Communion (κοινωνία, a sharing), in ordinary terms, an association or agreement when several persons join and partake together of one thing; hence its application to the celebration of the Lord's Supper as an act of fellowship among Christians (1Co 10:16); and it is to this act of participation or fellowship that the word "communion," in the religious sense, is now chiefly applied in the English language. In 2Co 6:14, it takes the derived sense of concord. The "communion of the Holy Ghost" (2Co 13:14) signifies that spiritual intercourse with the divine Spirit which the child of God maintains by faith and prayer. The Greek term has also a secondary meaning of bestowal in charity, in other passages, where it is rendered "contribution," "distribution," or "communication" [which see]. The word is elsewhere translated simply "fellowship" (q.v.). For a large number of treatises on this subject, see Volbeding, Index Dissertationum, p. 147 sq.
(1.) Communion (κοινωνία) therefore "properly means the sharing something in common with another. Hence, in the Christian sense, it signifies the sharing divine converse or intercourse (1Jo 1:3); and as this takes place, sacramentally, in the Lord's Supper, the word, in a third stage, signifies a joint participation in a spiritual sense of the body and blood of Christ, i.e. of his Spirit (Joh 6:63) in that sacrament (1Co 10:16). Some explain the κοινωνία in the Lord's Supper to be a communication of the 'body and blood of Christ,' as though these were given by the Church to the receiver, but the above account of the order in which the senses of the word have grown out of one another shows that such an interpretation is untenable. The Church has not, nor pretends to give, anything as from herself in that ordinance, but Christians come together to hold 'communion' with each other, and with their (once- sacrificed) Lord, of the benefits of whose death, sacramentally exhibited, they are in a special, though only spiritual, manner then partakers. 'Communion' (κοινωνία) is that which is sought and spiritually partaken of by the receiver, not that which is actually conveyed by any person as the giver. Of the several names by which the Supper of the Lord has been at different times distinguished, that of the 'Holy Communion' is the one which the Church of England has adopted for her members. The Rubrics, Articles, and Canons almost invariably employ this designation." SEE EUCHARIST; SEE LORDS SUPPER.
(2.) In a historical sense, communion denotes participation in the mysteries of the Christian religion, and, of course, Church fellowship, with all its rights and privileges. Hence the term "excommunication." In this sense the word is used also with reference to the admission of persons to the Lord's Supper. This is said to be open when all are admitted who apply; to be strict when confined to the members of a single society, or at least to members of the same denomination; and it is mixed when persons are admitted from societies of different denominations, on the profession of their faith and evidence of their piety, as is the case in Protestant churches generally. The principal difficulty on this point arises between the strict Baptists and Paedo-baptists.