Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Celebrating Communion

God from the beginning has instituted various ordinances that have marked out His people. The response to these is in danger of going to two extremes. There is a tendency to magnify the ordinances to the extent of making the ordinances, and especially doing the ordinances the right way, one of the chief things in being right with God or living in obedience to God. Then there is the opposite reaction, which tends to minimize them and make them of only incidental significance. (We do them because God said so, but wander why He bothered.) It is not within the scope of this post to try to resolve all of the contentions regarding the ordinances. But I do want to look at what the Scripture says about them, and specifically about communion, to try to come up with underlying principles that, to some extent, transcend the disagreements. In Romans 4:11 it speaks of circumcision as a sign and a seal. As I mentioned under baptism I believe this is a general principle for all the ordinances. A sign is something that indicates or declares something, like a banner before an army. A seal is something that speaks of ownership. People put a seal on something to identify it as belonging to them or as being from them. Therefore, the ordinances identify us as being God’s and show it forth for all the world to see. They remind us of who we are (1 Corinthians 11:24,25) and are a proclamation to those around us (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Now the Scripture makes it clear that simply going through the motions of any form of worship is meaningless (Matthew 6:1-18; Malachi 1:10,11; John 4:23,24). Also, that the main issue involved is that of faith (Romans 4:9,10; Hebrews 11:6; 4:1-3). But for those who have faith, it is important that we take upon ourselves the sign and seal of faith, that we may remind ourselves and proclaim to the world that we are His. Being human, we need periodic reminders of what God has done for us, and He has instituted them throughout history (Deuteronomy 5:15; 16:1-3; Joshua 4:6,7). Therefore, communion was instituted to remind us that we are His. (Baptism, being a one-time event, does not serve as a constant reminder, but we can look back on it and remind ourselves we took that step of faith.) Communion also serves as an open proclamation to others of where we stand. It sets us off as a people belonging to God (Deuteronomy 14:2; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9). Therefore, while it is faith that saves (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Acts 16:31), we should not minimize those things God has appointed as an expression of that faith. For they are the sign and seal of who we really are.

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