Holy or Unholy Communion?
By Ruth Magnusson Davis. © January, 2013
He that would sit now at the table of the High King, let him diligently consider what he receives in his soul through faith; namely, the body and blood of Jesus Christ, which feeds and nourishes him to eternal life —Myles Coverdale on the Lord’s Supper
I realize now – and thank God for leading me to a fuller understanding – that one thing was missing from my book, True to His Ways: Purity & Safety in Christian Spiritual Practice. This was due to my lack of edifying experience in any Church. I write now in the light of a growing understanding. I need to add to chapter 6 of my book, which discusses the right ways to seek the Lord, that it is right and meet to seek Him in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion, also called the Lord’s Table. This we do with our brothers and sisters in the Church. It is a corporate lifting up of hearts to God.
By ‘sacrament’ I understand a means of heavenly grace, which grace is received through faith. The outward acts (the breaking and eating of bread and other emblems) are signs of that which is spiritual, and are a form of spiritual ‘help’, and are blessed by God as a ceremony that he ordained for us. We participate with obedient hearts, and He responds with grace as promised. Paul teaches about this sacrament in his first letter to the Corinthians, where he explains that he had delivered it to them pursuant to instruction he received by revelation from the Lord:
23That which I delivered to you, I received from the Lord. For the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, 24and thanked, and broke, and said, Take ye, and eat; this is my body which is broken for you. Do this in the remembrance of me. 25In the same manner he took the cup when supper was done, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood. Do this, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me. 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show the Lord’s death till he comes (1 Cor 11:23 -26, New Matthew Bible version (“NMB”)a).
This of course rehearses the sacrament that the Lord taught His disciples during their Passover supper, which is mentioned in all the synoptic Gospels. So important is it, the Lord also instructed Paul about it, who had not been present with the others at Passover, and Paul then delivered it to the Corinthians.
Earlier in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul discussed the Lord’s Table with reference to Israelite and pagan practices:
16Is not the cup of blessing which we bless, partaking of the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break, partaking of the body of Christ? 17Because we, though we be many, yet are one bread and one body, inasmuch as we are all partakers of one bread. 18Observe Israel which walks carnally; are not those who eat of the sacrifice, partakers of the altar?
19What am I saying then? That the image is anything? or that what is offered to images is anything? 20No, but I say that these things which the Gentiles offer, they offer to devils and not to God. And I do not want you to have fellowship with the devils. 21You cannot drink of the cup of the Lord and of the cup of the devils. You cannot be partakers of the Lord’s Table and of the table of devils (1 Cor 10:16 -21, NMB).
When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, Herod’s temple was still standing in Jerusalem and the Jewish people were still offering the sacrifices of the Old Covenant. These sacrifices prefigured the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the New Covenant Lamb of God. Paul was using the typology of the Mosaic ceremonies to teach the import of the Lord’s Supper. “Carnal Israel”, meaning the ethnic Jews, was a type or prefiguring of spiritual Israel under the New Covenant.b The carnal partaking of the Old Covenant altar by eating the flesh of sacrificial animals, especially the Lamb, prefigured the spiritual partaking of the New Covenant altar – that is, of the Lamb sacrificed upon the Cross, through the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper.
But I was not aware of the full significance, promise, or benefits of the Lord’s Supper, because I had not yet found a Church which provided the blessed venue. However I now know that this venue is provided through Holy Communion rightly performed with the Book of Common Prayer.c The ‘meat’ of this prayer book was written in the 16th century by Thomas Cranmer, one of the martyrs of Bloody Queen Mary.
The Book of Common Prayer (“BCP”) is the prayer book of the Church of England. I have in mind the traditional one: in Canada , this is the prayer book of 1962; in the US , and also Britain I believe, that of 1928. This is important, because the contemporary prayer books are lacking. They cannot be used to the same benefit of grace because the doctrine of the faith is not only weakened, it is in places turned upside down.d To worship in Spirit and truth, which is the worship that the Lord desires and which the true servant of the Lord also desires, is not possible where there is falsehood. However in the traditional book the fullness of truth in the communion service has, thanks be to God, been preserved since Cranmer wrote it, and grace can be received most sweetly into humble hearts which long for the same.
