Speaking Sound Doctrine


Divine Worship

VI.               The Lord's Supper

A.           Authority for the Lord's Supper

1.       Scriptural observations

Another special worship service activity ordained for the church is the partaking of the Lord's Supper.  Note what the scriptures reveal about this observance:

Matthew 26:26-29  And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." 27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."

Mark 14:22-25  And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." 23 Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, "This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. 25 Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."

Luke 22:15-20  Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." 17 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." 19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you."

Act 2:42  And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Act 20:7  Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17  The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.

1 Corinthians 11:20-34  Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?  Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?  What shall I say to you?  Shall I praise you in this?  I do not praise you. 23 I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood.  This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. 33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment.  And the rest I will set in order when I come.

2.       Nomenclature

The Holy Spirit uses three different designations in scripture for this act of worship:

The breaking of bread (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16),

Communion  (1 Corinthians 10:16),

The Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20).

Though all three are appropriate and scriptural, the most descriptive term is "the Lord's Supper," which is perhaps the reason it is most commonly used in reference to our worship service.  We will have much more discussion on bread breaking later in our study.

3.       Established by examples

A study of Bible authority reveals that if a generic command is recorded, we are not restricted only to the examples of its modes of execution recorded in scripture.  However, if only examples appear in scripture without the recorded command, our limits are defined by the specificity of the examples.  When this principle is applied to the Lord's Supper, notice that there is nowhere in scripture a recorded generic command for us to eat the Lord's Supper; we only have recorded examples, and combined, these define our limitations.

The passages presented above indicate the full revelation in scripture in canonical order regarding the Lord's Supper specifically.  The contexts are lost in this listing; so discussion and further explanations are presented in sections that follow.

B.           Passover Association

1.       Passover details

Advanced preparations were required for the Hebrew Passover observance.  First, the meeting place had to be determined (Exodus 12:3, 4).  On the tenth day of their new year, the lamb had to be selected and kept (Exodus 12:5, 6).

By the fourteenth day, all leaven had to have been removed from the house (Exodus 12:15).  On this day, the Passover lamb was to be slain at twilight and fire-roasted.  Its blood was to be sprinkled on the doorposts and lintel of the house.  It was to be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Exodus 12:6-9).  They were to eat it in haste with staff in-hand and their belt and sandals on (Exodus 12:11).  They were to leave nothing for the next day but burn what remained with fire (Exodus 12:10).

The Passover also marked the beginning of the seven-day Feast Of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:15-20, 39; 23:15; 34:18).  The people took the unleavened bread with them into the wilderness in the exodus.  Anyone defiling themselves with leaven until the twenty-first day was excluded from among them.

Over the years since its establishment, the nation of Israel continues to observe the Passover (Deuteronomy 16), though sometimes after neglect and re-dedication (2 Kings 23), and it endures through the time of Christ (Matthew 26:17-19).

2.       Passover comparisons

The fact that Jesus chooses the time of the Passover to inaugurate the Lord's Supper is obviously not a matter of coincidence (Matthew 26:2).  The similarities surrounding the Jewish Passover and the Lord's Supper are remarkable.

a.    Deliverance

The Passover is instituted as God is about to deliver the nation of Israel from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 12:26, 27).

Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper as He is about to deliver us from the bondage of sin (1 Corinthians 11:24, 25; Galatians 1:3, 4; Colossians 1:13, 14).

b.    A blood sacrifice

A lamb without defect had to be slain for the Passover (Exodus 12:3-6).

The death of the spotless Lamb Of God is necessary for God to look past our sin (John 1:36; 1 Peter 1:18, 19)

c.     Preparedness

The Passover is not casually eaten but with attire ready for the anticipated travel (Exodus 12:11).

The Lord’s Supper is eaten worthily with self-examination whether we are girded with truth and our feet are shod with preparation (1 Corinthians 11:27-32; Ephesians 6:14, 15).

d.    Mercy

The Destroyer spares those who have the Passover lamb's blood as a token on their doorposts (Exodus 12:7, 13, 23).

The Lord saves those to who are purified in the blood of the Lamb of God (1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:2; Revelation 1:5).

e.    A memorial

The Passover becomes an annual memorial observance (Exodus 12:14, 17; 13:10).

The Lord's Supper becomes a regular weekly observance (Matthew 26:29; Acts 2:42; 20:7).

f.     A proclamation

The Passover is explained to the later generations in Israel so they might understand the deliverance of Jehovah (Exodus 12:24-27).

The Lord's Supper is a continual declaration of the death of our Lord (1 Corinthians 11:26).

3.       Passover symbolism

Jesus makes clear that the Passover typifies the Lord's Supper.

Luke 22:15, 16  With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

Matthew 26:29  But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.

He is not talking about eating in the church the literal Jewish Passover.  This was a rite of the old dispensation, which is put away by the new (Colossians 2:14-17).  Instead, He is talking about a new kind of spiritual Passover: the Lord's Supper.  The Passover and the Lord's Supper both symbolize the sacrifice of Christ.  The Passover looks forward to it; the Lord's Supper looks back to it.

C.           The Elements Of The Lord's Supper

The "bitter herbs" identified in the Passover are conspicuously generic.  E. W. G. Masterman reports that "these were probably merely salads, the simplest and quickest prepared form of vegetable accompaniment to the roasted lamb.  Such salads have always been favorites in the Orient.  Cucumbers, lettuce, water-cress, parsley, and endive are some of those commonly used" (ISBE).  This might also be a symbolic reminder of their bitter life in hard bondage (Exodus 1:14).

At the final Passover of our Lord, there are several other items on the table not mentioned in Old Testament scripture.  The first is a sop dish, evidently containing a broth from the lamb for dipping a morsel of the wafer-like bread used as a spoon (Matthew 26:23; Mark 14:20; John 13:26).  There are also cups containing fruit of the vine – evidently the mealtime beverage (Luke 22:17, 18).

In this setting, Jesus takes just two of these Passover elements and ordains them with special spiritual connotations.  Notably, none of the other elements of the Passover meal are appointed as elements of the Lord's Supper – only the bread and the fruit of the vine (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).  Further observations on this will follow in later sections of our study.

1.       Bread

a.    Unleavened

We are forced to conclude that Jesus uses unleavened bread as necessarily inferred by the fact that the unleavened is required by Jewish Passover law, which He certainly would not have violated (Matthew 26:17).  However, is this lack of leavening a binding example for us today?

