In Romans 12, Paul describes believers in Christ as parts of His body. Each member is different, with varied gifts, abilities, and callings. Some are called to service, others to generosity, some to prophecy, or encouragement, or leadership. Each member serves a unique purpose within the body. Members are not alike. So how is it that we, who are all so varied, are all parts of Christ’s body?
The Eucharist may provide the answer to one way Christians are united, no matter how different we may seem from one another.
In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, Paul writes, “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.”
Here Paul explains how participation in Communion unites believers. When we take part in the Eucharist, we are becoming Christ’s body by joining ourselves to Him and His church. More light can be shed on how this happens when we look more closely at the implications of the Last Supper. At the Last Supper, Jesus knew that He was going to die. At the time, when a prophet or a teacher was going to die, he would leave his possessions with his disciples. Jesus, however, had no earthly possessions aside from His body and blood. That was all Jesus had, and so when He tells His disciples that they are to take His body and blood, He is giving them their inheritance. Now, each time Christians partake of the Eucharist, we are accepting our inheritance from Christ. In this way, we are all Christ’s disciples, all held together as His body, by His body.
However, taking part in Communion does not just create unity among believers, it requires it. In 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, Paul writes, “So then, 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. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.” If someone partakes of communion with selfish intentions, not considering the church as the body of Christ and themselves as a part of that body, they will be judged. Further in the text, Paul defines this punishment as sickness and death for those who take part in communion without first discerning the body. Paul emphasizes how important it is to understand what Communion is, and what it means for us before we partake.
This also means that it is important for us to be in right relationship with others in the church, and with God, before we accept Communion. In this way, Communion acts as a way of calling believers back to unity with each other and God. It is a regular reminder of how we are all parts of Christ’s body and therefore must work together for His purposes.
So, it is important as Christians for us to examine ourselves each time we take part in Communion. We must reconcile ourselves to God and the church first, and recognize the each time that we take part in the Eucharist, that we are accepting Christ’s inheritance, and unifying ourselves to His body.
Barker, Kenneth L., ed. Zondervan TNIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006.
Cavanaugh, William T. Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1998. Print.
Parks, Lynn S. Philadelphia. Speech.