Archbishop Cranmer wrote of the sacrament of Communion:
Christ ordained the sacrament of his body and blood in bread and wine to preach unto us, that as our bodies are fed, nourished, and preserved with meat and drink, so (as touching our spiritual life toward God) are we fed, nourished, and preserved by the body and blood of our Saviour Christ; and also that he is such a preservation unto us that neither the devils of hell, nor eternal death, nor sin, can be able to prevail against us, so long as by true and constant faith we are fed and nourished with that meat and drink…
…this spiritual meat of Christ’s body and blood is not received in the mouth and digested in the stomach (as corporal meats and drinks commonly are), but it is received with a pure heart and a sincere faith. And the true eating and drinking of the said body and blood of Christ is with a constant and lively faith to believe that Christ gave his body and shed his blood upon the cross for us, and that he so joins and incorporates himself to us, that he is our head, and we his members and flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones, having him dwelling in us, and we in him. And herein stands the whole effect and strength of this sacrament. And this faith God works inwardly in our hearts by his Holy Spirit, and confirms the same outwardly to our ears by hearing of his word, and to the other senses by eating and drinking of the sacramental bread and wine in his holy Supper.e
Cranmer wrote also:
All those who are godly members of Christ, as they corporally eat the bread and drink the wine, so spiritually they eat and drink Christ’s very flesh and blood.
May God grant that [all persons] come to this holy communion with such a lively faith in Christ and such an unfeigned love to all Christ’s members that, as they carnally eat with their mouth this sacramental bread and drink the wine, so spiritually they may eat and drink the very flesh and blood of Christ, who is in heaven and sits on the right hand of his Father.
It shall not be in vain somewhat more largely to explain [the sacrament]… For the more clearly it is understood, the more sweetness, fruit, comfort, and edification it brings to the godly receivers of it.f,g,h
All this shows why the Lord’s Table is called communion, or Holy Communion. It is verily a means of mystical communion. It is a mysterious, spiritual partaking of the Lord’s body and blood (for the life is in the blood), and it is attained through faith. Furthermore, it comes by beholding Him in the figure of the Lamb through the eyes of our mind; that is, by looking upon Him crucified – by thinking on, praying to, acknowledging, distinguishing, discerning, and seeing the Lamb in our hearts. All this, the things of a saving and sanctifying faith, are stirred up by the prayer book liturgy, and also by ceremonies of the Church which are not offered superstitiously, but in order to involve all the senses and body in worship and to move us to greater heights. Behold the Lamb! As we look upon Him who is held up to believing eyes through these things, and as we offer to the Lord our words of confession, acknowledgment, and petition, we are healed of our diseases, just as the Israelites were in the wilderness when the serpent was raised up for them to look upon. The Lord Jesus said:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up, that none that believeth in him perish, but have eternal life (John 3:14, Tyndale’s New Testament).
This is the Gospel in emblem. And the Christ must often be lifted up for us to look upon, so that we may feed on Him in our hearts by faith. The apostle Paul wrote that he determined to know nothing among the Corinthians except Christ crucified (2Cor 2:2). If the knowledge of the Crucified is poorly presented, or withheld or suppressed in the Church, the congregation will grow lean for lack of nourishment. But when the congregation is fed with the right knowledge of Him, spirits flourish. As to the goodness and sweetness of this, Cranmer wrote:
In the beginning, when men were most godly and most fervent in the Holy Spirit, then they received the Communion daily. But when the Spirit of God began to be more cold in men’s hearts, and they waxed more worldly than godly, then their desire was not so hot to receive the Communion as it was before… But to them that live godly, it is the greatest comfort that in this world can be imagined; and the more godly a man is, the more sweetness and spiritual pleasure and desire he shall have often to receive it.i
If a person is seeking humbly to worship in Spirit and in truth, if a person is seeking God’s glory, he or she will be fed in a faithful prayer book service. There comes a sweet holiness that teaches us what it is to worship, as Cranmer wrote, “in the beauty of holiness”; and this is, of course, the coming of our Lord by His Holy Spirit.
But no one who goes proudly or unworthily to the table will receive the life of the Lamb in Holy Communion, or know this sweet holiness. The person who attends seeking anything for himself, anything at all except the knowledge of the Lord and His name hallowed, or who comes as anything other than a penitent sinner, is perhaps unworthy.j And certainly no one who seeks for grace in any way not ordained by Him can find Him, which brings us to my concerns about the counterfeit communion that is in the Charismatic Church.
There is a counterfeit of true communion. It is the seeking and calling down of occult spirit that takes place in Charismatic congregations when they meet together. It is a communion with an unholy spirit, or spirits, which comes by erroneous spiritual practices and through lies and false faith. It comes not by the knowledge and lifting up of the Crucified, but by the lifting up of almost anything else: the self, empowered leaders, a false Jesus, etc. It may bring apparently sweet experience, for Satan comes as an angel of light; I have written much more on this in my book. But it is an unholy communion, and is accompanied by many aberrations, including so-called spiritual drunkenness, manifestations, swooning onto the floor, animal shrieks and cries, confusion, and disorder: all the things we find in the Charismatic Church .
