Communion – A Historical View

Breaking down the walls of tradition

Part 2

 

Sacramentum = Sacrilege

 

The practice of communion as one of 7 ‘sacraments’ (i.e. – transubstantiation, as defined by Roman Catholic Church) is sacrilege.  The practice of communion in the Anglican Church is also sacrilege.  In fact, the ritual of passing trays of bread and grape juice (or wine) to be shared communally as is done in nearly every sect of Christianity can literally be defined as sacrilege.

 

SACRILEGE  noun  [Latin = sacrilegium; originating from sacer, sacred, and lego, to take or steal.]  The crime of violating or profaning sacred things; or the alienating to laymen or to common purposes what has been appropriated or consecrated to religious persons or uses. Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

 

Usually we think of sacrilege as defaming something that is held to be sacred and holy.  For example, a few years ago an antichrist artist, sponsored by a government-sanctioned endowment unveiled his sacrilegious so-called, “artwork,” of a cross that was submerged in a vile of human urine.  This is profaning the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and therefore makes it sacrilegious.

 

There is a more common form of sacrilege practiced in churches across the world every Sunday morning.  It is reducing the TRUE COMMUNION (sharing) of believers into a “common” manmade liturgical ceremony of passing, praying over and digesting broken pieces of unsalted wheat thins and swishing it down in disposable plastic cups of Welch’s grape juice.   We’re talking about “communion” and the way Satan has worked in the minds of Christian “clergy” to estrange what GOD has consecrated as holy by giving over to the hands of ministers who dispense it in a sacrilegious ceremony.

 

Born-again Christians are ready to point out the err of Catholicism’s sacramentum of communion, saying “That’s transubstantiation, and Catholics think the bread actually turns into Jesus’ flesh as they chew it, and they think the wine turns into Jesus’ literal blood as they drink it, “ feeling self-confident they continue, “OUR communion is SYMBOLIC; we know the bread and wine are only SYMBOLS of Christ’s flesh and blood.”

 

Symbolic?  Symbols?  What is really being taught in the Christian churches regarding communion?  Is God or Jesus impressed by a ritual ceremony, in which participants “symbolically” chew Christ’s flesh, and drink the tiny plastic cup of grape juice as a “symbol” of his sacrificial blood?

 

Let’s break it down more simply… communion is the SHARING we do in the body of Jesus Christ.  It is the way we LOVE one another, just as Jesus loves us.  When Jesus said, “Take, eat, this is my body,” he meant we are to be partakers of one another.  We are to share our hearts, time, energy, and resources to be a blessing to each other.  We eat his “flesh,” not by chewing on tiny crackers, but rather, taking into ourselves the mutual benefit of what each member of the body of Christ has to offer.

 

When we share in the “cup” of the Lord, it is sharing HIS sufferings, but doing it vicariously thru each other.  When one member suffers, we should all share in that pain, and bear that burden.  The problem is that men have enabled traditions, such as the emblematic sacraments of communion to replace the real deal.  So where did today’s practice of partaking in a communion ritual begin?

 

In Fulton Sheen’s book, 'These are THE SACRAMENTS' (Copyright 1962 by Hawthorne Books), he describes the sacrament (i.e. – communion) in great detail.

 

Page 50 - The Sacrament of the Eucharist has two sides: it is both a SACRIFICE and a sacrament.  Nature, therefore, suggests that a sacrifice must precede a sacrament; death is a prelude to a communion.  In some way, unless the thing dies, it does not begin to live in a higher kingdom.  To have, for example, a communion service without a sacrifice would be, in the natural order, like eating our vegetables uncooked, and our meat raw. When we come face to face with the realities of life, we see that we live by what we slay. Elevating this to a supernatural order, we still live by what we slay.  In the divine order, there must be a sacrifice or the Consecration of the Mass before there can be a sacrament or the Communion of the soul and God.

Text Box: “The Eucharist is a much more active representation of the death of Christ because the Mass is an unbloody presentation of the sacrificial death of Christ”

The Eucharist is a much more active representation of the death of Christ because the Mass is an unbloody presentation of the sacrificial death of Christ Page 52 - The Eucharist is a much more active representation of the death of Christ because the Mass is an unbloody presentation of the sacrificial death of Christ…in the Eucharist, Christ exists substantially, and is really and truly present - Body, Soul and Divinity…in the Eucharist, we receive the very substance of Christ Himself. The Eucharist is the sacrament of charity or love because it is the reenactment of the perfect act of love of Christ; namely, His death on the cross and the giving of Himself to us in Holy Communion.

 

Page 55 - In the Mass, the faithful are present on the altar under the appearance of bread and wine.  At the moment of the 'Consecration of the Mass,’ when the priest as Christ pronounces the words, "This is My Body" and "This is My Blood," the substance of the bread becomes the substance of the body of Christ, and the substance of the wine becomes the substance of the blood of Christ. At that moment, the faithful are saying in a sec­ondary sense with the priest: "This my body; this is my blood. Take it! I no longer want it for myself. The very substance of my being, my intellect, and my will change!  Transubstantiate!  So my ego is lost in Thee, so that my intellect is one with Thy Truth, and my will is one with Thy desires! ... But what I am substantially, I give to Thee."

 

This is sacrilege!  Not only do Catholics believe the bread and wine change substances, but that the act of eating and drinking the emblems is the means God uses to change the, “very substance” of your being and intellect!  Christians will smugly look at this and relish how much “different” their own communion services are; yet in reality, Catholic and Christian communion amounts to the same sacrilegious formula. 

