Can a Christian Refuse Communion ?
aymon de albatrus
"6 Then comes he to Simon Peter: and Peter said to him, Lord, do you wash my feet? 7 Jesus answered and said to him, What I do you know not now; but you shall know hereafter. 8 Peter said to him, You shall never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash you not, you have no part with me. 9 Simon Peter said to him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. 10 Jesus said to him, He that is washed needs not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and you are clean, but not all." (Joh 13:6-10)
Jesus imposed the washing of the feet on His disciples,
Peter refuses this bond for he reckons himself not worthy,
Jesus tells him that if he does not accept this imposition, then he has no part of Christ,
Then Peter, not wanting to be rejected, asks to be washed whole,
Jesus tells them that they are already clean Eph 1:3-5, except the feet. The feet of every day walk, of our behaviour that continually collects filth and need to be continually washed in the blood of Christ.
As we see, Christ does not give a choice, you accept His imposition or you are out. Whosoever does not accept the Sovereignty of the Lord on his life, he is not His. This concept is very difficult to be comprehended by our modern and democratic minds, even less to accept it, and in practice almost impossible to live it. BUT this is the Kingdom of God as Jesus asks His disciples to pray: "And he said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so in earth." (Luk 11:2). The Communion is also a command of the Lord.
The flesh is weak and the Lord Himself at Gethsemane, taken by the weakness of the flesh, asked God, His Father, if it were possible not to pass through the cross. His anguish was so strong that He perspired water and blood.: "Saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done." (Luk 22:42)
The true believers have been purchased at a high price: "You are bought with a price; be not you the servants of men." (1Co 7:23) The true situation is that we are slaves of Christ and not of the evil one (the only other alternative) and we have no choice: "So also when you have done all things commanded you, you say, We are unprofitable slaves, for we have done what we ought to do." (Luk 17:10)
Paul considered himself a slave of Christ: "Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated to the gospel of God," (Rom 1:1) "For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I would not be a slave of Christ." (Gal 1:10) Unfortunately many modern churches loose sight of this fact and for fear to loose member they water down their witness.
In Philemon, Paul even consider himself as a prisoner: "Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy the brother, to Philemon the beloved and our fellow-worker," (Phm 1:1)
The word translated as "Servant or Slave" in the Greek is Doulos, meaning:
Slave, in a servile condition without any rights,
One that gives himself to the will of another, completely,
One used by Christ to extend and advance His cause between men,
A devotee to another, uncaring for his own interests.
Be as it may, the bottom line is that a Doulos cannot decide for himself.
After conversion, the true believers live in Christ Jesus and no more for themselves, but are slaves of the Lord: "I have been crucified with Christ, and I live; yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith toward the Son of God, the One loving me and giving Himself over on my behalf." (Gal 2:20)
We see then that the Communion (or the Lord's supper) was instituted by Jesus Christ and imposed on His disciples that received it wit all gladness, in the very evening of feet washing: "24 and giving thanks, He broke and said, Take, eat; this is My body which is broken on behalf of you; this do in remembrance of Me. 25 In the same way the cup also, after supping, saying, This cup is the New Covenant in My blood; as often as you drink, do this in remembrance of Me. See Luke 22:19,20 26 For as often as you may eat this bread, and drink this cup, you solemnly proclaim the death of the Lord, until He shall come." (1Co 11:24-26)
To note 2 things:
Jesus did not take the bread or the wine for Himself, for these two elements were for the disciples, that represent His mystical body and His mystical blood, and
When Jesus instituted the Holy Communion, He was alive and well besides His disciples and not in the bread or in the wine. Therefore neither the bread nor the wine can be literally His Body or His blood but are taken as mystical food. In a certain church the communion consist in a wafer (given to the congregation) and wine (taken only by the Priest) and under a dogma of theirs, when the priest commands the transubstantiation Jesus is instructed to come down from Heaven and become real body and real blood in their elements, so they teach. In other words they teach that when the priest commands, Jesus (God) has to descend and the sacrifice of the cross is made anew. But Jesus said: "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." (Joh 19:30)
What is the purpose of the Holy Communion? Jesus Himself declares it: For as often as you may eat this bread, and drink this cup, you solemnly proclaim the death of the Lord, until He shall come
Announce the death of the Lord, and
Await His return in Faith with much joy.
Announcing the death of the Lord has many implications
First of all it proves that there is only ONE Lord.
A Lord that has truly lived and has died (incarnation),
A Lord that has resurrected and will come back soon (real God),
A Lord that has power over death and thus He is God,
We have then hope that we shall also resurrect for we believe in His words and are His disciples,
We celebrate (as commanded) His death, not His birth for the power is in His death for us, not in His birth that He did not ask to celebrate. Unfortunately many Christians have been seduced by the world corrupted by the evil one and blindly celebrate His birth, (pagans)
Whosoever participates in His death witnesses that in fact the Lord is his Lord,
This ties in very well with His other commandment, to be baptised: "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Rom 6:4)
By this we know that it not us that live but Christ in us Col 2:20.
And finally, as we take the Supper of the Lord together, we witness that we are all His disciples, brethrens and citizens of the Kingdom of God.
We are awaiting His return in Faith because:
We believe in His holy words and have His Spirit,
We desire with much desire to be with Him,
He so commanded,
This is the evidence of our salvation, in Him.
