Who Can Take Communion?

And now as we turn to the communion table, I would like to invite all those who love Jesus and call him ‘Lord’ to join with us in partaking of the elements. If you’re visiting with us today and you don’t know Jesus, feel free to spend this time in quiet reflection. Communion is something that Christians do to remember Jesus’ death.

Aaargh! How I wish I could take those words back! Could I not see the staggering ungraciousness of my comments? Was I blind to the unholy line I was drawing between Us (welcome to take communion) and Them (not welcome)? Jesus died for all, but not all were being invited to remember his death.

How did I get so mixed up?

Like many pastors I was confused about the meaning of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:26-32. I understood that the Corinthians had been making fools of themselves by gorging and getting drunk at communion, so I thought that Paul wrote to warn them of the dire consequences of acting irreverently:

He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself… (1 Cor 11:29 KJV)

I now understand that Paul wasn’t condemning the Corinthians for their poor behavior. He was trying to free them from the self-inflicted condemnation of ignorance and unbelief.

This is obvious when you think about it. How could Paul preach condemnation to the Corinthians in one letter while preaching no condemnation to the Romans in another?

Somehow Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11 have been twisted into a worthiness test for communion. “Examine yourself before you eat the bread and drink of the cup.” Okay, but how do we do that? How do I know if I’m worthy enough? Some churches mandate minimum standards of worthiness. They say you must be a believer or a baptized believer or a welcomed member of the church or what-have-you.

Perhaps what we need is some kind of Christian caste system. India’s caste system is pretty good at separating the rabble from the rest. Maybe we can learn from them. At the bottom would be sinners because someone who rejects Jesus is obviously not worthy. That’s basically what I was saying in my church. By telling visitors (they might be sinners! who let them in ?) that they were “free” not to partake of communion I was sending the message, “This is not for you – you’re not good enough for Jesus.” I was judging unworthy of the body and blood.

Of course I didn’t think of it in such terms. I thought I was honoring Jesus and protecting sinners from judgment.

Slowly it began to dawn on me that there was something odd about denying communion to sinners. After all, didn’t Jesus die for sinners?

Religion draws lines between us and them, but grace tears down dividing walls. Nowhere in the Bible will you find any suggestion that we should exclude people from communion. This is a death-dealing tradition of man. When I said communion was for us but not for them, I was acting religiously and in a manner wholly opposed to the Spirit of grace. Happily, I repented. I changed my tune and began saying, “all are welcome.” I then watched amazed as the Holy Spirit revealed the love and grace of God to those who didn’t know Him.

Who can partake of communion?

Communion is when we remember Jesus’ death on the cross. So who’s it for? Obviously it’s for all those he died for, meaning everyone. But I want to single out two groups who can especially benefit from communion:

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Mark 2:17)

1. The sick

Sickness and death are part of sin’s curse (Gen 2:17). In Deuteronomy 28:15-68 there is a long list of curses that result from disobedience to God’s commands. These include “severe and lingering illnesses” along with “every kind of sickness not recorded in the Book of Law” (v.59-60). There is no sickness that is not part of the curse. Even modern-day sicknesses (e.g., anorexia, HIV, DVT) are covered.

During his time on earth Jesus healed every sick person who came to him (Mt 12:15, Mk 6:56). Not one person went away unhealed. Jesus did this to demonstrate his complete power over sin and all its effects. So before you eat and drink, examine yourself to see if there are things in your life – sickness, disease, afflictions (Is 53:4, AMP) – that Jesus carried in his body and paid for in his blood. If you are sick, proclaim his death and triumphant victory over sin and death! Identify your illness as a defeated enemy and lift up the Name of him who is above every sickness. He was wounded that you might be healed, and cursed that you might be blessed (Gal 3:13, 1 Pe 2:24). Take your Jesus’ Medicine and be well!

2. Sinners

In the old covenant, sinners and unclean people were kept far away lest they contaminate the righteous. If there had been communion back then, they would not have got it! But Jesus was a friend of sinners. He went into their houses and broke bread with them. He met with thieves, adulterers and murderers and “contaminated” them with his righteousness. Sinners were radically changed by his awesome grace.

By saying “communion is only for the worthy” we have turned a new covenant blessing into an old covenant curse and denied grace to those who need it most. If communion is only for the deserving, who can qualify?

Jesus is still a friend of sinners! He died for us while we were sinners and he reconciled us to God while we were his enemies (Rom 5:8,10). People who hesitate over communion – both saints and sinners – do so because they are distracted by their imperfections. They draw back like Old Testament lepers because they believe that they are unclean. But you have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus (1 Pet 1:19). If God loves you enough to die for you, then in his eyes you must be really something special. And you are!

Communion is not a time for self-examination but Jesus-examination. The only thing that will empower you to overcome sin is the grace of God and it’s not stored in your navel. Look to Jesus. His blood bought your forgiveness and his death triumphed over all your sin. See yourself crucified with him (Gal 2:20). He is our perfect high priest, a Lamb without blemish or defect. Don’t draw back but come boldly to the throne of grace for Christ Himself qualifies you.