 

The Christian pastor will liken the bread and grape juice to Christ, and insist that participants not eat and drink the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, “Folks, before you take communion today,” pastor announces from the pulpit, “make certain you forgive one another, and if need be, go to your brother or sister, and reconcile.  Otherwise, you’ll be taking the blood of Christ in vain.”

 

What is he saying?  Think about it… the Christian pastor utilizes “Communion Service Sunday” as his opportunity to clean house, and make sure relationships are not filled with bitterness and lack of forgiveness.  The problem isn’t the fact he wants to clean house; the problem is HOW he goes about doing it.

 

Living with an attitude of forgiveness should be the NORM in our lives, and if ever we hold a grudge and allow bitterness to take hold of us, we have defiled the table of the Lord.  No formal ritual involving a tiny thimble full of grape juice and chewing a little cracker is going to rectify our relationship with God or our brethren. 

 

Fulton Sheen’s book, 'These are THE SACRAMENTS' continues describing Catholic Mass as a ceremony that literally becomes another, “sacrifice,” of Christ through their practice of emblematic communion:

 

Text Box: “On the cross he  (Christ) potentially redeemed all humanity; in the Mass we actualize that Redemption”

Page 56 - In the Father's eyes, the Son-made-Man loves always unto death. The patriot, who regretted that he had only one life to give to his country, would have loved to have made his sacrifice eternal.  Being man, he could not do it. But Christ being God and man could.

 

Pages 56-57 - The disadvantage of not having lived at the time of Christ is nullified by the Mass.  On the cross he potentially redeemed all humanity; in the Mass we actualize that Redemption.  Calvary happened at a definite moment in time and on a particular hill in space.  The Mass temporalizes and spatializes that eternal act of love.  The Sacrifice of Calvary was offered up in a bloody manner by the separation of His blood from His body. In the Mass, the death in mystically and sacramentally presented in an unbloody manner, by the separate consecration of bread and wine.  The two are not conse­crated together by such words as "This is My Body and My Blood"; rather, following the words of our Lord: "This is My Body" is said, over the bread; then, "This is My Blood" is said over the wine. The separate consecration is a kind of mystical sword dividing body and blood, which is the way our Lord died on Calvary.

 

Text Box: “In the Mass, it is Christ who still offers himself and who is the victim”

Page 57-58 – The priest who offers the Sacrifice merely lends to Christ his voice and fingers.  It is Christ Who is the priest and it is Christ who is the victim. In all pagan sacrifices and in the Jewish sacrifices, the victim was always separate from the priest. It might have been a goat, a lamb, or a bullock. But when Christ came, He, as the Priest of­fered Himself as the Victim. In the Mass, it is Christ who still offers himself and who is the victim to Whom we become united. In the Mass, all the ancient dim fore-shadowings of the supreme sacrifice are fulfilled. Man immolates himself with Christ, bidding Him to take his body and blood. Through this destruction of the ego, there is a void and emptiness created, which makes it possible for divinity to fill up the vacuum and to make the offerer holy.

 

Roman Catholic transubstantiation derives its origin in the pagan Greco-Roman religions whose participants ate the flesh and drank the blood of their ablutions to obtain the powers of the deity to whom they sacrificed.  Christianity inherits its practice of emblematic communion from Catholicism, omitting the language of transubstantiation, but holding sacred that the ordinance is that, that imparts the grace of God to the one who partakes of the bread and wine in a worthy manner.

 

In others words, there is no intrinsic difference in the RESULT when comparing Catholic and Anglican sacrament with so-called Christian communion.

 

The Eucharist… The Eating & Drinking Of Deity

 

Fulton Sheen’s book, 'These are THE SACRAMENTS':

 

Text Box: “Man's soul being spiritual demands spiritual food.  In the order of grace, this divine food is the Eucharist”

Page 62 - Man's soul being spiritual demands spiritual food.  In the order of grace, this divine food is the Eucharist, or the communion of man with Christ and Christ with man... man is transformed by grace into Christ 'When he takes Christ into his soul, for it is a quality of love to transform itself into the object that is loved.  Why should we be surprised that he gives himself to us as food?

 

 

Page 63 - ...the Lord would be untrue to fact if he said: “This is not My Body and Blood. It is only a representation or a symbol of it."   In the Eucharist, the nourishment is on two different levels: the divine and the hu­man.

 

Page 64 -- In the natural order, a living thing assimilates it's food and incorporates it into it's own substance. In the Eucharist, the roles are reversed. The Eucharist is food for our soul, but the power of assimilation here belongs to Christ, and it is he who, feeding us, unites us and incorporates us with his life. The moment of communion is that special intimacy reserved to real lovers            this is re served only for intimates-is the privilege of touch. We hear of Christ in the scriptures, we see him by the eyes of faith, but we touch him in the Eucharist.

 

Page 65 - The Blessed Sacrament is present in the tabernacle day and night. There Christ dwells, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the sacramental appearances of the bread.

 

Summarizing pages 62-65 of Fulton Sheen’s book, Catholics believe the bread and wine (The Eucharist) used during the ceremony of the Blessed Sacrament is ACTUALLY the living tissue (flesh) of Christ, and the literal blood of Christ.  But the summary doesn’t end with this; they also believe these emblems of bread and wine are actually DIVINE once they have been consecrated by the Catholic priest during the Blessed Sacrament ceremony.

