Saturday, August 05, 2017

Campbell on "Communion" and the Lord's Supper

Alexander Campbell argued that a simple definition of communion and the specific usage of that word in translations of the New Testament preclude its identification with the Lord's Supper. He defined communion as "union in that which is common" and pointed out there are several ways in which the Lord's people have experienced this in both Old and New Testament eras:
Wherever there is union in common, there is communion. As the glory of the Lord equally filled all the tabernacle and the temple, so the Spirit of God animates, consoles, and refreshes the whole body of Christ.
It was in this general sense of the word that Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 13:14, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." Here, Paul uses the Greek word koinonia, which carries the meaning of "fellowship" or "joint participation."[1] Clearly, replacing communion with Lord's Supper would cause that verse to no longer make perfect sense.

To be sure, wrote Campbell, "in the Lord's supper especially does God commune with his sons and daughters, and they with him." [2] The breaking of bread is a special time in the lives of Christians. Nevertheless, it is most unscriptural, he insisted, for "sectarian Christendom" to identify a "single ordinance," namely, the Lord's Supper, as communion.
Hence sectarians, or professors of most creeds will occasionally invite those of another creed to lead in prayer, in praise, in family worship, and afterwards debar them from the Lord's table, merely, too, in most cases, because of doctrinal or political differences. [3]
In this way, Campbell explained his rationale for not referring to the Lord's Supper, or the breaking of bread, as communion. Not only was that identification inexact and misleading, it was also the basis upon which some Protestant sects were guilty of a gross inconsistency. For while they were perfectly willing for visitors to sing, pray, and even contribute of their means, those same visitors were debarred from participating in what the sects called "Communion."


[1] Millennial Harbinger, 1834, pp. 568-69.

[2] MH, 1864, p. 152.

[3] MH, 1862, p. 529.

No comments: