Monday, 9 October 2017
Often times when Holy Spirit wants to reveal something of significant value to me, He will allow a set of circumstances in my life in which I can have the experience which prepares me to understand the truth and importance of what He is about to discuss with me. A wonderful woman of God once said to me that when we experience frustration in a certain area in our lives, then it is often the area where the Lord wants us to bring change to the body of Christ. This frustration often leads to the greatest revelations from the Holy Spirit. In my experience, during such a time, He will initiate the conversation which leads me to search and meditate on the Scriptures, and to pray for the full revelation. What I learn through the process, is sometimes not just a greater revelation of truth, but profoundly different than what we have been taught or practiced for centuries.
Such revelation knowledge came to me after I had a prophetic dream during the night of 6 June 2016. I dreamed I was visiting a small church where I knew no one. I introduced myself as a teacher, and then a little while later someone else introduced me to the pastor there as a “good teacher”. The pastor then said that I should preach a message to the congregation, right there and then, and it had to be from Genesis 14. In protest, being inexperienced, I then said that I don’t consider myself a “good teacher”. But there was no way I could talk myself out of this situation. I was also nervous about having to preach a message about a passage which I don’t even know! (I’ve read it before but didn’t meditate on it). In the dream I frantically searched for Genesis 14 in my Bible, and couldn’t find it. After I calmed down a bit, hiding in the ladies’ room, I found it! That was the end of the dream.
So the next morning I read Genesis 14 in my Bible and at first couldn’t see an obvious message from the passage. But something grabbed my attention: Gen.14:18 “Then Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest to God Most High.” I immediately remembered that, in the book of Hebrews, Jesus is described as being our High Priest of the same kind as King Melchizedek. I realised that there must be something significant about Melchizedek inviting Abraham to a meal at his table, with the specific mention of bread and wine, and Jesus (our everlasting king, one like king Melchizedek), who also served his disciples with bread and wine, which resembled his body and his blood. He said “as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of Me”.
I noticed that after Melchizedek provided Abraham with a meal and also blessed him, Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of the spoils of the battle he had just won. I realised that there could be a message for us here, in that, the church or person by whom we receive a blessing and are spiritually fed, is that church or person we can honour with our finances, or other material blessings. This is probably a good principle for bringing a financial blessing to a church. If you are spiritually starving there, and you are not blessed there, than it is probably not the spiritual house where you are supposed to be. But this was not the point on which the Holy Spirit led me to dwell. (Indeed, a year later, in August 2017, I listened to a message by Robert Henderson about Genesis 14, where he explained how we can align ourselves with those from whom we receive spiritual blessing/teaching/revelation, by giving to them of our finances. His teaching opened up more revelation which has been hidden in Genesis 14, which I will write about in a next article). What I believe the Holy Spirit led me to meditate on, was the way we, ‘celebrate’ the ‘communion’ meal of which Jesus said “as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of Me”.
I looked at the Scriptures where there is reference to, what we now refer to as the ‘communion’ and realised that every time there is a reference to this meal in Scripture, it seemed like a full meal, where people came together around tables and had fellowship with each other. I realised that at some point in church history this practice must have been discontinued and replaced with only the eating of a piece of bread and taking a sip of wine. So I did a little reading on the subject and discovered that indeed, in early church history, within a few centuries of the first churches, partly due to shameful behaviour at love-feasts, the breaking of bread and drinking of wine (to remember the sacrifice of Jesus until He comes again), was separated from the love-feasts.
