Communion & Divine Enablement - Bob Sawvelle - image of wine chalice and bread for communion

Many of us are trying to eliminate bad carbs from our diet. But let’s be honest, for most of us freshly baked bread is hard to resist! Dip it in some oil and vinegar, laced with Italian seasoning and parmesan cheese and, well, it’s a little bit of heaven on earth! Here’s the thing, as satisfying as that bread is, it doesn’t completely satisfy or provide all our nutritional needs. We still hunger for something more.

Many in Jesus day witnessed, more than once, the miraculous multiplication of bread. Yet, they still hungered and wanted to know how they could multiply bread like Jesus (see John 6:28). Much like the people of Jesus day, many today want the benefits of Jesus apart from the life of Jesus.

But Jesus declares, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35, 48 CEB) Jesus explains to the disciples and crowd, “I assure you, it wasn’t Moses who gave the bread from heaven to you, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.Jesus is the bread of life given to us by the Father, he alone gives true life and satisfies our deepest cravings!

This declaration follows the narrative in John’s account of the miraculous multiplication of a boy’s lunch that fed thousands of people. Perhaps you recall the story, Jesus tests the disciples as to how they could feed so many people. Philip responds, “More than a half year’s salary worth of food wouldn’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.”(John 6:7 CEB). Andrew discovers a boy with five barley loaves and two fish, but he doubts that is enough to feed so many (see John 6:9). Jesus has the people sit down, prays over the food, and begins to distribute to the disciples to feed the people. The people eat as much as they want with twelve baskets filled with leftovers (see John 6:10-14)!

But the next day, Jesus, after declaring that he is the bread of life, tells the crowd that unless they

…eat the flesh of the Human One and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them.As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me lives because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. It isn’t like the bread your ancestors ate, and then they died. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58 CEB)

Many turned back from following him that day. Eating your flesh and drinking your blood Jesus? Why, that’s barbaric!

But Jesus was declaring truth and describing the spiritual reality of his eternal being and the mystery of the New Covenant soon to be ratified through his death and resurrection. These words become clearer as we look at his words regarding Communion or the Lord’s supper.

The night Jesus was betrayed, he was celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples. Matthew’s gospel records,

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take and eat. This is my body.” He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many so that their sins may be forgiven.” (Matt. 26:26-28 CEB)

Paul, in his account to the Corinthian church, describes Jesus’ account that night, “After giving thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this to remember me.” He did the same thing with the cup, after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Every time you drink it, do this to remember me.” (1 Cor. 11:24-25 CEB) Paul’s account includes the words from Jesus, “do this to remember me.”

As often as we celebrate Communion, we remember what Jesus has done for us, and we are thankful as Paul stated. But consider the words of Jesus in John 6 for a moment.

Is it possible that our partaking of the Communion elements, in some way, involves us with the participation of the very body and blood of Jesus Christ?

Jesus is stating a mystery in these accounts, the bread and wine, now blessed and prayed over, take on some dimension of his body and blood, representing what he will do for the disciples, and for us, through the New Covenant. By partaking of the blessed bread and wine, the disciples are participating in his very life, if you will permit me, a dimension of the eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood that he spoke of in John 6. I’m not stating that the Communion elements become the literal body and blood of Christ, but I am saying that they are something more than mere symbolism and they do point to a greater spiritual reality.

Communion effects grace, the grace that was purchased for us at Calvary. The precious blood of Christ, his body that was wounded for our healing. Communion is a divine enablement, because grace isn’t just forgiveness of sins, but a divine empowerment.

The early church referred to the Communion elements as the Eucharist, which means ‘thanksgiving’ in Greek. Communion is an observed sacrament of the Church. A sacrament is a sign applied to a divine thing, they convey grace. Water baptism is another sacrament observed by the Church. In both cases, communion and baptism, these sacraments are signs that point to greater spiritual realities or divine things, but they also effect God’s grace.

When in faith we receive the Eucharist, we are appropriating the benefits of Christ death and resurrection. That’s forgiveness of sin, that’s healing for your body. That’s healing for hurt emotions, that’s deliverance from oppression.

Faith has a lot to do with what you receive. If you place no value on the Eucharist, you won’t receive of the benefits Jesus intended.

However, if you place value, appropriating by faith what Christ has done for you, in participation of the Lord’s Supper, grace and divine enablement are given. Communion, like water baptism, are sacraments that are more than symbolic; they represent spiritual realities. Communion is a divine enablement, because grace isn’t just forgiveness of sins, but a divine empowerment.

What does Church history reveal?

By way of intro, let me state that there is something “more” to communion and the sacraments than what most of us Protestants have been taught or have understood. While most Protestants react negatively toward Catholic theology, consider for a moment that the word ‘Catholic’ means universal or Universal Church. The early Church, prior to the 1054 AD split between the western church (Roman Catholic) and the eastern church (Greek Orthodox), was one catholic or universal church. Much of the early Church, prior to the split, viewed the Communion sacrament as something more than symbolism. It wasn’t until the time of the Reformation (16thcentury), did the theology of Communion and sacraments change.

