The “In My Father’s Footsteps” devotions will return in September of 2019. Enjoy this devotion from the archives!
This is Part 3 of “The Communion” where we’ll explore more in depth the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
And they devoted
themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the
breaking of bread and the prayers.
Holy Communion is a Sacrament.
Lutheran Christians define a sacrament as a sacred act instituted by God, in which God Himself has joined His Word of promise to a visible element, and by which He offers, gives, and seals the forgiveness of sins earned by Christ.
Using this definition, the Lutheran Church identifies two sacraments: Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper is also known by other names. Such as, Holy Communion, the Lord’s Table, the Eucharist (from the Greek word for “giving thanks”), and the Breaking of Bread – as it is usually referred to in the Book of Acts. But it is most often taught to catechumens as The Sacrament of the Altar.
In addition to the names, the definition of the Sacrament of the Altar is that it is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.
Jesus Comes to Us in Holy Communion
In this Sacrament, Jesus comes to us in his very body and blood. While we receive bread and wine, we also receive the body and blood of Jesus. How this takes place is a mystery – which is the original meaning of the word sacrament, by the way – that we call the Sacramental Union.
It all comes back to Jesus, though. It is all about Jesus.
Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Altar. Further, in this sacrament Christ gives us His own true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.
But why? Why does Jesus do this?
Fellowship with God Through Christ
First, because this is why He was born and lived and died! To restore our original fellowship with God.
Adam and Eve brought death into the world. But Jesus lived perfectly and died on the cross to destroy death forever!
With His resurrection from the dead, our fellowship with God was restored – something usually called justification.
Fellowship with Each Other Through Christ
An additional result of salvation is that we can now live in fellowship with each other. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, our sins are forgiven, and we now have a common faith!
Whenever we come together at the Lord’s Supper, we are confessing that we have a common faith – that we believe all that is taught by God in the Holy Scriptures and that we “walk together” in this fellowship.
The reason there are so many different denominations of Christianity is that not all believe all that the Holy Scriptures teach. This is why Jesus would pray on the first Maundy Thursday,
“I do not ask for these
only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they
may all be one….”
This is what we confess when we say that we are a communion of saints in the Apostles’ Creed.
On Maundy Thursday (sometimes also called Holy Thursday) Jesus gave us the Sacrament of the Altar. But He also gave us a new command – which is what the word Maundy originally meant.
This command is to love one another. We can only really do this when we are in fellowship with one another, sharing a common faith and a common meal. But we can only do this when we can confess together that we all believe and teach what the Scriptures teach us to believe and confess.
As we confess to the world that we actually do believe, teach, and confess what the Bible teaches us, we share in the benefit of the sacrament of the altar in our common fellowship and faith.
The Benefit of Communion
Lutheran Christians also confess that the chief blessing of the Sacrament is the forgiveness of sins which Christ’s body and blood have won for us on the cross. (The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace.) Together with forgiveness, God gives all other blessings as well, that is, “life and salvation.” In the Sacrament Christ gives victory over sin and hell and strength for the new life in Him. As Christians partake of this sacrament together (in communion), they make a solemn public confession of Christ and of unity in the truth of His Gospel.
This is what we publicly confess – in the Apostles’ Creed – about Christ and unity in the truth.
Heavenly Father, your infinite love preserves those whom you have gathered. Pour out your tender mercy on your faithful people and bring us together into one flock under our Good Shepherd. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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