For an answer, let us begin by examining terminology in scripture.  The common original word in the New Testament for "bread" is ARTOS {ar'-tos}, which means bread of any kind: leavened or unleavened.  In the New Testament, it is used of the showbread in the tabernacle (Hebrews 9:2).  A description of this bread is given in Leviticus 24:5-8, and no leaven is used in its making.  Moreover, though the bread Jesus uses when instituting the Lord's Supper is evidently unleavened, He calls it ARTOS (Matthew 26:26).  All things considered, ARTOS is a perfectly acceptable word to use for unleavened bread.

The word translated "unleavened bread" is the adjective AZUMOS {ad'-zoo-mos}.  Thayer defines this simply as "unfermented, free from leaven or yeast" and goes on to say it is used of bread.  This word appears in 1 Corinthians 5:7 without connection to literal bread, where it is simply translated "unleavened."  In fact, in the case of the Feast Of Unleavened Bread (Luke 22:1), a literal rendering, "Feast Of The Unleavened," would actually be more accurate.  It was not just the bread that was to be unleavened, but all leaven was to be removed from their houses.

Consider again the Passover symbolism regarding leaven and Christ, as Paul explains to the Corinthian church:

1 Corinthians 5:6-8  Your glorying is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.  For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

The admixture of leavening often metaphorically represents impurity among God's people, which if left in place will spread throughout the church and consequently mar its reputation (Matthew 16:6-12; Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:1, 13).  As the context indicates, Paul is hereby specifically talking about removing a fornicator from among their number.  Coincidentally, the feast Paul mentions here is evidently not the Lord's Supper; it is a metaphor for their service and doctrine in all purity.  Nevertheless, Paul's reference to the Passover indeed provides an unavoidable connection to the Lord's Supper (Luke 22:15).  The symbolism presented here of sincerity and purity in unleavened bread is certainly a fitting application to this act of worship.

b.    A leavened bread proposition: word definitions

Some today, particularly among those in the "house church" movement, are proposing that leavened bread is also acceptable in the Lord's Supper.  Validation is sought from the fact that, in all scriptural references to it, the inspired writers simply use the generic noun, "ARTOS," without the modifying adjective, "AZUMOS," suggesting that using leavened bread is not necessarily unlawful.

In response, remember that authority for the Lord's Supper is by recorded examples only, and if scripture does not include the recorded command, our limits are defined by the specificity of the examples alone.

The role of necessary inferences must also be considered.  In the recorded examples of the Lord's Supper outside the gospel accounts, the occurrence of the word ARTOS does not force us to conclude they are using anything different than Jesus did.  In fact, when Paul is instructing the Corinthians, he does not command them to eat bread, but he refers them to the example of Jesus, necessarily inferring that they should do just as He did (1 Corinthians 11:23).

Thayer's complete definition of ARTOS also includes "2) food of any kind," as used in Matthew 6:11, Luke 14:15, and Acts 2:46.  Therefore, those advocating leavened bread on the basis of the definition of ARTOS could by the same reasoning propose hamburgers, French fries, or any other food in communion as well.  However, this reasoning is faulty because it fails to consider context to distinguish between multiple word meanings, and the reasoning for leavened bread is faulty on the same grounds.  The fact that scripture uses the word ARTOS doesn't necessarily indicate that leavened bread is lawful for communion.

c.     Another leavened bread proposition: Passover preparation

Defenders of leavened communion bread further argue from the statement that Jesus' trial is on "the Preparation Day of the Passover" (John 19:14), which is the day after He institutes the Lord's Supper.  The reasoning assumes that this Day of Preparation is the day before the Passover and that Jesus therefore had expediently observed the Passover meal with His disciples early.  Additional argumentation is presented from John 13 which indicates a time "before the feast of the Passover" (verse 1) and then later describes events known to occur in the Lord's Supper scene (verse 26).  If the days of unleavened bread are truly not yet begun when Jesus breaks the bread, it is not necessarily unleavened. 

This reasoning is faulty because the Day of Preparation is not for Passover preparations but is actually the day before the Sabbath, when provisions must be made in advance for the day of rest (Mark 15:42).  It is the Preparation Day of the Passover week.

This reasoning is also faulty because it assumes that the incidents in verses 1 and 2 of John 13 must have been on the same day.  Examining the text carefully, verse 1 merely states that Jesus loved His disciples before the Passover and continues to love them.  This does not necessarily imply that incidents recorded later in the chapter also occur "before the Passover."  The context provides nothing to force the conclusion that the supper mentioned in verse 2 is on the same occasion as verse 1.  Besides, the synoptic gospel writers make it clear that Jesus observes the Passover on the proper day: the first day of the unleavened when the lamb must be killed (Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7).  In order to harmonize John 13:2 with the other accounts, we can take that this supper is the Passover finally come on the proper day with no time stamp implied from coincidental remarks in verse 1.

Another apparent conflict in the chronology of the Passover week is presented in John 18:28 stating that when Jesus is taken to Pilate to be tried, the Jews do not enter the Praetorium to avoid becoming defiled, which would make them ineligible to eat the Passover.  If the Passover had already occurred, it is unreasonable to mention it here as a future event.  If the Passover is indeed a future event, then Jesus does not necessarily use unleavened bread when He institutes the Lord's Supper.

The resolution of this apparent conflict lies in understanding that the Passover became effectively synonymous with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the terms were used interchangeably (Luke 22:1).  The two feasts were, in practicality, considered as one week-long festival beginning with the proper Passover observance and continuing in the Feast of the Unleavened (Exodus 13:4-6).  In the original observance, the Israelites take this bread with them into the wilderness at the exodus (Exodus 12:34).  Anyone partaking of leaven during these days is cut off from among them (Exodus 12:15).  For this reason, at the time of Christ, the tradition of removing leaven is meticulously observed, and the Jews here avoid even being among leaven (Exodus 13:7) so they might not be excluded from continuing participation in the so-called "Passover" extended festivities.

d.    Another leavened bread proposition: Old Testament artifact

Defenders of leavened communion bread further argue that the mandate for unleavened bread, like tithing and circumcision, is a relic of Mosaic Law not warranted under the law of liberty in Christ, and we therefore ought not be binding it in the church today.

In response, if God wants to appoint an element in worship in the church today that was also in some fashion similarly utilized under the Mosaic dispensation, we are in no position to oppose it.  This is no more a mere artifact of the old law than is the ordinance to honor our parents (Ephesians 6:2).

e.    Bread, in conclusion

Let's summarize the bread.  Recognizing that authority for the Lord's Supper comes not by recorded direct statements and commands but by approved examples and necessary inferences alone, we who desire to follow Christ will do the things He did.  Christ uses unleavened bread, so we will simply use the same.