(This article does not discuss the meaning of the body and blood of Jesus, as symbolised by the bread and wine taken in ‘communion’. It discusses the way we ‘celebrate communion’. I will write a future article to discuss the significance of ‘fellowshipping with / participation in’ the body and blood of Jesus (1 Cor 10:16))
Biblical and Historical Background
(The writing in italics are quoted from external sources of reference, as listed at the bottom of the article)
This ‘love-feast’ as it was known in the New Testament church (Jude verse 12) and was written about by historians and theologians in the first few centuries, can be described as follows “It is generally agreed that the believers each brought food, as their means allowed (a potluck), and placed it on a table ("the Lord's table"). Centrally located on that table was the loaf and wine to be used in the Remembrance (also called the Eucharist, which means “Thanksgiving” or Communion) after the meal. Once the body had all arrived, they were to equally eat and fellowship around the table as the Lord equally saved every member of the body. This time of fellowship encouraged Christian love and brotherhood.” (Dr. Christian Pope)
The love-feast was a community creating practice in the early church. After the meal and the breaking of bread, it was a time of fellowshipping with each other and in the Holy Spirit, with teachings, conversations, singing, prophecies etc. As people came together for the love-feast, each brought their contribution of food to the Lord’s Table to share with others, as well as their spiritual gifts to share in a spiritual meal as well.
(Note, the word in Greek (agapais) as in Jude verse 12 which is translated ‘love feasts’ literally means the plural form of love, and referred specifically to the love feasts of the early church)
Taking a look at a few passages in Scripture:
Matthew 26:26, 26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body. 27 Then he took a cup…
Luke 22:19-20, 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
Acts 2:42-47, 42 And they were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to fellowship to the breaking of bread and to prayers…. 46 And every day, devoting themselves to meeting with one purpose in the temple courts and breaking bread from house to house, they were eating their food with joy and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding every day to the total of those who were being saved.
The words in Greek that was translated “breaking bread” (κλωντες αρτον) in verse 46 comes from a Greek idiom which is used when referring to ‘having a meal, without reference to any particular time of the day or to the type of food involved’ (which probably always included bread). The words literally mean ‘to break bread’, but is used here as the idiom. Verse 46 according to my Greek –English linear Bible: “…and day after day devoting themselves with one mind in the temple and having meals from house to house, they were sharing their food with extreme joy and humility of heart.” They were literally feasting, extremely joyful! The humility that is referred to here is specifically “humility associated with simplicity of life”. (Source: Scripture Direct)
The letters of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles make it clear that early Christianity believed that this institution included a mandate to continue the celebration as an anticipation in this life of the joys of the banquet that was to come in the Kingdom of God. (Source: Wiki)
Please see end of the article for my analysis of the Greek text for a better translation of verse 42.
Acts 20:7, 7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people….
According to my Greek-Linear English Bible this sentence reads “on the first day of the week we gathered together for a meal”, and the commentary, “no doubt the reference here is to the ‘fellowship meal’ called ‘agape’, which constituted the early Christian form of the ‘Lord’s Supper’
It seems clear that eating together was a very important part of coming together as a church family. They did not come together only to “have church” (praying, teaching and worshipping), but to have real fellowship which included dinner/supper, followed by Paul’s preaching.
In Acts6:1-7 we see that the love-feast was such an important part of coming together as believers, that they even appointed specific people to help with the practicalities in order to free up time for others who were ministering to the saints. Seven men full of wisdom and the Spirit were put in charge for this purpose. In verse 7 we read “and the number of disciples in Jerusalem was increasing greatly”. This is similar to what we see in Acts 2:47: an important ingredient that resulted in people being added to the church in great numbers, were the love-feasts.
1 Corinthians 5:6-11, "...Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast... I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat."
“Christians are not to eat the love-feast with the professed believers who are unrepentant in their sin. This was exactly the case with the Passover feast (Exodus 12:14-20) upon which our Supper is based.” (Dr. Pope) See also 2 Pet 2:13 and Jude verse 12.
In 1 Cor 10:14-22 and 1 Cor 11:20-34 Paul is here condemning the Corinthians for shameful behaviour at the Lord’s Table, which clearly included a full meal, and gives instructions for proper behaviour.
