Remembering or Participating?

8communion9_JNBy Tom Lawson

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

Perhaps no words are more closely associated with Communion. Communion is, if nothing else, a time of remembering Jesus Christ.

Many people are surprised, or at least confused, by Paul’s teachings in 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17. Here he teaches that the cup is a participation or sharing in the blood of Christ and the bread is a participation or sharing in the body of Christ. To some, this sounds too close to medieval ideas that had the cup and loaf actually changing into the blood and body of Christ.

On the other hand, for us, remembering something is just thinking about it or recalling some half-forgotten piece of information with renewed clarity. So we may conclude we need to be prompted regularly to think about Jesus on the cross, lest we forget the whole idea. To speak of sharing in the blood and body of Christ suggests something quite different to us than remembering Christ.

A key to unlocking the Bible’s meaning is to look at how God’s Word connects remembering with participating. To many, remembering is little more than thinking about something. To God, remembering also involves actively doing something.

God remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1), and the waters of the great flood began to recede.

God remembered Abraham and saved Lot (Genesis 19:22).

God remembered Hannah (1 Samuel 1:11, 19), and she conceived a child.

When God declares he will no longer remember our sins (Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 10:17), he does not mean he forgets our past deeds (God is all-knowing). It means God will not act on those sins by condemning us.

When Paul writes to Timothy, “Remem-ber Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:8), he is calling upon Timothy to be actively involved with Jesus Christ in every part of his life.

“Do this in remembrance of me,” means not only to think about Jesus, but also to actively share in his life. In the biblical sense, remembering is both thinking and touching.

The term we often use to describe this aspect of worship, Communion, is based on the King James Version wording of 1 Corinthians 10:16. The original word, koinonia, can also be translated participation or sharing or fellowship. In the loaf and the cup we share in Christ, even as Christ shares in us. In this meal, we can fellowship with one another as a community of believers. But, even more importantly, we can fellowship with God through Christ.

Tom Lawson is a professor at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.

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