Putting GRACE back in Communion

What is the first thought that comes to mind when we think of “Communion”? Is it an event that we attend where bread and wine is served? Is it a set part of our church’s order of worship? Remember, the question was “What is the first thought that comes to mind…”

Nowhere in the entire Bible does it say that we need to “participate in communion” or “take communion” or “attend communion” or “hold communion”. Let that sink in for a bit.

The following verse in the King James Version is closest that the Bible comes to saying this:

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (1 Cor 10:16 KJV)

All the other translations say that we Share in/Participate of/Partake of/Fellowship with the blood and body of Christ. All these words can be used interchangeably with “communion”. So to have communion of the blood and the body means to literally partake of/share/participate in it. It’s not something we can “take” or “hold”.

Just to illustrate the point, let’s replace “communion” with “partake” and use it like most Christians would use it in a sentence today:

“John, are we going to attend the partake service tonight?”

“When was the last time you took partake”?

“We are having partake tonight, you wanna join us?”

“The church up the road is holding partake next Sunday, I think we should go check out how they do it.”

In the first century the Christians ate together every day and while they were breaking the bread and drinking wine (which formed a natural part of their diet), they remembered/discerned the body and blood of Christ. This is what it means to eat the bread and drink the cup in a worthy manner and to experience the benefits of what Christ accomplished for us, which includes walking in full, divine health.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. (1 Cor 11:27-30 ESV)

For centuries all across the world the wonderful privilege of partaking of the Lord’s body and blood has been reduced to a ceremonial rite filled with fear, self-consciousness and religiosity, largely because of a misinterpretation of the above verses. So what then does it mean to eat and drink in an unworthy manner and bring damnation or judgment upon oneself? Well, the answer is found in the very same verse: “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

It simply means to not discern the Lord’s body while eating the bread, resulting in us not walking in fullness of health and possibly dying prematurely, which is what happened with some people in Corinth. Jesus didn’t simply purchase our salvation at the cross, he also purchased our healing. In fact, the same Greek word (sōzō) is used interchangeably in the Bible to talk about being healed and being saved.

It’s God’s will for all His children to live a long, healthy life, but we have an enemy who is constantly on the prowl to bring condemnation, damnation, judgment and destruction on us. So when we are troubled with sickness the bread serves to help us remember how the body of Christ was broken for us to purchase our healing (so that our bodies don’t have to be broken/sick) and how we can receive the healing and health which has already been freely given to us. The power does not lie in the bread and wine itself – they are merely symbolic. They are purely a tool to direct our minds to the power of the real substance of the body and the blood of Christ Himself. This is also the reason why it’s good to break bread every day, because in doing this we are reminded daily of how divine health was purchased for us. By meditating on this compelling truth we are empowered to start walking in its reality in greater and greater degrees.

So why bother to get the terminology right? Simple: by using the word “communion” incorrectly (saying that we can hold or have “it”) we reinforce the notion that it’s an event or an object, some kind of special occasion that we get to indulge in from time to time. The modern day church has even thought up a name for this type of religious rite: It’s called a “sacrament”, meaning that in certain denominations only members of the clergy (ordained church leadership) are allowed to serve the bread and the wine. “Normal believers” are not allowed to defile the table by touching the bread or the wine before it is handed to them by a deacon or an elder.

But when we use the word correctly (saying that we have communion WITH/partake OF the blood and the body of Christ) it brings about an entirely new mindset, in that it serves to remind us of our existing unity with God. It’s a quality/trait/attribute that every Christian possesses. So whenever we eat the bread and drink the blood we are reminded of this unity, which stirs our faith and allows us to receive from God that which is already ours.

You Have Enough Faith Pt 2 (The Problem of Unbelief)

Last week we concluded that every born again Christian has received THE measure of faith from God (Rom 12:3). God has given us His faith as a gift (Eph 2:8) and it does not vary or falter. A person that has “great” faith does not possess a larger quantity of faith than other believers; they simply have more faith operative than others.