Some brethren seem to go to great measures attempting to validate leavened bread in communion.  Their reasons have an apparent connection with carnality and a desire for spontaneity and casualness in worship.  Moreover, some contentious, discontent brethren evidently seek change only for the sake of change.  This indicates an attitude of dissention: a problem greater than merely using the wrong bread in communion.  Scripture warns against controversy for no other purpose but to generate strife (Philippians 2:14; Galatians 5:19, 20):

1 Timothy 6:3-5  If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.  From such withdraw yourself.

Tolerance has its place in opinions; however, when we become unwilling to call lawless actions sinful, we are on the pathway to apostasy.  Until sound, scriptural reasoning is presented to authorize the use of leavened bread in communion, we should not hesitate to denounce it.

Bread is considered the mainstay of life (Genesis 41:54, 55; 2 Corinthians 9:10), and Jesus refers to Himself as "bread of life" (John 6:33-51).  Therefore, bread makes a fitting memorial for the body of our Lord.

2.       Fruit of the vine

This element is often generically referred to as "the cup" in the New Testament, but the term "fruit of the vine" is more revealing.  However, we need to apply sound reasoning to understand the specific meaning.  To expound, the word "fruit" translates GENNEMA {ghen'-nay-mah} meaning: "1) that which has been born or begotten 1a) the offspring or progeny of men or animals 1b) the fruits of the earth, the produce of agriculture" (JHT).  Here, using synecdoche, the word "fruit" is put for its juice, as is necessarily inferred by its drinkability. 

The word "vine" translates AMPELOS {am'-pel-os} meaning: "a vine" (JHT).  Thayer and Liddell-Scott indicate that the word is possibly derived from AMPHI (around), suggesting a vine that climbs by wrapping or with tendrils, as a grapevine does.  Though grape juice is the norm, we may wonder whether melon or cucumber juice would be acceptable, as they are also produced from a climbing vine.  In consideration, Gingrich, Newman, and Louw-Nida all express AMPELOS as "grapevine;" Friberg, in particular, indicates that "grapevine" is the literal (James 3:12).  Comparatively, melons and cucumbers are mentioned only once in scripture (Numbers 11:5) and drinking their juice never, but references to vineyards and the juice of grapes fill the sacred pages (Deuteronomy 33:28; Joshua 24:13; Song 7:12).  The preponderance of evidence indicates that it is safe to conclude the fruit of the vine was the juice of the grape.  Any brother who would contend otherwise could only do so with the intent of generating controversy.  Note also the use of metonymy here, as the word "vine" is put for "grape."

a.    Unfermented

As previously observed, "unleavened bread" in Matthew 26:17 translates the adjective AZUMOS, meaning "unfermented, free from leaven or yeast," and it was not just the bread that was to be unleavened (Exodus 12:15).  Leavening is present in the process of fermenting grape juice, so fermented juice, containing alcohol, would also have been removed.

The intent of this study is not to examine the scriptures regarding the use of alcoholic beverages, but such a study reveals that God disapproves of not just outright drunkenness but also the casual, social, or recreational consumption of alcohol, regardless how little (1 Peter 4:3).  This necessarily implies that the fruit of the vine at our Lord's Passover would not have been intoxicating.

Nevertheless, some today proclaim that alcoholic wine is admissible in communion on the basis of Paul's words to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 11:20, 21  Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk.

The proponents claim that since the word translated "drunk," METHUO {meth-oo'-o}, means, "to become drunk on alcoholic beverages" (LN), then the church at Corinth was obviously using alcoholic wine.  They further claim that Paul was only condemning the over-indulgence of alcohol, not the moderate use.

In rebuttal, as the definition of the English word "drunk" includes merely the past participle of "drink," the Greek lexicographers Friberg and Newman indicate the meaning of METHUO to also include merely having one's fill of drink or drinking freely without regard to intoxication.  The meaning is indicated by the context [Genesis 43:34; Psalm 23:5; Song 5:1 (LXT); John 2:10].  Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 11:21, the context has nothing to do with inebriation.  To the contrary, this pertains to some going hungry and some being filled.  Besides, it is unreasonable to claim authority for action in the church today on the basis of an example in scripture which the apostle expressly condemns!  The proponents of using fermented juice in communion are apparently motivated by their carnal desire to justify the casual and social drinking of alcoholic beverages in moderation rather than a pursuit of truth.

b.    "Wine"

In some churches we hear the contents of the communion cup referred to as "wine."  We should investigate whether this is proper terminology.  Referring to drink, Merriam-Webster defines "wine" as alcoholic, exclusively, so to those speaking English today, it connotes alcoholic.  However, this English definition has not always been so specific.  Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary of 1913 defines it as "the expressed juice of grapes, esp. when fermented; a beverage or liquor prepared from grapes by squeezing out their juice, and (usually) allowing it to ferment."  While fermented juice is typical, there is also clear allowance for non-fermented in earlier applications of the word.

Turning to biblical terminology, the King James version commonly uses the word "wine" to translate the following Greek and Hebrew words:

·         TIYROSH {tee-roshe'} (Hebrew): 1) wine, fresh or new wine, must, freshly pressed wine, (BDB).

This word indicates juice just coming out of the winepress (Jeremiah 48:33). 

·         YAYIN {yah'-yin} (Hebrew): wine: a. common drink, for refreshment (Amos 5:11), ... b. used for rejoicing, … c. intoxicating (Proverbs 23:29-35), (BDB).

Though this word often indicates alcoholic content (1 Samuel 1:14, 15), it is also used of fresh juice – the normal fare for sustenance and nutrition for infants and children (Judges 19:19; Lamentations 2:11, 12).

·         OINOS {oy'-nos} (Greek): wine (JHT); literally, the juice of grapes, usually fermented, (TBF).

This has clear application to grape juice that is either fermented or unfermented (Ephesians 5:18; Luke 5:37).  OINOS was a common mealtime beverage (John 2:1-10).  Moreover, in the Septuagint, OINOS translates TIYROSH – wine while it is still on the vine (Judges 9:13) – and YAYIN – wine while it is still in the press or just gathered from the fields (Isaiah 16:10; Jeremiah 40:10, 12).

The King James translators perhaps understood the dual meaning of the English word "wine" in 1611, as it corresponds to the dual meanings of YAYIN and OINOS.  The meaning in either case is indicated by the context.  However, since then, the word "wine" has come to mean alcoholic, exclusively, but later English translations unfortunately continue to use the word in any case.

Consequently, if we call the fruit of the vine "wine" in worship today, we are at great risk of giving a false impression and leading others into error.  As if the Holy Spirit in His wisdom knew this could become a potential source of misunderstanding, He never uses the word OINOS in connection with the Lord's Supper.  Unless we clarify the archaic meaning of "wine" as used in scripture, we will likewise be better not to use the word.  Though we may claim to have liberty to do so, exercising our liberty must never lead a weak brother, lacking full knowledge, into sin (1 Corinthians 8:7-13).

Like bread, fruit of the vine is considered a life-sustaining staple item.  The production of vineyards and grain are emblems of God's providence (Proverbs 3:10; Jeremiah 48:33; Joel 2:19; Haggai 1:11).  Moreover, in the Old Testament, wine is called "the blood of grapes" (Deuteronomy 32:14), and one such reference is in a Messianic prophecy, suggesting a striking foreshadow of the blood of Christ (Genesis 49:11).  In all consideration, the fruit of the vine provides fitting symbolism for this memorial.

c.     The blood of the covenant

In every account of the Lord's Supper in the synoptic gospels and in the recount of it in 1 Corinthians 11, Jesus refers to the fruit of the vine as His blood of the new covenant.  The word "covenant" translates DIATHEKE {dee-ath-ay'-kay}, meaning, "1) a disposition, arrangement, of any sort, which one wishes to be valid,… law" (JHT).  This would be familiar terminology to the Jews.  Centuries earlier, God rescues the nation of Israel from Egyptian bondage and provides for them as they journey through the wilderness.  While they are camping at Mount Sinai, God delivers to them His laws, which Moses writes in the book of the covenant (Exodus 24:1-8).  Here the word "covenant" translates the Hebrew BERIYTH {ber-eeth'}, which means a divine ordinance with signs or pledges, an alliance, agreement, or constitution, as between men, friends, spouses, and between rulers and subjects (BDB).  This covenant, the Law of Moses, is ratified with the blood of animal sacrifices, which Moses calls "the blood of the covenant."  This law, temporary and imperfect, is only a shadow and type of the enduring and perfect law of liberty.  With this terminology, Jesus, the great deliverer, provider, lawgiver, and guide, identifies Himself as the mediator of a new and better covenant, which He ratifies with His own shed blood (Colossians 2:13-17; Hebrews 8:4-10; 9:11-24; 10:29; 13:20, 21).  As service for atonement under the Levitical priesthood is characterized by a profusion of animal blood, so our worship today under the new covenant is symbolically characterized by the atoning blood of Christ Himself in the fruit of the vine.

D.           The Purpose Of The Lord's Supper

1.       Commemoration

With the cup, we commemorate the blood shed by our Lord in His death for certain, but in the bread, consider that we commemorate not only His body broken on a cross but His body in a life of service also.  Note that Jesus does not say, "Do this in remembrance of My death" but "in remembrance of Me."  We remember Jesus in everything.

As the nation of Israel is leaving Egypt after the Passover observance, Moses says to them, "Remember this day" (Exodus 13:3).  In similitude, our purpose in the Lord's Supper is to remember the deliverance our Lord provides.  Except for this deliverance, we would have no more reason to remember Him than any other man.

2.       Celebration

Review again Paul's admonition:

1 Corinthians 5:7, 8 … For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Be reminded that the feast mentioned here is not a literal feast or the Lord's Supper specifically but a metaphor for our service in purity.  Nevertheless, a connection to the Lord's Supper is clearly implied by the reference to the Passover (Luke 22:15-20).  Now note that the phrase "let us keep the feast" translates HEORTAZO {heh-or-tad'-zo}, meaning, "to keep a feast day, celebrate a feast" (JHT).  Several other reliable translations indeed render this "celebrate the feast" (NAU).  This is the only occurrence of this word in any form in the New Testament.  However, in the Septuagint, various forms of this word describe the observance of the Passover and other Hebrew holy days (Exodus 12:13, 14; 23:14).  Comparatively, this celebration is not lighthearted merry-making, as would be expressed by EUPHRAINO {yoo-frah'-ee-no} (Luke 12:19; 15:23; 16:19).  The definition of the English "celebrate" includes, "To honor (as a holiday) especially by solemn ceremonies or by refraining from ordinary business" (MW).  We often hear people say they don't want others to mourn their passing at their funeral but to celebrate their life.  This is what we are doing when we honor the Lord in our communion services.  Our worship celebrates the Lord.

3.       Declaration

Review again Paul's explanation:

1 Corinthians 11:26  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.

In this passage, "proclaim" translates KATAGGELLO {kat-ang-gel'-lo}, meaning: "1) to announce, declare, promulgate, make known 2) to proclaim publicly, publish…" (JHT).  This word is a combination of the prefix KATA {kat-ah'} – "1) down from, through out 2) according to, toward, along" and the familiar   AGGELOS {ang'-el-os} – "1) a messenger, envoy, one who is sent, an angel, a messenger from God" (JHT).  This is the same root word from which we directly get the English words "evangelize" and "evangelist" – verb and noun forms of AGGELOS with the prefix EU {yoo}, meaning well or good.  Likewise, in the New Testament, "gospel" translates EUAGGELION {yoo-ang-ghel'-ee-on}, meaning "good tidings" (JHT, Matthew 4:23).  Conclusively, there is an evangelistic element to the Lord's Supper.

Proponents of the "house church" movement today are attempting to defend carnal practices in the church by declaring that early church worship assemblies were casual and spontaneous meetings in private homes and therefore would have had no non-believers present.  They consequently conclude that efforts to persuade lost souls with the gospel were not a part of first century worship assemblies.   This notion is completely contrary to Paul's description of a worship assembly in 1 Corinthians 14.  After perverting the Lord's Supper to part of a carnal meal, these proponents further declare that there is no scriptural indication that the Lord's Supper was intended to have an evangelistic effect.   This flies in the face of Paul's explanation that the Lord's Supper is a proclamation of the Lord's death: the crux of the gospel message to a lost and dying world.

Bear in mind that the Lord's Supper is not an expedient tool for gospel preaching.  The differences between teaching expediencies and the Lord's Supper are evident:

Expediencies are never specified; however, the Lord's Supper is specified in detail.

Expediencies are optional; however, the Lord's Supper is enjoined upon the church.