Galatians 2:12-14, 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles…
“It appears that Paul's dissension with Peter was similar to that of the Corinthians. Peter "perverted" the gospel by partaking of the Supper in disunity. We are to "eat" in unity, without cliques/ sects/ heresies/ social classes as the gospel is not a respecter of persons. THE ENTIRE MEETING, STARTING WITH THE LOVE-FEAST, IS DESIGNED TO BE INCLUSIVE, NOT EXCLUSIVE.” (Dr. Christian Pope)
The love-feasts are not meant for only “our own kind” (as we often do when inviting people to our homes for dinner). This is the perfect opportunity to show that in Christ there should be no class, race, gender, social status, etc distinctions between us (Gal 3:28).
We read that Jesus and his twelve disciples did life together. Discipleship took place outside the temple and synagogue, in each other’s homes, in the field, on the water, etc. Jesus often ministered to people in their homes, around the dinner table. He even taught about inviting people to a banquet (Luke 14:12-15). Clearly, fellowshipping in small groups was, in the time of Jesus and the early church, a very important part of church life, a non-negotiable. Jesus, by example, demonstrated the importance of sharing a meal, and somehow the church has missed this for centuries.
Someone said that "The Eucharist that Christians now celebrate is what the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of the risen Jesus, and over the course of generations and centuries, learned to do as it celebrated table fellowship with its risen Lord." – I don’t agree at all that this happened as a result of the guidance of Holy Spirit. It is not the kind of fellowship that Jesus demonstrated throughout his earthly life and ministry. I believe this is merely an assumption, one that is not in line with what Scripture teaches. Here is a truth to consider: ‘communion’ is not ‘communion’ without the fellowship of people.
Some Christian groups around the world still have the love-feast, and it has been revived in some denominations, including the American House Church movement.
Back to the drawing board
I thought and prayed about the significance of sharing a full meal (love-feast including Eucharist/Communion), as opposed to only ‘taking communion’. When we share a meal with other people, we tend to open up and share about our lives with each other. It often leads to heart-to-heart conversations. When we have quality time together, we really get to know each other and build relationships. We grow to love each other and opportunity is created to learn how to serve one another with what we have to give. In our culture we often find a reason to come together with friends and family to eat together and ‘kuier’ (Afrikaans for visiting with friends or family). Sometimes it’s the celebration of a birthday, or a wedding, or graduation, or Christmas (which many Christians don’t celebrate anymore). Even at funerals people eat together. Often times there are no reason other than to ‘kuier’, so we organise a ‘braai’ (barbeque). But in my experience, this is not something we do often enough as a church family. I know that in many homes, families don’t sit around a table to eat dinner anymore. People have dinner in front of the TV and spend many hours watching other people’s imaginary lives on a screen while God’s purposes with their lives waste away and relationships deteriorate. Many Christians live no differently than unbelievers. What if every dinner could become a love-feast, whether a family invites other people over or not?
I believe one of the main purposes of Jesus’ commandment to “as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of Me”, was to have us centre our fellowship with each other around Him, placing Him at the centre of everything we do, especially when eating together. How often have I sat at a lunch or dinner table with people and some start telling coarse jokes or the conversation turns to gossip or slander of people who are different than us? What if we as Christians started to make a habit of celebrating Jesus at every single meal we share, so that when unbelievers join us at the table, it is an opportunity for them to see that we don’t practice a religion, but that we have a real relationship with this Jesus whom we are welcoming at the table. Often times we just say a quick prayer at the dinner table and then eat and then continue with everyday talk. What if we start the conversation with a testimony of what God through the Spirit of Jesus has done for us during the day or week or month or year? Our fellowship with friends and family will be transformed to true ‘holy communion’! This is what will please God’s heart the most. I for one certainly desire more (in quantity and quality) fellowship, the type that can be found only in people’s homes, where there is not always the time restriction like the two hours at church or small group once or twice a week (or worse, one hour in many churches!). I believe the Lord wants to pour new wine into his church, but He is waiting for the church to become like family again. The feeling of family is especially experienced when we eat together, an opportunity that is created to ‘kuier’.
