Christian Traditions, Pt. 3

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:24-25, John 6:63
This is the third in a series on church tradition and the Bible. Today's program focuses on the Lord's Supper and how it is practiced. How often should we celebrate the communion service? Is it really that important to partake of this?
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Announcer: It's time now for "Bible Talk." Join Gary Gibbs and John Bradshaw as they open the Bible to deepen our understanding of God's word. [music]

John Bradshaw: Hi, and welcome to "Bible Talk," where we talk about the Bible and how the Bible affects you today. I am John Bradshaw.

Gary Gibbs: I am Gary Gibbs.

John: Lately on "Bible Talk," we have been talking about tradition. The Bible, tradition, church authority. Gary, I have been thinking about this thing about tradition, and I have realized in thinking that there is a tradition that permeates all of Christianity. Something that we don't often stop to think about as a tradition, but I think we do call it a tradition. That is the Lord's Supper, the communion service. That is a tradition, isn't it?

Gary: It is. In fact, many churches you go into, it's something they actually celebrate every week. Every Sunday, every weekend, they celebrate this.

John: In some churches every day.

Gary: Every day, that is right. So it's definitely a tradition. Something you repeat that often has to be a tradition. But it's a tradition that dates all the way back to Jesus' day. It's a tradition, actually, that Jesus established.

John: It's a good tradition, isn't it?

Gary: It is.

John: It's a Biblical tradition. So if you just heard me say it's a tradition, don't think I am minimizing this at all. It's something that we have done repeatedly down through the years. But because we are following Christ's injunction, we do it because he asks us to do it. It's a good tradition. It's found right in the Bible. Yet this is something we want to understand clearly and from the Bible. Where are we going to go in order to do this?

Gary: There are a number of places. We won't take the time to read it today, but in John 13, you have the story of where Jesus initiated the Lord's Supper. Then later, you look at the disciples, and the disciples actually did this. They said to continue doing this, follow Jesus' example. Like in one Corinthians 11:24, looking back at what Jesus did, said when He, Jesus had given thanks, He broke the bread and said, "Take, eat this as my body, which is broken for you. This do in remembrance of me." Then in verse 25, he says, "Take the cup. It's the new testament of my blood. This do as oft as ye drink it in remembrance of me."

Then the disciple says, "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do show the Lord's death till he comes."

John: That is something I want to pick on there, if you don't mind for a moment we'll pick up on. I have been asked many, many times, how often in our churches we should have the Communion Service. I have looked in the Bible and as far as I can tell, there is no Biblical mandate or directive as to how frequently Communion should be established. Some churches have it every day, some every week, some once a month, some once a year. But all you find in the Bible is it says, "As often as you do it, you do show the Lord's death till he come."

Gary: I think it should be done often enough that it's still special. I think if you do it too often, it becomes so ritualistic, you lose the meaning of it. That is why I appreciate what they do in my church. We do it once a quarter. A moment ago, I mentioned the Last Supper as it's mentioned in John 13. John 13, what you actually find is the foot washing service. Before the bread and the wine was served, there was this foot washing service that Jesus established.

John: Now, there are some churches that still do that today. That is not wrong at all, is it? That is something found in the Bible.

Gary: It is. I think it's what Paul is alluding to when he talks about, "We need to judge ourselves before we come to the table." The foot washing service allows you to do that. It's kind of like a mini baptism, the time where you pray. You examine your heart to see how God's working your life. So you are prepared to partake of the emblems of his body and blood.

John: In the upper room, the foot washing was an action that encouraged and fostered humility. None of those disciples had the humility to play the part of a servant. Jesus did, so he did. This is something that helps us to enter into that mindset of humility as we approach the Communion service, something that is very important and very sacred. Let's try to bring this out clearly today, because I am just imagining someone listening today who is a non-Christian and says, "Why in the world would you do that?" Let's see whether we can make it applicable, or at least sound reasonable even to someone who has got no idea why Christians would do this.

Gary: Why they would eat of the bread and the wine or...?

John: Yeah, there is some people who say, "What a funny little old ritual tradition routine. Bah. What's in it for you?"

Gary: Well, it's something that Jesus established. The reason he established this is, he wants us to remember what he did for us, that he gave his body for us. This sinless God humbled himself to become a man, "to be tempted in all points like as we are," the Bible says in Hebrews two and Hebrews four, so that he could overcome temptation for us. He bore that temptation all the way to the cross.

John: That unleavened bread and that grape juice becomes a part of your being. It gets into you. Just as really the Christian is to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus as Jesus said in John chapter 6, and that is to make him part of yourself, to eat his word, to feast on the things of Heaven, to feed upon Christ's scriptures, and allow Jesus to fully enter into you. You have got that kind of in microcosm with the little bread, the little grape juice. Christ actually is in you and becomes a part of you.

Gary: Now, while this is a good tradition established by Jesus, it doesn't mean that we totally understand this tradition. You just quoted the text about eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood. This is an area where our churches are divided. There are churches that teach that the bread and the wine actually are the real body and the real blood of Christ.

John: Yeah. Now, let's be careful how we tread upon this, because there are some people to whom this would just sound like cannibalism. Very odd, that you are actually taking in the real body, the real blood. Where in the world did we get this idea from? It's not in all churches, but it's in some churches. Hey, if it's a scriptural idea, if we can find out that it's a Biblical idea, let's shout it from the rooftops and encourage everybody to think that way. Where did it come from?