The Didache or “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” was a manuscript which was used by 2nd-century bishops and priests for the instruction of catechumens (those who would be baptized and recognized as part of the Church).

On the Lord’s own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure. However, no one quarreling with his brother may join your meeting until they are reconciled; your sacrifice must not be defiled. For here we have the saying of the Lord: ‘In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a mighty King, says the Lord; and my name spreads terror among the nations.'” -Ch. 14

Legend has it that Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (30-107 AD), was the child Jesus sat in the midst of the disciples. He was known as the “bearer of God.” He declared that the Eucharist was, “the medicine of immortality and an antidote, so that we should not die, but live forever in Jesus Christ.” For Ignatius, the idea is clearly that the Eucharist does not merely signify eternal life but is somehow instrumental in effecting it.

Justin Martyr (100-165) Justin’s statements in his First Apology are some of the earliest Christian expressions on the Eucharist.

And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist] … For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”

The word transmutation means the transformation of one species into another. Ponder what Justin is saying and the words of Jesus in John 6. Is there something more to Communion than just remembering what Jesus did?

5th-century theologian Augustine distinguished the sacrament from the “force of the sacrament.” The sacrament is a sign, whereas the force produces the effect to which the sign points. The force, therefore, would be God’s presence at the sacrament.

However, as the Church neared the Reformation period perspectives began to change. 14th-century writer Peter of Aquila said that sacraments (including the Eucharist) do not cause grace. Rather, God effects grace at the presence of the sacraments.

Reformers rejected the thought that sacraments could confer grace; they viewed them as symbols only.

Despite Reformers’ opposition, Reformer Martin Luther, adopted a theology toward Communion that was something more than mere symbolism. He embraced a view of Communion called consubstantiation. Consubstantiation is “the body and blood of Christ are indeed given along with, or under, the bread and wine.” Luther saw the simultaneous presence of both the bread and the body of Christ at one and the same time. No change in substance; the substance of both bread and body of Christ are present together.

Luther borrowed from 3rd-century Church leader Origen, “If iron is placed in a fire and heated, it glows—and in that glowing iron, both the iron and heat are present.”

For Luther, it is not the specific doctrine of transubstantiation (transubstantiation is the Roman Catholic view that the Eucharist becomes the literal body and blood of Christ) that is to be believed, but simply that Christ really is present at the Eucharist.

Of note, the Greek Orthodox Church tradition sees both the Redeemer (Jesus) and the redeemed present at the taking of the Eucharist, similar to Origen and Luther’s view.

Perhaps 8th-century John of Damascus encapsulates the mystery of the Eucharist and the Lord’s Supper best by simply affirming the mystery,

And now you ask how the bread becomes the body of Christ, and the wine and the water become the blood of Christ. I shall tell you. The Holy Spirit comes upon them and achieves things which surpass every word and thought. […] Let it be enough for you to understand that this takes place by the Holy Spirit.”

I like John of Damascus’ perspective: embrace the mystery of what God is doing in Communion and understand it is more than symbolism!

Paul’s Discourse on Communion

Paul writes in 1 Cor. 11:17-34 regarding some problems they were having in the Corinthian church for communion, primarily related to status.

The context of 1 Cor. 11 is that believers are eating and drinking ahead of the poorer believers, so that not everyone shares in the Lord’s Supper (which back then consisted of a real meal in addition to the sacrament of the bread and wine). Paul corrected them in the practice of the communion because they were primarily not mindful of others—they were selfish. Thus, he warns “examine yourself” and therefore wait for one another.

You see, some were eating all the food before others arrived. Others were drinking too much wine and getting drunk! They were being rude and culturally insensitive to others.

They weren’t properly discerning the Lord’s body in two respects.

First, it was creating strife and division in the “body of Christ.” Jesus is the head and we are members of his body. Anything that creates division grieves his heart and restricts his grace from flowing freely.

Secondly, they were taking the body and blood of Christ for granted. Keep in mind: it’s a sacrament, it confers grace, and Christ is present with the sacrament. Paul sees it as more than symbolic because some were sick among them.

Jesus said that the bread was his body and the cup contained his blood. It’s a spiritual reality—more than symbolic. Recognize that the Eucharist, in a spiritual sense, is the Lord’s body.

Allow the Holy Spirit to examine your heart, but don’t become too introspective of every wrong thought, attitude, or past sin. If you do, you place the effort on your part, and not upon God’s grace. If you have asked God to forgive you of a past sin, trust that he has forgiven and cleansed you (see 1 John 1:9). Don’t beat yourself up and continue to repent for a sin you asked forgiveness for years ago—that’s condemnation and not walking in grace! (See Rom. 8:1-2) If you find yourself at odds with others in the Church, ask God for forgiveness and seek to restore relationship (as much as is possible).

Communion is a fulfillment of Psalm 103:2-3 and Isaiah 53:4-5:

Psalm 103:2-3Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.” (NKJV)

Isaiah 53:4-5Surely He has borne (to take upon oneself) our griefs (sicknesses, disease, weaknesses) and carried our sorrows (pain); yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes (blows that cut in) we are healed (Hebrew is rapha: to cure, repair, make whole).”(NKJV)

Healing Testimonies

I read a story of a bishop in the early church, who was sick and dying. He took the bread (host), rubbed it on his body and was healed. Sometime later, his adult daughter was persecuted for her faith and dragged by a team of mules. She and others thought she would die, but she rubbed herself with the bread (host) and lived! Don’t make a formula out of this, however, let the story build faith as to the grace of Christ present in the Eucharist.

A few years ago, I heard about Troy Miller, a pastor in Florida with cancer in the kidneys and dying in the hospital. The Lord spoke to his mother to take the Communion elements of bread and wine to him in the hospital. When he took Communion, the cancer immediately began disappearing from Troy’s body.

I also read about Dr. John Miller, a chiropractor who has been studying healing in the communion for over 20 years, and here is his own testimony: “I myself was healed of chronic headaches which had developed from a head injury. Every day I took a large hunk of bread and chewed it bite-by-bite, meditating on the mystery of exchanging my sickness with Jesus wholeness, because all my diseases were placed on Him. He paid the price for my wholeness.”

Miller tells another story, “One young lady was brought to me who was dying from Epstein-Barr virus. The virus had destroyed 39% of her liver, and she was very ill. She began taking communion three times a day, discerning the Lord’s body, broken for her healing. A year later, she was in perfect health, with no trace of the virus in her blood.”

Just this weekend, I heard an amazing story from a good friend and worship leader, Steve Swanson. After hearing this message on Communion, Steve shared with me this supernatural account of ‘manna’ and healing:

“I was at a conference of about 700 people in Chicago a few years ago. Harold and Kaye Beyer were guest speakers. Harold, who has since passed, was a precious man around 80 years of age at the time of the conference. Harold was having ‘manna’ supernaturally appear in his meetings! During this conference, his bible was full of ‘manna.’ Harold decided to take communion at the end of the meeting with the ‘manna’ that supernaturally appeared. 700 people, including myself, lined up to take communion. I was near the end of the line of people when the ‘manna’ ran out. Harold said a precious prayer, “Oh Lord if You could please send some more ‘manna’ so everyone could receive communion!” Suddenly, more than enough ‘manna’ again appeared! My knee was swollen and inflamed at the time and I couldn’t bend it because of pain. I was able to receive the ‘manna’ during this communion service and immediately I could feel the pain leave and the swelling in my knee go down. I could feel heat as the pain left, and mobility returned—there is healing in communion—and supernatural ‘manna’ doesn’t hurt either! I was blown away by the goodness of God!”

Faith is the key to unlocking all the promises of God. Jesus said, Mark 11:24 “What things so ever you desire, believe you receive them and you shall have them.” (NKJV) If we take Communion in faith, then we enter not only into forgiveness of sin, but also healing for our body. Deliverance from demonic oppression is also available!

Communion and Revival

John Wesley and others during New Year’s prayer and communion of 1739, experienced a significant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, often referred to as the “Methodist Pentecost.”

Count Zizendorf and Moravians partake of communion in 1727 and the Holy Spirit falls, birthing a prayer and mission movement that lasted for over 100 years.

Remember, there is something “more” to Communion than just symbolism.

To recap:

Communion effects grace, the grace that was purchased for us at Calvary. The precious blood of Christ, his body that was wounded for our healing. Communion is a divine enablement, because grace isn’t just forgiveness of sins, but a divine empowerment.

When in faith you receive the Eucharist, you are appropriating the benefits of Christ death and resurrection. That’s forgiveness of sin, that’s healing for your body. That’s healing for hurt emotions, that’s deliverance from oppression.

Faith apprehends what God has made available through grace. If you place no value on the Eucharist, you won’t receive of the benefits Christ intended.

However, if you place value, appropriating by faith what Christ has done for you, grace or divine enablement is given to you.

I encourage you to partake of Communion often, not as a religious exercise or a ‘rote formula.’ Rather, come to God, humble and thankful as a beloved daughter or son. “God thank you, you’ve heard my prayer, you have forgiven me of my sin. Now as I take communion, I am asking that you would give me a greater grace and power of your Spirit in my life. Father, I ask for healing (physical, inner or emotional), for freedom, for breakthrough, etc.”


For a more in-depth look at Communion, watch the Passion Church message, “Communion and Divine Empowerment:”

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Bob Sawvelle

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