Now of course our next question would be: “If I have God’s faith, why doesn’t it produce for me at the level that God promises in His Word?” Well firstly because faith has to be acted on & released, which is what it says in James 2:17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You can actually have the faith of the Son of God inside you, but if you don’t act on it, it’s as good as dead.

Another reason why we don’t see our faith work for us is because of our unbelief. The soul (mind), just like the body, lives by what it feeds on. If we saturate our minds with the doom & gloom on TV, the newspapers and what we see happening in the world around us, we won’t have our minds renewed according to the truth of God’s Word. Then when you pray, even if you do pray with faith, the unbelief in your mind will counter that faith. So the Christian life is a pursuit of intimacy with God, experientially learning to know Him as He reveals Himself through His Word, which has the wonderful side effect of transforming your mind and purging it of unbelief.

In Luke 9 Jesus had sent out His disciples Luke 9:1 Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. 2 And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. They then went out and did it, and they were actually seeing great results! Luke 9:6 And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where. But then came a father whose son was possessed by a unclean spirit, whom they could not heal. Luke 9:38 Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, “Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child. 39 And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him. 40 So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

The disciples asked Jesus afterwards why they could not drive out the demon, and Jesus answered them (the same passage from Mark 9): Mark 9:29 And He said to them, This kind can come out by nothing except by prayer and fasting. Now Jesus didn’t mean that they had to specially go praying and fasting so that they could drive out this demon. He also didn’t mean that this was a “type” of demon that the only way to cast it out was to pray and fast about it, because if that’s what you believe then just about every second demon or disease you encounter will say to you “I am the kind that only goes out by prayer and fasting.” If you look at what Jesus said to the disciples first off when He heard they could not cast the demon out: Mark 9:18 … So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” 19 He (Jesus) answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” Jesus called his disciples (who had just come back from their trip, having seen great results) “faithless generation”.

And then also we see the father of the demon possessed boy confessing that he had a problem with unbelief: Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes. 24 And immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

You see the biggest problem is not that people don’t have faith. We all have faith, it’s just that we have a tremendous amount of unbelief that is countering our faith. Jesus said if we have faith the size of a mustard seed we can say to a mountain to cast itself into the sea. Let’s read this same passage from the book of Matthew:

Matt 17:14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 20 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

So why did Jesus tell them that they could only do it with prayer and fasting? Well, what do you think happens when you pray and fast (and worship, and go to church, and read the Bible, etc)? You get rid of your unbelief!! Your faith doesn’t increase, because remember that we already have the faith of God and that faith the size of a mustard seed will move a mountain. But we fill our minds and thoughts with so much garbage everyday, focusing on our depressing circumstances and NOT on God, that it’s no wonder we don’t have any power.

Just one last point that we should clarify in the body of Christ: It is very cruel to tell a sick person they can not get healed because they have too much unbelief. In the Bible we see that Jesus as our perfect example, healed ALL who came to him, regardless if they had unbelief or not. Acts 10:38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing ALL that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. Yes He did not heal many people in His home town Nazareth, but it was not because their unbelief countered or neutralized His faith. No it was because many of them were offended at Him, seeing Him only as “Joseph’s boy”, and not many came to Him for healing. But those that came still got healed!! Thus we can see that He still did mighty works, but only for those that came to Him. Matt 13:54 When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Now with what we just discussed above, read the following 2 verses:  Mark 6:5 Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He marvelled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching. Did you see he STILL healed those who CAME TO HIM?