Expediencies never add action; however, eating and drinking is more than teaching.

4.       Communion

Review again Paul's description:

1 Corinthians 10:16, 17  The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.

The word "communion" translates KOINONIA {koy-nohn-ee'-ah} which means: "1) fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse" (JHT).  We share with Christ His body and blood – the bread and fruit of the vine.  He is spiritually in our midst, partaking with us.

Matthew 26:29  But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom (reference Mark 14:25).

The origin of our word "communion" is not "union" but "common."  Nevertheless, unity is implied in KOINONIA (2 Corinthians 6:14-17) – both with God and with one another. 

In the greater context of 1 Corinthians 10, Paul is warning how easily we can be drawn away by Satan, as the Israelites fell into idolatry (verse 7).  In the early church, blatant idolatry is the cultural norm, and with only a mental weakness, a Christian might defile himself in conscience by giving regard for the idol to which meat purchased in the market was sacrificed (1 Corinthians 8:7).  Paul demonstrates how contradictory it would be to give place to idols yet attempt to sit at the table with the Lord.

1 Corinthians 10:21  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons.

1 John 1:6, 7  If we say that we have fellowship [KOINONIA] with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Though idolatry is not always so blatantly practiced today around us, Satan's servants still endeavor to draw us away with evil.  We will examine this further when we discuss our attitudes in the Lord's Supper.

5.       An act of worship

The Lord's Supper is not a common activity of normal daily life, as human customs would dictate, but is indeed an act of special worship: a divinely ordained spiritual service for expressing homage to God.

E.           Regulation Of The Lord's Supper

1.       Order

In every record of the instituting of the Lord's Supper in scripture, Jesus serves the bread first, then the fruit of the vine (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, 1 Corinthians 11).  Moreover, in every account, Jesus gives thanks for the bread before breaking it and serving it and does likewise with the cup.  Remember, our authority for the Lord's Supper comes only by recorded examples, not by recorded commands.  In such cases, when the examples reveal a consistent pattern, specific authority is necessarily inferred.  Therefore, if we deviate from these patterns, we step beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Some explanation of Luke's account is needed.  Note that Jesus first divides the fruit of the vine among His disciples before serving the bread (verse 17).  It appears that the order of the Lord's Supper is reversed here.  However, at this point, it is still only a Jewish Passover.  Jesus just insures that each disciple has his own portion of the cup for what is to come.  He has not yet blessed it or connected any new significance to it regarding His blood nor has He instructed them to drink it.  The instituting of the Lord's Supper begins only afterward, when He blesses and breaks the bread and assigns it a spiritual symbolism (verse 19).  The same follows with the cup, so the pattern is consistent with the other gospel writers.

2.       Frequency

To understand the regularity of the Lord's Supper, the methods of establishing religious authority must be recognized, which involve direct commands, necessary inferences, and approved examples in scripture, as was briefly reviewed earlier.  Recall also that authority for the Lord's Supper is established by approved examples alone, and all accounts recorded in scripture must be considered.

When Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper, He says, "I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom," (Matthew 26:29).  The account in Acts 20:7 reveals that the breaking of bread is observed upon the first day of the week when the disciples gather together.  Correspondingly, this is "that day."

Remember that authority also has generic and specific senses.  To the extent that "the first day of the week when the disciples gather together" is specific, the first day of the month, the first day of spring, and the second through seventh days of the week are excluded and unauthorized.  However, to the extent that it is generic, it can be observed early in the day or late in the day.  This 24 hour period and the gathering together set the boundaries of the time specified by the examples in scripture.  To observe this at any other time is to step beyond that which is written.

Some might assume that this restricts us to daylight hours only.  However, the original word translated "day" in Matthew 26:29, HEMERA {hay-mer'-ah}, is used "of the civil day, or the space of twenty four hours (thus including the night)" (Acts 27:20, JHT).  Within scripture, days are counted by three methods.  The Hebrews used sunset to sunset; the Greeks used sunrise to sunrise; the Romans used midnight to midnight.  The days at Troas (Acts 20:6, 7) are evidently counted by Roman time.

Like for the collection, we might ask whether "the first day of the week" means every first day of the week or just occasionally.  For an answer, consider again the scripture.

Act 2:42  They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (NAU)

The phrase "continually devoting" translates the original word PROSKARTEREO {pros-kar-ter-eh'-o} meaning, "1) to adhere to one, be his adherent, to be devoted or constant to one 2) to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing 3) to continue all the time in a place 4) to persevere and not to faint 5) to show one's self courageous for 6) to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly."  Like the verb for the collection in 1 Corinthians 16:2, this also occurs in the present tense and active voice, indicating "action in… state of persistence,… which habitually occurs,… which recurs at successive intervals or… periods… of repeated action," (DM, sections 172, 173).  As the nation of Israel understood that that every week has a Sabbath day to be observed (Nehemiah 13:15-22), so every week has a first day: Sunday.  Therefore, though a church can assemble on any day desired, a first day of the week gathering is mandatory for these two special observances: the Lord's Supper and the collection.

3.       Second serving

In the mid-twentieth century when weekend factory shift work made it difficult for some Christians to partake of the Lord's Supper in Sunday morning worship assemblies, evening assemblies were introduced where communion was offered again to accommodate these members.  This practice is common still today, but we are nevertheless obligated to show the authority for it.

To this end, consider that Christians clearly have the authority to gather together wherever they can and whenever they desire for worship to pray (Ephesians 6:18), to teach the gospel (Romans 15:14), or to sing psalms (1 Corinthians 14:26).  As defined by the limits of the recorded example in Acts 20:7, only whenever these gatherings occur on the first day of the week does scriptural authority permit a Lord's Supper observance.

The particular acts of worship are specified in scripture, but the scheduling, ordering, and arranging are left completely to our discretion as might be deemed expedient, as long as decency prevails.  For example, a church has the authority to call an assembly of disciples for no other purpose than to teach the gospel (Acts 15:22-32).  At that same assembly, it is also expedient to sing, but it is not mandated by divine law.  By the same reasoning, disciples also have the authority to assemble only for prayer or only for singing.  Though it might be expedient also to preach at this gathering, it is not mandated.  We ought not have a checklist mentality insisting that at any and every gathering all worship forms must be executed for validation.

