Pastoral Perspectives

Do This In Remembrance Of Me

For two millenniums, Holy Communion is a sacred meal that binds Christians to Christ and we read in 1 Corinthians 11: 17 – 22, 27 – 30 of the struggle and distortion in understanding of this practice in the Church. Paul had to write to correct their wayward ways. In verses 20-22, the Apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians for treating the Lord’s Supper like an ordinary meal. “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!” The Corinthians were partaking Holy Communion in a disorderly manner, with some getting drunk while others getting hungry. It is clear that the problem was self-centeredness and if they were to carry on like that, not recognising the significance of what they were partaking, they would be eating and drinking judgment upon themselves.

Today’s concern isn’t over the disorderly participation of church members. Today’s concern is also no longer on issues such as frequency – how often should the Holy Communion service be conducted/administered? Time – what time of the day should it be conducted? Eligibility – who qualifies to participate? Elements – bread and wine – should we eat leavened or unleavened bread; should we drink alcoholic or non-alcoholic wine? Today’s issue concerns obtaining physical healing through the consumption of Communion elements. Luke 22:19 says: “And Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say Christ’s body was “broken so that our bodies can be made well.” Following are the various views concerning Communion:

  • The Roman Catholic (Transubstantiation) views that the bread and wine literally changes to the body and blood of Christ. The recipient partakes of Christ, who is being sacrificed in the Mass to atone for sins.
  • Lutherans see it as a spiritual view (Consubstantiation). The bread and wine contain the body and blood of Christ but they do not literally change. The recipient receives forgiveness of sins and confirmation of one’s faith.
  • Reformed (Symbolic) view states that Christ is not literally present in the elements but there is a spiritual presence of Christ. Recipient receives grace through partaking the bread and wine.
  • Most of the Evangelical church holds to the memorial view, that Christ is not physically or spiritually present. The recipient only commemorates the death and resurrection of Christ by partaking of the elements.

It is now a common phenomenon and practice probably across the world for certain preachers to teach and administer the Lord’s Supper primarily for healing purposes. None of the above 4 views come close to this. I have heard some pastors charged their members to claim healing for themselves in the process of taking Communion. Is this Christ’s purpose for Communion? In my opinion, there is nothing wrong to desire and pray for healing for our sick brethren. However, it is very misleading to teach and make them believe they can obtain healing by participating in the Lord’s Supper.

One preacher gave the following reasons why it is wrong to administer Holy Communion primarily for healing:

  • There is no single biblical reference to support this practice. Even 1 Corinthian 11: 17-34 that the exponents of this practice usually quote to support their stand says nothing about receiving healing through taking Holy Communion.
  • Jesus never practised or commanded it. There is no single place in the Gospel where Christians have been commanded to partake in the Lord’s Supper for healing purposes.
  • It goes against Christ’s purpose for Communion. Jesus’ purpose is very clear in I Corinthians 11: 23-26: “Do it in remembrance of me.” I am sure that if Christ had wanted us to do it for healing he would have communicated to us accordingly in a very clear way.
  • The Apostles and Christians of the early Church never practised it. We heard of the many miracles of healing that the Lord performed through his apostles in the Church but none of the healing was received through the administering of Communion [Acts 2: 42-47; 19: 11-12]. The mother in-law of Peter was sick and in fact, Paul had a thorn in his flesh, yet neither Jesus Christ nor his apostles administered the elements of bread and wine to heal the sick [Matthew 8: 14-17; 2 Corinthians 12: 1-10.]
  • On the contrary, the Bible makes it clear that careless participation in this sacred meal could lead to sickness, weakness and physical death (See 1 Corinthians 11: 28-30).

The right question to ask is: “What is the purpose for Holy Communion?”  The Lord’s Supper is described in three of the four New Testament Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. The lessons Jesus taught at the Lord’s Supper was to live a faithful life while here on earth by serving others in love. The bread is a symbol of the body of Jesus, never to be forgotten as it was given to us. The cup represents the blood of Jesus, never to be forgotten as he poured out His life for us. Jesus Christ has offered everybody the gift of His life, death and resurrection. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice, and that by faith in Him, we can dine with Christ for all eternity. The Lord’s Supper is one of the important sacraments of the church (the other being baptism). God actually warns us about taking communion without considering its significance or in a flippant manner. The intent is not for us to mindlessly perform a ritual, but to intentionally set aside time to remember what Jesus has done and why He did it (1 Corinthians 11:27-31).

  • It’s not about the bread and wine; it’s about the body and blood of Jesus.
  • It’s not about the ritual or the method; it’s about listening to Jesus and doing what He says.
  • Communion is not an obligation but a celebration.
  • Communion celebrates the Gospel: Jesus was broken for us.

It mocks God when we say healing is dependent on our partaking of Communion. Our physical restoration should lie in His sovereign will to heal at any time He pleases. This doctrine falsely teaches that our visualisations and rituals are the main factors for the physical healing process. The doctrine of healing through Communion takes away the full glory of God by making Him dependant on rituals. The truth of the matter is, as God can save at any time He pleases, He could also heal at any time He pleases.

Rev Tan Cheng Huat (Non-resident Missionary to SQ)

December 22, 2019