I have been perusing Anthony Thiselton’s new book, The Living Paul: An Introduction to the Apostle’s Life and Thought. I differ with him in various places (he is skeptical of Pauline authorship of Ephesians and the Pastorals for example), but I appreciate much of what he has to say.
His brief chapter on communion was helpful. Here are two quotes which make very useful and important points about communion.
“Participants in the Passover meal were ‘there’, with the generation who came out of Egypt; Christian participants were ‘there’ at the cross, reliving a past event as if it were a present event. Hence ‘remembrance’ is a dramatic making-present; it is more ‘objective’ than merely mental recollection, but not repeated re-enactment…. Taking and eating is the activity of a participant, who is not a mere spectator. It is to say: ‘Christ died; and died for me’; and ‘I am part of it.’ But the event which is dramatically ‘remembered’ remains once-for-all (Greek, ephapax). It is an ‘effective sign’, which gives the assurance of solidarity with Christ and with Christ’s people, in his death and resurrection.” (124)
“The Lord’s Supper, like baptism, ensures that all Christian experience is anchored in the cross, or in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It allows the Church, both corporately and individually, to ‘relive’ the event of the cross, and to become intimately involved in it. . . . In moments of doubt, to see, to touch, to share, and to eat and to drink constitute an assurance, a pledge, a promise, and an ‘effective sign’ of covenant grace.” (125)
These are points I have sought to make previously. Communion helps to anchor us in the cross, and is a tangible, pastoral expression of the reality of Christ’s act and our faith in him.