For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
So then, 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. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”
1 Corinthians 11:23-29
When the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth, he described the significance of communion with past, present and future language, and every time that we come to the Lord’s Table, we proclaim its three-fold significance.
We see the past significance of the Lord’s Supper clearly by the Lord’s double usage of the phrase, “Do this in remembrance of me.” As we take the bread and the cup we remember His substitutionary death on our behalf. The broken bread symbolizing the Lord’s broken body and the juice representing His blood. As we hold these material elements we remember that God became a man, willingly went to the Cross in our place, for our sin, where His body was broken and His blood was spilt so that our sins can be forgiven and we can be reconciled to God.
Communion also has a present significance. Paul writes, “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves” (1 Cor. 11:28-29). Therefore, communion is an occasion for examining our lives and hearts before God in light of our profession of His death and resurrection. This examination is crucial, because it would be sheer hypocrisy to pretend we are in communion with God while actually harboring and cherishing known sin in our hearts and lives.
Lastly, communion has a future significance. The Apostle Paul said, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26; emphasis added). During the last meal Jesus shared with His disciples He said to them, “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25). So every time we take communion we are proclaiming our belief in Christ’s resurrection, and at the same time proclaiming our belief in our future physical resurrection, and still yet, proclaiming our belief in the resurrection of the entire material universe at which time we will see Jesus face to face and partake in God’s great banquet (Is. 25:6-9; Rev. 21:1-7). This future significance of communion should cause us to live our lives in light of this future reality and to long for the day when we will be in God’s presence!
So communion anchors us in the past work of God, stabilizes us in the present love of God, and focuses us on the future glory of God. What an honor to share this table!