 

This is not too far from the same rotten apple tree of the Christian church, which reveres the practice of communion on the same level as Sheen; that is, that, “Christ… is he who, feeding us, unites us and incorporates us with his life.”  The Christian churches have some serious repenting to do here; it is time to root out the paganism from our relationship with Jesus and the members of his body.

 

Here is a point-by-point summary of Catholicism’s Sacrament of the Eucharist:

 

1.      The Communion of the Eucharist is considered a living sacrifice of the body and the blood of Christ, re-enacted by the priest who consecrates the symbolic bread and wine. It is said that the priest lends his voice to Christ during the ceremonial slaying of Jesus Christ at Mass. In this re-enactment everyone who participates is also said to 'slay' Christ.

 

2.      As though performing some occult, magical act, the priest's ritual of consecration includes pronouncing the words "This is My Body" and "This is My Blood"; at this moment the substance of the bread supposedly transubstantiates into the literal flesh of Christ, and likewise the wine into the literal blood of Christ.

 

3.      As the Catholic 'lovers' or 'intimates' partake of the emblems of wine and bread it is believed they are taking into themselves the very substance of Christ, Body, Soul, and Spirit. They then proclaim that they too become a sacrifice with Christ. They believe this act will magically 'transubstantiate' the very substance of their being, including their will and intellect. Automatically, by merely eating a wafer and drinking some wine they believe their ego is lost in Christ and their intellect is one with Christ's truth. By eating the divine food of the Eucharist, the Catholic devotee believes that he or she is transformed by grace into Christ, as he takes Christ into his soul; with ego gone, a void created, divinity fills the person and makes him holy.

 

4.      When Christ died on the cross, Catholics believe he "potentially" redeemed mankind, not actually. Only through the ceremony of the Eucharist and Communion can the sacri­fice be actualized. In the Mass Christ still offers Himself as a perpetual victim.

 

5.      Christ is compared to pagan sacrifices, but Catholics believe in Mass He sacrifices Himself each time, with the aid of the presiding priest; yet ironically Catholics be­lieve Christ is both the victim and the priest who slays the victim.

 

 

Text Box: "Although Catholics believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation, the actual ceremony of Communion is remarkably similar to that which is observed in Protestant churches”

Although Catholics believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation, the actual ceremony of Communion is remarkably similar to that which is observed in Protestant churches. 

 

Like the Catholic Church, the Protestants have a formal ritual in which implements of bread and wine are prayed over (although Catholics actually venerate the elements themselves), then distributed to its members.

 

Protestant Communion is said to "symbolize" Christ's blood and body.  While eating the emblems, which are consecrated in prayer by the pastor (the equivalent of the Catholic priest), if the believer's heart is in right standing with God, a special spiritual work is said to take place.  Protestants believe this sacred ceremony draws the NT believer closer to Christ and His 'mystical' body when he or she partakes of the bread and the wine.

 

A Long, Hard Look At Communion… Is It Idolatry?

 

The last part of the introduction into the history of communion continues the examination of quotes from E.J. Bicknell's book "A Theological Introduction to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England" (April 1948 edition; Longmans, Green & Company).

 

Since our previous quotes were from Catholic sources, this would represent the Western view, whereas the Anglican Church gives us the viewpoint of the Eastern churches.  Both viewpoints were the established ceremonies for communion services for the past 2000 years.  Today, one could not really associate the Anglican Church with Biblical Protestantism.  The liberal bent within has allowed for homosexual priests, both male and female, and the scriptures are little more than a token appeal to general morality, but not as foundational to the dogma and practices of the church.

 

Communion in the Anglican Church (Church of England, or in the US, the Episcopalian Church) differs very little from the Catholic Church.  While Anglicans deny the doctrine of transubstantiation, there are enough similarities between the rituals of the two churches one would be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

 

The Anglican Church approaches to the sacraments and to communion are founded, in reality, on its orthodoxy and traditions.  The schism between the churches of the East and West runs deep, and their infrastructure and leadership is nearly identical, with the exception of the Pontiff.  In reading some of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England and Bicknell's commentary on them you will see a contradiction in his objection to and affirmation of the ritual of communion.  Being that the following commentary is dated 1948 it may or may not reflect the church’s interpretation of the Articles.  Bicknell points out the futility of ritual for ritual’s sake and in this regard should be applauded.

 

Text Box: “What God asks for in us is a right inward disposition of the will, namely faith, not the performance of specified ceremonies”Nonetheless, Mr. Bicknell compromises the scripture by soft-peddling the practice of sacramental communion, and this compromise is why his commentary was included in this treatise.  Hopefully seeing one’s man’s convictions or lack thereof will affirm the necessity for making the SCRIPTURE ALONE our final authority (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

 

Bicknell, Page 446 - In all the teaching about the sacraments we have to face an initial objection.  Christianity is said to be a spiritual religion.  God is a spirit.  We are spiritual beings.  What God asks for in us is a right inward disposition of the will, namely faith, not the performance of specified ceremonies. We are told to worship the Father 'in spirit and in truth.' How can the tasting of bread and wine affect the soul's relation to God?  History shows that the great danger of religion is that it should sink into substituting forms and ceremonies for spiritual obedience.  It would therefore be well for Christianity to shun the danger altogether.  Such objections are widespread.  They rest not on mere prejudice, but often on a desire for reality.  We must face them.  The statement that we are 'spiritual beings' is a half-truth.  Man is not only a spirit, but spirit linked to and realizing itself through a material body.

