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COMMUNION – WHAT IS IT?

IN years past we were exercised more upon this important subject than of later years; not that it has become of less magnitude, but because we have become more settled upon the matter. In our first experience in the church, the matter of communion was mentioned three or four times a year, a certain Sunday appointed for the purpose. Often before the time some brother or sister would say, “The next third Sunday is our communion season.” At first we thought nothing special about it, further than to desire to be present at that time, but later the subject occupied much of our thought, until, as we hope, the Lord gave us to understand the matter better than before. When a boy we used to wonder why Baptists did not admit other denominations to their table, and among those with whom we associated there was a bitter feeling against the Old Baptists because of their “close communion.” This feeling has grown no less bitter toward them as the years have gone on, nor will it ever be less among those who oppose the church of God. When Jesus instituted what is called “the Lord’s supper,” he “sat down with the twelve,” and to them only gave he the bread and wine, which he called his body and blood. There were many at that time who claimed to be his disciples, yet not one other than the twelve ate and drank of the bread and wine. Now was Jesus guilty of “close communion” in this particular sense? if so, why censure the Old Baptists for not admitting any except their own to their Lord’s table? “Communion,” however, means more than to sit at the same table and eat and drink of the bread and wine, and it was along this line that we were given to understand many years ago. It is right to have times set apart for this holy ordinance, and right for every member to be present, and no one identified with the church has the privilege to refuse to partake of the supper, for in so doing that one manifests direct contempt of the command of the Judge of the whole earth. Yet there is such a thing as communion regardless of the above course, which is always of the flesh. Again we say, communion means more than to eat and drink of the bread and wine. Some years ago we were present at a communion season of an Old Baptist Church, and when the members took their seats to be served, a lady of another denomination being present, took a seat with the church, and when the bread and wine were passed, the deacon, being an old man whose sight was somewhat dim, did not notice that she was a stranger, and passed the emblems to her, and, of course, she partook. After meeting was over some one mentioned the fact to him and he was very much wrought upon, and suggested that he go to her home and tell her his mistake, which he admitted to the church. Several thought his idea of going and telling the woman good, and doubtless would have been carried out had we not spoken and said, “My brother, no harm has been done; that woman did not commune with the church to-day.” “What?” he replied, “Why not? She surely partook of the bread and wine, for I passed them to her.” We said, “Yes, we know you did, and while we all would oppose such a thing in a general way, communion is impossible where there is no union.” Oneness, agreement, “union,” must exist before there can be communion. Therefore, instead of partaking of the bread and wine in order to commune with each other, we partake of them as an evidence of communion one with another. Had Christ sat down at the table with the multitude of five thousand who claimed to be his disciples, there would have been no communion except between him and the apostles, because of lack of union. Union means “united,” hence being united in one body to one Head, there is communion with the children of God, though the emblems were never seen or tasted. As said above, to absent one’s self from the table does not affect the union and communion of saints. When we sit down in the kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it is in union and communion with them. Though they be dead according to the flesh, yet they live unto God, and the saints of to-day are brought unto the spirits of these and other just men made perfect. Paul presented the union of the church of God in the figure of a body having members: “One body, but many members;” so also is Christ. Being “members one of another,” there is perfect union, though the members be located some distance apart. It requires all members to compose a perfect body, and the very fact that no one member is independent of the others proves conclusively the union, hence communion. If this be so with a natural body, how much more so with the body of Christ, having members in particular, God having placed them in the body as it hath pleased him. The vital unity of Christ and the church is one of the most sublime subjects of the doctrine of God. Unity that eternally unites Head and body; unity from which communion of members (the church) springs and abides forever and forever.

Again let us say, communion means more than to simply partake of the bread and wine, and that those redeemed who refuse to eat the bread and drink the wine do still commune one with another. On the other hand, those who are not members of the body of Christ do not, cannot commune with the church of God, though they were to sit at the table and partake of the bread and wine every day in the year. We have ever been glad that we were given to see, and, we trust, feel, communion in this blessed light, and we hope that what we have here written may be of interest and comfort to others. It is good when questioning in our minds as to whether we keep the commandments of God or not to be led by the Spirit into the deep mysteries and purposes of our Creator, there to behold that the arrangements of him are such that with all our powers we could not transgress his laws governing us as members of his spiritual body. For instance, the Israelites could break the sabbath day by gathering sticks, kindling fires, leading their beasts to water, &c., but the spiritual Israel of God can do nothing but keep the Sabbath (gospel day), because there is absolutely no work to be done; all was finished by Jesus Christ our Lord. Rest, therefore, as well as communion, is sure to and for all who believe in Him. K.

Elder H. C. Ker
Editorial

Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 7
April 1, 1914