The point is this: when we assemble at some occasion on the first day of the week, the Lord's Supper ought to be observed.  We ought to sing, pray, teach, and give also.  However, if we meet again later that day, it is left to our discretion to decide what is expedient, whether it be more singing, more teaching, or more praying – and, as a matter of expediency, particularly if others are present who missed the earlier assembly, more communion and more giving.  It is unreasonable to deny these late gatherers the privilege to fellowship on this day only because they circumstantially missed an earlier assembly.

4.       Objections to the second serving

a.    Not partaking together

Some object to the second serving on the grounds that some are partaking and some are not, exhibiting a breach of fellowship.  Based on Paul's words to the Corinthians, the notion is derived that the entire assembly should jointly participate at the same time.

1 Corinthians 10:16, 17  …The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? … for we all partake of that one bread.

1 Corinthians 11:33  When you come together to eat, wait for one another.

This argument appears to have stronger support by the King James Version, which reads, "tarry one for another."  The English word "tarry" has the primary meaning "to delay… in acting" (MW); however, this is an unfortunate rendering.  The word "wait" in 1 Corinthians 11:33 translates EKDECHOMAI {ek-dekh'-om-ahee}, meaning, "1) to receive, accept 2) to look for, expect, wait for, await," which does not necessarily indicate a situation where action is delayed until all others arrive but that we anticipate that some might be arriving later and make accommodations for them (1 Corinthians 16:11). 

Furthermore, scripture indicates that Jesus blesses the bread and breaks Himself a morsel and then passes the loaf to His disciples, instructing them to likewise break a piece and eat it.  Clearly, they all do not break the loaf at the same moment, and it is completely incidental whether they all eat it at exactly the same moment.  In large assemblies today, several minutes may transpire between when the first attendee eats his morsel and the last.  In all practicality, if a brother can eat the bread two minutes after another, he can just as conveniently eat it eight hours afterward, as long as it is when the disciples are gathered together on the first day of the week.  If these conditions exist, the action abides within the limitations of scripture as an expediency to generic authority, and to prohibit partaking is to bind where God has not bound.  It is entirely a matter of coincidence whether the gathering is dismissed and then reconvenes later that same day.  We are to jointly share in the Lord’s Supper, but this does not necessarily mean that all must partake at exactly the same moment.  It is still shared action, and fellowship is not broken.

b.    No such example

Some object to the second serving claiming that there is no example of it in scripture.  However, remember that a scriptural example is not necessary for everything we do, if it is otherwise authorized by a command, statement, or necessary inference.  Correspondingly, even in the absence of a recorded example, the second serving still falls within the limits defined in Acts 20:7.  Moreover, as noted in the previous point, the Corinthians are rebuked for not anticipating worshippers coming after others who also ought to be served.

Those objecting to the second serving, by necessity, require that communion be offered at one assembly only.  Once this assembly dismisses, the opportunity to take communion among these brethren again is lost until the next Lord's day.  There is no apparent scriptural principle to require such a cut-off point.

c.     Possible distraction

Further objection is derived on the assumption that when the second serving is observed by only some in attendance, the others not partaking will not have the same mind frame and will become a distraction as they are doing other things.  In response, if this would occur, it would be a problem of irreverence, not of the second serving.  Besides, to assume that others will surely behave disrespectfully is to think the very worst of others (1 Corinthians 13:5).

Those who object on this basis sometimes suggest that all in attendance should partake of the second service, even if they already partook at the earlier assembly.  This also addresses the issue of everyone not partaking together.  This notion is further attractive to those feeling obligated to participate in any worship form being observed at any time.  However, others object yet to this, declaring that there is no scriptural precedent for anyone taking the Lord's Supper twice in one day.  In reply, consider that the partaking is expedient, as often as it is eaten, providing that it is on the first day of the week when the disciples gather together and that the participants remember the Lord with thanksgiving, reverence, and self-examination.  Conversely, if one would partake carelessly or violate his conscience to partake a second time, he sins.

1 Corinthians 11:26-28  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

The phrase "as often as you eat" is in the subjunctive mood and present tense, indicating that one might or might not successively eat.  Moreover, since a second partaking is only an expediency, it is therefore optional, not binding.  Paul reminds us that if we will properly judge our own motives, not the motives of others, we will be blameless, and the Lord will instruct us.

1 Corinthians 11:31, 32  For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

d.    Possible abuse

The second serving on Sunday evening has also been criticized because of abuse.  There may well be some who willfully miss services on Sunday morning but come to take communion in the evening.  The source of this problem is not the second serving itself but misdirected priorities.  Yet, we cannot read the intents of a brother's heart and judge his faith.  We must recognize there are times when taking the Lord’s Supper on Sunday morning is just not possible for some.  Nevertheless, justification for the second serving is not on the basis of accommodating people who miss, but because it meets the requirements given in Act 20:7.

e.    Possible negligence

Still another objection sometimes comes from thinking if the Lord's Supper is offered too frequently, it loses its special character and becomes commonplace.  This is a problem of attitude, not of the second serving. 

5.       Matters of conscience

Admittedly, others have also studied these questions and arrived at different conclusions.  Romans 14:5 tells us: "Let each be fully convinced in his own mind."  If a Christian feels it is a violation of biblical principles to take or serve the Lord’s Supper a second time on Sunday evenings, then he definitely should not do so for conscience's sake.  Likewise, he who feels he should partake should not be expected to violate his conscience, either.  Each brother is capable of following his own conviction in this matter without causing another to sin.  Romans 14 deals at length with how we can differ in matters of judgment and still maintain fellowship with a pure conscience.  This is certainly not an issue brethren need to divide over.

Without doubt, we should not loose where God has bound, but we also must be careful not to bind where God has loosed.  Let us seek God’s wisdom and show brotherly kindness in all things.

F.           Expediencies For The Lord's Supper

1.       The elements

We must have unleavened bread and grape juice to participate in the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:26-29).  Any expedient means of obtaining these is authorized.  We can use store-bought bread or home-made.  If home-made, we need an oven.  The church has authority to own an oven for making communion bread.  Similarly, we can use store-bought grape juice or home-made.  If home-made, we need white, red, or black grapes from which to squeeze juice.  The church can buy them or grow them.  The church has authority to buy a winepress and a tract of land on which to grow grapes for communion juice.  The church can buy a cabinet for storing the bread or flour and a refrigerator for storing the grapes or grape juice.  Many of these methods are arguably not the most convenient for us, but for other people in different times or places, they may well be.  However, we cannot deny that these are mere expediencies and matters of judgment, if in the end we are doing nothing more and nothing less than eating bread and drinking juice in communion.  All other supporting features and actions are authorized by a necessary inference.

