and pains. In other words, Jesus bore not just our sins, but also our bodily weaknesses, sicknesses and pains. This is what some writers called the “double cure.”
- David described the double cure this way, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.” (Psalm 103:2-3). Notice that His benefits include the forgiveness of our sins as well as the healing of our diseases.
Healing, like forgiveness, is not a promise. It is the blood-bought right of Christians. When Jesus took our punishment on the cross, it did not just bring us forgiveness, it also brought us healing.
So, Communion is the covenant meal of the “New Covenant in the blood of Jesus.” It’s God’s delivery system by which every good provision and blessing that Christ won for us at the cross is released in our lives. It is a time of Jesus giving to us, a time of us receiving from Him, and a time of enjoying the Lords love for us through a consciousness of His finished work.
The Reason Of Partaking Unworthily
If this is true, why many Christians are sick? Now, if the people of the world are sick, it should not surprise us. They do not have Jesus Christ as their protection, so it is not wonder they are sick. But when believers are sick, it is necessary to know why. And we do not want to draw our conclusions from human experience, but from God’s Word.
You might be surprised to know that the Bible gives one and only one reason why Christians are weak and sick, and die prematurely.
The apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:29-30, said, “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” Sleep here means death, not bodily rest. Paul said, “For this reason…” He did not say, “for these reasons.” He was pointing us to one singular reason Christians become weak and sick, and die before their time.
And what is “this reason” that Paul was highlighting to us? He said, “…not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason…”
The word “discerning” in Greek is “diakrinō,” which means “to distinguish” or “to separate.” Paul said that because of the lack of discerning – that Jesus’ body was broken for your healing, and Jesus’ blood was shed for your forgiveness – many are weak, sick, and die before their time.
So the reason the Corinthians became weak and sick was their failure to discern the Lord’s body. It means that they did not know why they were partaking of the body when they came to the Table. They had no idea why there were eating the bread. And this was the reason they were not receiving the divine life of their Savior, causing them to be weak and sick, and to die prematurely.
Since truth is parallel, it means that if we do discern the Lord’s body, we will walk in His health and wholeness.
This is only logical. The same can be said of the opposite words. For example, the opposite word for small is tall; or the opposite word for small is big. So it follows that if Paul said, “…not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep,” then it must be that when we do discern the Lord’s body, we will be strong and healthy, and live long.
Discerning The Body And The Blood Of The Lord
In order to fully receive God’s provision of health and healing, as well as every aspect of His abundant life into our lives, it’s important for us to understand what the bread and the cup represent, and to discern the two elements correctly when we partake of the Holy Communion.
(a) First, we need to understand what the bread represents.
At the Last Supper Jesus handed out the bread, said it was his body, and told the disciples to eat it in remembrance of him (Luke 22:19), He didn’t say much else because no doubt they could all recall the fuss that happened the last time He said He was the bread of life:
I am the bread of life… 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… 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. (John 6:48, 51-54)
As a result of these words many disciples turned away from following Jesus (John 6:66). To them, the idea of eating his flesh and drinking his blood was repelling. They did not grasp that Jesus was referring to his impending sacrifice – that he would give up his body in fulfillment of Isaiah 53:4-5 so that we might have life.
Also, when Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is My body,” the disciples did not need any other explanation. These men were with Him every day and not once did they see Him sick. They saw His body was vibrant, full of life and full of health, so that the crowds were healed only by touching Him (Luke 6:19).
His body was so filled with life that even His clothes were soaked with His health. The Bible says that a woman with an issue of blood for 12 years came to Him knowing that He was her only hope. (Mark 5:25-34).
The disciples knew better than anyone else that taking the bread meant ingesting His health into their mortal bodies.
God wants you to see the bread as the body of Jesus— stricken, beaten, torn, and broken for your healing and wholeness.
(b) Second, we need to see what the cup represents.
When Jesus took the cup, He announced a new covenant based on His blood: „This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28).
Paul’s epistles make it very clear that the blood of Jesus brings forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14; Ephesians 1:7)
In fear of eating and drinking in an unworthy manner, many Christians treat Communion as a time of somber reflection. But was there ever a better reason of joy and celebration than this? Think about it: We who were once defiled by sin have been washed white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Our guilty consciences have been cleansed and our forgiveness has been eternally secured by the precious blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:22; 1 Peter 1:19).
So, God wants you to be conscious that because the Son of God paid the penalty for your sins, you have been completely forgiven and made righteous.
In the next article, we will look more closely at what Paul meant in that passage of 1 Corinthians 11, which seems to be one of the most abusive and misunderstood passages of the Bible. Until then, the next time you hold the bread in your hand, see Jesus at the scourging post. See Him taking the stripes for you. See one stripe after another landing mercilessly on His body for the healing of whatever ailment or sickness is holding your body captive. Tell yourself, “Surely He has borne my sicknesses and carried my pains.” That is how you discern the Lord’s body when you partake of the Lord’s Supper. And when you discern the Lords body like this, you will be strong, healthy, and live long!
And when you drink of the cup, be conscious that because the Son of God paid the penalty for your sins, you have been completely forgiven and made righteous. Partake, rejoicing that the blood of Jesus has given you right standing before God so that you can always come boldly into His presence, and find His grace and mercy to help you at every point of need (Hebrews 4:16)!