The Communion Service

A. FEET WASHING

Before the emblems of Christ's body and blood were distributed among the disciples, Christ washed their feet. "By the act of our Lord this humiliating ceremony was made a consecrated ordinance."—Desire of Ages, p. 650. The purpose of this ordinance, which is binding upon all Christians, is to lead the participants to search their hearts, see their own roots of bitterness and other defects of character and clear away misunderstandings between brethren. John 13:1-17.

 

"This ordinance is Christ's appointed preparation for the sacramental service. While pride, variance, and strife for supremacy are cherished, the heart cannot enter into fellowship with Christ. We are not prepared to receive the communion of His body and His blood. Therefore it was that Jesus appointed the memorial of His humiliation to be first observed."—The Desire of Ages, p. 650.

 

"The object of this service is to call to mind the humility of our Lord, and the lessons he has given in washing the feet of his disciples. There is in man a disposition to esteem himself more highly than his brother, to work for himself, to serve himself, to seek the highest place; and often evil surmisings and bitterness of spirit spring up over mere trifles. This ordinance, preceding the Lord's Supper, is to clear away these misunderstandings, to bring man out of his selfishness, down from his stilts of self-exaltation, to the humility of spirit that will lead him to wash his brother's feet.

 

"The ordinance of feet-washing has been especially enjoined by Christ, and on these occasions the Holy Spirit is present to witness and put a seal to his ordinance. He is there to convict and soften the heart. He draws the believers together, and makes them one in heart. They are made to feel that Christ indeed is present to clear away the rubbish that has accumulated to separate the hearts of the children of God from Him."—Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, June 22, 1897.

 

"Solemnly Christ said to Peter, 'If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.' The service which Peter refused was the type of a higher cleansing. Christ had come to wash the heart from the stain of sin. In refusing to allow Christ to wash his feet, Peter was refusing the higher cleansing included in the lower. He was really rejecting his Lord."—The Desire of Ages, p. 646.

 

"The example of washing the feet of his disciples was given for the benefit of all who should believe in him. He required them to follow his example. This humble ordinance was not only designed to test their humility and faithfulness, but to keep fresh in their remembrance that the redemption of his people was purchased upon conditions of humility and continual obedience upon their part." —Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 202.

 

"The 144,000 were all sealed and perfectly united. On their foreheads was written, God, New Jerusalem, and a glorious star containing Jesus' new name. At our happy, holy state the wicked were enraged, and would rush violently up to lay hands on us to thrust us into prison, when we would stretch forth the hand in the name of the Lord, and they would fall helpless to the ground. Then it was that the synagogue of Satan knew that God had loved us who could wash one another's feet and salute the brethren with a holy kiss, and they worshiped at our feet."—Early Writings, p. 15.

 

"The holy salutation mentioned in the gospel of Jesus Christ by the apostle Paul should ever be considered in its true character. It is a holy kiss. It should be regarded as a sign of fellowship to Christian friends when parting, and when meeting again after a separation of weeks or months. In 1 Thessalonians 5:26 Paul says: 'Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.' In the same chapter he says: 'Abstain from all appearance of evil.' There can be no appearance of evil when the holy kiss is given at a proper time and place."—Early Writings, p. 117.

 

B. THE LORD'S SUPPER

The Lord's Supper, known as the communion service, is the memorial of Christ's sacrifice and also points forward to His second coming. This service replaces the yearly Passover service of the Old Testament dispensation, but it is to be practiced more frequently, in harmony with our Lord's instructions through Apostle Paul. Matthew 26:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 11:26.

 

Through the Lord's Supper we participate in the emblems of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus and express our belief in, and acceptance of, His death on the cross as the only provision for our salvation. John 6:53-56, 63; Romans 5:10.

 

Since leaven and fermentation are often referred to as symbols of sin (1 Corinthians 5:7, 8), the Passover bread had to be unleavened and the Passover wine unfermented. Isaiah 65:8. With that same bread and wine Christ instituted the communion service.

 

As the Lord's Supper is a symbol of our fellowship with Christ and with one another ("the communion of the body of Christ"), only the members of this body, His organized church on earth, participate in the ordinance service. Exodus 12:48; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17; 12:12, 18, 20, 22.

 

A spiritual preparation—which includes heart-searching, repentance, confession, reconciliation and unity of faith (Ephesians 4:3, 4)—is required before we can participate in the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. 1 Corinthians 11:18-20 (mgn); 27-29.

 

By partaking of the bread and wine, we show our repentance of sin and acceptance of Christ as our personal Saviour. The communion supper commemorates the suffering and death of Jesus and strengthens the church as a body, preserving her in meekness, love, and unity.

 

"In partaking with His disciples of the bread and wine, Christ pledged Himself to them as their Redeemer. He committed to them the new covenant, by which all who receive Him become children of God, and joint‑heirs with Christ. By this covenant every blessing that heaven could bestow for this life and the life to come, was theirs. This covenant deed was to be ratified with the blood of Christ. And the administration of the sacrament was to keep before the disciples the infinite sacrifice made for each of them individually as a part of the great whole of fallen humanity."—The Desire of Ages, pp. 656-659.

 

"It is by receiving the life for us poured out on Calvary's cross, that we can live the life of holiness. And this life we receive by receiving His word, by doing those things which He has commanded. Thus we become one with Him. 'He that eateth My flesh,' He says, 'and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.' (John 6:54, 56, 57.) To the holy communion this scripture in a special sense applies. As faith contemplates our Lord's great sacrifice, the soul assimilates the spiritual life of Christ."—The Desire of Ages, pp. 660-661.

 

"The salvation of men depends upon a continual application to their hearts of the cleansing blood of Christ. Therefore, the Lord's supper was not to be observed only occasionally or yearly, but more frequently than the annual passover."—Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 203.

 

"Our Lord has said, 'Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. . . . For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.' John 6:53-55. This is true of our physical nature. To the death of Christ we owe even this earthly life. The bread we eat is the purchase of His broken body. The water we drink is bought by His spilled blood. Never one, saint or sinner, eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the body and the blood of Christ. The cross of Calvary is stamped on every loaf. It is reflected in every water spring. All this Christ has taught in appointing the emblems of His great sacrifice. The light shining from that Communion service in the upper chamber makes sacred the provisions for our daily life. The family board becomes as the table of the Lord, and every meal a sacrament."—Desire of Ages, p. 660.