When Is Communion Communion? -- By: James Custer

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 06:2 (Fall 1985)
Article: When Is Communion Communion?
Author: James Custer

When Is Communion Communion?

James Custer

The assumption that the Eucharist is thecommunion service is not supported by evidence from the Gospels and from 1 Corinthians. The communion service consists of the observance of both a full fellowship meal and the Eucharist, each pointing to different aspects of Christian truth. This understanding is supported by Pauls argument concerning the practice (which occurred both in Israels sacrifices and in pagan sacrifices) of offering a portion of a sacrifice while the remainder was eaten by the parties who experienced communion through the sacrifice.

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On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus gathered his disciples into the upper room and instructed them about the relationship they had enjoyed together and how that relationship would be altered by his departure from them. He gave them activities which illustrated his ministry on their behalf and the benefits they would receive from their relationship with him. There were four activities that evening: the washing of feet (John 13:1–17), the fellowship meal (Luke 22:15–18), the eucharistic bread taken in the midst of the meal (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:23–24), and the eucharistic cup taken after the supper (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25).

Christians have not agreed that all of these activities must be perpetuated. Those who observe only the eucharistic bread and the concluding cup still refer to such observances as the Communion Service. 1 Cor 10:15–22 is cited in support of this practice.1 There Paul links blessing the cup and breaking the bread with communion (see especially v 16, “the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we bless, is it

not the communion of the body of Christ?”). The expected answer is “yes.” It is the purpose of this study to show that Paul was not referring to the Eucharist as constituting a full communion service. Rather Paul was referring to the meal out of which the elements of the Eucharist were to be taken. Further, it will be argued that the passage shows that neither the practice of the meal alone, nor the practice of the Eucharist alone, can constitute a full, biblical communion. Both mu...

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