In order to completely understand the communion of the Bible I'm going to give you some extensive background. The whole premise for being "saved", the whole concept of saving is this thing faith. Every place in the New Testament that you find something about being justified, it means looked at as just like God. Justified, if you look it up in the dictionary, is something that isn't something else but is viewed as just like the other thing. The same way that a jury justifies a criminal when they call him guilty or innocent (either one), he's to be treated as though he were innocent or guilty, whatever their verdict was. That's justification. Justification in the Bible is referring to being "just like God"-who is one hundred percent righteous.
The only way we're justified, which is another way of saying "being saved", the only way we're seen like that is through this thing called faith.
The problem we have immediately is that in English when we hear the word faith, or the word faith comes into our minds, our traditional thinking makes the word faith a noun. When we define faith it comes out sounding like belief. That's a big point of confusion. Faith, in English, is indeed more the concept of belief, and we must stretch it somewhat to make it into an action.
Whereas, the Greek word that's translated into faith in ALL Bibles is spelled p-i-s-t-i-s in English letters and is pronounced peece-teece. Pistis comes directly, it is one generation away from a primary verb. A primary verb.
Now we know what verbs do. Verbs move. They act. So that means that every time you see the word faith in the Bible, an action is happening, or it's describing the process of an action. That description is as far away from a verb as the word faith gets.
If the word is used in a context where it feels like a noun, then it's the noun that's describing the process of the action, or the noun that's describing the faithing. Faith being an action, when you do this action you faithe.
If the word bath is termed as a verb, then when you do a bath, you bathe. Faith and faithe, bath and bathe. We feel that faith is akin to bath, when really faith is a bathe. Faith is an action. Again, those times in the Bible when faith sounds like a noun it's only the noun form of a verb. It's describing a verb. An action is still taking place.
Another very interesting thing is that every time you see the word believe, or any of it's cousins, belief, believed, believers, unbelief, the word is derived directly from pistis! The word pistis is the word for faith, but the word pisteuo(peece-tyoo-oh), notice the same root, is the word translated into belief. And, as you remember, pistis came from a primary verb. So pistis and pisteuo come from a primary verb. They are both action words.
If you understand this, you understand the most important thing in the whole New Testament, nay the whole Bible. This concept will open the scriptures to you and make you ask questions. Every time Jesus heals someone he says, "Your faith has made you whole." We read that and think believe. "Oh, your belief in God, and your belief that I can heal you has made you whole." No, that's not it. What Jesus said when he talked in Greek was, "Your action, your believing action, has made you whole."
There's one story about a woman with an "issue of blood for twelve years" who believed that Jesus was who he said he was. She at least believed that he could heal her if she only touched the hem of his garment. So she crawls through the crowd, touches his hem and is healed. He turned around and said, "Your faith has made you whole." Her action made her whole. She could have sat home for the next twelve years, with the issue of blood, believing that the healing could take place, but she never would have been healed because she would have still been sitting in the chair at home. She had to get out of the chair, acting on that belief. Acting is where the faith comes in. She was acting on the belief that she could be healed. And the action is what released God's healing, which is all around us anyway. Faith is an action. Now we've got that pinned down.
It's this faith stuff that saves us. How can that be? Faith is an action, based on some belief. What belief is that? That's where the crux lies. What belief is it on which we're acting?
We're acting on beliefs all day long. When we walk down the stairs we act on the belief that gravity will pull us down and not have us fly off into space. Everything we do is a faith act, but the faith act that saves us, the faith act of the Bible, the faith act of God and salvation is a faith act based on the belief, not in gravity, not in friction, but in God's ability to keep His word. A belief that when God says something, He does it. No matter how out of the ordinary or against apparent circumstances it my be.
God says "I'll provide, I'll heal, I'll protect." If you can find in the Bible a place where God is promising the people of the Bible something, with few exceptions, you can know that the same is available to you too, and you can claim that promise. You can say, "OK, God, I need this money to do this project. I'm going to get started without the full amount because I'm claiming your promise to provide." That's a somewhat rough example and I don't want to get off into asking God to provide for our wants, like a new Cadillac.
So faith, then, is A B C. An A-ct, based on a B-elief in God's word, and the C-part is the confidence that takes us into and sustains the action. The confidence that God can and does keep His word.
