Summary of “Union in Communion

Sermon preached by Rev (Dr) Jeffrey Khoo on 31st May 2020 at 
True Life Bible-Presbyterian Church. 

The Holy Communion cannot be observed virtually or in an individualistic way. A communion involves the gathering of a community, especially one that is united. In other words, there must be ‘union’ in communion. This communion is a unity with the Lord and also physically with the saints. We cannot observe Holy Communion alone, just like the sacrament of Baptism, where you cannot administer baptism to yourself.

The physical gathering of the body of Christ or the local church is important in Holy Communion, because of the purpose of Holy Communion and the presence of God’s people together.

Firstly, the purpose of Holy Communion is to signify the unity which we have with the Lord Jesus Christ and with His people. The first institution of the Lord’s Supper by the Lord (Luke 22), tells us that special preparations have to be made to observe the ceremony. Firstly, a place is needed, and secondly, people are involved. The early church also observed the Holy Communion in a place, and it is done so corporately (1 Cor 10:16-17; 1 Cor 11:17-18, 20, 33). They even conducted an agape feast before the Holy Communion to show love for one another through communal eating and fellowship. However, whilst the Corinthian church gathered physically to observe the Holy Communion, there were divisions amongst them. Therefore, Apostle Paul rebuked them for the misuse of the Holy Communion (1 Cor 11). This tells us that whilst the place and people are important, the meaning and significance of the Holy Communion, which is a spiritual purpose to unite us with the Lord and His people, and a physical purpose to bind us as God’s people, is also important.

The partaking of the elements is to remember the Lord. It involves the confession of our sins and to get right with God, and in the process, to also be reconciled one with another. This restores the unity in the church, as the Holy Communion reminds us of the forgiveness and grace we have received from the Lord, and how we also ought to be ready to forgive. The physical presence of the people together is, therefore important, as it allows forgiveness towards one another to be seen through physical and facial expressions, which cannot be seen when away from the church.

The improper partaking of the bread and the cup will bring no blessing from the Lord. This is when it is done so carnally and unworthily, or when the Biblical purpose of the Holy Communion is not observed. Therefore, we ought to know why the Holy Communion is instituted and to partake of it with the right purpose.

Secondly, the presence of believers is important in the partaking of the Holy Communion. In Acts 2:46, we see that the early church partook of the Lord’s Supper from house to house, together as the body of Christ. They did it with much unity, “with gladness and singleness of heart”. When they did so in a holy and Biblical way, the Lord blessed them (Acts 2:47). Whether it be in a church building or a house, the Holy Communion can be observed. Even in a smaller group, when two or three are gathered in the Lord’s name, He is in the midst of them. Therefore, we cannot partake of the Lord’s Supper alone, but we can do so as a family or together with other believers, gathered in a house.

The elements of the bread and the wine have to be present. These are the proper symbols of the body and blood of Christ. Without these specific elements, the meaning of the Holy Communion would be lost.

There must also be the presence of an ordained minister of the Gospel. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, in Chapter 27 and paragraph 4 of the Sacraments, “there be only two sacraments  ordained by Christ our Lord in the Gospel; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord: neither of which may be dispensed by any, but by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained”. It is also stated in Chapter 29 and paragraph 3 of the Lord’s Supper, “the Lord Jesus hath, in his ordinance, appointed His ministers to declare His word of institution to the people; to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break bread, to take the cup and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation”. The Holy ceremony can only be administered by an ordained minister of the Gospel to communicant members of the church who are baptised, whereby the bread and the cup are served to those who are physically present.

In Luke 22:18 and Matthew 26:29, the Lord Jesus tells us that He will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the day He comes back to be physically present with us. This also tells us the importance of the physical presence in the observance of the Holy Communion.

Therefore, we cannot observe the Holy Communion right now; digitally or virtually. We have to come together physically as a church in a certain place in order to do so. When we partake of it spiritually by faith and in accordance to God’s Word, the Lord will bless the church spiritually.

(Summary by Sister Eunice Poon)