Again, I have written in my book and in articles posted on this website about how the seeking of spiritual presence by Charismatics, and their ceremonies of slaying in the Spirit, etc, are occult, forbidden by God, dangerous, and defiling. So I will not write any more here, but will say briefly how I see an unholy communion with fallen angels, and with the great Antichrist himself, Lucifer, revealed in the Charismatic Church:
- The seeking of mystical experience through occult practice in the Lord’s name replaces the seeking of the knowledge of Christ as the One who died for our sins.
- Not only are Charismatics not fed with the bread of the knowledge of the Crucified, they seek quail and are fed with unclean meats – lies, falsehood, and the devices of men and evil spirits.
- The arrogant summoning of “the Spirit” by those who would steward the presence of the Spirit counterfeits the humble seeking of the benefits of the Spirit through the ordained sacrament.
- The ecstasies of being slain in and soaking in the spirit counterfeit worshipping in the beauty of holiness through the sacrament.
- Spiritual drunkenness verses spiritual soberness
- The shrieks, confusion, and chaos of Charismatic meetings and “party time with the Lord” reveal the presence of demons, but the quiet orderliness of Holy Communion reveals the presence of the Holy Spirit.
- The meaningless gibberish of “tongues”, which is perhaps worse than was the mumbo-jumbo of Latin in the apostate Roman Church, verses the eloquent beauty of the language of the prayer book, which is packed with meaningful truth.
- The prevalence of false teaching contrasts with biblical truth.
- The disregard for truth contrasts with the love of truth. And the Lord indeed came for those who will hear the truth (John 18:37 ). And we are sanctified by truth (John 17:19 ). But those who do not love the truth, perish (2 Thess 2:10 ).
The terrible fact is that Charismatic occultism and the spiritual experiences derived through it are a partaking of the table of the devils. And the people who give themselves over to it will suffer in this life all the gall and wormwood that I discuss in True to His Ways, not to mention the judgement of God in the life to come.
I have written more about the antichrist spirit that suppresses the word of God and the sacraments in my article http://newmatthewbible.org/antichrist.pdf, which is based on the teaching of William Tyndale and his translation of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, especially the second chapter about Antichrist.
To close with the words of the prayer book which follow Cranmer’s communion service:
Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee that thou dost graciously feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; assuring us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are living members of his mystical body, which is the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs through hope of thy everlasting kingdom (BCP, p 85, Communion Service).
(a) The New Matthew Bible is the work of this author in the New Matthew Bible Project. This is a work-in-progress to republish the 1537/1549 Matthew Bible in minimally updated English so that people may again have the benefit of the translations and work of the three men who produced it: William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale, and John Rogers. More information is at www.newmatthewbible.org.
(b) I realize that the nation of Israel in another application may be considered a figure of the Church, meaning all the members and professors thereof, faithful or not. But I prefer not to explore that aspect here.
(c) I do not mean to imply that the same blessings may not be found through other godly liturgies. I do not know to what extent this may be so, because I have not investigated. I also do not hold the BCP to be a ‘perfect’ book. But the Communion service is greatly blessed.
(d) One writer observes, “We see one of many examples [of misleading language which elevates our role and worthiness in the Eucharist] in Eucharist Prayer B: ‘As we offer you this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, we bring you this bread and this cup and we thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you’. Compare this with Cranmer’s insistence that even the Eucharistic elements are God’s gift to us who through our sin have no claim to participate whatsoever: ‘…we receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine’, and ‘We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table’. It is an effective reversal of what Cranmer took great pains to establish.” Molloy, C. Peter in his essay ‘1662: Our Evangelical Future?’ contained in The Book of Common Prayer: Past, Present & Future, Editor Prudence Dailey (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011), p 165.
(e) Cranmer, Thomas, A Defense of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ, 1551 (Wipf & Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 2004 edition), pp 20 & 25. All quotations are minimally updated as to obsolete grammar or words.
(f) Ibid, p 33.
(g) Ibid, p 12.
(h) ibid, p 13. For example, to understand the relation of the New Covenant sacrament to the Old is important and edifying. In the New Covenant sacrament we offer up the sacrifice of the Lamb as atonement for our sins, just as was done under the Old with the innocent animals who suffered for our sins. We ask God to accept this offering not considering our merits, but the unspottedness of the Lamb that was given for us. Cranmer explains more in his book A Defense, referenced above. Not easy reading, but deep and worthy.
(i) As quoted by Arthur James Mason in his biography Thomas Cranmer, published in 1898. I’m afraid my facsimile copy lacks publication details. However the quotation in reference is at page 157.
(j) Paul warned the Corinthians, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show the Lord’s death till he comes. Therefore whosoever eats of this bread or drinks of this cup unworthily shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person therefore examine himself, and thus let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats or drinks unworthily eats and drinks his own judgment, because he does not distinguish the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. If we truly judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord we are chastened, because we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:26 -32, NMB).