What is the point of Holy Communion?

The point of communion is to give believers comfort that our sins are forgiven and that nothing stands between us and God.  That is the whole point of the message of God’s love to us spelled out in words, the Gospel. But holy communion is even more pointed, more personal.

We all have a little pipsqueak inside of us.  That pipsqueak tries to exempt us from the rules.  I’ve got that little pipsqueak.  That’s why I smoked for years.  I’m not an idiot.  I knew it was bad for me, that it could give me lung cancer or emphysema.  I watched people die from it.  But the little pipsqueak inside of me told me it wasn’t going to happen to me.  That pipsqueak also told me I didn’t need to be wearing a seatbelt as I was turning into the driveway to go to traffic school—right before the garbage truck totaled my car and almost put me through the windshield.

But you’ve got that pipsqueak, too.  It convinces you you can drive faster than the speed limit, you don’t have to be on time for work and you can lose weight without exercising. Now that pipsqueak goes to work on God’s Gospel promises to us.  He takes a passage like “God so loved the world”— except me!  “God was reconciling the world”— except me!  It tries to exclude us from God’s love so we think that while God loves everybody else, he doesn’t love me.  While he has forgiven the world, he hasn’t forgiven me.

That’s why Jesus commanded us to take the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion.  That’s why he made it what it is, his giving us his true body and blood, in with and under that bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins.

“Take eat, take and drink.  This is for the forgiveness of sins for you”— except me, my pipsqueak interrupts.

“Oh, no!” Jesus says.  “If you can see it, touch it, taste it, feel it going down your throat, my forgiveness for you is real.”

Like a persistent father who keeps moving toward us while he is making his point crystal clear, even as we are backing up, trying to get away, Jesus backs us into a corner so we can’t get away.  He intrudes into our space so we can’t ignore him.

He died for me. He took away my sins. He endured the punishment I deserved.

To prove to me that it was for me, in a miraculous way through holy communion he is giving me his very body which hung on the cross.  He is giving me his true blood which he shed on the cross.

I am forgiven by God.  I am loved by God.  I am saved.

And that pipsqueak of a sinful human nature inside of me can’t say otherwise.

The New Testament

The New (3 letters) Testament (9 letters) contains 27 books (3×9) that fall in to 3 general categories:

  • Historical books: Mathew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts of the Apostles.
  • Epistles (Letters): Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians…
  • Prophetic books: Revelation.

The New Testament books were written over a span of approximately 70 years and were written in the Greek language.  Below is John 1:1 in the original:

εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος

(The books that are highlighted and in italics are recommended for reading)

The Historical books focus on the life of Christ and his body – the Church. Three of the Gospels are written from the same vantage point – time.  They are chronicles of the life of Jesus and follow his work and words on earth.  These are the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  The focus of John‘s Gospel is on Jesus’ life too but is more focused on his thoughts and teachings and less on an orderly time line.  All of these gospels contain Jesus’ words and focus on his ministry and message – to save us, to redeem us, to pay for our sins – to forgive us.

The epistles (Greek word meaning “letters”) contain, especially in the letter of Paul to the Christians in Galatia (Galatians), an orderly explanation of the central teachings of Christianity including salvation, by grace, through faith in Jesus;  practical advice for Christians for daily living, and overflowing in gospel encouragement.  To gain more insight into this read the letters to the Romans, Ephesians, and the Philippians.

The prophetic book of Revelation has been misunderstood and misused by many to further personal gain.   Simply put, the book of Revelation, written by the apostle John, was written to reveal these simple truths:

  1. Christians will suffer – there will be persecution.
  2. Jesus has won the fight.  The victory is ours – won and given to us by Jesus on the cross and in his resurrection.
  3. Jesus, at his own time, will finally take us to be with him for eternity.

This book is written by the apostle John in “dream language,” so to speak, and written to Christians who already knew and had a strong foundation in God’s Old Testament and faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

The New Testament’s primary message is so very clear.  Jesus is God and he came in human flesh to suffer and die, that is, to be punished for our sins.  He did this willingly so that we might be at peace with God.  Experience the peace that transcends all understanding as you read the life saving and eternal words of Jesus.

The Old Testament

While all the Old Testament (OT) books were written many centuries prior to Jesus’ birth – they span from about 1,400 B.C. to 430 B.C. – through history, poetry and prophecy, they all point and direct us to Jesus and the salvation that all people have through faith in him.