Therefore we can conclude that if we don’t see the promises of God fulfilled in our lives, or if we don’t see the sick healed when we pray for them, it’s because of OUR unbelief & unrenewed minds. God’s power is always switched on; He’s already provided healing, prosperity & deliverance in the atonement. This message however is not a call for Christians to go back into works to try and rid themselves of their unbelief, because it does not happen through striving or self-effort. Remember we are all still learning & growing. Unbelief eradication & mind renewal is something that happens as we simply enjoy God and turn our affections toward Him, resting in Him, living from our secure position of victory. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey…

Yours in Grace
Andre van der Merwe

enough faith

You Have Enough Faith Pt 1

When we ask God to give us more faith, we often pray it because we don’t know what we have already been given. Even the Apostles prayed like this, thinking they didn’t have enough faith:

Luke 17:5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Give us more faith”

There are two kinds of faith. Firstly there’s the kind of faith that says “I will believe it when I see it”, like with Thomas.

John 20:25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

We call this physical or natural faith, faith that is based upon what we can see, taste, hear, smell and feel with our five senses. Then there is the kind of faith that is anchored firm in the Word of God, that does not falter because we don’t see the answer to our prayer, faith that keeps on believing I AM healed because the Word says so, even though I don’t “feel” healed yet.

John 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Do you know we have the same faith as the apostle Peter who did mighty signs and wonders?

2 Pet 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ.

In fact do you know we have the same faith as Jesus?

Gal 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

All believers have been given THE measure of faith.

Rom 12:3 … according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (KJV).

This faith was given to us by God the day we were born again, it was a gift. We have more than enough faith!

Eph 2:7 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it (the faith) is the gift of God (annotation my own).

Now since we have received this faith as a gift in the first place, we can rest assured that God will maintain and perfect it for us as well.

Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.

Some translations say “author and perfecter”. When Jesus said someone had “great faith” or “little faith”, He wasn’t referring to the quantity of their faith, He was referring to the level of faith that they were operating in.

Now some would try to counter this by quoting 1 Corinthians 12, saying that the Spirit gives only SOME gifts to each of us individually.

1 Cor 12:11 But the one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing separately to each one as He desires.

Well did you ever consider that you have inside you the Holy Spirit that has ALL the gifts? This verse doesn’t say He only gives “some gifts”. No the Spirit will give to a person ANY of the gifts that is needed in that specific situation. Also see just a few verses before this one:

1 Cor 12:6 And there are differences of workings, but it is the same God working all things in all.

When we are new in the faith, we need the Holy Spirit to come and empower us with these gifts from time to time as we may require in our specific situation. In Paul’s epistle to the church at Corinthians (who was a “baby” church) he wrote:

1 Cor 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

And it was this same “baby” church whom Paul was speaking to when He wrote about the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12.

enough faith

But when we come into maturity in Christ, we will realize that we have all the gifts at our disposal since we have received FULLNESS in Christ.

Col 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.

And also:

Jon 1:16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

The biggest problem is not that people don’t have faith. We have more than enough faith. Born again believers all have the faith of God.  The faith of God is simply this: Faith that enables you to believe in things that you cannot perceive with your five senses. You needed this faith to be saved in the first place – how else would you KNOW that your sins have been forgiven? You had to believe it! Sins that have been forgiven and blotted out is not something you can see, but through the faith God has given us, we can believe it and KNOW we have been forgiven.

Powerless Religion

Have you ever felt that there is something wrong with the “average” way church is done today? Have you felt that simply going through the motions of getting up for work every week day, then relaxing on Saturdays and finally going to your local church for a little Sunday “fix-up” has not been very fulfilling? Have you wondered why the church in Acts saw dead people raised, all sorts of diseases healed, literally had their buildings shaken by the power of God (Acts 4:31), and got together DAILY to have fellowship with each other (Acts 2:46)?

