The Lord's Supper is a tremendous gift to the body of Christ. Much could be said about the significance of the receiving communion as a church family, but let's consider two specific benefits.
The Lord's Supper unifies the church. At the Lord's Table, we are reminded that we are all sinners. As Scripture teaches, all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). So much of life is lived comparing ourselves to other people. We meet people and almost instinctively begin to evaluate to see if they are like us. Do they make more money than we do? Do they drive a nicer car? In what neighborhood do they live? Do they have a college degree? On and on it goes. It seems it is so easy to evaluate people to see if they are "in our group." The results of doing so leads to division among people.
Here's the reality: we are all so similar. We are all sinners and prone to wander. We are all too often selfish, too easily angered, and too rarely generous. This is because of something we all have in common: sin. When you see any person, regardless of what may make them different from you, the commonality of sin is something that makes us all alike.
The good news, of course, is that as Christians there is something else that unites us: grace. As believers, we hold in common our salvation which was provided by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Many times, even in the church, we tend to segment ourselves into different groups. Sometimes this is done by age, other times by musical preference, education levels, or any number of personal preferences.
The Lord's Supper serves to unify the local body of Christ. We are all sinners who have been miraculously saved by grace. All other differences become inconsequential when we consider the common salvation shared by all who truly know Jesus as Savior and Lord.
A second benefit of the Lord's Supper for the church is the cleansing that comes as a part of considering the sacrifice of our Lord. The cleansing and purification are both personal and corporate. We first need to confess our own sin. It is good to spend time with the Lord and name our sin. To confess means to agree. Simply put, in confession we agree with the Lord that what we have done that is not by His will is indeed sin. And the sin we have committed is our fault. There is something very painful about confessing our sin and yet something very freeing that results from knowing we are forgiven.
The purification also has a corporate aspect. As the local church receives the Lord's Supper, the entire congregation is broken. As Scripture says, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God" (1 Peter 5:6). James adds, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (James 4:8). The result of our humbling and cleansing is the work of the Holy Spirit in the church. The testimony of Scripture is that when we have humbled ourselves before the Lord and we have sought His cleansing we know that the Lord will lift us up. He puts us back together. We are brought low and then we are reestablished...forgiven...invigorated by grace.
When the church gathers around the Lord's Table, remember it is an invitation for the church to unite and purify. It is an opportunity to break down walls that may divide its members as the congregation focuses on what is held in common, namely, salvation by grace in Jesus Christ. It is also an invitation to confess sin and receive forgiveness. It is the call of the Lord to His church to come and be strengthened once again.
Above all else, the Lord's Supper is a call for the church to set their focus directly on Christ. In the end, it is taking our eyes off of Jesus that divides a church. It is failing to keep the Lord in His rightful place that causes a congregation to move into sin. So, the Lord's Supper is a great gift from God to allow us a chance to unite and purify that we may see Christ and then go and tell others of the greatness of our Savior.
One of my favorite songs that helps prepare my heart for the Lord's Table is entitled, "Communion Hymn." I pray as you listen to it that it will drive you to your knees in brokenness over your sin and then bring you to your feet in worship as you remember the forgiveness and healing that is yours because of the cross of Christ.