Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Holy Communion is Communion
Dr Alex Tang
Recently I came across this book by Joseph Prince, (2006), Health and Wholeness through the Holy Communion (Singapore: Media Pte Ltd). Joseph Prince is the senior pastor of New Creation Church, a megachurch of more than 15,000 members in Singapore. In this book, Prince seeks to correct the “misconceptions about the Holy Communion have robbed many believers of an important God-ordained avenue of healing and wholeness.” (back cover)
In his introduction, Prince notes, “I have discovered that God ordained the Holy Communion not as a ritual to be observed, but as a blessing to be received – the blessing of health and wholeness” (p.6). To expand on that statement, Prince attributes different function to the wine (represented by the wine) and bread. He wrote that “the blood is for forgiveness” (p.24-25) and the “bread is for healing.”(p.25-32). Thus the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion “brings the double cure…in other words, Jesus bore not just our sins, but also our bodily weaknesses, sicknesses, and pains.” (p.32)
The proof text used by Prince is 1 Corinthians 11:29-30.
“For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.”
Prince infers that “He (Paul) was pointing us to one singular reason Christians become weak, sick, and die before their time…their failure to discern the Lord’s body.” (p.13). Apparently because they “did not know why they were partaking” or “they had no idea why they were eating the bread.” (p.13) they became weak, sick and die. Prince adds, “since truth is parallel, it means that if we do discern the Lord’s body, we will walk in His health and wholeness.” (p.13-14)
What then is the correct way to discern the Lord’s body? Prince offers this answer, “And as you partake of His broken body, know that yours can be whole. When you partake in this spirit of faith, something happens to your body. You become strong, healthy and you will live long” (p.31). He further adds, “so healing like forgiveness, is not a promise. It is the blood-bought right of Christians!” (p.36)
Prince further comments, “But if you are sick, I would recommend that you have Communion daily. I know of people who are so radical that they take it like medicine-three times a day. And you know what? They get radical results.” (p.45)
And also an additional benefit, “The Holy Communion is God’s solution to offset the decay (ageing). And even your friends will see the results. They will ask you, “Hey, why do you seem to look younger and younger? You never seem to age!” (p.58).
There are other understandings of the Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist than what has been suggested by Prince. I will look at four other views.
First, the view of the Roman Catholic Church, which is called transubstantiation. In this view, the bread becomes the real body of Jesus and the wine becomes the real blood of Christ when the bread and wine was eaten and drank during the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper). The main argument against this view is that it implies that Jesus’ physical body be present during the Eucharist which cannot be. Jesus is now in heaven (John 16:7, Acts 3: 20-21, Philippians 3:20-21, 1 Corinthians 11:26).
Second, the Lutheran view, called consubstantiation. This view says that when Jesus' was glorified, His physical body became omnipresent. Thus means that Jesus is physically present in the bread and wine in the Holy Communion. However, unlike transubstantiation, the bread and wine do not become the real flesh and blood. Luther believed that Christ's body and blood were present in the sacrament "in, with, and under" the elements of bread and wine. Furthermore, he viewed the sacrament as a means of grace by which the participant's faith is strengthened. This still signifies a 'physical' presence of Christ in the Supper, but not in a 'bloody' way. The problem with this view is that Jesus' glorified body is not omnipresent. It is still a localized resurrected human body now with God (Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 10:12-13, Acts 7:56)
Third, the Zwinglian view (Memorialism) states that the bread and wine are just symbols. The bread and wine are just symbols to remind us of the sacrifice of Jesus are his broken body and blood. The problem with it is that the New Testament teaches that we can have a real communion or fellowship with the real body and blood of Jesus through the communion service (1 Corinthians 10:16). The Zwinglian view does not take into proper account the powerful work of the Holy Spirit through the communion service. There is more at work here than our imagination.
Finally, in John Calvin's view, the bread and wine represent the body and blood of Jesus. They do not in any way become the literal body and blood themselves. But when we partake of the Lord's Supper, the Holy Spirit uses the symbolic message that Jesus is our spiritual nourishment, to strengthen our faith in Jesus. And faith is the human experience of our mystical union with Christ (see question 170 of the Westminster Larger Catechism). How do we have this mystical union with Jesus in His humanity if Jesus is now at the right hand of God and is not returning to earth bodily until the Second Coming? The Holy Spirit accomplishes this is a way beyond our understanding, not through Jesus' coming down to earth at this time, but through our mystically ascending to heaven. The Christian's identification with the risen Christ is so real and significant that there is a genuine sense in which the Christian is now where Christ is. The Christian is seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:4-6). The Christian has come to the heavenly Jerusalem and to Jesus and His blood (Hebrews 12:22-24). We are where Jesus is through the mystical union effected by the Holy Spirit. Our subjective experience of the mystical union grows as our faith grows. The Holy Spirit uses the communion service to increase our faith, to strengthen our faith, to confirm our faith. Thus through the communion service, we can have communion with the total person of Christ, including His body which was broken and His blood which was shed for our salvation.
The Reformed and Presbyterian churches based their understanding of the Holy Communion on John Calvin’s view. The Holy Communion is a communion with the risen Christ and is a spiritual experience. Holy Communion in the Reformed and Presbyterian traditions does not teach that the sacrament of the Holy Communion is for healing, physical wholeness or anti-ageing.
Soli Deo Gloria
|posted 13 April 2007|
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