While unbelievers (or immature Christians who were never loved to wholeness and guided to maturity) find cause for feasting at every occasion, we as believers often don’t, so sometimes we end up feasting at the feasts that unbelievers organise, or we stay at home and entertain ourselves with technology. We should be known for organising the best parties, ones that don’t leave you with a hangover the next day, and the feeling of emptiness and loneliness which you tried to drink away, back the next morning. Church should be a place where we offer true fellowship to people, so that they don’t have to go and look for it in the world. Because we don’t organise love-feasts, we have no alternative to provide for people in the world who like a good party. When Paul said, “don’t get drunk with wine,… but be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph 5:18), wasn’t he perhaps referring to the love-feast where we can be filled with Holy Spirit, as opposed to a secular feast where people get drunk with wine? Many unbelievers, and even believers, don’t dare to set their feet in church these days, for various reasons, but probably, most of all, for many it has become a place where the love of the Lord is proclaimed, but not demonstrated. What if we started inviting them to love-feasts, where they can relax and just watch Christians love the Lord, love each other and love them, without a feeling that there is any ulterior motive attached? I believe that many people, who have left church, would be willing to join in a love-feast where they could see actions matching the teaching about the Kingdom. And the Lord would daily add those who are being saved.
Also, when we bring back the love-feasts, I believe that the problem with many pastors and counsellors, who experience burn-out, will be solved. Every Spirit-filled believer in church has received spiritual and natural gifts from the Lord, but because of current church structures and methodology, most believers never reach their full potential as intended by the Lord, because a selected and appointed few do most of the ministry. It is the 80/20 principle where 20% of the people do 80% of the work. If we changed back to the biblical model, where coming together in small groups occurred more often than coming together at the synagogue (as a large gathering in the church auditorium), people would grow faster in using their gifts, more people would be effective in ministry and less people would be only spectators, more people would experience real, Godly love and we would be more aware of each other’s needs in order to serve each other not only spiritually but practically.
I believe that, through this practice, Jesus made provision for setting lonely people in families (Ps 68:6 God sets the lonely in families…). This is another reason why we need love-feasts. I pondered over my experience in church during the years. In our modern churches today, there are many lonely people, especially those who are not married, or divorced, widowers and widows. Because of our individualistic culture, these people often feel lonely and excluded. This has certainly been my experience as well in some of the churches I’ve been involved in (I have written a separate article on this which I will also post on this blog) and I know enough people like me. People who are in families, who are mostly surrounded with other people, don’t realise and often have no frame of reference for what loneliness feels like. But even when people do have families, often those families don’t know the Lord, and sometimes a person just needs to enjoy ‘family’ life where we are of the same mind and we enjoy the same things. Such a person may also feel extreme loneliness. Depression is one of the most common illnesses of our time, and I believe one of the main reasons for it is loneliness. Never underestimate the destructive power of loneliness. This is where love-feasts can make such a difference in the lives of many lonely people. If we don’t have love-feasts to which we can invite them, we have no right mocking them to say “Jesus is all you need”.
Did Jesus assign any spiritual significance to the ‘Remembrance’ as it is consumed separately from the love-feast? Has it not become merely a ritual on most occasions, since very seldom do we actually talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus while having ‘communion’? Very rarely, if ever, do we talk about the significance of the body and the blood of Jesus. So ‘taking communion’ has become for us some ritual that we do, with many people not really understanding the reason for it. We can hardly talk about it while we are ‘taking communion’ silently and individually in church. If it is only about being reminded about the sacrifice of Jesus, and looking forward to his coming, while excluding the love-feast, do we really need a another reminder? Are we not constantly reminded in sermons, songs and prayers? Is it even possible to say the name of Jesus without also seeing the cross? What are his body and his blood for us if it does not still our hunger and quench our thirst, as physically felt when we have the love-feast? Was Jesus not saying to us: “every time you have a love-feast, let it be about Me”. Jesus’ whole purpose for coming, was to love people and draw them into a relationship with a loving Father. If we keep the ‘Remembrance’ (which we do anyway all the time in our prayers and praises), but cut out the love-feast, has the ‘Remembrance’ in this context not lost its original purpose? 2000 years ago Jesus loved to minister to people around the dinner table. I believe He wants to do it again. He can only do it through us, by his Spirit. In most church set-ups today, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is extremely limited. I believe it is as if He is saying “It’s nice that you are thankful and that you remember Me (“taking communion”) and that you look forward to my coming again, but I want to minister My love to people, the poor, the marginalised, the sinners who don’t feel welcome in church. I want to have table fellowship again.”
Apart from the fact that it is not the Biblical pattern, I prayed and asked God earnestly to tell me what would be the problem with ‘taking communion’ the traditional way, separating it from the love-feast. I now understood the value of the original way (love-feast included), but what exactly is it about the traditional way (love-feast excluded) that bothers Him? I believe Holy Spirit answered me and said “because it is selfish”. Mostly when ‘communion’ is served in church, it is done in a quiet reverent atmosphere. Each takes his piece of bread and cup of juice quietly, with one person leading the proceeding with Scripture reading and a prayer. It is selfish because it is all about me and my own relationship with God, as if somehow, with every time I have ‘communion’, some spiritual requirement is met. But what if Jesus were to say to us that it was never his intention to separate the love-feast from the ‘communion’? What if He was just telling us to place Him at the centre of every one of our love-feasts, to add ‘Remembrance’ to every meal, and never to turn it into a religious activity that excluded real fellowship between people? Indeed, there is not one example in Scripture where this was the case. I believe that Jesus added the ‘Remembrance’ to the love-feast, so that our love-feasts could be all about Him, his love for us and through us. The love-feast was the occasion where people could encounter the real experience of the love of this Jesus, who gave Himself for the ones He loved, in a practical way. Much of the way He loves his people today happens through the work of his Spirit in and among his followers. Most church structures and methods are limiting Him. The Biblical practice that I read about is a far cry from what we have in most churches today. We cannot have only services where people come in, worship and listen to a sermon and even get prayed for, followed by small talk over a cup of coffee, and for many people, only to go home still feeling lonely or hurting. Especially in larger congregations, some people may come into a service, and go home afterwards without anyone making that person feel welcome and loved.
(I must say that after being involved in different denominations and churches my whole life, what I currently experience in church life is closer than the Biblical model than what I have ever experienced before. I love and extremely appreciate my spiritual family in Nelspruit. We excel in many ways - especially in flowing in the Holy Spirit - , but we still have a long way to go with regards to building community, if we want to draw many more people into a loving spiritual family.)
I have heard some testimonies of people of some blessing or breakthrough after “having communion” (for example a home where ‘communion is taken’ is a home that is protected by the Lord). I believe that the name of Jesus alone is powerful enough and no material matter is needed to add power to the prayer. Nowhere in Scripture is ‘communion’ added to any type of prayer or practice. It is only added to the love-feast. Sometimes all that God is looking for is sincerity of heart, or a desperation that causes you to earnestly pray about something. The communication we have with God comes through fellowship with his Spirit. When we bring the name of Jesus on our lips, and when we yield to Holy Spirit, our prayers become powerful. We need nothing else. The cup and the bread represent Jesus just as much as his name represents Him. When we pray in the name of Jesus, nothing else can give our prayers more power (except faith and, ironically, fasting – abstaining from food). No material thing, no custom and no ritual or religious activity (like lighting a candle) makes us more spiritual than when we have fellowship with Holy Spirit. It may cause us to feel more spiritual, and it may even be emotionally touching, but the true spiritual significance is not greater. Paul says “food does not bring us close to God. For neither if we eat do we have more, nor if we do not eat do we lack” (1 Cor 8:8). (I know this verse is from another context in Scripture, but the principle remains.) If it is to fulfil some requirement, I don’t see such a requirement in Scripture. So when you take communion while praying, and there is answer to your prayer, perhaps consider that the answer came because you simply prayed the prayer of faith in the name of Jesus. You may credit your breakthrough to your taking communion, while in actual fact it is just God answering the “earnest prayer of a righteous person”, because of his mercy and grace and love for you. I believe we are a bit presumptuous to think that adding material substance to our prayers can be the cause of a breakthrough. But if you truly believe that, then let it be according to your faith. It is not my intention to in any way devalue your experience with what I am writing here. There may be other revelation knowledge about ‘taking communion’ that I have not received, even though it is a constant prayer for Holy Spirit to reveal to me what I may possibly be missing. I am open to new revelation or illumination from Scripture, but in the meantime I have to stay true to that which I believe. Scripture says “that, which is not of faith, is sin”. Each of us must act according to our own belief and conviction about everything in Scripture. If we act contrary to our beliefs, it is sin. If we do not know what to believe about a certain topic, we need to pray about it, study Scripture, and then take a stand.
