History, Eschatology and Community in the Lord’s Supper

In the entry on the Lord’s Supper in Roger Olson’s A-Z of Evangelical Theology he mentions Stanley Grenz’s attempt to ‘breathe new life into evangelical celebration of the Lord’s Supper.’ Grenz emphasized three elements history, eschatology and community.

For him, the ordinance has three distinct orientations by which it establishes the individual believer’s identity in relation to the community of God’s people. It reenacts the history of salvation that focuses, especially for Christians, on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ; it directs believers’ attention to the future fulfilment of the kingdom of God when Christ returns; it expresses the unity of all believers in the one body of Jesus Christ. In all of this the Lord’s Supper constitutes the church as eschatological community in which Christ is present. It thereby also establishes the individual believer’s identity in Christ through participation in the community that is Christ’s body. For Grenz, then, the Lord’s Supper is not a ‘mere symbol’ but an identity-creating act of commitment in which both believers and the triune God are equally active.

I think this is interesting because in all the various traditions in which I have shared communion, the dominant theme has been ‘memorial’. I can’t think of a time in when my attention was drawn to the promise of Christ’s return, even though Christ himself points our attention there. I can’t recall a time in which the drama of what we were doing as a commitment to one another in being Christ’s body.


Photo by Lawrence OP


I like the explanation of the Supper. I was a Pastor for 25 yrs and while we did stress the “in remembrance” aspect, our focus was on “communion;” participation in the body and blood of Christ (receiving Christ and His grace anew through the elements) and the communion of believers in this grace. We always used matzoh bread – one piece. And as I would explain the significance of the leaven-less bread, I always shared that there was just one bread that we all partook off, which emphasized our unity in the body and life of Christ. And of course, that we partook of this supper only “until”. I stressed throughout that Christ was present with us in the bread and in the cup, and that the Holy Spirit stood ready to apply all the benefits of Christ (His wholeness for our brokenness, forgiveness and life through His blood) to us as we received these elements in faith.

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