The Old Testament consists of 39 books (one way to remember this number is that there are 3 letters in the word “old” and 9 in the word “testament”) that fall into one of the following categories:

  • Historical books (The first five books of the OT plus Joshua, 1&2 Kings etc.)
  • Poetical books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs)
  • Prophetical books (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea, Malachi etc.)

They were written in Hebrew.  Below is Genesis 1:1 written in Hebrew:

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָֽרֶץ׃

In the following paragraphs you will see that books of the OT that have been italicized and highlighted.  These are books and/or chapters of books that are recommended for initial reading.

The first five books of the OT (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) are historical books.  They contain the accounts of the creation of all things, the first wedding/marriage, the beginning of sin/destruction and the first promise of a Savior.  They include the history of the Jewish nation; the history of Abraham the father of the Jewish people, their enslavement in Egypt and their flight to freedom.  They also include the God given laws that were to govern them.  Quite a lot of stuff!

The books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth and 1&2 Samuel take you with the Jewish people into the Promised Land.  You witness their struggles with their external enemies and their internal enemy – sin.  You witness them fall, God’s grace in sending prophets to witness to them concerning God’s will, God’s forgiveness, and you see them repent and blessed by God.

From 1&2 Samuel to 1&2 Chronicles you have the history of the Kingdom of Israel and later the history of the divided kingdom – Israel to the North and Judah to the South.

The poetical books are dispersed throughout the Old Testament.  The most famous of them is the book of songs – Psalms.  The book of Psalms contains psalms/songs that fall into many different categories.   Some of them are listed below:

  1. Penitential Psalms – Psalms 32 and 51.
  2. Messianic Psalms – Psalms 22.
  3. Prayers – Psalms 80 and 90.
  4. Praise Psalms – Psalms 100 and 117.
  5. Thanksgiving Psalms – Psalm 118.
  6. Word of God Psalms – Psalm 119 (longest chapter in the Bible).

The book of Proverbs is just that – a book full of proverbs – wise sayings describing and sharing wisdom.  The book of Ecclesiastes is also a book on wisdom, the focus of which is the meaninglessness of life without God.

The prophetical books are divided into Major Prophets (major reads too!) like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Minor Prophets like Hosea and Amos.  Throughout these prophetical books you will find two clear teachings: sin and repentance (the promise of a Savior).  Rejoice as you read Isaiah 53.  Enjoy reading the history of the world, the history of salvation.

What is the Bible?

You have probably heard Christians talk about “the Bible” or use expressions like “Word of God” or “Holy Bible” or “Scriptures” when referring to a rather large printed book that they carry around and quote a lot. The question is, “What is it? Who wrote it? Where did it come from? What does it contain?”

The way that we answer questions about the Bible is not to offer up opinions. No. We are going to let the Bible speak for itself.

The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word for “book.” The Bible is the book of God – God’s Book.   It describes itself as the “word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). It is exactly that – not words of people – but the Word of God. How? Well, the Word of God says God “breathed” the words, the actual words, into the writers who then wrote them down (read 2 Peter 1:21 and 2 Timothy 3:10-17). God used the grammar of the writer, the vocabulary of the writer and the experiences of the writer in crafting his Word. It is therefore the Holy Scriptures, the words whose source and authorship is divine – God.

Because the Scriptures are of divine authorship and origin we do not mess with them! God warns against this in Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18-19.

So, what is the Word of God? Just that – God’s Holy Scriptures. They are divine. They are from an eternal divine source – God – and therefore without error or contradiction despite what we might think or have been told.

Finally, though, what is the Bible about? What does it contain? Well – it is about God. So, the question to ask is, “What is God about?”  Well, to begin with – the Law. Read Matthew 19:17ff. What God demands is simply this – follow his law – PERFECTLY – and you will live. That is easy isn’t it? You have got to be kidding! No way! We have this problem, this endemic disease called sin that causes us to be selfish, proud, arrogant, unloving etc.

Well, what kind of a God do the Christians worship anyway who expects the impossible?! That is nuts. Okay…hold on…we haven’t let God finish yet.

God continues by saying that he sent his Son, Jesus, to suffer eternally to pay for all those times we DON’T keep God’s law perfectly. Read Ephesians 2:14ff. Only God can suffer eternally in our place – and Jesus did just that on the cross. Our sins have been paid for. The law that we mess up – it holds no power over us. Jesus kept the law perfectly for us, giving us credit for perfection in exchange for our sins. This is Good News. God calls this the gospel.

And that is what God’s Word – his unchanging divine Word is about – LAW and GOSPEL. Read the Bible and let God speak to you. It truly is a divine experience.

