The idea that God can heal us of all of our sickness and disease is surely biblical. But is mindfully taking the bread in communion with belief that we are transferring our ailments to Christ’s broken body instrumental in our physical health and healing? Is failing to do so the cause of our disease? Joseph Prince makes these claims in his booklet, Health and Wholeness through the Holy Communion.
Physical healing by God was presented throughout the Old Testament:
So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed! Number 21:9
“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases…” Ps. 103:2-3
In the New Testament, we see Jesus and his disciples forgiving sins and healing individuals through a variety of methods such as touch, mud, washing, and commanding words in Jesus’ authority.
But the author’s idea which seems to relate if not restrict health to the communion seems quite new and certainly worth exploring. My wife was loaned a copy of this book from a friend, in hopes of helping to cure some of her health issues. She asked me to read it so we could do these communions together. Of course, I love the idea that doing our own communions at home will renew her health.
Overall, this short booklet of 80 small pages offers a fresh notion of communion, a half dozen inspiring stories or testimonies, but sparse and out of context scriptural support for its premise. Nevertheless, it may still be on to something.
I’m a bit cautious with new ideas so I read this along with the scriptures, especially 1 Corinthians 11, to see if the author’s ideas lines up.
When reading all of 1 Corinthians 11, it seems that Joseph Prince has focused on two lines, verses 29-30 and pulled them from their context:
27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
When we don’t “discern the body of Christ,” which, according to the author is being mindful that He embodied health, wholeness and healing power, we get sick. The author claims that only when are mindful of this that we are “taking it worthily.”
Joseph Prince significantly points out that a key to our health is contained in these passages. He’s also corrects the false notion that “taking it worthily” is partaking only after confessing all our sins, but he seems to be replacing it with a formula-based idea that was probably not what Paul was saying.
The context of 1 Corinthians 11, is that believers are eating and drinking ahead of the poorer believers, so that not everyone shares in the Lord’s Supper (which apparently back then was a real meal in addition to the sacrament of the bread and wine). Paul was scorning them because they were sinning in the practice of the communion by not being mindful of others, thus he warns “examine yourself” and therefore wait for one another.
So, using only the context of this chapter, Paul is not saying we receive correction, sickness or a lack of health from the Lord because we don’t recognize that the bread is Christ’s physical body which is given specifically for our physical healing. He’s emphasizing that we sin and take it unworthily by being selfish and taking the Lord’s supper without regard to what the bread represents, which he seems to be emphasizing self sacrificial love for others, as Christ so modeled.
Now here, I will pause, because there are some additional scriptures I’ll mention in a bit, that supports the idea that “healing is in the atonement,” or the idea that our healing was paid for at the whipping post, just like our sins were paid for at the cross. Also, some of the most successful “faith healers” of the last century, such as John G. Lake, believed in this doctrine as well.
But first, let’s just look at the scriptures. Of course, “discerning the body of Christ,” within the context of communion, means His literal physical body, which was broken and given to us. He broke it and said, “Take, eat;this is My body which is broken for you…1 Cor. 11:23;
But what does “discerning the body of Christ,” really mean, if this is indeed a key to health? Christ’s “body” is compared to food or bread, a food that leads to eternal life. Jesus declared:
51 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.”… 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.
The scriptures suggest there are many rich-layered meanings of his giving his body and the picture of bread. They seem to point to something larger and more eternal than only Christ providing physical healing, though that is included. It may suggest everything about Jesus that we are to “consume” or take into ourselves: His body or flesh, which can be a parable for His Word, His works, His will, and his bride, the church.
First, Jesus is the Word which is bread for the sustenance of our soul:
‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Mat 4:4.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6
51 Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” John 8
This in turn points to his works (and continuing on in doing his works) in his will:
31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”…. 34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.
So it makes sense, that when you are in and doing God’s will, there is excitement and true spiritual “life,” inside of our life, and doors of opportunity open which encourages us on in the spirit. But when we are out of God’s will, our “life” and joy wanes, and we can become sick.
Another interpretation Paul could have been referring to is the whole body of the believers, the church –which was in fact what these particular believers were not recognizing. The idea that the church is the body of Christ shows up a couple times in Paul’s epistles:
22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body…. Eph 1:22
18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. Col 1:18.
Of course, the church body was not “broken” in the same sense as His physical body was at Calvary, and the church is certainly not the focus of the Holy Communion. His Word, works and will and physical body are more related to communion than the body of the church.
But perhaps what “That is why many among you are weak and sick” really suggests, is if we have health issues, a solution is to consume his Word in faith, internalize it, return back into His will and on serving and loving other believers in renewed relationship. After all, He wants our entire heart healed and restored to his love, not just our bodies healed.
There are studies showing a strong link between long life being in tight communities and rich relationships. Are we sharing, in love, our prayers, our love, our resources to feed the hungry, poor and sick, especially within the church? Maybe having regular pot luck get-togethers in our own home or church with other believers and inviting the poor is a key to renewing our health?
But Joseph Prince is probably right about the body of Christ being provided for wholeness and physical healing. While the idea doesn’t necessarily fit the larger context of 1 Cor. 11 or other scriptures informing us what the body and the bread are a picture of, it certainly follows that when we are putting our faith in God, that he was physically stricken instead of us and that physical healing has been provided.
Joseph Prince provides some support for Christ’s body or the bread being given for physical healing in this scripture where Jesus seems to be relating bread to healing alone:
…she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter, But Jesus said to her “let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s BREAD and throw it to the little dogs” Mark 7:26-28: …
Again, although bread or the body can mean physical healing, the scriptures indicate it is not restricted to it, but receiving everything about Jesus. But there’s more:
He has borne our griefs and sorrows… Is 53:4
This above refers to his crucifixion, and this verse was directly interpreted in Mathew:
He himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses Mathew 8:17
So it makes sense that if the cross is the basis for our sins being placed on Him, that it is also the basis for restoring our health. Since healing is a corollary to His taking of our sins, it follows that this two-fold spiritual and physical healing he wants to give us was meant to symbolized in the two step process of communion. It’s just that Joseph Prince didn’t build a very strong case for this in this booklet. Either that, or Jesus didn’t want us to focus on it, just as he didn’t want His miracles to surpass knowledge of who He is. It’s always more about our relationship with Jesus, than a focus on a formula.
There are a half dozen inspiring anecdotal testimonies of people being healed in connection with a Holy Communion. These stories may be more inspiring than the scriptures he uses. On reviewing these stories, and other accounts of healings, it seems clear that the “method” you have faith for, is the one that works.
So my wife and I will be doing our communions in the home for ourselves with our faith fixed on Jesus, and on His actual broken body and his blood given for us. But we also need to be mindful that Jesus and His word are the true food, as is doing His will, including that we need to honor and share what we have with needy believers—the body of Christ. Health issues and fatigue can make us less social—but the scriptures seem to be say that being connected with the Body of Christ in sacrificial love is doing his Word, works and will, and a source of health for our bodies!
May post an update here if we get good results!
May God bless your health!
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