The next time someone says “communion is only for the worthy,” don’t be distracted by your sin; see Jesus who died for you.

“Yes, communion is for the worthy, and Jesus makes me worthy.”

___________

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18 Comments on Who Can Take Communion?

  1. Mrs.R. Dsouza // March 13, 2017 at 12:00 am // Reply

    So you mean to say its Ok to distribute the bread and wine in a large group of mixed communitues…hindus muslims even if they hv not received Jesus…the Hindus usually think its like the Prasad (food offered to their pagan gods)…when Breaking of bread is supposed to be holy as it represents Jesus’s broken body.

    Im confused pls kindly explain to clear my doubts as a christian believer baptized in water and spirit.

    • To me, that’s not the way to frame the issue. I would never ask, “Who’s Hindu? Who’s Muslim?” I would preach the gospel of Jesus. I would explain that in partaking of communion we are remembering Jesus. You are all welcome to remember Jesus with me and give thanks for his body and blood. Someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus probably would not want to participate. Someone who is coming to Jesus probably would.

    • Squawks 5000 // August 15, 2018 at 6:54 pm // Reply

      It’s really all about the attitude. If a sinner wants to take communion because he/she starts to see who Jesus truly is, go ahead! Paul is referring to people who treat communion as “just another event” and ignore its significance.

  2. Jeannetta Washington // September 5, 2017 at 1:00 pm // Reply

    All I can say is that I was truly truly enlightened and blessed

  3. Joycelyn Vanneck // January 25, 2018 at 2:05 am // Reply

    Totally disagree, nowhere in the Bible Jesus broke bread with unbelievers. He only broke bread with His disciples. I would also like to add that when I read an article I prefer to know the name of the writer.

    • Peter vanzyl // January 28, 2018 at 7:14 pm // Reply

      Jesus Ministry on earth was for the Jews – ‘that’s why he broke bread with the Jews – for them to remember their exodus from Egypt ( ! He came for the Jews – but they rejected their Messiah!) Of course He was under the Law and abided by it – including every Jot and tittle. When He was crucified and died however – He had fulfilled the Law AND Become Sin – which was buried with Him – He Rose Again – but sin was left buried in the grave! The curtain in the Temple was torn in 2 – from top to bottom – allowing all /any to enter the Holy of Holies – not only the High Priest! The WAY is open for all / any to come to the Father – and breaking of bread is open to all – we remember Him and His Victory over sin and death! It’s Not exclusive – it’s a Celebration!

    • Joycelyn- I think you are forgetting about Jesus dining with drunks and sinners at Levi’s party. Then there was Zacchaeus the cheating tax collector with Jesus inviting Himself to eat at HIs house and while it wasn’t breaking bread He did ask for a drink from the woman at the well. Jesus has quite the track record of eating and drinking with sinners.

  4. It’s a matter of conscience. If partaking of communion in this manner helps you grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, then do it with freedom. However, if your conscience accuses you of being deceptive and condemnation takes root in your heart, then maybe it’s not a good idea. There is no rule – all things are lawful. If I were you, I would bring it to the Lord in prayer.

    I wonder if there are other grace-minded Catholics reading this who have something to contribute?

    • Thank you Paul. Your reply is helpful. I have decided to receive communion in freedom. And I ll say amen just because they will not allow me. Anyway it will be between Jesus and me.

  5. Let the ‘sinner/ outsider’ decide what he/she wishes to do with communion, and what it means to him/her. Let God judge their hearts, why are we doing that? It is not up to anyone (read ‘us Christians’) to decide on their behalf. We can echo our warnings all we want, but we cant control. Why is it so difficult to get it?

  6. hai Paul.
    how about kids? i mean at the age of sunday school.
    let’s say… 5-13 yeara old.
    can they have it?

  7. Ayodeji Isaac Rolemodel // July 17, 2018 at 3:22 am // Reply

    Lovely, even Judas who betrayed Jesus per took in the communion, and Jesus never denied him, Jesus knew that he was not saved, I think we have no power to hinder anyone in the church from taking communion, since it is not serve outside the church, is the Lords commands, do this in remembrance of me.Luke 22 :- 19, thanks.

  8. Ayodeji Isaac Rolemodel // July 17, 2018 at 3:24 am // Reply

    If there is no law, there is no offence

  9. Ricky Martin // August 15, 2018 at 11:08 am // Reply

    That’s a great way to put it. I totally agree.
    May God bless you.

  10. Thembinkosi Zulu // November 4, 2018 at 10:39 pm // Reply

    Great words,and is what I believed in.God bless you.

  11. Thank to your very much that clarity. May God increase your.

  12. This is what the lord want us to know as Christian today glory be to God that I

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