‘Taking communion’ may never be enforced as a pre-requisite to participate in some other spiritual activity. There is no such requirement in Scripture, and such an institution would amount to a human law, which is not the original intention of the ‘Remembrance’. People may ‘take communion’ if they want, but no one can be excluded from some activity because they refuse to separate ‘communion’ with the love-feast.
Objections that may rise
The greatest objection to a modern-day love feast could be that, because of the size of most of our western congregations, it is simply not practical anymore to have a full meal, because it would be extremely and time-consuming to arrange a whole meal for the whole congregation. But if we follow the Biblical pattern, which is that the love-feast took place in Christian homes, with no more than twelve participants at a time (with the Spirit of Jesus present it will be 13 J), then it is very practical and easy to achieve. The host of a love-feast can invite different people for every different love-feast, so that over time, you get to know and have fellowship with many people in your congregation. We can continue what we usually do to prepare a meal for our immediate family, and just invite other people to bring their food and join in, with simple house-hold rules such as ‘nobody leaves until everything is cleaned up afterwards’. Once in six months or once a year the whole congregation could get together for a big feast, which, in the South African context will probably be a braai.
Another objection could be the one that caused the early church to stop having love-feasts, namely shameful behaviour such as overindulging on food and/or wine. But I felt Holy Spirit say to me that this is no justification for the early church discontinuing love-feasts and replacing it with a religious activity (‘communion’) that keeps Jesus, but limits the fellowship with people. We might as well sit in church and eat a full meal, each one eating quietly and hardly saying a word to the person sitting next to you. It is really silly, if we think about it. Peter warned against false teachers, and to this day there are many false teachers, but we have not forbidden teaching in church because of the possibility that they could be false teachers. That would make no sense! In the same way we should also not forbid the love-feasts because some people may abuse food or drink. People who are legalistic make laws to exercise control over people. The leaders of the early church made this law to eliminate any chances of abuse, so that they could ensure good behaviour and order while people were ‘having communion’. While they now had 100% well behaved people in church, the heart-to-heart fellowship that occurred around the dinner table was also eliminated 100%. I firmly believe that this was not what Jesus wanted and I also believe that the people in the early church, who forbade the love-feast, were not guided by the Holy Spirit in doing so. I believe that it is important to God that we bring back this practice of “breaking bread from house to house”. And I hope that there will come a time when we will again “have all things in common” in the house of God.
Some people like ‘taking communion’ when they are alone with God. I have too. When I was living in Taiwan for a few months, I would have communion all by myself every Saturday morning, believing that somehow it had spiritual significance for me, even though I saw no fruit directly resulting from ‘taking communion’. My time in Taiwan was extremely lonely. Thinking back now, it would’ve been much less lonely had I sought some other lonely person and had breakfast with them every Saturday morning, sharing about Jesus. If you have no choice but to be alone with Jesus, have the full meal in his presence!
