Over time words often change their meaning or usage. The word communion is a good example. Ask the
man-on-the-street, "What is the definition of communion?" and it might be answered with a shrug.
Posing the same question to the average churchgoer the answer would likely be, "It's the church
service when the wafer and grape juice is distributed." If pressed for more, they explain that
it represents the body and blood of Jesus and commemorates His death on the cross.
For the answer to our question, we first look to Scripture and find that the word communion is
not in any of the later translations. It is used only three times in the King James version:
I Cor. 10:16 "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?
The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"
II Cor. 6:14 "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath
righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?"
II Cor. 13:14. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion
of the Holy Ghost be with you all."
Next we pick up a dictionary where we find two definitions:
1. (lower case) possession or sharing in common; participation in; fellowship or rapport
(synonyms are accord, agreement, oneness, unity, affinity)
2. (capitalized) the part of a service in which bread and wine are partaken of as a
commemoration of the last supper of Jesus.
Vine's "Dictionary of NT Words" reveals that communion is from the Greek word koinonia
which means having in common, partnership, sharing; and is most often translated fellowship.
Continuing our word study, we look at the Scripture referenced for a Communion service. It is
found in I Cor. 11:23 - 26, Paul's letter to the Corinthian church:
(Jesus' words in bold)
"....the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks,
He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In
the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant
in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat
this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes."(NAS)
We note that these verses do not contain either the word communion or the word fellowship.
So to further our word study, we must ask another question, "Does the Communion service
convey the full meaning of communion (koinonia)?" Yes!
“This is My body, which is for you" We eat the wafer, symbolic of Christ's body, remembering that He
sacrificed His life for us. By so doing we make a statement of faith much the same as when we are baptized.
“This cup is the new covenant in My blood...." With the juice, symbolic of Christ's shed blood, we affirm
the new covenant. ".....we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses
us from all sin." I John 1:7
".....you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes." When we participate in Communion we proclaim His
death but we also proclaim that He rose from the grave; that He's alive and coming again! Hallelujah!