Questions Listed Under Lord's Supper

Click on a title or click open the "+" icon to reveal answers to each question.

  • We have a member in our congregation who has abstained from taking alcohol in any form due to health and other issues. It has been my experience with some other WELS congregations that in cases such as this, grape juice has been offered as an acceptable alternative. Is this, in fact, acceptable to the synod and can we follow the same procedure in this case?

    Thank you in advance for your response.

    Since the institution of the Lord’s Supper took place during the celebration of the Passover meal, we know that wine—mixed with water, as was often the case in those days—was what Jesus and his disciples used.  In addition, any grapes that were harvested in the previous fall and pressed into juice would most likely have been going through the fermentation process in the following spring (the time of the year for Passover).

    And yet in the words of institution of the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:17), Jesus spoke of the “fruit of the vine.”  What does that expression mean and not mean?   Allow me to reference an answer to a previous question on this topic: 

    “The ‘fruit of the vine’ was used in one of the prayers at the Passover. This term was used to refer to the contents of the cup. There's little doubt that it was often used to refer to wine. But to say that every Jew at the time of Jesus understood this as a reference to wine might be overstating the matter a bit. 

    “We also note that the wine used in the Passover was usually mixed with water. So the issue is not the amount of alcohol in the contents of the cup. When Scripture uses the term ‘fruit of the vine’ and not ‘wine’ in reference to the contents of the cup in the Lord's Supper, it is not telling us whether or not this fruit of the vine should contain alcohol. It is saying it should come from grapes.

    “We believe that the use of grape wine should be the usual practice because this most closely resembles what Jesus probably used. But in exceptional cases we believe the scriptural term ‘fruit of the vine’ is broad enough to include non-alcoholic wine or grape juice. Therefore in exceptional cases we believe it can be used.”

    Finally, there is a brief article that was published in the Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly that addresses this subject.  You may find it valuable reading.

    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.



  • Hi there,

    While I am not a member, I have been attending a WELS church. I have been told why your congregation does "close" Communion and respect your stance on it. However, I have chosen not to be a member because I feel that me being a member of the body of Christ trumps any other membership. So, I was wondering what God is going to say on judgement day that other Christians have denied me the right to partake in the Lord's Supper because I would not become a member of their church. Does being a member really guarantee your congregation that one is truly partaking in Communion in the manner Christ intended? Isn't that between me and the Lord? I ask this lovingly and just can't wrap my head around this practice. I would graciously accept any insight.

    Thank you and God bless.

    Close(d) Communion is the historic and biblical practice of the Christian Church.  The practice has the purposes of ensuring that, as far as humanly possible, those receiving the Sacrament do so to their benefit and not their harm (1 Corinthians 11:27-30), and that the oneness that is expressed in receiving the Sacrament is genuine and not contrived (1 Corinthians 10:17).  

    Reception of Holy Communion is an expression of unity and fellowship with others who receive it.  How do we know that those who receive the Sacrament are united in the faith with one another?  We certainly cannot look into their hearts, but we can hear their common confession of faith.  That is where church membership enters the picture.  We see church membership as a way in which Christians acknowledge Jesus before others (Matthew 10:32) and publicly indicate their unity in faith and doctrine with fellow believers.  

    Does this practice “guarantee” that every person, without exception, “is truly partaking in Communion in the manner Christ intended?”  No.  That is not our assertion.  We cannot control the attitudes of others’ hearts.  What we can do is see to it that, as far as humanly possible, those receiving the Sacrament in our churches will be partaking in Communion in the manner Christ intended, and will be providing a genuine picture of unity.

    On the last day Jesus will acknowledge his followers’ fruits of faith (Matthew 25:31-40).  Faithfulness to the Lord’s word describes what fruits of faith are all about.  If you have not had any face-to-face conversations with a WELS pastor about this subject matter, I would encourage you to do that.  Christian fellowship is a wonderful blessing (Psalm 133:1).  

    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.


     
     

     

     

     

  • In my church we have now gone to both the individual cups and the common cup. I am OK with this. My question is: should the wine that isn't used from the common cup be put back in the wine bottle for the next service? To my surprise it is. I am having second thoughts about taking the Lord's Supper now. Not wanting to start trouble in the church. Who should I talk to? Thank You.

    Wine in individual cups that were not used in the Holy Communion service can certainly be used in a future service.  That is not the case with wine that remains from usage of the common cup.  The wine that remains in that cup is to be disposed of.  Practices for disposing of wine can vary from one congregation to another.  I would direct you to contact your pastor to seek clarification about your congregation’s practice toward unused elements in the Communion service.
      
    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.

  • If my husband belongs to the LC-MS , and they are also closed communion...Can he take communion at the WELS church also? Thank you.