 

Bicknell, Page 446-447 - Just as in man the material may overcome and degrade the spiritual, the body may become master instead of servant, so in the sacraments the outward side may win undue prominence.  It may become not a means but an end, not the expression of a spiritual state but a substitute for it; so the misuse of the sacraments is an argument not for their abolition but for their right use.  In all parts of the world we find sacred ablutions. Partly they symbolize the desire for inward purification; partly they create a sense of purity in preparation for drawing near to God.

 

On page 446 Bicknell’s reasoning is sound; he exhibits the heart of the gospel, “which is a right inward disposition of the will, namely faith, not the performance of specified ceremonies.”  He even poses the question as to WHY we should do away with the religious ceremony of sacrament altogether, "We are told to worship the Father 'in spirit and in truth.' How can the tasting of bread and wine affect the soul's relation to God?”

 

That Mr. Bicknell can so contradict himself and his initial sound reasoning boggles the mind, especially if it is seeking nothing but reality in Jesus Christ.  On pages 446-447 Bicknell’s compromise is founded on a faulty premise; his premise is based upon the fact that in all parts of the world, “sacred ablutions,” (i.e. – blood rituals) are used to, “create a sense of purity in preparation for drawing near to God.”  Says who?

 

Text Box: “If obedience outweighs sacrifice, then obedience is the outward expression of an inward desire for purification”

What Bicknell is saying is this: The outward ritual of eating bread and drinking wine, symbolic of the fleshly sacrifice of Christ, and the shedding of his blood, is what creates in the individual the DESIRE for inward purification and the PREPARATION necessary for, “drawing near to God.”  This is hogwash.  God’s word says that OBEDIENCE is BETTER than sacrifice!

 

If obedience outweighs sacrifice, then OBEDIENCE is the OUTWARD expression of an INWARD DESIRE for purification.  One cannot compare the symbolic significance of bread and wine emblems that are used in the sacrament to the individual or collective obedience of the church to scripture’s commands. 

 

Furthermore, it is ludicrous to suppose that emblematic communion (i.e. – taking bread & wine) is going to, “create a sense of purity.”  Eating a small piece of unleavened, unsalted bread, and sipping a thimble-size plastic cup of grape juice in symbolic memory of Christ’s death may assist in temporarily captivating the participants attention, and assist in focusing his or her sights on Calvary, but this is a far cry from godly and actual purification from sin.  In fact, such a ritual only serves to promote asceticism and mysticism in the already religiously infected protocol of most Christian church services.

 

Bicknell, Page 451 - As the Catechism says: sacraments 'are a means whereby we receive' grace and a pledge to assure us thereof.'  In the Holy Communion we thank God 'for that...Thou dost assure us thereby of Thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are very mem­bers incorporate in the mystical body of Thy Son.'  They (the sacraments) are effectual signs of grace and God's goodwill towards us by the which He doth work invisibly in us. 

 

An 'effectual' sign is a sign that is no mere parable, but conveys a blessing that it symbolizes.  As the Catechism says: By 'sacrament' I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given to us...whereby, we receive the same. By the which (i.e.-the sacraments) He (Christ)...doth not only quicken but also strengthen our faith in Him.

 

Bicknell, Page 456 - There is no suggestion that we are not ordinarily able to prepare ourselves for Communion apart from auricular confession.

 

Bicknell, Page 457 It (public confession before taking communion) does not make sufficient allowance for human nature.  Forced confessions are often formal and not infrequently dishonest.  Unless they are inspired by real penitence they are apt to become an easy way of salving the conscience.  Sin is lightly regarded, as pardon for it can easily be obtained by the next confession.

 

Bicknell, Page 479, 480 - Article 28 (In reference to The Lord’s Supper) The Body of Christ is given, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the means whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.

 

Isn’t the church of Jesus Christ being lulled to sleep through indifference, apathy, materialism and the pursuit of self?  Does eating bread and drinking wine or grape juice make the sinner repentant, or does it offer them a sense of false security in the condition of their soul before God?  How many testimonies are there of transformed lives from eating unsalted wheat thins and drinking Welch’s grape juice?  Have you ever heard someone say how much holier their life became after partaking of communion on Sunday morning? 

 

Bicknell, Page 448 - So in sacramental happenings of the Christian life, faith is needed to discover and appropriate their inner meaning; but that does not make them the less real.  Through the sacraments the meaning of unseen realities is brought home to simple minds.

 

“Unseen realities?”  Is this the gospel?  The scripture says faith without works is useless.  The works God speaks of is not found in finding the, “inner meaning,” of, “sacramental happenings.”  God says true faith works BY LOVE; true faith is helping others and loving your neighbor as yourself, not chewing on a nasty-tasting cracker on Sunday morning!

 

James 2:12-17 So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.  13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.  14 What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works?  Can that faith save him?  15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  NAS

 

Text Box: “Sacraments are a necessary condition of the social side of religion… They are means by which we publicly confess our allegiance to Christ and our membership of the Christian society”

To deny that Christ co-inhabits the bread and wine, whether transubstantially, (as Catholics believe), or symbolically, (as Protestants believe), is treading on the holy grail of orthodox Christianity.  The ritual practice of communion is no different in its unilateral acceptance by nearly all sects of the Christian faith as the pagan doctrine of the Trinity.  Both Trinity and communion are inexplicable and accepted as one of the “mysteries” of Christ that we must simply take by “faith.”  To do so however is intellectually lay, and pragmatically useless.

 

Bicknell, Page 449 …the Living Christ still condescends to the needs of men and makes Himself known to them in the actual and in the detailed. Of themselves the bread and wine of the Eucharist can do neither harm nor good to the spirit of man.  So through outward and visible signs Christ communicates Himself to us.

 

Sacraments are a necessary condition of the social side of religion.  If a man wishes to enter into any relations with his fellowmen he must employ material means...The very na­ture of Christian sacraments emphasizes the social side of all true religion.

 

Bicknell, Page 450 - They (sacraments) are 'badges or tokens of Christian men's profession.'  They are means by which we publicly confess our allegiance to Christ and our membership of the Christian society.

 

How sad this narrative… born-again, spirit-filled Christians actually BELIEVING that chewing some tiny wafer and drinking a little taste of wine is social interaction with the members of the body of Christ.  To be certain, this is not the case in all Christian churches, and many have a much deeper commitment to each other than this ceremonial token.  Nevertheless, there remains a large constituency of so-called professing Christians that will ascribe their public confession of Christ to the sacraments.

 

The “inner meaning” of the Eucharist

Text Box: The Supper of the Lord is...a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another.  This meaning is included in the title 'Holy Communion.'

Bicknell, Page 486 - We may now turn to the inner meaning of the Eucharist.  This is determined by the posi­tion that Jesus Christ holds in the Church and by the closeness of union between Christians and Christ.  As we have seen, eating together is everywhere a sign of fellowship. 

 

The Supper of the Lord is...a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to ano­ther.  This meaning is included in the title 'Holy Communion.'  The many clubs existing under the Roman Empire showed their unity by common meals.

 

Do Christians actually hold the ceremony of “Holy Communion” to be so sacred and cherished that it is, in reality, the visible representation of their love for each other?  What a far cry from the early church that had all things in common, and shared actual MEALS together!

 

Acts 2:44-47 And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.  46 And day-by-day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God, and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.  NAS

 

It is true eating meals is a sign of fellowship, yet of itself, mere eating symbolizes little more than a satisfied appetite.   It is also important to distinguish eastern culture from its western counterpart.  In the east, the meal is typically a time of sharing and bonding; to invite someone to break bread with you means asking them to also partake of fellowship and hospitality; it is to share your home and life with them.  Sharing meals in eastern society can even be viewed as an invitation to lifelong friendship.

 

On the other side of the coin, western society has become more and more detached from the meaningful purpose of sharing meals together.  Unlike our neighbors to the east, we are content to eat alone much of the time, and sharing a meal means grabbing a burger at Macdonald’s on the go.  Usually our meals have meaning only at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, when the family gathers together, slows down just long enough to gulp down the food, watch a football game, or catch up on estranged lives, and we’re back to the same old grind.  In general people in the United States, eat together in fast food restaurants, cafeterias, and other eateries with absolutely no sense of closeness to the person sitting next to them.

 

It has been proven historically and from scripture the early church did more than sample token emblems of the Eucharist.  Abject poverty and the pressing needs of thousands of Jews, many of whom journeyed for days or weeks to arrive in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feasts, spurned the giving and sharing of food, meals, and other essentials to prevent want among the first brethren (see Acts 2:44-47).  Can you imagine the early disciples sitting down to a symbolic meal to express the “inner meaning” of their love for each other?  As corny as it sounds, this is what is done when Christians partake of the Eucharist. 

 

Text Box: “The Holy Communion is an 'effectual sign' not only representing but conveying spiritual food”Bicknell, Page 487 - Accordingly the Article proceeds: It is not only a sign of love; but rather it is a sacrament of the redemption by Christ's death.  As the Catechism says, it was ordained,' for the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ and the benefits which we receive thereby.'

 

Bicknell, Pages 487, 488 - Insomuch as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ…The Holy Communion is an 'effectual sign' not only representing but conveying spiritual food.

 

Bicknell, Page 489, 491

 

In eating and drinking by a deliberate and voluntary act we take into ourselves some­thing that is outside ourselves, in order that it may become part of ourselves, and so our bodies may be strengthened. So in the Holy Communion by a deliberate and voluntary act we receive the life of Christ into our souls that it may become our life.

 

So in Holy Communion our Lord took bread and wine, the typical ordinary food of the Galilean peasant, to be the outward sign of the normal food of the Christian soul. The visible reception is at once the parable and the means of the inward reception by faith.

 

In each case THE goodness is there first in the food outside ourselves and by the ap­propriate act we take it into ourselves...the spiritual food of the Christian must correspond to the life of the Christian.

 

But the life of the Christian is, as we have seen, none other than the life of Christ; we are members of His body, branches in the vine. Accordingly, in the Holy Communion the Christian, as a member of Christ, faith through the outward and visible sign of the bread and the wine the spiritual grace of the perfect humanity of Christ.

 

Partaking of the Body Christ can mean no less than this. The life that He (Christ) imparts to us is, as it were, life that has passed through death. Hence it is fitly mediated through bread and wine.

 

So far almost all Christians would agree. The language might vary, but all are at one holding that through the Holy Communion our union with Christ is deepened and strengthened, by faith we receive new life from Him… The devout communicant does indeed by an act of faith receive the body and blood of Christ at the moment he receives the bread and wine, but in no real sense by means of them.

 

Thus Christ is present only in the hearts of the faithful recipients. His coming is connected not with the consecration of the elements but with the reception. This view was taught by Calvin. The theory has largely been held in the Church of England.

 

It is clear by the last statement from the text of Page 491 the Anglican Church shares the same view as Calvin; John Calvin’s theology has been embraced by the Baptists (of all persuasions), Presbyterians (particularly the John Knox variety), Four-Square, Independent Bible Churches of North America (aka, “IBC”), Assemblies of God and a great diversity of denominations and Christian sects.

 

This means a vast number of professing Christians actually have “faith” the Eucharist, or Holy Communion is “spiritual food” if one partakes of it in a worthy manner.  As we will see in upcoming texts, this “faith” has no basis in fact, by is held to be an ineffable mystery of the humanity of Christ. 

 

This is ecclesiastical jargon, which loosely translated means, “We haven’t got a clue what this ritual of the Eucharist does, or how it works, or even whether it works; however, like the doctrine of the Trinity, we accept it by faith, and concede it will always be to us a mystery.”

 

In spite of the obvious sincerity of many Christians who partake of Holy Communion, believing they are being obedient to the command of Jesus to eat the bread (body) and wine (blood) in remembrance of Him, the ritual itself cannot, it does not result in taking “life” into one’s self.  The Catechism says, it is ordained,' for the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ and the benefits which we receive thereby,’ but the Bible says no such thing.

 

Sadly, this tradition is carried on as another in a long line of useless, manmade traditions Believing that the life Christ gives to us is, “mediated through bread and wine,” serves in part to impede the Mediatorship of Christ himself!  The man Christ Jesus is the ONLY mediator between God and man, not emblems taken during the sacrament.

 

1 Timothy 2:5-6 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time. NAS

 

Text Box: “In the Holy Communion Christ acts in fulfillment of a special promise and vouchsafes to His Church a special presence of Himself”

Bicknell, Page 495 Let us admit that the primary idea of the Eucharist is that of Christ active rather than Christ present, of Christ as bestowing a gift rather than of the gift bestowed. So, too, in the Holy Communion Christ acts in fulfillment of a special promise and vouch­safes to His Church a special presence of Himself. Christ is still a Man.

 

He did not lay aside His human nature at the Ascension. Nor yet was His body then removed to an infinite­ly distant part of the universe, rather it was raised above the limitations of space al­together. It became a perfect self-expression of spirit. Heaven is a matter of life, not a place. So in His heavenly life Christ still possesses all the capacities of perfect manhood. He can still render His humanity active at will and act through it in our world of space and time.

 

Bicknell, Page 496 Now in the Holy Communion He gives us His Body and Blood. Here, if anywhere, He acts thru His glorified humanity. We must try therefore to conceive of Him as present not only as God but as Man, present by an act of will to bestow upon us the gift of His own manhood.

 

There is no opposition between a 'real' and a 'spiritual' presence. The most 'real' things are not those that belong to the material world. A 'spiritual' is presence in the manner of a Spirit, a manner outside our earthly experience, but not therefore imaginary or un­real, any more than heaven is unreal. The manner of this Presence and its relation to the outward elements we cannot define, except in so far as we reject certain attempts of our imagination to picture it.  Thus, it involves in no sense a movement.

Text Box: "He [Christ] is in the Holy Eucharist after the manner of a spirit.  We do not know how… His Presence is… an absolute mystery… and must be received by faith”

(*Bicknell, Footnote on bottom of Page 496 - He [Christ] is in the Holy Eucharist after the manner of a spirit.  We do not know how; we have no parallel to the 'how' in our experience. We can only say that He is present, not according to the natural manner of bodies, but sacramentally.  His Presence is substantial, spirit-wise, sacramental; an absolute mystery, not against reason however but against imagination, and must be received by faith.

 

The point Bicknell is emphasizing in Pages 495, 496 and the footnote of page 496 is that Jesus Christ is still a “Man,” living in an existence of “spirit.”  By “spirit” he means that which cannot be defined, or logically comprehended; rather, something spiritual given by the glorified Man Christ Jesus must be received by faith, even though there is no obvious reason why.

 

This kind of theological babble makes the average person dizzy just reading it, let alone trying to figure it out.  For example, Bicknell’s comments on Page 495, “the primary idea of the Eucharist is that of Christ active rather than Christ present” is an attempt to distance the Anglican Eucharist from the transubstantiation of the Roman Catholic communion emblems.

 

Bicknell belies the arrogance and covert religious pride of the Church of England however, asserting they have Christ “active” in their Communion, whereas Catholics delude themselves by believing the hocus-pocus of bread and wine actually transubstantiating into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus, thus rendering him as, “Christ present.”

 

Mr. Bicknell is so caught up in the revelry of rhetoric he can’t see the forest for the trees.  Who CARES if you believe in “Christ active” OR “Christ present?”  The point is this… Jesus does not bring a “special presence” into the Christians life thru the medium of unsalted crackers and grape juice.  The presence of Jesus is found wherever his disciples love each other, in obedience to and patterned after their Lord and Master; to those that obey him, Jesus discloses himself.

 

John 14:21 " He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."  NASU.