Let us now see how the primitive church implemented this command of the Lord:
Luke says that the Communion was celebrated in the church since its inception: "And they continued steadfastly in the apostlesí doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Act 2:42) (breaking of bread is synonym for the Communion)
Again Luke refers to "the first day of the week", this proves that the primitive church celebrated Communion at least once a week, on Sundays: "And on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, ......" (Act 20:7)
To note also that Luke describes here the real reason of the Sunday cult "came together to break bread". For sure there were other activities in the church, for example Paul that preached till midnight, but to say that the church came together on Sunday is like saying that the church got together to celebrate the Holy Communion which was the centrality of the worship, as it should be in ours (not our rock and roll music).
In Act 2:46 we read: "And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart," this means that they participated to the Holy Supper all together with joy and gladness of heart, every day.
Calvin says: The sacrament of the Holy Supper has to be celebrated with decorum and frequently. At least once a week the Table of the Lord has to be prepared in the company of Christians and His promises declared, for us to feed on them. The custom to have Communion only once a year is surely from the devil.
Luther says: Who declares to be a Christian is prepared to receive the Communion frequently. It is understood that those that abstain or keep away from the Sacrament of the Holy Supper for long periods are to be considered not Christians.
I have noted that in many churches there are some that abstain from the Communion for they have received incorrect teaching based on Mat 5:23-24 "23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has ought against you; 24 Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." We note the following points in these verses:
A believer is about to take an offer to the altar,
He remembers that he has a problem with a brother,
The Lord commands to leave the offer in front of the altar and to first reconcile with the brother,
And then return for he offering.
But has this anything to do with Communion? When we go for the Communion are we taking an offering to the Lord?? Absolutely NO, for the Gift is from Him to us and not he other way. He IS the Gift to us, His disciples we bring no offerings. This erroneous interpretation has caused many to abstain from the Communion. If we have a problem with a bro does this make us cease to be His disciples? NO, for we have been sealed by the Holy Ghost. If we do that, we are no better than Peter that judged himself not to be worthy against the holy judgment of the Lord. If we are accepted in the beloved, we cannot refuse to take the Communion, for it is a Command from the Lord without any conditions. Id if do we are deciding on our life and are not slaves of Christ anymore.
If you remember that you have a problem with a brother, before taking the Communion make a prayer within yourself. "O Lord please forgiver my sins, help me make it good with my brother and provide the right condition for me to do so".
Sure, we must take the Communion in all seriousness and with much thanking but if we think that we must take it when we are worthy in our eyes, that is be pure, then my friend NO one should ever take the Holy Supper. No believer can refuse to take the Communion for whatever reason that he may repute important in his eyes.
The admonition in 1Co 11:27 "Why whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." has to be understood in its context.
"For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lordís body." (1Co 11:29)
These verses refer to the lack of discernment between the calice (goblet) and the bread, and the normal eating that, was normal part in the Communion in the primitive church, the Communion elements and the food were taken together. This is what Jesus did with His disciples, that evening Jesus took the normal bread and normal wine, He sanctified them and made of that a sealed ceremony to commemorate His death, whilst they were having dinner. Paolo here refers to the inability in discerning properly between these two symbols of the body and blood of Christ in an irreverent manner as part of the rest of the food. The food was one thing and these elements another. For this is the corporal punishment for lack of respect to the Holy work of Christ on the cross. These days though we do not usually have food when taking Communion.
The rich one brought a lot of opulent food whilst the poor one brought their misery, but the rich one gobbled their own food without sharing it with the less fortunate one. This is not discerning the body correctly for in the Kingdom we are all one. The golden rule for these koinonia is that once the food is put on the table it belongs to all.
A real Christian will always take the Communion with proper reverence, and a non Christian has no part of it, so he will not take it nor he is interested in it. So not taking the Communion based on the above is also incorrect. A Christian that decides not to participate in the Communion for reasons he has deliberated within himself, excludes himself from the body of Christ for He is refusing the Lord's Command.
To be remembered that it was Jesus that gave us the Gift of the Holy Supper (salvation) and as His slaves, we cannot refuse It otherwise we have no part of Him, as for the washing of the feet. Truly, any Christian that refuses to take the Communion for whatever reason is a rebel towards the Lord that has given His life for him and this is a grave offence to Christ Jesus. To refuse God's gift is surely an offence to Him, if not a sin.
A true Christian believer cannot refuse the Holy Supper because it is a command form the Lord that paid a high price for his salvation, therefore he belongs to the Lord and as a slave of Christ he cannot decide whether to take it or not. Jesus' command to: this do in remembrance of Me is without conditions,
If a believer does not participate to the Holy Supper he has not part in the Lord,
Under no circumstances can a believer be worthy to participate to the Holy Supper by his own merits, Jesus has already made him clean by Grace and has made him wordy to participate to HIS Supper, nothing else is required,
Whoever finds excuses for not participating (even apparently plausible) is a rebel and offends and rejects Christ, and he is in real danger of not being a real believer,
The Communion should be taken the more often possible (at least weekly) so to declare more often His Death and His imminent return,
The Communion must be taken with decorum and deep respect for the work of Christ for us,
The children that can discern the body and the blood of Christ should participate to the Communion and forbidden Not, for Jesus said: "But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come to me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Mat 19:14)