Notwithstanding, if a church in a modern society decides to acquire a vineyard or a wheat field for such needs, they should consider whether these methods demonstrate responsible stewardship.  Love and spirituality call us to not always exercise every liberty (1 Corinthians 10:23).  In Galatians 5:13-17, "liberty" translates ELEUTHERIA {el-yoo-ther-ee'-ah}.  Thayer describes this as the "liberty to do or to omit things having no relationship to salvation" but states further that "true liberty is living as we should, not as we please."  Unless we live in a subsistence economy, bread and grape juice are readily available at the market.  A church would surely have carnal motives to not utilize this convenience. 

2.       Tools and aids

The Lord's Supper fundamentally consists in eating the bread and drinking the juice commemoratively and reflectively with thankful prayer.  Any utensils that add or detract nothing in these functions are authorized, such as serving trays and cups.  A church is authorized to purchase a table on which to place these elements in preparation for their use.

3.       Means and methods

a.    Service

When the Lord's Supper is observed in a worship assembly, a brother must unavoidably preside to maintain decency and orderliness.  As Jesus explains the commemorative significance of the bread and the cup, the participants likewise in our assemblies need to be informed about the proceedings.  The exact words of Jesus need not be recited as an incantation, but it should be made clear what is transpiring to avoid carnality and confusion.  The particular invocation or any additional appropriate admonitions delivered are matters of expediency.

Distributing the bread and cup to each participant in a large gathering is a more daunting task than it was for the original 13 men.  However, in our assemblies, we can accomplish this in any convenient manner, as long as we are doing nothing more or less than eating the bread and taking the cup.  For example, assistants can be assigned to pass around serving trays, or the participants can each in turn accommodatingly approach the table to partake.

b.    Bread breaking

As an idiom and by synecdoche, the term "break bread" is sometimes put for eating a complete ordinary meal for physical nutrition.  Breaking the bread is not the point but eating it.

Jeremiah 16:7  Nor shall men break bread in mourning for them, to comfort them for the dead; nor shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or their mother.

Acts 2:46  And breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.

However, as mentioned earlier, the term "break bread" sometimes refers specifically to a sacred Lord's Supper observance.  When words and phrases have multiple uses, the context must be considered to understand what is indicated.

Act 20:7  Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul … spoke to them ….

1 Corinthians 10:16  The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

In these examples, "breaking bread" is entirely spiritual, having no reference to the needs of the flesh.

The question arises whether the literal act of breaking the loaf is a necessary ceremonial part of the observance (Mark 14:22).  Some insist that since Jesus breaks the loaf, then we should also.  After all, this is what Paul says that we do (1 Corinthians 10:16).  The argument also follows that since Jesus says, "This is my body which is broken for you" (1 Corinthians 11:24), bread breaking therefore symbolizes His suffering and is a functional detail that ought not be neglected. 

In response, note here that the word "broken" is not included in later English translations that are based on earlier manuscripts.  It also does not appear in any English translation of the gospel accounts.  Though the actual breaking of the bread seems to be a fitting symbol for Jesus's broken body, the word is likely only a scribal manuscript insertion in the epistle.

We should also consider whether is it actually intended that the one presiding plays the role of Jesus in our observances today.  The scriptures state that Jesus offers thanks, breaks the bread, and gives it to His disciples.  Now does He give them each a morsel or just pass the loaf?  If he gives each of them a broken-off piece and this is our mandatory pattern, then the officiator in a service today playing the role of Jesus ought to be likewise handing each participant a broken-off piece.  However, scripture does not indicate by any means that an accommodative officiator in a service today is playing the part of Jesus in a reenactment.  Since the officiator is only a role of expediency, then it should be adequate that each individual breaks his own piece, whether or not it symbolizes Jesus's broken body.  However, if there is already a serving-size morsel on the tray when an individual receives it and he simply takes it without ceremonially breaking it from a larger piece, does he sin?  Is it enough that he breaks the bread when he bites into it, or must he first break it off by hand from a significantly larger piece?

It has been observed in some congregations that a single loaf is placed on the serving table in preparation.  Then, at the time of observance, the officiator breaks the single loaf into smaller portions that fit onto several serving trays.  This is certainly expedient, but if this bread-breaking is being performed as an essential ceremonial element or because 1 Corinthians 10:17 says there is "one bread," we should examine more carefully what are the actual limits of the ordinance and distinguish in the scriptural examples between what is essential and mandatory, what is practical or expedient, and what is incidental or irrelevant.

To this point, Paul repeatedly makes clear what is required in his rebuke to the Corinthians: "eat of the bread and drink of the cup" (1 Corinthians 11:26-29).  If we do this with reverence, fear, spirituality, consideration, introspection, thanksgiving, and commemoration, we will do well.  However, "breaking bread" is idiomatic terminology, and bickering over the carnal mechanics and accouterments takes on the character of the laws of the misdirected Pharisees who established meaningless rules beyond what Moses decreed or God intended.

Notwithstanding, if a man has such a personal conviction that he would violate his conscience to not ceremonially observe the bread breaking himself, he does not sin to do so, unless he seeks to bind his opinion on others (Romans 14:22, 23).  We certainly ought not make this a dividing test of fellowship.  More will be discussed about bread breaking when we later examine some misconceptions and false doctrines in the Lord's Supper.

G.           The Lord's Supper: Collectively and Individually

Notably, God has ordained and specified that the assembly of saints on the first day of the week is the setting in which the Lord's Supper is to be observed (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:17, 18, 33).  There is therefore no authority for a Christian to celebrate the Lord's Supper by himself.  This observance is restricted to collective action only.

1.       Unique situations

However, can Christians who are one-time gathered on the first day of the week – not among an established local body – observe the Lord's Supper?  For instance, consider whether it is lawful for Christians to take the Lord's Supper together in these unique assembly situations:

at home with the sick, elderly, or shut-in,

in a hospital or nursing home,

at a campground on vacation,

on a cruise ship on vacation,

in a hotel room on a business trip,

in a prison.

To answer, it is again maintained that the example in Acts 20:7 sets the precedent.  Partaking is here expedient, providing that it is on the first day of the week where disciples are gathered together.

Notwithstanding, objections arise based on the structure of the local body.  God has ordained His church to function at the level of an autonomous local organization with overseers and deacons as qualified and with a treasury for executing its work, of which worship is a part.  God's arrangement is not optional for us, and faithful Christians will not remain at large but will join or establish a local body and serve God therein.  All this is true, but the objection claims that such a Lord's Supper observance creates a pseudo church which supplants the divine arrangement and therefore compromises fellowship. 