When Will Jesus’ 1000 Year Reign Begin?

A teacher at a Christian college tells a story about his switching from another Christian denomination to the Lutheran church.  He had been teaching his class about baptism, and he realized that what his church taught was not the same as what the Bible taught.

So he studied up on everything the Bible had to say about baptism, then researched what all of the Christian churches had to say on the matter.  He thought that Lutherans sounded the most biblical, so he found a Lutheran church and began to study what it taught.

At the end of his studies, he was convinced that the particular Lutheran church he found taught everything correctly from the Bible except for one thing:  they did not teach the millennium, that is, Jesus reigning for a thousand years on the earth before the end of the world.

The teacher thought that all good conservative, biblical Christians believed in the millennium.

The Lutheran pastor challenged the teacher to find a single Bible passage in which Jesus sets up a thousand year reign on the earth.  The teacher tells of his amazement as he searched the Scriptures and realized that the millennium as he thought of it was nowhere in the Bible.

There are two passages in the Bible that speak of a thousand years.  One is 2 Peter 3:8.  It is not talking about a millennium.  The other is Revelation 20:1-7.  There, in vivid picture language, the author describes only two things happening during a thousand-year period:

•    Satan is hindered
•    Believers reign with Christ

These two things are happening right now!  Satan is hindered by the preaching of the gospel (1 John 3:8).  Believers are reigning with Christ (John 5:24).  These two things began to happen just after Jesus rose from the dead.  These two things will continue happening until Jesus comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

From the very beginning of the book, Revelation describes itself as the kind of literature in which the numbers are to be interpreted, not taken at face value.  A thousand years is simply a long and complete period of time, the time in which people who come to faith in Jesus as their Savior are counted as kings (1 Peter 2:9).

Limiting Jesus’ reign to a thousand years is a serious mistake.  How long does he actually reign?  If you’ve ever heard Handel’s “Messiah,” you know the answer.  “And he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15)!

Do Christians Have to Tithe?

In your question you use the words “have to.” These are words that express a forced motivation, an obligation. When a Christian gives any amount to the work of the church, it is done out of a sense of thankfulness and appreciation to God for all that he has done for us. A Christian gives to support the ministry of the church because he wants to, feels privileged to do so, not because he “has to.”

In the Old Testament Scriptures God gave his people different types of laws. One type of law was called “ceremonial”, which governed their worship life. These ceremonial laws were meant to keep Israel as a tight knit nation, until the Savior Jesus Christ came. Some of these ceremonial laws specified the outfits the priests would wear, the sacrifices, foods they would eat, the tithe, festivals and Sabbath days. When Jesus came and completed his ministry, these ceremonial laws were no longer necessary. Many of them were a like a shadow, prefiguring to the work Jesus Christ would accomplish.

As we look at the tithe, we see that it had a threefold purpose : 1) to support the Levites, 2) to support the Feasts, and 3) to support the less fortunate . . . all to remind God’s people of his presence and faithfulness.

In the New Testament Scriptures there is no mention of mandatory tithing as a principle for determining how much to give. The New Testament nowhere encourages the use of the tithe but does criticize those who use it self-righteously (Lk. 18:12). Although a Christian is free to use the tithe as a guide for himself, ten percent for some Christians may be giving well “beyond their power” while for others it represents far less than is possible according to the prosperity the Lord gives.

I believe that as we study both Scripture and history, it is clear that the tithe was a 10% “ruler” (and “price tag”) that was used in the past by God’s people to show gratitude and thanksgiving to their God, as well as being a means to support a program through which God and his ways were made more visible. Today, as Christians, we do not have to tithe. Rather, our Lord wants us to give a generous percentage of our income to his Kingdom work. We do this willingly, regularly and cheerfully.

Why does the God of the Old Testament seem so wrathful?

For many people it is difficult to achieve that perennial resolution of reading through this book called the Bible.  The reader starts at the beginning and gets through Genesis, perhaps into Exodus and part of Leviticus.  But wow!  And whoa!  Look what’s there!  Only eight survived while the flood surged and scourged all life from the face of the globe.  The first born of Egypt were executed, no matter if the family was royal and  rich or peasant and poor.  No blood on the doorpost meant no heir in the home.  With the exception of a prostitute and her family, Jericho was exterminated down to the last human and animal.  A man was stoned to death for gathering wood on the Sabbath. Fire from the LORD consumed two sons of the High Priest who did not do worship as God had prescribed.