People also ‘take communion’ on other occasions, such as during a small/cell group fellowship, where they are not also sharing a meal. The small group fellowship in many churches today is probably the closest we currently get to the Biblical model and in our current church context probably the best place to add the ‘Remembrance’, since it can be combined with true fellowship and ministry in an intimate setting. So people may argue that it is close enough to the Biblical model, but it is not yet the Biblical ideal, mostly because of the time-limit. Because of the time-limit, one or two hours per week, it takes a really long time to get to know and trust the people in the group. It can also be too structured and controlled by a facilitator, with a lot of controlled talk (to stay with the topic) in the group, but very little ministry and prayer. It is sometimes a setting where people don’t feel at liberty to share anything that’s on their heart, for fear that the facilitator will want to bring the conversation back to the chosen topic for the session. Sharing meals together will bring people closer together much sooner. Unless a small group meeting is intended for a specific purpose like Bible study, the facilitator should take great care not to control the meeting, but to facilitate the flow of Holy Spirit. A facilitator can start a meeting with a certain topic, but should be able to allow Holy Spirit to take over completely and let it go in the direction that He wants. This is the closest our small group meetings will come to the love-feast, if there is a corporate decision not to include a meal in the meeting. I think that ‘taking communion’ without the full meal is probably not wrong per se, as long as there is good fellowship with people and Holy Spirit. Surely Jesus appreciates our celebration of his sacrifice, but we should take care not to turn it into one of the ritualistic activities on the program for the meeting.
The golden principle is, if it is not combined with the love-feast (or at least a close resemblance), it is not a command from Jesus, and we are under no obligation to take it. You may ask ‘don’t you believe it is important to take communion?’ My answer is: ‘Of course it is… in the way Jesus envisioned it’. If you share a meal three times a day with friends or family, you can ‘take communion’ three times a day. It is as simple as that. I believe Jesus instituted the Remembrance meal in order that, because we eat often, we share the good news of Jesus with friends and family as often as we eat together. I believe this is the true value of the institution of the Remembrance meal. Not to keep Jesus to ourselves, but to share Him with others as we share food with others.
When someone, or a church, decides to ‘take communion’ to honour the Lord, but separated from the love-feast, care should be taken that this is not done as a ritual, and not in complete silence, for this is the religious tradition that has been passed on for centuries. Ministry and fellowship should be encouraged when people ‘have communion’. If we want to really honour the Lord, we need to obey his commandment to love one another. The ministry of the love of Christ is more important to Him than us keeping a religious tradition.
I will respect every person’s belief and way they ‘practice communion’. I understand the importance of doing everything in love (Rom 14, 1 Cor 8:9, 12, and Eph 4:15) and will continue to do so, as an outflow of obeying the voice of Holy Spirit. But I can no longer ‘take communion’ religiously, which is when it is done while we make no effort to understand the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of those with whom we are (supposed to be) in fellowship. I feel convicted by Holy Spirit every time I do so and I feel like a hypocrite, believing one thing but doing another. Now that I have made public what I believe, I will take great care how and when I participate. If we know of people in church who are poor and barely have food to eat at home, or struggling to pay their children’s school fees etc, how can we ‘take communion’ while ignoring our brothers’ and sisters’ real need for food that can still their hunger?
I believe (through many prophecies that have been spoken over South Africa) that there comes a harvest of souls, and like catching fish, if our nets are not ready and prepared, they will be torn. If we don’t make a habit of having people over for fellowship in our homes, our current church structures and methods will become too small and ill equipped to handle the influx. The “fish” will be lost because we have not learnt to take care of them. There will be too many for the experienced pastors and elders to handle. I also believe that the body of Christ worldwide will experience increased persecution in future, forcing us underground, even in the West as it already is in many countries that are currently violently opposed to Christians. I believe we should start preparing ourselves for when it becomes necessary to meet only in small numbers and in homes.
Holy Spirit is busy pruning churches worldwide. He is cutting off the branches not bearing good fruit, so that the branches that are bearing fruit can bear even more fruit. Cutting away branches that don’t bear fruit is always painful and uncomfortable, but the end result makes the difficult process worthwhile.
