Should We Have Communion at Home?
Why Wait For Communion With The Gathered Church?
In light of the current quarantine, many Christians are asking if they can and/or should have communion at home instead of waiting for the uncertain timing of the church’s regathering. It’s a good question. It’s my opinion that the vast majority of Christians asking this question are simply asking about “timing” because of a sincere desire to please the Lord but some, unfortunately, are asking from confusion about the nature of the church and/or confusion regarding the nature of communion.
While good and godly Christians may disagree about the answer to this question I would like to provide four reasons for you to consider waiting until we can celebrate communion together:
Communion’s Elements Argue for Celebration with The Gathered Church
1 Corinthians 10:15-17
I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
Communion is not simply a fellowship with Christ but also a fellowship with the body of Christ, the Church. The Apostle Paul tells us that the cup is a communion (koinonia-fellowship) with Christ and the bread is a communion (koinonia-fellowship) with the church, the body of Christ.
Paul’s language emphasizes the importance of the corporate gathering of the church for the celebration of communion. He says, The cup...”we” bless, The bread...”we” break, “we” though many are “one” bread and “one” body, “we” all partake of that “one” bread.
Paul is clearly not speaking of “we” (individuals or families) but rather “we” the Gathered Church.
I would encourage you to wait until the church regathers to celebrate so that you can fully express the meaning of the cup and the bread.
Communion’s Timing Argues for Celebration with The Gathered Church
1 Corinthians 11:25-26
“In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.”
Communion is not regulated by a command regarding its frequency but rather by the wisdom and custom of the Church Gathered. Some mistakenly take the words, “as often as you” to mean, “every individual Christian should take it whenever and wherever they want” but rather these words should be understood to mean, “every individual Christian should take it whenever and wherever they’re church gathers to celebrate it.” In fact, the context of Paul’s teaching on communion in 1 Corinthians 11 is the Apostle's exhortation against individualistic and divisive practice of corporate worship. “But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God. But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it.”
I would encourage you to wait until the church regathers to celebrate so that you can fully express the unity of the body of Christ.
Communion’s Practice Argues for Celebration with The Gathered Church
Let’s be very clear on this, you don’t need to come through a priest or a pastor to receive God’s grace and you don’t need to come through a church to receive it either. That’s why there was a Reformation!
By the time of the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church had obscured the simplicity of the gospel through the invention of an elaborate merit system of salvation. That system was built on the twin errors of Sacerdotalism (people cannot approach God on their own, but must come through a priest) & Sacramentalism (people cannot be saved directly by the grace of God but rather that people receive grace incrementally through the seven sacraments).
So, doesn’t this argue for individual or family communion instead of waiting for a gathered church communion? No, because the error is not in having pastors and a gathered communion (both commanded by scripture) but rather in attaching salvific meaning to their respective roles.
What would be a wholesome Biblical perspective then? It would be to see Communion (and Baptism) as ordinances of the church and not of individual Christians. As an individual Christian I am to be baptized, (but not to baptize myself or be baptized by my family) and I am to celebrate communion (but not by myself nor with just my family) because these two ordinances are given to the Church as a corporate means of affirming the individuals who publicly confess they’re faith in Christ through the visible elements of water, the cup and the bread. For similar reasons we have corporate public weddings and do not recognize the marriage of 2 people who simply say they are married, or whose family decides they are married.
I would encourage you to wait until the church regathers to celebrate so that you can fully express the true nature of communion as a corporate and public confession of your faith in Christ before the body of Christ.
Communion’s Current Context Argues for Celebration with The Gathered Church
My point here is personal and pastoral. I urge you to resist the individualistic and divisive spirit of the age which is seeping into the language of some Christians who are already calling for “Civil Disobedience”. Thinking that they are worshipping God by urging us to resist civil government is, I believe, in conflict with the Apostle’s words in Romans 13:
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.”
I encourage you to resist the temptation to impulsive actions caused by thinking, “I have to do this because the government and the church aren’t”. I want to remind you that it has only been 4 weeks. Trust the Lord by submitting to those in authority as Scripture commands.
So how does this point relate to the timing of taking communion? Simply this, since the Elders of the church are only postponing the corporate communion service until further notice:
I would encourage you to wait until the church regathers to celebrate so that you can express your submission to the Lord and those He has placed in authority over you in keeping with the corporate and public confession of your faith in Christ before the body of Christ.