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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

Communion (1)

In its strict and proper sense signifies holding something in common with another, Acts 2:42 .

2. In a more general sense, it denotes conformity or agreement, 2 Corinthians 6:14 . Ephesians 5:11 .

3. It signifies converse, or friendly intercourse, wherein men contrive or consult together about matters of common concern, Luke 6:11 . Psalms 4:4 .

4. Communion is also used for the Lord's supper, because we herein make a public profession of our conformity to Christ and his laws; and of our agreement with other Christians in the spirit and faith of the Gospel.


The fourth council of Lateran decrees, that every believer shall receive the communion, at least, at Easter; which seems to import a tacit desire that they should do it oftener in the primitive days. Gratian and the master of the sentences, prescribe it as a rule for the laity to communicate three times a year; at Easter, Whitsuntide, and Christmas: but in the thirteenth century the practice prevailed of never approaching the Eucharist at Easter; and the council thought fit to enjoin it then by a law, lest their coldness and remissness should go farther still: and the council of Trent renewed the same injunction, and recommended frequent communion without enforcing it by an express decree. In the ninth century the communion was still received by the laity in both kinds, or rather the species of bread was dipped in the wine, as is owned by the Romanists themselves. M. de Marca observes, that they received it at first in their hands; and believes the communion under one kind alone to have had its rise in the West, under pope Urban II. in 1096, at the time of the conquest of the Holy Land. It was more solemnly enjoined by the council of Constance, in 1414. The twenty-eighth canon of the council of Clermont enjoins the communion to be received under both kinds distinctly; adding, however, two exceptions,

the one of necessity, the other of caution; the first in favour of the sick, and the second of the abstemious, or those who had an aversion for wine. It was formerly a kind of canonical punishment for clerks guilty of any crime to be reduced to lay communion; 1:e. only to receive it as the laity did, viz. under one kind. They had another punishment of the same nature, though under a different name, called foreign communion, to which the canons frequently condemned their bishops and other clerks. This punishment was not any excommunication or deposition, but a kind of suspension from the function of the order, and a degradation from the rank they held in the church. It had its name because the communion was only granted to the criminal on the foot of a foreign clerk; 1:e. being reduced to the lowest of his order, he took his place after all those of his rank, as all clerks, &c. did in the churches to which they did not belong. The second council of Agda orders every clerk that absents himself from the church to be reduced to foreign communion. Church communion is fellowship with any particular church.


It is sometimes applied to different churches united in doctrine and discipline. The three grand communions into which the Christian church is divided is that of the church of Rome, the Greek church, and the Protestant church; but originally all Christians were in communion with each other, having one communion, faith, and discipline. Free Communion, a term made use of in relation to the Lord's supper, by which it is understood that all those who have been baptized, whether in infancy or adult age, may, on profession of their faith, sit down at the Lord's table with others of different denominations. Some of the Baptists object to free or mixed communion, and do not allow of persons who have been baptized in their infancy to join in the celebration of the Lord's supper with them: because they look upon such as not having been baptized at all, and consequently cannot be admitted to the table. Others, however, suppose that this ought to be no objection; and that such who believe themselves to be really baptized (though in infancy, ) are partakers of grace, belong to the true church of Christ, and are truly devoted to God, ought not to be rejected on account of a different opinion about a mere ordinance. Mr. Killingworth and Mr. Booth have written against free communion; John Bunyan, Dr. Foster, Mr. Bulkley, Mr. Wiche, and Mr. Robinson, for it.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Communion (1)'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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Communion (2)