I have read this statement “new truth (I would add “or old truth that’s been dusted off”) is first ridiculed, then violently opposed, then accepted as the norm”. I know that I may get some opposition for proposing that the body of Christ worldwide changes its practice of ‘taking communion’ only in the traditional way. This is what the religious spirit wants. It is opposed to real love that draws people to Christ. So I am sending this message out and will not try and force it on anyone. I trust that Holy Spirit will do what He does best. And I pray and believe that He will cause like-minded people, who will also get the revelation, to come together to meet for supper in homes, where Jesus is remembered and shared with others, so that He can become the centre of each of our fellowships with friends and family. If you are convinced that this is the will of the Lord, please pray and start organising a love-feast in your home.
(After writing this article, someone referred me to the ministry of Francis Chan. Please see www.wearechurch.com for his thoughts on organising church as the first Christians did. Also see Youtube for more teachings by him.)
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If it added valuable knowledge to your life, and if your spirit agrees to the truth of what you have read and you feel blessed, please consider blessing me financially.
(When the Christian gives, he may give to individuals or to the church, but in the final analysis in doing so he is giving to God (see Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 6:2-4; 22:17-21; Acts 5:4; Romans 14:4-8; 2 Corinthians 8:5; Colossians 3:22-25).
Anita le Roux
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1.My analysis of Acts 2 Verse 42 “…and they were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the fellowship (koinonia) to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” Looking at the Greek text (which did not include punctuation marks), it is clear that no “and” occurred in the phrase fellowship to the breaking of the bread, which suggests that it is a combined action and the comma that appears in English translations after the word ‘fellowship’, should not be there and changes them meaning of the sentence. The meaning of ‘koinonia’ (a noun, translated as ‘fellowship’) that fits the best in this sentence is ‘willing contribution / gift’ (it can also mean 1.‘An association involving close mutual relations’; 2. Sharing of possessions). Furthermore the preposition ‘to’ (between ‘fellowship’ and ‘breaking of bread’) in the English text does not occur in this sentence in the Greek text. According to the Greek grammar used (dative case), the possible prepositions that can be added to the translation to ensure proper English, are any one of these: by/with/to/for/in/from, and must be chosen according to the context. Conclusion: I believe the most accurate reading of this phrase is ‘willing gift/contribution for the breaking of bread’. This fits what we know historically about the love-feasts, where every participant willingly brought food to the table.
(Note: I am not a Greek expert, but during my first semester of studying Greek, nouns and prepositions formed part of the curriculum. I believe I have a good understanding of the material.)
2.We shouldn’t expect only the pastors to get all the revelation for the way God wants us to have fellowship in the ekklysia. God also raised up Teachers whose gifting and function it is to search the Scriptures and to discover truths that others sometimes overlook. Teachers are the slow ones who take time to chew and meditate on Scripture for hours and days and sometimes months and years before they even release what they discover. Throughout history Teachers have been burnt at the stake for introducing new or old truths on which lay layers of dust. Martin Luther was one such person who was persecuted for proclaiming that the “just shall live by faith”. How did the church misunderstand Scripture for so many centuries? The truth is, we still misunderstand and misapply Scripture to this day. It’s human nature to believe that what you have been taught since childhood, is absolute truth. We often believe what we have been taught and continue in the same practice, without turning to Scripture to verify if our forefathers’ teachings and practices were true to Scripture. The 500th anniversary of the great German Reformation is being celebrated this year, but we should be reforming all the time. It is the job of Teachers (sometimes referred to as theologians) who sacrifice much on order to get to the truth, to guide the church to stay true to the Biblical teachings.
Scripture Direct android app: Greek-English linear Bible with dictionary and commentary, an aid in analysing Scripture.
https://web.archive.org/web/20100106205222/http://www.sanctification.com/supper.php - This is a good article to read for practical guidelines for a love feast.