IS HOME COMMUNION NECESSARY?
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 12:13pm
INQUIRY: The question has been raised about the necessity of home communion. If Christian brothers and sisters cannot attend a regular Sunday service, is it essential that the Lord’s Supper be taken to them in their homes or in the hospital or wherever they may be? Is there some “sacramental” blessing bestowed in the taking of communion that they will miss if communion is not taken to them?
ANSWER: This inquiry raises the question of WHY we take the Lord’s Supper in the first place. Some have mistakenly concluded that a new convert receives forgiveness for all his PAST sins in Christian baptism, and that the purpose of the weekly Lord’s Supper is to provide forgiveness for sins committed AFTER baptism throughout the rest of his life. Under this scenario, all sins committed during the previous week are forgiven by taking the Lord’s Supper. If one misses the Sunday communion, his sins are not forgiven and he is in danger of dying in an unsaved state. In such a situation, we can see why home communion would be desired and essential.
This is a seriously mistaken view, however, of both baptism and of the Supper. Regarding baptism, it is a serious error to think that baptism is for the forgiveness of past sins ONLY. In baptism, the repentant believer enters into a STATE of forgiveness, i.e., into a saving relationship with Jesus, in which ALL our sins are forgiven and continue to be forgiven as long as we continue to trust in the saving blood of Jesus. This is what it means to be “justified [forgiven] BY FAITH apart from works of law” (Rom. 3:28). What matters is that our faith continues to be strong.
This means that the Lord’s Supper does NOT bestow forgiveness of sins. A believer in Jesus is just as much forgiven (namely, 100%) one minute BEFORE taking the Supper as he or she is forgiven one minute AFTER taking the Supper. What, then, is the personal benefit of taking communion? The main point is that it helps to keep our faith alive and strong. Though we are justified or forgiven by our continuing faith, this faith must be exercised and nourished so that it will not grow weak and ultimately die (James 2:17). The Lord’s Supper (“the breaking of bread”) is one of the main spiritual exercises which keep our faith strong (Acts 2:42). It is a frequent (weekly) reminder that our assurance of salvation rests upon Jesus alone, and especially upon his dying for our sins. (There are, of course, other purposes for taking the Lord’s Supper; but this is the main PERSONAL benefit.)
Thus if one regularly obeys the commandment of “not forsaking our own assembling together” (Heb. 10:25), and as such regularly receives the emblems of the Lord’s Supper, then unavoidably missing a Sunday service (and thus the Supper) does not cause us to enter an unsaved state. On the other hand, in cases of prolonged sickness or genuine inability to attend services regularly, it is a matter of expediency to have the Supper taken to such shutins at home or in a nursing home. This is not a salvation issue as such, but a way of strengthening and nourishing their faith so that their relationship with Jesus can be maintained—which of course IS a salvation issue.
The bottom line is that those who are shutins do indeed benefit from home communion, and the church should be glad to provide it if requested. Of course, communion as such is a Biblical ordinance and an essential practice of the New Testament church, in view of the “words of institution” at the Last Supper. WHERE one takes it on the Lord’s Day is not the crucial issue, though the expectation is that all Christians will meet around the Lord’s table on the Lord’s Day with other Christians as they are able.