Gary: It's a doctrine called transubstantiation. That is, that the bread and the wine are changed into the real body and blood of Christ by the ministry of a priest and what he says. This is taught in the Catechism. Here, I will read from the Catechism. "The Eucharist is a sacrament which really, truly and substantially contains the body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. Christ is present in the Eucharist, with all his physical properties. Hands and feet, head and human heart, he is present with his human soul, with his thoughts, desires and human affections."

So the teaching is that Jesus is really in this. The reason this is taught John is because of the text you just read.

John: Eat my flesh and drink my blood.

Gary: That is right. The idea is that if you don't really, truly eat his flesh and blood then you are not going to have salvation. That is why catechisms teach the Eucharist and this is a quote. The Eucharist is necessary for salvation.

John: Man, are you sure they don't really mean symbolically? Because many Christian churches would say these are emblems. These are symbols.

Gary: That is where the division is between many churches. But no, the clear, unambiguous teaching is this is the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist here.

John: Well, that sounds like taking a good tradition but putting a slot upon it that becomes very hard to validate or substantiate from the bible.

Gary: No, they have biblical rational for this. Here is one. John 6:51-53, "Jesus said, I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eats of this bread, he will live forever and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

John: For the life of the world.

Gary: "Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."

John: Yeah, but wait a minute. I am in the same chapter here. John 6:63, where Jesus says, "It is the spirit that quickeneth." That is makes alive. "The flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life." You go back to the book of Jeremiah where it says, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them." Revelation chapter 10, the prophet is shown a little book. He eats it up. It's sweet in his mouth. It is bitter in his belly. We believe that is the word of God. That seems very, very clear to many people. Perhaps this is simply the result of years and years and years of tradition. Because I have met many people from many different faiths and irrespective of what their church teaches. I have never met anyone who really believed that they went up front and ate Jesus himself. It seems to me this is a tradition of a system, you see.

Gary: It didn't actually come in to the Christian church. The Christian church believed that the bread and wine were symbolic of Jesus body and blood. This idea of transubstantiation becomes the real body and blood of Christ. It didn't come in until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 AD.

John: The Fourth Lateran Council in the 13th century.

Gary: That is correct.

John: If I can say so, a relatively recent innovation with increased [indecipherable 09:52] .

Gary: About 1200 years after Christ.

John: Well, that is interesting. Now, that doesn't mean that the communion service itself, there is anything wrong with that. The communion is biblical. That receiving the bread representing Jesus, receiving the juice and not wine, right? It couldn't be fermented wine because fermentation was symbolic of sin and it couldn't be used to represent the sinless Jesus, could it?

Gary: Not when you consider that fermented wine is... let's use the real word for fermented. Fermented is like a sanitized word. The fermentation process is a process of rottening something, letting it putrefy. So, the question would be, could putrid, rotten grapes represent the pure blood of Jesus that cleanses us from sin? Could an alcoholic beverage that causes so much problem, one of the biggest social ills in first world countries is the use of alcohol. Could something that causes so many problems be used to represent something that is to bring so much blessing to the world?

John: You wouldn't think so, would you? This idea, I wonder if it's spreading because the word Eucharist which is used to describe this communion event is a word that is not just confined to one church. That word Eucharist or Eucharistic, it's kind of spread across many, many churches. Can you touch on that for a moment?

Gary: I think the word actually means celebration. It talks about the celebration of the Lord's death. Yeah, it is spreading among the churches and I think this is part of the idea of uniting the churches together. Get the same type of terminology and all the churches might not agree on a meaning of it but if they are using the same terminology, then there is less dissonance between the churches.

John: You are halfway there if you are referring to it along the same lines.

Gary: That is right.

John: Something that interested me. You said it quite a few minutes ago here on Bible Talk. Listen, let me mention our offer today before we go any other further. Rescue From Above. It's going to touch upon the essence of this subject today. We would love you to get it. You will get the details soon. Contact us and we'll send you Rescue From Above. The priest is said to have the authority to create the creator. Is that right? The officiator.

Gary: To actually turn the literal bread and wine into the real body and blood of Jesus Christ. We are going to touch on that in our next program.

John: That is a whale of an idea, isn't it? I think it's important to approach the communion service with an open heart to remember that in this, we are remembering what Jesus had done. He has done so much for us whether you chose to recognize it today or not, whether your heart is open or hard. Jesus lived for you and he died for you. His body was broken. His blood was shared so that you... yes, you might have everlasting life.

Gary: You can do it today. It's as simple as coming to Jesus and giving your life to him and saying, "Lord, I want you to come in to my life to forgive me of my sins and to lead me in a very real way." You can have the real presence of Jesus in your heart. You don't need to find it in a piece of bread or a cup of wine.

John: When the spirit of the Lord comes into you, Jesus Christ comes into your heart and life. Let that happen and be sure to join us next time for more here on "Bible Talk". [music]

Man: If you like more information on what we have been studying today, we have a comprehensive bible study guide we would love to share with you, that is absolutely free. This study includes many of the texts we have just discussed and expands on the subject including information you will want to know. To receive this free informative bible study guide, simply call, write or email and ask for Rescue From Above. The toll free number is 866-BIBLE SAYINGS. That is 866-242-5372. You can write to us at Bible Talk. P.O. box 1058 Roseville, California, 95678. That is P.O. Box 1058, Roseville, California, 95678. Or email us at Bible Talk is being produced in association with amazing facts in the studios of Life Talk radio.

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