 

Bicknell defines Holy Communion as a time when Christ will, “render His humanity active at will,” and bestow upon the participants, “His Body and Blood,” as, “He acts thru His glorified humanity.”  This would be true, if it were not for the mystic terminology, in which he shrouds the glorified presence of Christ in, saying, “The manner of this Presence and it's relation to the outward elements we cannot define, except in so far as we reject certain attempts of our imagination to picture it.” 

 

In other words, Bicknell is saying, “We haven’t got a clue what all this mumbo-jumbo means in the real-world, so we won’t even try to imagine it.” 

 

Bicknell, Page 501 The body of Christ is given, taken and eaten in the Supper only after an heavenly and spiritual manner.  And the means whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith.

 

Bicknell, Page 503 The faithful Christian is assured that in receiving the Eucharist he is brought face to face with Christ. The Lord's presence is guaranteed by the Lord's promise.  But it is a spiritual presence; and a spiritual presence, however real, is not controlled by the same laws as an earthly presence.  We are sure that He is present to bestow His Blood.  We cannot be certain that that Presence abides when we use the consecrated bread and wine for a new and entirely different purpose, a purpose ordained by Christ, but prompted by the fallible logic of human devotion.

 

Summary of the Anglican view:

 

1.      The Anglicans admit that God is seeking, “a right inward disposition" rather than the performance of specified ceremonies.  On Page 446 Bicknell says, "The great danger of religion is that it should sink into substituting forms and ceremonies for spiritual obedience." He further admits that merely tasting wine and eating bread cannot affect a person's soul in relation to God.  The question begging for an answer is, “Why do it?”

 

2.      Toward the middle of the 20th century, when Bicknell’s comments were published, he portrays the Christian opine as wanting to shun the practice of ceremonial communion altogether.  However, as he notes, Christians still had a, "desire for reality," and so the practice was continued.  Sadly what Christianity defines as “reality” in its experience with Christ is a mere symbolic “mystery” in the Lord's Supper.  Once again orthodoxy replaces the truth; ritual replaces practicing the reality of what the Scriptures teach. 

 

3.      Real disciples of Jesus know that reality comes through interaction with the body of Christ and our relationship to one another. Read John 13:1 with Galatians 5:6, and 1 John 3:16-18.  Sacrament is an outward “form of godliness” but it denies the power of God expressed thru love.

 

4.      Bicknell admits that in the sacraments (i.e.-Communion), "the outward side may win un­due prominence."  He says Communion can become, "… not the expression of a spiritual state but a substitute for it."  Whatever symbolic significance the com­munion ceremony offers has become a substitute for what God intended it to be.  That is, true communion is meant to be a sharing of Christ’s body; meaning what each person, or member of his body has to offer (Hebrews 13:16).

 

·          1 Corinthians 10:16-17 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread, which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. NAS

 

5.      Bicknell says, “The misuse of the sacraments is an argument, not for their abolition, but for their right use."  Since the word "sacraments" is used nowhere in the Scrip­tures, the practice of such should be abolished and replaced with the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16).

 

·          Colossians 2:6-8 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.  8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.  NAS

 

·          Mark 7:13 Thus you are nullifying and making void and of no effect the authority of the Word of God through your tradition, which you in turn hand on.  And many things of this kind you are doing.  AMP

 

6.      If the Christian churches believe Communion is a symbolic remembrance of the blood and body of Christ, then just what is taking place in this symbolism?  Most churches have a special day when they practice this ritualistic ceremony of communion. Bicknell says, the communion helps, "...symbolize the desire for inward purification," and "they create a sense of purity in preparation for drawing near to God."  This is no different than what paganism practice does in chanting, offering incantations, dance before deities, and offering other trivia to prepare the practitioner and put him in a state of preparation for the demon spirit (deity) to inhabit and “purify” him.  These ceremonies are used to justify the person; however, only good moral character can rightly be said to keep a person in right standing with God.

 

·          Hebrews 7:25 says, “Hence, also, He (Christ) is able to save forever those who draw near to God THROUGH HIM, since He always lives to make intercession for them."  Mankind cannot "create" a sense of purity by ANYTHING! (See Hebrews 10:1) Only faith in the shed blood of Jesus cannot purify a man to draw near to God. (See Hebrews10: 19-22)

 

7.       Bicknell says, "...faith is needed to discover and appropriate their (e.g. the communion emblems of wine & bread) inner meaning." He goes on to say, that through the communion ceremony "the meaning of unseen realities" is brought home to simple minds. In other words, if you believe in what the emblems represent or symbolize, their "unseen reality" will become mystically revealed to you.

 

·          WHERE is THIS found in the Scrip­tures? This is a form of mysticism, and benefits neither the individual nor the assembly, ex­cept by way of inner meditation. Meditating on what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross can be done without emblems, icons, or graven images. Exodus 20:4 says," You shall not make for yourselves an IDOL (or GRAVEN IMAGE), OR ANY LIKENESS OF WHAT IS IN HEAVEN ABOVE OR ON THE EARTH BENEATH..." Yet the church continues to emphasize the 'need' for ritualistic communion services because "...through outward and visible signs (i.e.-bread & wine) Christ communicates Himself to us." FALSE! John 15:12 Jesus said," THIS is My commandment, THAT YOU LOVE ONE ANOTHER, JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU." Christ doesn't communicate to us through bread & wine, but through the love we show to each other.

