The three witnesses

Blood and communion

For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

1 John 5:7-8

I was 16 years old, and I had just wrenched myself firmly out of my old life and into a new one as a believer. I had marched into the parish office in my small hometown and stated that I wanted to speak with a priest. I did not come from a particular Christian background, as my parents had not been in any way active participants in the local church. Nevertheless, I had since a small child felt God calling me to come to Him, and now at 16 I suddenly became super active, such that my whole life revolved around different spiritual meetings and events. In the small city where I lived, there were a number of different churches of different sizes belonging to different movements and denominations. That time was characterised by strong, inflexible opinions, so the Pentecostals and Lutherans and all other denominations were rather critical of each other. Being so new to all of this, I was rather baffled and wondered how I should relate to all these theological differences between different groups. Who was right and who was wrong? I took things very seriously – I remember that I would spend around two hours a day just praying. I was also just 16, still in the midst of my teenage years, and my emotions swung to and fro so much that I could feel overjoyed in the morning and yet very anxious by the evening. The most important part of my life was my faith, so I was determined to understand these things.

Then the situation escalated one day when I went one evening to a small Methodist Church. I was then in my first year of college. At the end of the evening, the speaker, an old man with a big voice, called those who wanted to receive prayer to come to the altar at the front. At that time, I almost always had something I wanted prayer for, so I was the last one to join the queue. It was already late and the preacher looks tired. When it was my turn, he asked what I wanted prayer for, and I probably began unloading all the instability and uncertainty of my emotional life. He didn’t like my blabbering, and so asked in quite a severe tone what day and what time I had received salvation, and asked it loud enough that probably everyone in the church could hear. He believed that if I was not able to give a precise date and time when I had received salvation, then I could not be a believer. I completely froze up, unable to say anything in response. He probably prayed something for me and then I returned to my seat. I think I then talked with a friend and then headed home. I was really sad and distressed. If I was lacking some particular experience, did that mean that I wasn’t saved? The whole thing also seemed unfair. If that was the only way to become a Christian, I thought, then now I don’t have any opportunity to obtain that kind of experience. Do I need to hear some audible voice saying ‘welcome home’ or have some powerful experience? I had already read quite a lot of the Bible, and I didn’t think I had found there the kind of model that man had presented. Nevertheless, I felt really shaken, as you can probably understand if you imagine an authority figure declaring something like this to you in a loud voice in front of a whole church.

That all took place on a Friday evening. When I came home, I decided that I need to sort this matter out with God. I would often pray a lot, so I decided that I would pray for the whole night, asking God for an answer. I prayed and I read the Bible. At some points, I just cried out to God within my heart. Then I returned to searching through the Bible again. It was a very intense and emotional night. A large part of my identity, my self-image, was at stake. Who was I in relation to God, and what was this based on? Around six o’clock in the morning, I felt that God began to speak to me. I felt that he wanted to say to me that my identity and my faith must be built on the rock of His Word. If I build my identity on some particular experience, then this can be questioned and doubted in some way. If, however, I base my identity on the promise of God, then I am on a firm foundation. And that night, this truth took shape for me in communion and the promises related to it. I felt that God presented to me the following verses from the Bible:

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

Luke 22:19-20

Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

John 6:47-5

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

1 Cor 10:16-17

From these Bible verses, I received certainty that I can be connected to Jesus and my Heavenly Father simply by participating in communion, as the verses from the gospel of Luke clearly state. In communion, Jesus joins me to Himself and makes me part of His family.

The verses from the gospel of John, meanwhile, answered my question about whether I could somehow slip out of this connection with Jesus. It was very reassuring to read those words that ‘whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them’, as well as the words before and after these. My heart was comforted by the thought that the eternal God loves me so much that He holds on tightly to me and doesn’t let me slip away. It is as if you would be crossing the bridge over a ravine and you would know that there are strong barriers on both sides of the walkway.

The verses from the letter to the Corinthians confirmed and strengthened the truths from the other verses, and also added the dimension of community. By participating in communion, we Christians become the Body of Christ, with Jesus as the Head. This means that we are connected horizontally and also vertically, and this truly obliges us to love and to respect each other.

By nine o’clock on Saturday morning, I had gone through this whole process and come out the other side.  Then I realised that one church would be offering communion at ten o’clock. I rushed to that church and ran forward to be the first at the communion table, ready to make this covenant with Jesus. And I was happy, I was full of joy.

Many years have passed since that night, but I still remember everything so vividly, because it was a night when something truly significant happened, something which would fundamentally shape my life from then onwards. And something which I have never since let go of.

Have a blessed day

Frank Hill