Is healing possible through the celebration of Communion? Is there a special grace that God effects through the Sacrament of the Eucharist?
Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, known also as Communion or the Eucharist, before He was crucified. In Matthew’s Gospel, we read,
As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”
And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.” Matthew 26:26-28 NLT
Was Jesus saying the bread was literally His body and the wine literally His blood? Was it merely spiritual symbolism, or was He pointing to a spiritual reality the Sacrament of Communion represents? Let’s examine this more.
Really, Drink the Blood?
In John 6, we get another view of what could be a veiled reference to the Lord’s Supper. After Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes for the 5,000, Jesus shared with a Jewish audience that He was the Bread of Life (John 6:47-56).
Jesus says something outlandish to them, in verse 54, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Was Jesus promoting some type of cannibalism? Certainly not! But to this Jewish audience, even the mention of drinking blood was contrary to the Mosaic Law they had been given.
Jesus reveals something deeper when He continues, “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” John 6:63 NLT
Jesus reveals that He, as the Logos from heaven (John 1), is the living Word who gives life to those who believe in Him and in His words. But I believe John is referencing Communion in this passage and he is implying, while there is a symbolic spiritual element to receiving the very words of Christ, there is also power in participating in the Lord’s Supper.
What is a Sacrament?
Taking of the Lord’s Supper or Communion (like baptism) is a sacrament in the church. What is a sacrament? It is a sign applied to a divine thing. Sacraments convey the Lord’s grace.
Communion, and also 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.
There is something “more” to communion and the sacraments than what most of us Protestants have been taught or have understood. Communion confers 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 only forgiveness of sins, but also a divine empowerment.
Grace affects something; it causes change. Through grace, we are changed from glory to glory. It causes us to be someone we could not be on our own.
When in faith we receive the Eucharist, we are appropriating the benefits of Christ’s 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 take part in the benefits Jesus intended, and it will become purely a symbolic act. However, if you do place value, appropriating by faith what Christ has done for you, the Lord’s grace—divine enablement—is given.
What Does Church History Reveal about the Lord’s Supper?
Throughout Church history, we see many teachings and instances of divine empowerment from taking the Lord’s Supper.
The Didache or “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” was a manuscript believed to be used by 2nd century bishops and priests to instruct new believers.
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
Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (30-107AD) was known as the “bearer of God.” Legend has it he was the child Jesus sat in the midst of the disciples. 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.” The idea is that the Eucharist does not only signify eternal life, but is somehow instrumental in effecting it.
Justin Martyr (100-165AD), in his First Apology, wrote some of the earliest Christian expressions on the Lord’s Supper:
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.
5th-century theologian Augustine distinguished the sacrament from the “force (virtus) of the sacrament.” The sacrament is a sign, whereas the virtus or force produces the effect to which the sign points. The Force he refers to is God’s presence at the sacrament—the Holy Spirit.
14th-century writer Peter of Aquila said that sacraments (Eucharist) do not cause grace – rather, God effects grace at the presence of the sacraments.
Martin Luther, the famous reformer and Catholic priest, saw the simultaneous presence of both the bread and the body of Christ as one and the same. He believed there was no change in substance; rather, the substance of both bread and body of Christ are present together. He felt simply that Christ really is present at the Eucharist. In so doing, he moved closer to a Greek Orthodox Church view that sees both the Redeemer and the redeemed present at the taking of the Eucharist.
Perhaps John of Damascus in the 8th century summarized the mystery that surrounds the Lord’s Supper best when he stated the church should simply affirm the mystery of the Sacrament:
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.
Paul’s Teaching on Communion
In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, we read:
“vs.24 … this is My body which is broken for you …vs.25 … this cup is the new testament in My blood …”
Paul in this teaching warns to “examine yourself” and therefore wait for one another. The context is that some believers are eating and drinking ahead of poorer believers, so that not everyone was able to share in the Lord’s Supper. Still others were drinking too much “juice” and getting drunk!
They weren’t properly discerning the Lord’s body in two respects. First, it was creating strife and division in the body of Christ. Secondly, they were taking the body & blood of Christ for granted. Keep in mind, it’s a sacrament, it confers grace, and Christ is present with the sacrament.
It’s a spiritual reality and more than merely symbolic. Recognize, discern that the Eucharist, in a spiritual sense, is the Lord’s body. We are to focus on Jesus during Communion!
So when partaking, allow the Holy Spirit to examine your heart during the Lord’s Supper, but don’t become too introspective of every wrong thought, attitude, or sin. If you do, you place the effort on your part, and not upon God’s grace. Keep the work of God at the forefront.
Testimonies of the Power of the Lord’s Supper
It’s always helpful to read testimonies to grow our faith. Here are a few demonstrating the power of the Lord’s Supper.
I knew of a pastor in Florida several years ago, who had late stage cancer in his kidneys, and was 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 his body.
Another testimony is of a chiropractor who, having received healing in his body by partaking of Communion, tells of a young lady brought to him 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. (You can take Communion several times a day if desired.)
Faith is the key to unlocking all of the promises of God. Jesus said, Mark 11:24 “What things so ever you desire, believe you receive them and you shall have them.” 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!
In summary, remember that there is something “more” to communion than just symbolism. Communion bestows 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 Jesus’ death & resurrection. That’s forgiveness of sin, physical healing, emotional healing, and deliverance from oppression. If you place no value on the Eucharist, you won’t receive the benefits Christ intended. However, if you place value, appropriating by faith what Christ has done for you, grace – divine enablement will be given to you.
For a more in-depth teaching on the power of the Lord’s Supper, watch the sermon “Communion and Divine Empowerment” below: