Question and Answer
OPC's view of Communion
I am a member of an OPC. I have a paper coming up in school about the different views of communion. How does the OPC view communion?
The view of the OPC on communion is as follows:
1. It is a sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ the night before His death. It came out of His celebration of the Last Supper (the Passover Feast - see Ex. 12:31 - 13:10). But the Lord's Supper was different in that no animal sacrifice should ever again be made since God's Lamb would soon be slain. The Apostle Paul wrote: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes" (1 Cor. 11:26). So Christ's commandment is that His people celebrate the Lord's Supper frequently. Some OP churches observe it every three months, some every other month, some every month, and some every week. At first, the apostolic church observed the Lord's Supper daily. But that frequency did not continue. So each church is left to determine how often.
2. The elements are simply bread and wine. Some use fermented wine since the Greek New Testament word for wine means fermented wine. In fact, grape juice could not be kept just grape juice in Bible times. But most OP churches use ordinary grape juice. And ordinary bread is used, though some use unleavened bread (made without yeast) because that was commanded in the Old Testament feast of Unleavened Bread which followed the Passover Feast (see Ex. 13). Reformed churches do not believe that the bread and wine were anything but bread and wine. Roman Catholics believe that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus when the priest pronounces the words, "This is my body" before the altar. This is called "transsubstantiation," meaning that the elements are actually changed into the body and blood of Christ. Lutherans also think that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus by "consubstantiation," meaning that, after His resurrection, Jesus' human body and blood took on divine attributes and therefore are in, with and under the communion elements. Neither of these can be found in the Bible. Yet we in the OPC believe that we partake of Christ in the Lord's Supper, not physically, but spiritually. That is, by taking the bread and wine in memory of His death, the very words of Jesus, "Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you," means that we are blessed by the Holy Spirit in our hearts when we take the supper in remembrance of Him. He is there spiritually by the Holy Spirit whom He sent to the church on Pentecost to take His place on earth while He lives and reigns in heaven.
3. The spiritual significance of the Lord's Supper is that it is a sign, a seal and a means of grace to those who worthily partake. As a sign, it signifies Christ's death for us on the cross. As a seal, it binds us to Christ as our Savior, just as a body is joined to its head, a bride to her bridegroom. This union is also sealed in baptism. But in baptism, only once because it speaks about the New Birth (John 3:3-8). But in the Lord's Supper we reaffirm our union with Christ every time we take the bread and wine. That's why it is also called communion. Jesus celebrated it with His disciples. And the disciples celebrated it with each other. So Communion has a vertical dimension (with Jesus in heaven) and a horizontal dimension (with each other on earth). It's a seal of our union with Him and each other! As a means of grace, partaking of the bread and wine in remembrance of Him is food for our souls. We "grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18).
4. Who may partake of the Lord's Supper? Only those who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord and strive to live obedient lives as His disciples. The Lord's Supper gives opportunity to examine our hearts to be sure we are living godly lives and are repentant of our sins (1 Cor. 11:27-32; 2 Cor. 13:5). It is also the practice of the OPC that small children should not take the Lord's Supper until they are old enough to become "communicant members" of the church. This is not to say that little children cannot believe in Christ. The Lord's Supper is a means of grace, but that doesn't mean that we are saved by partaking any more than that we are saved by baptism. But, when one joins the church as an adult, he or she must be close to being adults. A covenant child is a member of the church because his or her parents are Christians. But when one takes vows in joining the church, he or she is on his or her own. That requires some spiritual maturity. It is my personal belief that 1 Corinthians 11:29 sums it up nicely. "Not discerning the Lord's body..." is a sin to one who partakes unworthily. That means that he or she looks at that bread and wine just as something to eat and drink. If the Lord's Supper were a lunch, there'd need to be more! If a little child should take the bread and demand butter on it, or take the cup and ask for some more punch, we would smile. Just the way little children think! But if an adult would talk that way it would be the height of wickedness! Actually, Paul said that some people were feasting and drinking wine, even becoming drunk. And God had punished these people with sickness and death! (verse 30). So one needs to be mentally grown up enough to understand that the broken bread points to Jesus' broken body, and the wine to His shed blooda very solemn connection. One needs to be old enough to understand these things. In fact, being a faithful follower of Christ takes some maturing. And the Lord's Supper "says" we are faithful followers of Jesus. If we're not, taking it is a lie. And God punishes people who take their vows lightly.
I hope that this gives you something that will help you write a good paper.
"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)
The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.
The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.
While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.
You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.
The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.
Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been editedall personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expandedto make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.