If you have answered “yes” to any of the questions above, chances are that just like millions of other Christians around the world today, you’ve had enough of the destructive force called “religion”. Religion found its way into the New Covenant Church at about 100-200 years after Christ. Until that time the church moved in mighty signs & wonders – they were fulfilling the great commission of taking the gospel to the nations and lived in freedom, grace, and love and had a burning passion for God. Then came religion with its rules, regulations & traditions and swept the earth as we know it into almost 1500 years of what was known as the “dark ages”. Technology, arts, literature & science nearly came to a complete halt, because religion doesn’t limit itself just to the church, it influences all of society. And then in the 17th century the light of Rom 1:16 (For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek) dawned on a monk named Martin Luther, who shook his fist at the religious system and challenged it. Martin Luther had spent years trying to “purify” himself for God, spent days & days confessing his sins, tried to live as holy as he could, and after doing all this he found that the underlying sense of condemnation would never really lift off him. Can you imagine the courage of this one man taking on a system that had threatened to kill scientists who said the earth was “round”, a system of control that had forced itself onto society and ushered fear into the hearts of all those who apposed it?

The main reason that we are not seeing the mighty signs & wonders today that the church in Acts saw, is because we are still sitting with the remnant of almost 1500 years of “dark ages”, of people being scared with the laws of the Bible and bringing them under the fear & control of man. The church today does not need another spiritual revival (because they come and go), it needs another theological reformation as it did in the days of Martin Luther! Can you remember the story about the naked king who was deceived by the spinsters that supposedly made him “invisible” clothes? Well someone needs to stand up even now and say: “The king is naked!! There is something wrong with the way the traditional church is operating! Why aren’t we seeing the same miracles happening today that we see in the Bible?” Jesus said the following: John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” Was Jesus lying? Was He a cruel sadist that would tell us to do something that He knew we would never be able to do? Or course not!!

Don’t let anybody fool you into thinking that the time of miracles passed away with the early church apostles. We have the following scriptures that prove God does miracles even today: Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever. Mar 13:31 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away. Now if God did mighty works through the church in the times of the Bible (Acts 2:43 & Acts 5:12) and if God is the same for ever, then it is clear that the only thing that has changed, is the church.

The Bible warns us about people that try to convince the church that the time of miracles have passed away: Col 2:8 Beware lest anyone rob you through philosophy and vain deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ. Mar 7:13 making the Word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have delivered.

We all need to have our thinking changed, our minds renewed. We need a theological reformation, a message that restores the fullness of the message of Grace of the New Covenant & removes the Old Covenant Law. The law is a ministry of death (2 Cor 3:7) and the law is not based on faith (Gal 3:12). It kills faith and makes people self conscious, sin conscious and self righteous. You can have Christians fast and pray and sing and have conferences and all sorts of things, but if there is not a theological reformation that changes the way they think, nothing will change. You can have fools become filled with the Holy Spirit, but if they do not change their thinking, they will only be anointed fools.

Millions of Christians are happy to go to their “cosy” little Sunday morning meetings, to listen to a sermon that makes them feel a little bit better about themselves, or that reminds them that they have a responsibility towards God, but that’s about as far as it goes. They have a form of godliness, but don’t want to hear that they have been called to walk in mighty signs & wonders, to be living administrators of the power of heaven into the earth. The Bible talks about such people: 2 Tim 3:5 having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it; However the Bible teaches us differently: 1 Cor 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. Paul also said that when the AUTHENTIC gospel is preached it will be accompanied by signs & wonders. 1 Cor 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. In fact, always when the authentic gospel of Grace is preached, God will confirm His word by signs & wonders: Act 14:3 Therefore they stayed a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who bore witness to the word of His grace, giving miracles and wonders to be done by their hands. How else is the unbelieving world today supposed to see that God really exists? Do you think that in today’s modern scientific era we are going to convince people with words alone? Definitely not, you see that by simply looking at the state of the world around you.

If you are living in the captivity of dead religion, not seeing the kingdom of God manifesting in signs & wonders around you, and not hearing the message of Grace of the New Covenant of the Bible preached, you might want to consider that it’s time to shake your fist at this destructive force and prison called “religion” and come into the freedom of Christ, the freedom that Jesus died for so that we can live free from the fear of people’s opinions, free from the demands of laws and regulations, free to love God because He is a good Father! Gal 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and do not again be held with the yoke of bondage.

Yours in Grace
Andre van der Merwe

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