 

8.      So WHY are communion services such a big deal in the Christian churches today? According to Bicknell, communion services are "...a necessary condition of the SOCIAL SIDE OF RELIGION. If a man wishes to enter into any relations with his fellowmen he must employ material means Christian sacraments emphasize the social side of true religion.

 

·          Is this the ideal for how we should interact socially? Does an occasional symbolic sharing of a thimble full size cup of grape juice and a small piece of cracker repre­sent the Scriptural viewpoint of "true religion" and create "re1ations" with our fel­lowmen? James 1:27 says, "THIS IS PURE AND UNDEFILED RELIGION IN THE SIGHT OF OUR GOD and Father, TO VISIT (Greek = episkeptomai; means, 'to inspect; to look upon, care for, exercise oversight) ORPHANS AND WIDOWS IN THEIR DISTRESS, and to keep one's self unstained by the world." Caring for the needs of others in the body of Christ is TRUE RELIGION, not symbolically and mystically partaking of token emblems of grape juice and bread.

 

9.      Communion emblems have also taken on another meaning in the Christian church today. Bicknell says they are, "badges or tokens" of a Christian."  They are the means by which we publicly confess our allegiance to Christ and our membership to the Christian society."

 

·          This is totally in violation of the Scripture. Our LIVES are supposed to be the means by which we confess Jesus Christ publicly. (See Luke 6:31-32; John 13:34-35; Rev.12: 11; Philippians 1:21)

 

10.  According to the Anglican Catechism, Communion is a 'means' by which members of the body of Christ receive grace and assure individuals they are members of the 'mystical' body of the Son of God. Communion emblems are said to be "...AN OUTWARD AND VISIBLE SIGN OF AN INWARD AND SPIRITUAL GRACE GIVEN TO US." Faith in these emblems (i.e.-the bread and wine) are said to "strengthen our faith in Him." It is further believed that the communion taken as the Lord's Supper is a 'spiritual' experience whereby the Body of Christ is received in a 'heavenly' manner. As in most Christian churches today, the Anglicans hold that there is a special 'inner meaning' connected with the participation in communion.

 

·          By eating the tiny piece of unleavened bread and drinking a thimble full of grape juice they are sharing the "...closeness of union between Christians and Christ." Essentially, the Christian church has replaced sharing common meals together with a ritual that is supposed to represent the Last Supper and remind us of what Jesus did on the cross. How sad. When we share of our substance together in meals regularly we build lasting, intimate friendships. Besides, sharing a meal requires time for preparation of the meal, along with the clean up. This facil­itates enough time for the members of Christ's body to get well acquainted, something that could never happen in a five minute greeting of some church foyer. And while we share meals together, true Christians always center their conversation on the Lord Jesus. Thus they fulfill Christ's command to do this (i.e.-the Lord's Supper) in "remembrance of Him.

 

11.   The Anglican articles read, "Insomuch as rightly, worthily and with faith" we take communion we are partakers of "spiritual food." In essence this means that your heart must be in right standing with God prior to taking the emblems of bread and wine. The Christian church also espouses this doctrinal position; that is, communion cannot be taken if someone has a disagreement with God or with a member of Christ's body. Often, before the emblems are administered you will hear the Christian pastor say," Now if anyone here has ought against his brother or sister, or if you are living in sin before God, then you should not take communion because it will make you 'guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.'

 

·          These tactics are used to force (out of fear) a confession of guilt or wrong doing from believers before God and man. This violates the context and the spirit of what Paul was inspired by God to write in 1 Cor. 11!! Be­sides, are communion services the ONLY time that were supposed to maintain right re­lationships with God and our fellow man? Of course not! Jesus said to forgive 70 X 7 in one day if necessary. Token communion services then are like intermittent checks done by the clergy to clear the guilty consciences of their laity. Our lives are to be living epistles every day, with a constant view towards reconciliation between God and man.

 

12.   Anglicans and Christians alike believe that Jesus promises new or renewed life thru His Spirit as we partake of the’ Body and Blood' of Christ portrayed thru emblems of bread and wine. The emblems are merely symbolic to show an "outward and visible sign", of Christ's "inward and spiritual grace.

 

·          None of this language is Scriptural. It is true that Jesus promised, "...I CAME that they (i.e.-His disciples) might have life, and might have it abundantly." (John 10:10') Jesus also said," I AM THE...LIFE." (John 14:6) He also said," I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE." (John 6:48) The "life" comes by faith in God, and in His only begotten Son who died on the cross and was raised from the dead, not thru partaking of token emblems symbolic of Him. (See John 3:16; Col.3:4; 1 John 5:11)

 

13.   Lastly, the Anglican view is that the Eucharist represents the "special presence" of the glorified man, Christ Jesus. Recognizing that Christ is no longer in a body of flesh they say His glorified spirit body is "active" as we partake of the emblems. Bicknell says it is a "spiritual presence" of the glorified Christ that we experience, and he further asserts that this presence is not "imaginary" or "unreal", but that it is "outside our earthly experience."

 

·          Of course none of this language is Scriptural in relation to the Lord's Supper. Bicknell even admits his confusion when he writes, ”We do not know how" Christ is present, "we can only say that He is present." He says that the communion is "an absolute mystery" and "must be received by faith." This smacks of mysticism and denies the reality of the message Christ brought. In our next section we will deal with the Scriptures and ascertain the true intent behind the Lord's Supper.

 

 

Selah

 

Continued in Part 3

 


Links to the Entire "Communion” Series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

 


 

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