At Eastside, we practice “close communion.” This term and practice indicates that those who participate in the Lord’s Supper are closely united by a common faith and understanding of the teachings of Scripture.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
This Bible verse refers to a special union that takes place when fellow believers receive Holy Communion together. Christians who share in the Lord’s Supper are called “one body.” By receiving the Supper together, we are making a statement about the unity of faith that we share.
The question is, “How much unity should Christians who receive the Lord’s Supper together share?” Is it only necessary to agree that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior? Or is the unity that the Bible has in mind stronger than that? For an answer, we return to God’s Word in the Bible:
Matthew 28:19-20. [Jesus said,] “Go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
1 Corinthians 1:10. I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
These verses, along with many other Scripture passages, show us that Christians are to seek a complete and total unity of faith. Our Lord wants believers who confess a true oneness of faith to gather, work, worship and commune together. It is a sad consequence of the divisions in Christianity that inter-communion between us and other Christians is not legitimate. Reception of the Lord’s Supper by Christians not fully united with us would imply a oneness that does not exist, but for which we all should strive and pray.
The Bible also gives us a second reason why we practice close communion:
Matthew 26:26-28. Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
1 Corinthians 11:27,29. Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.…For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
When Christians receive the Lord’s Supper together as Jesus directed, they receive the very body and blood of Jesus in a miraculous way. However, the Bible warns that those who fail to recognize Jesus’ body and blood in the Lord’s Supper are participating to their spiritual harm, rather than benefit. Because many churches do not acknowledge the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood, we are careful about those whom we invite to Holy Communion. We want to be certain that those who come forward truly understand what is received in the Lord’s Supper.