         Your question suggests that there may be some confusion regarding terminology and its implications.  Close(d) Communion is the official practice of both the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).  Close(d) Communion means that each church body communes only those individuals who are in fellowship with their respective church bodies. 

         Therefore, LCMS congregations are to commune only those individuals who are in their fellowship.  WELS congregations commune only those individuals who are in their fellowship.

         Because LCMS and WELS are not in fellowship with one another, there is no communing at each other’s churches.  While there is similarity in that each synod has a close(d) Communion practice, that likeness does not enable communing across these particular synodical lines. 

         You might want to read more about close(d) Communion practices.  Put “closed Communion” in the search box on the WELS website and you will find numerous articles on the subject. 

         Finally, there is no substitute for face-to-face conversation.  Speak to the pastor of your local WELS congregation.  He will be able to address your specific concerns and questions.

  • Why does WELS not practice open communion including the communion of children?

    There are several reasons. These may be simply stated here, but each point deserves more discussion with attention to specific Bible passages that guide us in applying these principles. So I'll give you a brief list here and now but strongly encourage you and your husband to sit down with your pastor to discuss the issues that surface. The pastor may then expand the Bible points that most need attention and best serve you and your husband as you seek appropriate answers to your questions.

    The practice of close or closed communion refers to our desire to speak with potential communicants prior to their receiving communion with us and to make sure adequate Bible instruction as well as a unity in our beliefs is present prior to communing together. The main reasons why we do this are these:

    • We want to protect souls who might do damage to themselves since the Lord's Supper is for believers who are not only baptized but also instructed and knowledgeable about what they receive in the sacrament and why.
    • We want to protect souls since those who commune are to examine themselves prior to communing, so we want to be sure those who commune with us have been trained how to do this and possess the level of understanding and maturity to make it meaningful.
    • We want to protect souls and show integrity as we publicly confess Bible truths since all who commune together are expressing unity in the Christian faith and in their allegience to the Bible. We want this expression to be genuine and not a sham or hypocritical pretending we have unity if indeed we don't.

    So we want to speak with potential communicants when we are not sure about their preparation to receive the sacrament.

  • The other day after church a non-member asked me why everyone looked so sad and serious after just having their sins washed away through communion. I said that even though my sins are forgiven I realize the cost of that through Christ's death for me is very serious and that I will sin again. What are your thoughts on this?

    What an important question you have asked! I hope many people read this and find greater joy in the sacrament.

    The cost of forgiveness through Christ's death for me does indeed make Holy Communion a serious matter, but not a somber event.

    For various cultural and historic reasons, some Lutherans may focus too much on their guilt or feeling "sorry enough" rather than focusing on the main point: that a loving and gracious God pours his love, forgiveness, and power for Christian living into our lives through this sacrament.

    What is the dominant mood of Holy Communion? I have asked this question in several adult Bible classes. Many participants say "serious" or "repentance," but the dominant mood really is joy—granted, a serious and not giddy joy—but still joy.
     
    The sacrament is pure gospel. That's why joy is the dominant mood.

    We can learn something from our hymns, especially the text of Johann Franck's great communion hymn:

    Soul, adorn yourself with gladness; Leave behind all gloom and sadness.
    Come into the daylight's splendor; There with joy your praises render.

    Now I kneel before you lowly, Filled with joy most deep and holy,
    As with trembling awe and wonder On your mighty work I ponder.
    (Christian Worship, 311:1,4)

  • How can we say that in communion we receive Christ's real body and blood?

    The clear promise that Christ gives to his church is, "Take and eat, this is my body," and "This is my blood" (Matthew 26:26-28). Together with the bread and wine that we receive, Jesus, the Son of God, says he gives us his body and his blood that were given into death and poured out on our behalf.

    The real presence of Christ's body and blood is a special, sacramental presence that is beyond our full understanding. We say this to avoid crass, cannibalistic ideas that have no place here. This eating is real, but it is supernatural. We do not see or taste the body and blood. It cannot be detected by our senses. We do not digest it like ordinary food.

    In summary, we believe that Christ's body and blood are present in the Sacrament and received because of the promise of Christ and because Christ’s body is the body of the Son of God.

    A more thorough study of this is available by reading Articles VII and VIII of the Formula of Concord, which deals with the connected subjects of the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper and the person of Christ, the God-man.

  • Why isn't the Lord's Supper celebrated every Sunday (especially during Lent, Advent, etc.)?" It seems that as a sinner, I need that grace and forgiveness as much as possible.