When we do that particular kind of a faith act, a faith act based on God's word as opposed to gravity or celestial mechanics, He says, "Wow, that person trusts me. That person thinks I'm faithful to my word. Good for you. I'll put a little of my God- Force, my Life-Force, into you." That's the saving part-when God sees us acting in trust of Him. We get this Life Force whether or not we get what we're faithing for. You might be faithing for healing or provision, you might be acting in faith for anything in your life, on the physical plane, and not get it. In fact, more than not you probably won't get it. I guarantee you'll always get what you need. But we often try to get more than we need and wind up short. "Ah well, God didn't keep His promise." "Oh yeah, I had enough to pay the bills, but I couldn't go on vacation." Well, that's not the point.
The point is that we don't always get the physical things, we don't always get the promise. But that's very secondary. I'd rather go to heaven with a broken leg, than go to hell healed, able to walk.
The primary thing is that when we act in trust, act in faith, God sees that and puts His Life Force in us, and it goes to work as our redemption, as our passkey into the eternal realm, into the spiritual world. Regardless of whether we get down here what we were faithing for, we get this Life Force of God put in us. This is not some change of attitude. This is a definite force. It's like radio-activity. You can't see it, hear it, feel it, but get it in your and body pretty soon you die.
This Life Force of God is exactly the same, but initiates a double happening. Your old self dies and your new self gains life that can last forever. Like radio-activity, God's Life Force is a definite substance, not some idea. It gets into you, like an xray. You go to the hospital for an xray or you do this faith act and you get a shot of the electromagnetic energy of the Life Force of God. That's exactly the process on a basic level.
But in what does that process result? It results in God looking at us and seeing His Life Force and not seeing our Death force, if you will. That Death force is the thing that makes us human people fall down, the selfishness, the fear. All the little stuff that we go through that makes us act less than one hundred percent, God-like righteous. That's the only way we can be around God-if we're one hundred percent God-like righteous. If we imperfect humans ever come into contact with God's perfection(one hundred percent righteousness), we die. It's an instantaneous death.
You can look at the story in the early chapters of Judges, I think, where the Ark of the Covenant was taken by the Philistines. After time it was sent back to God's people, but when it got back to a certain village, they opened up the cover and a couple of them looked in. Fifty thousand and seventy were killed. Fifty thousand symbolizes harvest, seventy symbolizes spiritual completion compounded with human responsibility. God shows us through that example that we can't look on His perfection, which was inside the Ark in the form of the Ten Commandments. With no filter or buffer between us and God, we die. The covering over the top of the Ark, called the Mercy Seat is a type of Christ. That filters God's Law up through Christ to us and protects us. The Mercy Seat symbolizes Christ's intermediary role between God and us.
When we come into contact with God's perfection, if we're not perfect, we die. But as humans we can never be perfect. Not that kind of perfect. You could be the best person in the world and have an occasional thought that was imperfect. We can't be perfect like God. But when we do this faith act, acting in trust of God's word, and He puts His Life Force inside us, it covers over us just like the ozone layer of the earth. Even though only molecules thick, the ozone layer protects the earth from the sun's harmful ultra-violet rays.
The same thing happens when we faithe and God's Spirit comes inside us. It covers us over and were protected from God's perfect righteousness. He can look at us. He can pay attention to us now because we've got that little stuff inside us. Anybody that's "like" God gets to go where God is, and do the stuff that God is doing. It's called by many names: the after-life, eternal life, ultimate salvation, or being saved, as Traditional Christianity would say. That's what saves you, the implantation of God's Spirit.
Try looking up the word faith in all the gospels, and the letters of Paul. Romans, Galations, and Hebrews are the best books to find out about faith. It's very clear in there, when you do some extensive study, that it says, "we're saved by faith." "We're saved by faith." Other places say that we're saved by a couple other things like grace or belief, but grace is usually coupled with faith, and we've already seen that belief and faith are the same thing. We saved by doing this verb, this action based on God's word.
This is the basic process we must understand. It's a faith act that saves us. It opens the door to God's Spirit. When God's Spirit is inside us, it does exactly the same thing it does anywhere else. It works Good. It works Love. And Love provides, protects, guides, heals; all of those things that we need to get through our physical days.
If that's all true, then the first thing I want to do is figure out how to act in trust or faithe. I want the clearest possible example of faithing, trusting in God for something that He's said. I want the very clearest way I can find to do that so I can really lock it down and be sure I'm OK. Sure I'm doing what I need to do.
In our daily life, it's a bit harder to do than we think. Things get in the way. How can I always be sure that I'm not acting out of selfish motives, twisting the process around somehow? I can't be sure, but I don't want to take any more chances than I have to. We're talking about our eternal soul, not the purchase of a two-bit candy bar. Our eternal salvation. If that stuff is really true, then I want some of it. Even if, in the process, eternity turns out not to be true, maybe I'm still farther ahead by doing the right thing anyway. I win in either case. I wind up doing the right thing, plus I get the eternal side of the process.
If it's going to be a bit difficult to figure out in my personal life what to do for a faith act, I'll go to the Bible and see what it says there.
If you'll go to Matthew six, you'll find three different kinds of faithing listed. It begins the chapter by saying, "When you do your alms," which is more properly translated, "When you do your righteousness," when you do your acts of righteousness, your faithing. "When you do your acts of righteousness, don't do them out in public. That's the main message of the chapter, and it lists three different things that are considered by God as acts of righteousness. Giving money is first. It says alms again, but the word used is different that the first alms, which I said is really righteousness. Prayer and fasting are also included.
These are acts of faith. Giving money to someone who turns you on to God's word, which is the same as the tithing in the Old Testament. The amount is meant to be the same for the New Testament people and us, but that's where it goes. It goes to the preacher or the one who helps you understand God and helps you grow spiritually. That's the person who's supposed to get those alms.
Prayer. Again, is not to be done in public. It says to do it in your closet. In your closet. And as far as I'm concerned, you should always pray out loud. Even when you're amongst some people, you can still mutter under you breath. It's supposed to be an act that impinges on the physical reality. I think that should always be heavily preferred to any "thinking" prayer. Don't think your prayer. You can think about God, but you better set aside a good amount of your prayer time for the out-loud kind. It'll mean way more to you when you hear yourself. It's psychologically good for us to pray out loud.
Again with fasting, you're told in Matthew not to do it in front of people. I think you can figure out how fasting can be a faithing act. It has to do, at least, with God's provision.
The fourth clear faith act in the Bible is communion. It is outlined in as much detail, in many places, as one could want. Communion becomes God's word through Christ, because at the last supper, when Jesus first instituted communion, he's the one who said, "This is my Body." He said, "This is my blood. Do this and remember me." Remember the things that it pertains to as far as Christ is concerned.
That's still a little too abstract. We know what the act is, because it's outlined in four different books: Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 and 1 Corinthians 11. Paul is the best one to look at because his is the most extensive account. It gives not only instructions on what to do, but he explains it. That's what Paul's job is: to explain all the stuff from the Old Testament that points to Jesus.
When you go to those passages you know what to do. We take a cup of wine and some kind of bread. You can be extra picky about it and make sure it's red wine and it's unleavened, broken bread, or you can take an animal cracker and water or orange juice. What you do is not so important. It's mainly symbolic. Having red wine instead of orange juice is not going to save you or not. It doesn't make any difference. Your discernment, what you remember, what you focus on is what's important. And , of course, you focus on Christ.
OK. We're at the last supper, and Christ institutes communion. As the Son of God, the spokesman directly for God, he says this is what you should do. "Do this in remembrance of me." Now I'm acting on God's word.
We have to take an indirect route to find out what was going on there. They were at the last supper, but the last supper was really the Passover. They were celebrating the Passover. The Passover is where we'll find out what communion is all about. We know Jesus said "This is my body, and this is my blood," but they were having the Passover. He took the wine of the Passover and said, "This is my blood." Whose blood was it before that? If it was His blood now, whose blood was it then? It was symbolizing the blood of the very first Passover.
The bread also was there, and Jesus said, "This is my body." His body symbolizes the body of the lamb of the first Passover.
Let's quickly go through that first Passover and see what was happening there. All the people were in Egypt, just before the Exodus. Nine plagues had gone by: lice, frogs, water turned to blood. Now the first-born being killed was about to happen; even the first-born of the animals. God sends word to the people through Moses saying a catastrophy was going to happen. The Bible doesn't outline the announcement, but I'll paraphrase. "A catastrophy is going to happen, but you can avoid being touched by this calamity if you do these things."
God gives them a long list of instructions. They were find a "perfect" lamb, take it on the tenth day of the month, and keep it for four days. On the fourteenth day of the month, kill it. Take the blood of the lamb, put it all around the door and go in the house. There's more, but when the Death Angel comes over and he starts killing all the first born, if he sees blood on the door he'll pass over. You'll be saved, you won't be killed. You will be saved from death. Let me interject a reminder. The first born were not only children. A sixty year old man could be the first born of his family. They were saved by the blood.
The rest of the instructions, because they were happening inside the house, didn't effect the saving from death. The blood on the door, no matter what was going on inside, even if the house was empty, told the Death Angel not to touch that house. They were saved from death by the blood. Now clearly that's a complete concept. It had nothing to do with what's going on in the house.
But what was happening in the house was extremely important also. It didn't save their lives, but it did something else. Remember we have two elements at the communion table. We have the wine and the bread. So we have the blood and the body of the lamb.
Here's what they were instructed to do with that lamb. Take it in the house, roast it, don't boil it and don't break any of it's bones. When it's finished, put on your shoes, your coat, and with your staff in hand, eat in haste.
You know there were no Rabbi's, there weren't temple police that went around and looked in the windows or opened the door to find out if they were standing up while they ate. No one checked to see if they roasted or boiled the lamb or were taking their time eating. Nobody but God knew what they were doing in those houses. But all those instructions came about so that they would be ready for the long desert trek on which they were about to embark. They had at least a three month walk to get from where they were to the promised land. Even though it took them forty years, it was still only a three month trek. They had to all be healthy for such an ordeal. That's the point.
Eating the roasted lamb provided their physical healing. The blood on the door provided their spiritual healing, if you will. The blood saved their lives, the lamb saved their bodies.
That's why we have the two elements. We have the wine and the bread. Jesus took those two elements, the blood of the lamb and the body of the lamb that they were celebrating at that Passover, and said, "From now on you guys, this isn't the blood of the lamb anymore. This is my blood." Obviously, it wasn't the actual blood of the lamb, it represented the blood of that first Passover lamb. "And this bread, which represents that the flesh of that first lamb, this bread now represents my body."
So we have two elements. Each one of those acts is a faith act. As we drink the wine, we remember Jesus. We discern his sacrifice. We don't look at ourselves to see if we're worthy. We're not there to drink a whole gallon of port. We're there to remember Jesus and what He did. When we drink with that proper discernment it provides our saving from death. That's God's word or promise. We're saved from death. We get saved, our sins are not looked at any more.
Now the only way our sins can't be seen by God, is if He sees Himself first. When He looks at me without the covering of His Spirit, He sees all my junk. If this taking of the wine takes care of that and saves me, this taking communion must be a faith act. Drinking the wine is a faith act. God's word says I'll be saved if I do this. So I'm to take Him at His word.
The same goes with the bread. When we eat the bread, we're recognizing all the physical punishment that Jesus took. By the way, only one in ten ever survived a Roman scourging. One in ten. Nine out of ten who took the Roman lash died. And that's not all that happened to Christ's body.
If you go to Isaiah 53, which is about the suffering Messiah, you'll find it says in verse six, "All we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord (God) hath laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all." All of our shortcomings. Iniquity, sins, all that means is being short of God's one hundred percent righteousness. It doesn't just mean murder and rape, etc. The basic, generic meaning of sin is missing the mark. That's the literal translation of the Greek word homartia. Miss the mark. That's all, miss the mark. Who hasn't missed the mark of God's perfection? And there's no judgement in that. It just says that we did less than perfection, and we have to be perfect to make it in.
Well, all our shortcomings, all the times we didn't measure up, which is everything we do, is laid on Christ. It's covered by His crucifixion.
If you go back up into verse five you find out that He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, and with His stripes ye are healed. In other words, when He gets hit, we get healed. Our infirmities are put on Him.
Let's put this into practical terms. Two thousand years ago this guy was beat up really bad, he was nailed to a cross, and when his blood poured out and he died, he took on himself every sickness, every cold we've ever had, all our broken bones, our lameness past, present and future. They were already healed when He took His stripes. The healing took place then. What we have to do is find a way to access that healing.
The same thing happens with our sins, our falling short. All the falling short we ever did, do or will do is covered by His death two thousand years ago. It's already taken care of, so all we have to do is access it.
I think I must warn you against any kind of adulteration of the communion act by an outside person. Do this alone. This wasn't meant to be done in church. It was meant as a home thing. They didn't all gather in the main room and roast the lamb there and put the blood on the door there. They went to their houses. It was meant to be, and started out in one house. Exodus 12:46 outlines the at-home concept.
I certainly don't mean for your family to be excluded, but I do suggest that in the beginning you be alone with God so you don't feel any outside pressures. Remember the closet?
Additionally, when we go back to the concept of faithing, that putting in of God's Spirit, God's the only one who can do that. God, not some priest, not some minister, not someone on the street. This is strictly between you and God. Don't ever let anyone put any rules about this communion on you. "Oh, you have to be a member of the church before you can take communion." Bull Dooky. Not true. This is God's thing, and you and God work it out together. And again, it's better not to split your focus by having someone else involved. Do it alone 'till you feel strong and confident about it.
Even after you feel confident, I suggest that mainly you be alone with God when you take communion. Do it on special occasions with other people, for specific reasons that are for all of you together, like celebrating Passover. But make this one ofyour regular faith acts Hang out alone with God, so that you can hang out. It's hard to hang out when we're thinking about what other people might think or hear or think about you when you do it.
At this point I'm going to pretend that we're both taking communion, alone, with God. You have the choice of participating or listening in. You can stop right now and get whatever you have there. Wine, water, juice. Bread cracker.
The wine and the bread. We'll take the bread first. First Peter echoes Isaiah in verse twenty-four, "By His (Jesus) stripes ye were healed." This is after the resurrection. So he said "ye were healed." In other words, "Your healing already took place." When you take the bread, personalize that. Thank God for His healing, and talk some faith as well as take the bread in faith and say "By His stripes I was healed." Take the bread now and say it with me, "By His stripes I was healed, in Jesus' name."
The wine, again, covers our shortcomings. It's by God's grace. He sits up there and He's such a gracious, merciful, longsuffering God that He gives us this wonderful thing, salvation, for simple little faith act. It's so easy for us to do. All we have to do is remember Jesus, and ask God for His mercy. Remember that this wine represents Jesus' blood and the blood covers us. This was given to us to remove the separation from Him; that will kill us forever. This faith act allows us to come back into contact, allow Him to make contact with us, and in His Love draw us back in.
So take the cup now, and thank God for His grace, asking Him for His continued mercy, in Jesus' name. Say it with me. Thank for your grace, Lord. Have mercy on me, in Jesus' name.
I want to urge you to do some in-depth study of the communion. You might want to look at the following passages: Psalm 105:37, Leviticus 17:11, Jeremiah 31:31, Matthew 8:17, plus the chapters already mentioned. You may also refer to the teaching outline in the section on notes.
Pay particular attention to what Paul has to say in 1 Corinthians 11:24-29; especially where he says that worthily partaking is partaking with proper discernment(as opposed to being worthy, which we can't).
Remember that one of the things we're trying to do is to show God that we trust Him; by doing something that's really against apparent circumstance. We just took communion. We just had the wine and the bread, and that's crazy stuff. If you put it out of the context of God and the Bible, and do those same types of acts, people would think you're crazy. Because it evidences a belief that nobody else can prove. They can't see God, can't hear Him, feel Him. Neither can we, yet here we are acting like there is this thing that's actually going to do some good in our lives.
It's a faith act that overcomes some kind of risk, some kind of doubt. And the bigger the faith act, the more the risk, the more our reluctance. "Oh, I can't afford to tithe. I haven't got enough money." Well, you can't afford not to. You can't afford not to act in faith. Every time you find a way to act in faith, do it. You can't afford to pass up a chance to faithe. You can't afford to wait even one day, and think you'll do it tomorrow.
My personal opinion is that we get a shot of God's Spirit and It starts to work It's way out of our bodies and soon we don't have any. We have to renew our commitment, we have to renew our faith every day.
Your soul can't afford for you not to faithe. Taking communion every day, as some do, might be a part of the way that helps you stay saved. It's a faith act.
A Study Outline of the Communion is also available.