Reading through the Old Testament is not for the faint of heart.  The Lord God of the Scriptures says this about himself.  “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”  (Deuteronomy 4:24)  Who can warm up to such a God?  Who can love a God described by the psalmist with the words, “you hate all who do wrong”  (Ps. 5:5)?  Maybe I don’t want to wade through this whole book.

So sometimes people jump to the New Testament and start to read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  They seem so different.  Jesus hugged the children and blessed the babies.  Jesus filled stomachs with food and filled boats with fish.  Jesus raised a dead man to his feet.  Jesus ate with the outcasts, forgiving the scandalous of society.  Jesus rescued an adulteress from stoning and befriended a despised tax collector.  Everyone knows that Jesus proclaimed, “Love your enemies.”

If the God of the Bible is one Lord God, why does there seem to be such a difference in the way the two testaments depict him?    Remember that in Old Testament times God intervened on behalf of one nation, a nation graciously chosen to be used by the Lord as a vehicle of his word and promises.  That nation was Israel, a nation set apart and guarded by God so that the Lord could keep his promise of sending his anointed one, the Christ.  So God did act zealously to defeat Israel’s enemies, because those enemies endangered God’s plan of salvation. We do see specific commands from God to use the swords of his Old Testament people as swords of judgment against unbelievers who stood in the way of the Lord’s plan.   But, with the birth of the Savior Jesus and the completion of God’s salvation plan, God no longer needed the nation of Israel to play its special role.

More importantly, careful Bible readers will notice no difference in the character of the Lord God.  Both testaments describe God as a God who condemns and a God who forgives. Both testaments describe a God of wrath and a God of love. For example, the God of the Old Testament is the God who lovingly provided water and manna and quail to a nation that did not deserve it.  God’s grace was constant in the face of human unfaithfulness.  Conversely, the God of the New Testament is also the same Lord who said, “whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

All of Scripture proclaims this Lord God who is constant and does not change.  God revealed himself as a holy and just God who punishes all sin.  He also reveals himself as a loving God who sent a Substitute to take that punishment in our place.  In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, chapter 53, we read:   “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. … The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”   And in a New Testament book we read:   “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.   God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:19,21)

The message throughout the Bible is a message of law and gospel.  The law shows us our sin.  The gospel is good news that shows us our Savior from sin, Jesus the Messiah.  So we rejoice in the unchanging message:  “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Romans 6:23).

How do I achieve enlightenment?

It’s a familiar story line: the wandering soul climbing to the top of a mountain in search of a bearded guru. The searcher has traveled the world seeking enlightenment and is just about to meet the wise old man with the flowing white beard, sitting serenely on the mountain peak. The long expensive trip has been worth it because, it is said, the wizened teacher knows the meaning of life. What will he say?

Have you been searching, too?  Maybe you haven’t climbed to the top of a mountain, but who of us hasn’t wondered about the meaning of life?  “Is that all there is?” the plaintive song asks.

Who of us hasn’t longed for enlightenment?

Over 1500 years ago, there was a great Christian theologian by the name of Augustine of Hippo (a city in N. Africa). He was a Bishop — a kind of “guru” for people who sought enlightenment, as in fact he himself had done earlier in his life. He summed up such human longing in a prayer to God: “Lord, you have created us for yourself, and our hearts will never be at rest until they rest in you.”

Augustine did not consider himself to have all the answers. In fact, he told searchers: “You may be looking for the right thing, but aren’t you looking in the wrong place?”

He did, however, know the right place to look for enlightenment from God. He went to the Bible.

The late Johnny Hart wrote a popular and provocative cartoon strip called “B.C.”  In one scene a searcher climbs a mountain to visit a bearded guru at the summit. He asks, “Tell me, O great guru, what does the future hold?”

The old man answers: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.”

Shocked and appalled, the seeker asks, “How do you know such things?”

The guru held up a Bible and answered, “No one escapes the Gideons.” (You know, those people who place Bibles in hotel rooms.)

His point: instead of looking to a guru on a mountaintop, you can go to the Bible and find life’s answers. There you can find enlightenment.

Perhaps you are climbing a mountain—a mountain of information on the internet to see if there may be some truth to be found in the gazillion terabytes of information floating around out here in cyberspace?

Somehow, your climb has brought you to our site, “What About Jesus?” And as St. Augustine would do, we direct you to the best place to find real enlightenment: to the Bible, God’s Word.

Here you will find Jesus, who also climbed a mountain. He climbed the mountain called “Calvary” where he offered his life as the atoning sacrifice for everyone in the world, including you and me.

Here is where your true enlightenment will begin—at the Lord’s cross of salvation. As you read and learn more, your knowledge will grow and you will find comfort and peace. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then you are indeed my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Is not this wonderful enlightenment?

Of course, you will have many more questions as you search the Scriptures (i.e. the Bible). Please contact us to receive a free Bible in your language, plus we can provide you with many other Bible study helps to lead you on the path of enlightenment. Also, throughout these web pages, we are glad and privileged to help you find the truth.

Our prayer for you is taken right from the Bible, a prayer written by St. Paul, another great teacher (“guru”) who pointed seekers to Jesus:

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance…”  (Ephesians 1:17-18).

Does forgiveness mean there are no consequences?

First of all, I think we need to have a definition of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is when you give up your right to punish someone for what they have done to you.  You cancel the debt that they have with you. Forgiveness does not mean that what the person did to you is okay, nor does it mean you excuse them for their actions.  You are simply filing a quit claim on the law suit and turning them over to God.  Our motivation to forgive comes from a God who has forgiven us again and again for the wrongs we have done toward him.   His Son, Jesus, paid our debt on the cross.

However, just because you forgive somebody, or somebody forgives you, does not mean that there won’t be any consequences.  Back when the world was first created by God, and our first parents disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, there were consequences for their actions. For all of us, one of those consequences was death.  We would no longer live forever on this earth.  In addition, the ground was cursed.  That meant that weeds, thorns, and thistles would infest the ground, and that there would be natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes.  Even though God gave a promise that His Son would one day come and die on the cross and provide us with forgiveness of our sins, those hurtful consequences would remain.

So today, if you were abused as a child by your father, you will strive to forgive him for what he has done to you.  However, you probably will never be able to live with your father or care to live with him again.  Family members may spurn him.  Another example may take place in marriage where one partner is unfaithful to another.  The wronged spouse will strive to forgive the adulterer.  But there will be lingering consequences, such as a lack of trust and respect for the unfaithful spouse.  In addition, a divorce may be part of the equation.

For every sin we commit, there is a consequence.  Fortunately, we have a gracious God who does not set a number on the times he will forgive us. Instead he offers us free and full forgiveness for every wrong we commit.  May we have that same spirit toward those who hurt us again and again. St. Paul sums up this truth succinctly when he says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Is faith blind to reality?

Imagine two young children at the corner of a busy intersection.  Cars fly by.  Large trucks approach and roar through.  The children need to get to the other side of the street.

One child has his father by his side.  He places his hand in the hand of his father, and he trusts that the parent will get him across the dangerous intersection safely.

The other child is alone.  He believes, or trusts, that he’ll be able to run to the other side of the street before that big, white semi gets to the intersection.

Both children are trusting.  The first is trusting his father.  The second is trusting himself.  Yet both, one might say, have “faith.”

All “faith” is not equal.  What matters most is the object of one’s faith.  Is it smart for a little child to trust himself to cross a street safely?  Adults know that this is not a good idea.  Children do best when they trust a responsible, loving parent.

In this important sense, then, faith should not be blind at all.  It is a child whose eyes are wide open who knows that he can’t get across the street by himself.  It is a child whose eyes are wide open who recognizes reality—that Dad can be trusted—and joyfully places all confidence in that person.  Faith is not blind.  Faith is confidence that depends on being able to see clearly.

Some might say, though, that when it comes to God, faith must be blind.  Who today has ever seen God?

It is true that I cannot see God with my two eyes.  But just because human eyes cannot see something does not mean that this “something” is not real.  Every human being, without ever being taught, has an inborn awareness that there must be a God.  Look around at the many, many world religions to be reminded that humans naturally conclude there is a divine being, something real which we cannot see.

There is something else we know just naturally.  Humans are born with some awareness of “right” and “wrong.”  We have an inborn fear of dying that is connected to that knowledge of right and wrong.  We do not want to meet the one who might punish us for doing wrong, that divine judge we can’t see but know is real.

So, something can be real even though we cannot see it.

When the true God blesses an individual with the gift of true faith, there is something else real that one can suddenly see and know: God came to earth in the person of Jesus and suffered eternal punishment for the wrongs of the whole world.  In Jesus I have forgiveness.  In Jesus the judge will give me eternal life.

Can my two eyes see this?  Not now.  But faith can see.

Is such a faith blind to reality?  Such faith is placing confidence in the only One who can be completely trusted, the Father who can get us safely across the street of life to a happy “other side.”  Faith is not blind to reality.  Faith alone can see.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1