Trending Faith: The Purpose of Holy Communion

Dr. Jason Hiles, Dean of College of Theology and Pastor Tim Griffin, Dean of Students

Communion bread and wine sitting on a window sill

Whenever Jesus instructed his followers at the Last Supper to drink the wine and eat the bread, he set up an important practice for all Christians called Communion. What are some of the deeper implications to Communion and why should we still care? Dean of Grand Canyon University’s College of Theology Jason Hiles, PhD, and GCU Pastor and Dean of Students Tim Griffin sat down for an episode of Trending Faith to discuss Communion.

Table of Contents:

Biblical Context of Communion

The Lord’s Supper is traced back to the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John where Christ is eating and talking with his disciples about what will happen to him. Jesus had referenced before what would happen to him, but this will be the last time before those prophecies take place. Here are the most common Communion Bible verses:

  • Luke 9:21-22
  • Matthew 17:22-23
  • Mark 10:32-34
  • Luke 18:31-34

He took bread and broke it and said that it was his body. Each person took the bread and consumed it.

The reason he predicted his own death is to show a sign of divinity and the ultimate purpose of fulfilling prophecies. “And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe," (John 14:29, ESV).

Prophecies Fulfilled Regarding Communion

"Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts." - Malachi 1:10-11, ESV

Some Bible scholars believe that these verses in Malachi point to the establishment of practicing Communion. The Book of Malachi is believed to have been written after the Babylonians allowed the Jews to return to their homeland around 450 BC. The text illustrates "a pure offering" will be made through Jesus Christ and replace the old system of offerings. Christians take part in the Holy Communion to represent that we have accepted this sacrifice for our sins.

In the Book of Exodus, the Hebrews were told to smear blood on their doorframe to have their firstborn spared from God's plague on Egypt (Exodus 12:7). They were also commanded to eat the Passover lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8). These actions mimic what is to come with the new covenant Jesus founds.

Jesus is "the Passover Lamb" (1 Corinthians 5:7) of the new covenant. He instructs us that "Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day," (John 6:58, ESV).

What Is the Purpose of Communion?

Communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper, is a practice that the whole church observes in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice. No matter what denomination you prescribe to, you have likely partaken in the eucharist. No matter what denomination of Christianity we are a part of, there is tremendous weight to taking part in God’s church.

So, why do we take Communion? With Jesus dying on the cross for everyone’s sins, it's crucial to remind ourselves of that sacrifice. The Holy Communion is an important way to understand and continue to acknowledge Christ's act. This sacrifice is the basis of the Christian worldview and should not be downplayed. The Lord’s supper signifies the New Covenant with Jesus Christ being the sacrificial lamb for humanity (1 Corinthians 5:7).

It’s a beautiful metaphor of Christ’s broken body and the disciples. “Taking it into themselves; they are being sustained by his sacrifice,” said Dr. Hiles. We do the same when we take part in Communion. It is acknowledging that the crucifixion did take place and Christ died for our sins. The ceremony is a fulfillment of prophecy since numerous times in the Old Testament Jesus’ crucifixion is coming (Genesis 3:15, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53).

Pastor Tim reflected how Holy Communion is not just about a personal and private reflection. It is also about reminding believers and coming together as the community of Christ in remembrance of what he did. We should not be quiet about Jesus’ sacrifice but spread and remember the good news.

Check out the full discussion in the video:

Grand Canyon University connects you with other believers while you earn your Christian studies degree so you can find strength in numbers. To learn more about the College of Theology at GCU and our theology degree programs click on the Request Info button at the top of your screen.

Approved by Todd Forrest of the College of Theology on Aug. 23, 2022.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.