    Our Lord Jesus, in instituting this sacrament, did not address the issue of how often we should offer or receive it. His words merely indicate it is to be done repeatedly and until he returns again in glory. In short, the frequency is and will remain a matter of Christian freedom and the frequency of offering and receiving the Lord's Supper will remain a decision to be made by the local congregation and the individual child of God in consultation with the pastor. In the Small Catechism Martin Luther emphasized this aspect of the freedom that we have and then said the right way that the frequency is increased is when the people of God ask for it and insist on it from among themselves.

    Your words might indicate unnecessary concern about the forgiveness of sins. You possess this continuously through faith in your Savior Jesus Christ and this faith with full forgiveness is conveyed and strengthened through the Gospel that you read in your home, hear in sermons and Bible readings, and ponder throughout life. So even when you do not receive the Sacrament on a given day or week, for example, your possession and enjoyment of pardon and peace need not be considered diminished. This is by no means said to downplay the value of the Lord's Supper -- which is pure Gospel -- but to avoid allowing the written and spoken Word to be considered lacking whenever the sacrament is absent.

     

  • When I ask God with a sincere and contrite heart to forgive my sins, I know I am forgiven. God's amazing grace and love for me, through Jesus Christ, has made this possible. Why is it still important that I partake of Holy Communion?

    We receive the Lord's Supper for precisely the same reasons that we listen to or read the gospel when the Word of God is made available to us. You are correct when you describe that you have the free and full forgiveness of sins as you confess your sins to God and seek his forgiveness on account of Christ's perfect and completed work for you. Why do you enjoy this magnificent reality? Not because of your asking or being sorry for your sins (although these are certainly a part of your thinking and feeling since the Holy Spirit leads you to express this). Rather, it is because of Christ's work for you, his giving himself, including his body and blood into death in your place—and the Holy Spirit has brought you to trust or rely on Christ as your Savior and substitute. How did you receive and now enjoy this saving faith? Through the gospel. And when you receive the Lord's Supper you are receiving the very same good news about Christ's work for you—along with the body and blood to affirm and intensify the message for your spiritual health. And your saving faith is being nourished.

    The Lord's Supper has been called a "visible gospel" since it comes to us visibly in a way that the spoken or written Word does not. But it's the same gospel, essentially the same message. The Holy Spirit uses the Lord's Supper the same way he uses the Word of God to maintain and strengthen our faith in Christ. No wonder we delight in both Word and sacrament. You are not really receiving anything different, but you are receiving it in a different way—the forgiveness of sins and affirmation of Christ's work for you.

    When asked, "Why the Lord's Supper in addition to the Bible reading or sermons we already receive?" we may reply, "For the same reason we enjoy and want lunch and supper in addition to breakfast." All are designed to nourish and strengthen us. All feed us physically. Word and sacrament feed us spiritually. The more the better!

  • Can I take communion if I live with my fiancé? We are getting married in about a month, and I have not been taking communion.

    Thank you for your thoughtful approach to this important kind of question. Your spiritual well-being is of utmost importance and your desire to receive the Lord's Supper in a fitting way is a good evidence that you need clear answers to your concerns.

    One of the requirements for a proper reception of Communion is that the person is not guilty of willful sin (that is, sinning when you know it is sin but for some reason continue to commit that sin). While we are all sinners, God calls us to express daily sorrow for sin and repentance, which includes reliance on Jesus as our Savior. Living with someone who is not your marriage partner (even a fiancé) is a sin since, as normally defined, it involves sexual immorality and causes others to stumble spiritually when they observe your lifestyle and get the impression this is compatible with Christian lifestyle. This calls for repentance that involves a rejection and turning away from the sin as well as a turning to Christ for pardon and new life.

    In short, as long as you fail to repent of this sin, you are not in a position to receive Communion in a proper and beneficial way. It would be spiritually harmful.  You are to be urged to stop this sinful lifestyle, cast your guilt on Christ by faith, and then see yourself as a perfect candidate for blessings through the sacrament. Don't seek to excuse your living arrangement on the basis of your scheduled marriage in a month or so. And don't deceive yourself into thinking that once you are married you will then express sorrow for what you did and think everything is okay. You and I and all others are called by God to repent daily -- now -- and to reject sin and cling to Christ. And live a new life, starting every day.

    I repeat: I am thankful that you have asked this question and that you still have a desire to take Communion. I believe this indicates that you are wrestling with a guilty conscience and understand within yourself that there is a special need for special assurances of God's love. May you keep first things first, by rejecting sin and expressing repentance with faith. And may the same be true of your fiancé, who is equally guilty of sin and equally called to repent and rely on Jesus Christ.

    I also recommend that you sit down with your pastor to discuss this more fully. He knows you and the situation better than I do and can give you more specific encouragements and counsel.

     

Search the Archive

Begin by entering a topic. Then press "GO".

Search the Q&A archive to find answers from WELS seminary professors. Can't find your question in the archive? Submit your own.