Does communion forgive my sins?

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When the apostle Paul taught the gospel of Christ, he referred to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as “first of all” (1 Corinthians 15:3) or “first importance” (NASB). Who’s going to argue with that? Without the death and resurrection of Jesus, no one has any hope. The Lord Himself gave us the bread and the cup to take in remembrance of Him and His willingness to be nailed to the cross, shedding His blood.

And so when the Christian approaches the Lord’s Supper, he or she should do so with profound reverence, as discussed in previous studies. The question is, while doing so, does His blood cleanse me again? Do I get to start every week with a fresh slate because I partake of communion? After all, He took the cup and said, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:27–28). In the next verse, He refers to the content of the cup as fruit of the vine, so of course the disciples weren’t drinking His real blood. Still, the ceremony is as real as can be.

Most people admit feeling closer to God than ever during communion. They feel refreshed, and perhaps forgiven all over again after partaking. Do those feelings reflect reality? Does the practice of eating the bread and drinking the cup forgive the participant? No, and we will explore this answer from two perspectives.

In Acts 8, a man named Simon hears the gospel and is baptized. Then, some time later, he falls into sin again. And it wasn’t a casual slip-up.

But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” 

Acts 8:20–23

That’s a stinging rebuke. Simon was on his way to perishing. His heart was not right. He was wicked. He needed forgiveness. And he was poisoned and enslaved by sin. He was someone who had believed on Jesus and had been baptized, but Satan trapped him again with his lust for power.

The good news is he came back to the Lord, even asking his brothers to pray for him. But what if he was unwilling to repent? This is what the Bible calls “walking in darkness.” What if Simon insisted he was justified (when the Holy Spirit had already revealed he was not) and he kept trying to live as a Christian without truly repenting? Do you think partaking of the Lord’s Supper would have forgiven his unrepentant heart? Of course not!

We must never treat the Lord’s Supper as some “magical meal” that can heal us. It’s only Jesus who can do that. It’s similar to baptism in that the Bible says baptism saves us in 1 Peter 3:21. But it’s not the simple act of getting dunked in water that does it. If so, then a soul is saved every time someone does a cannonball into a pool. One must come to baptism with a faithful, penitent heart, appealing to God for a good conscience. The Bible says baptism saves the person “through the resurrection of Jesus.” Is it vital we obey the Lord in baptism? Absolutely. Is it the water that saves? Certainly not. It’s Jesus’ death and resurrection. Is it vital we participate in the Lord’s Supper? Absolutely. Does simply eating and drinking forgive our sins? No, which leads us to our second perspective.

The first perspective is someone who is walking in darkness. Simply partaking of the elements does not forgive them.

Secondly, the person who is walking in the light doesn’t need forgiveness when they approach the Lord’s Supper.

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:5–7

Notice verse 7 in the King James Version:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

The word “cleanses” or “cleanseth” indicates continual action. The saint who is walking with Jesus will still occasionally mess up. But that person will keep walking with Jesus, or, as this passage says, they will “walk in the light.” And if you are constantly living in Jesus, the Holy Spirit says you have Jesus’ continual forgiveness. John goes on to say in verse 9 that confession is part of this. And here’s the point: When the child of God comes to the Lord’s Supper to commune with Jesus in His kingdom, the Lord’s Supper doesn’t forgive them. Why? The blood of Jesus is already doing that. There is no need for another forgiveness. I hope that fact warms your heart and compels your soul to worship. And I also hope it helps you approach the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner.

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