Why is there so much disagreement about Holy Communion?

Holy communion, or simply communion, is a ritual performed in Christian churches that originated during Jesus' Passover meal, or Last Supper, with His disciples prior to His crucifixion. It is also known as the Lord's Supper, the Lord's Table, and the Eucharist.

There are four accounts of the Last Supper in the Bible, found in Matthew 26:17–29, Mark 14:12–25, Luke 22:7–23, and 1 Corinthians 11:23–26. From these accounts we know that during the Last Supper Jesus blessed the bread and then broke it and gave it to the disciples. He told them, "Take, eat; this is my body" (Matthew 26:26). Then He took a cup and passed it around telling them to each drink from it. Jesus told the disciples that they should do this in remembrance of Him. He said, "Drink of it all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:27–28). He also told the disciples that one of them would betray Him (Luke 22:21–22). Finally, He said that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until He drinks it with His followers in His Father's kingdom.

While most Christians agree with the general account of the Last Supper above, there are many different perspectives on how the ritual should be practiced today. Different sects of the church disagree on how often believers should take communion, who should serve communion, what should be said during communion, and whether the cup should be filled with wine or grape juice. Jesus does not provide any specific instructions regarding these questions. This gives individual denominations and churches the freedom to organize the ritual in a way that best fits their community.

More crucial disagreements, however, have important spiritual implications for believers. One major disagreement is whether the bread and wine are literally Jesus' body or only a symbol of His body. The Roman Catholic Church believes in transubstantiation, meaning the bread and wine actually convert into the real body of Christ during communion. Most Protestant churches believe that the bread and wine are only symbolic and not the actual body of Christ. Others follow Luther's consubstantiation doctrine in which both the food elements and the body of Christ coexist simultaneously. Romans 6:9–10 contradicts transubstantiation because it says that Christ only died once and was resurrected. If the bread becomes His body every time communion is taken this would suggest that Jesus is being sacrificed over and over again.

Another critical argument is over the role communion plays in receiving grace. Some sects of the Church teach that believers must take holy communion in order to receive grace. Supporters of this belief reference Jesus describing Himself as the bread of life. He said, "Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:54). However, it is important to consider this description within the context of John 6 and the Bible as a whole. Earlier, in John 6:40, Jesus says, "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." Eternal life comes from putting our faith in Jesus and not through something we do. The Bible as a whole makes it clear that salvation is not by works, but by faith (Ephesians 2:8–9; Romans 4:1–12; 11:6).

Regardless of how we interpret the exact details of holy communion, the message from Jesus is clear. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins and then was resurrected, overcoming death. Thus, by confessing our sins and putting our faith in Jesus we can be forgiven and overcome death as well, receiving the gift of eternal life in Heaven. We take communion to be reminded of the sacrifice Jesus made for us and our need for Him as our Savior.

Related Truth:

What is the significance of the Lord's Supper?

What is the biblical frequency of Communion?

Is Communion supposed to be open or closed?

Who is permitted to oversee the Lord's Supper?

Which is best for communion, grape juice or wine?

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