In response, scripture reveals that saints occasionally gather together for spiritual service other than within the framework of an established local church (Acts 20:16-36).  We do not conclude that a spurious organization is instituted when gospel teaching and prayer are conducted in such special assemblies, and neither are we forced to conclude that it does if the Lord's Supper is taken.  Communion is indeed only to be taken jointly, but this does not necessitate that it only must be in an assembly of an established local congregation.  Later English translations based on earlier manuscripts render Acts 20:7, "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread…" (NAU).  The antecedent of "we" are those traveling companions mentioned in verse 4 along with Paul and Luke.  There is likely a local church in Troas (2 Corinthians 2:12), and, though not mentioned, this gathering possibly includes the saints within that body.  However, authority is established on inferences that are necessary, not probable.  We are not forced to conclude that a gathering of an established local body is mandatory to observe the Lord's Supper.

Further objections arise based on the same arguments that are applied in opposition to the second serving examined earlier: not partaking with the whole church, no scriptural example, possible distractions, possible abuse, and possible negligence.  The responses to these objections would also be essentially the same.

2.       Judgment and conscience

Notwithstanding, others have diligently studied this matter and arrived at different conclusions.  If a brother would violate his conscience to participate in communion not in the setting of an established local church assembly, he does not sin to refrain from doing so, unless he seeks to force his opinion on others (Romans 14:22, 23).  Like second servings and bread breaking, we should each be able to honor our personal convictions and accommodate others.  This certainly ought not be a test of fellowship.

Be reminded that the Lord will instruct us, and we will be blameless, if we properly judge our own motives, not the motives of others (1 Corinthians 11:31, 32).  However, if we violate our own conscience or partake carelessly in any circumstance, we sin.  Do not honestly think you can worship God with a communion cup in one hand and a fishing pole in the other.

H.          Attitudes In The Lord's Supper

1.       Thankfulness

Each account in scripture mentions that Jesus blesses or gives thanks for the bread and does the same for the cup.  These terms are used interchangeably, but "blessed" translates EULOGEO {yoo-log-eh'-o}, meaning "…3) to consecrate a thing with solemn prayers 3a) to ask God's blessing on a thing 3b) pray God to bless it to one's use 3c) pronounce a consecratory blessing on…."  We will further discuss consecration in a later section on false doctrines.

Does this pattern indicate that a prayer of thanksgiving is a necessary procedural step in executing the Lord's Supper?  In response, with respect to all God has done to redeem us, giving thanks should be a natural and continual practice (Colossians 1:12; 2:7; 3:15, 17; 4:2).  However, if we are giving thanks merely to fulfill an imposed technical requirement, we are doing it with the wrong attitude.

2.       Thoughtfulness

In the wide-angle view of 1 Corinthians, Paul is dealing with several manifestations of division in their church.  He begins attacking the problem of factionism at the outset in 1:10-13 and again in 3:3.  Paul addresses their division over spiritual gifts beginning at 12:25.

The section on the Lord's Supper in chapter 11 opens likewise with a reference to their division in verses 18 and 19.  Verses 20 and 21 reveal what was apparently happening: each was eating his own supper ahead of others; some were hungry while others were filled.  Evidently, the bread and cup were being depleted before everyone had a chance to partake.  Perhaps out of misdirected zeal, they might have thought if eating a little bread honored the Lord, eating more honored more, and the first-comers were taking it all.  We can't be sure of their motives, but we can be sure their inconsideration was divisive. 

Some of what Paul says here cannot actually be applied to the Lord's Supper, because they had perverted it into something entirely different (verse 20) – apparently, a common meal for satisfying their hunger.  He therefore rebukes them, telling them not to come to the assemblies hungry so that they will not fall by the temptation to over-consume: "Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink?" (verse 22); "If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home" (verse 34).  At any rate, they were not watching out for each other and were certainly not honoring God.

Verses 24 through 26 indicate that the Lord's Supper is a commemoration and a proclamation, we as previously noted.  These attributes suggest the soberness of the occasion, so the apostle requires a respectful demeanor in our observance.

1 Corinthians 11:27  Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

The word translated "in an unworthy manner" is the negative form of the adverb translated "worthy" in Ephesians 4:1 and Philippians 1:27, AXIOS {ax-ee'-oce}, meaning "worthily, suitably, in a manner proper to" (TBF), "in a manner that does honor to … the entity honored by the behavior cited in the context" (DANK).  This describes conduct befitting a noble calling, just as we would not act like we are at a picnic while attending a funeral.

Paul indicates that those who partake without this befitting reverence bear a guilt, but how are they guilty?  What, exactly, is their crime?  The meaning of the word translated "guilty," ENOCHOS {en'-okh-os}, includes "…in a forensic sense, denoting the connection of a person either with his crime, or with the penalty or trial, or with that against whom or which he has offended,…" (JHT).  If the connection is taken to be between the criminal and the one against whom he committed the crime, the reasonable understanding is that the offense is a personal disrespecting of the Lord as if in His bodily form.

Paul further pronounces that one so irreverent "eats and drinks judgment to himself."  The word "judgment" translates KRIMA {kree'-mah}, from whence is derived "crime."  Its meaning includes, "…2b) in a forensic sense 2b1) the sentence of a judge 2b2) the punishment with which one is sentenced …" (JHT).

1 Corinthians 11:28, 29  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

We need to understand what it means to discern the Lord's body, for these Christians are condemned for failing to do so.

The word "discerning" translates DIAKRINO {dee-ak-ree'-no}, which is derived from KRIMA mentioned previously.  The meaning includes: "to separate, make a distinction, discriminate, to prefer 2) to learn by discrimination, to try, decide 2a) to determine, give judgment, decide a dispute" (JHT).  This is criminal justice terminology, describing the process by which multiple suspects in a crime investigation are either excluded or included and are eventually either excused or accused on the basis of evidence.

The word "body" here and throughout the chapter translates SOMA {so'-mah}, meaning: "1) the body both of men or animals 1a) a dead body or corpse 1b) the living body 1b1) of animals 2) the bodies of plants and of stars (heavenly bodies) 3) is used of a (large or small) number of men closely united into one society, or family as it were; a social, ethical, mystical body 3a) so in the NT of the church 4) that which casts a shadow as distinguished from the shadow itself" (JHT).

The term "body" is applied in a variety of senses in this immediate and in the greater contexts.

      In verse 27, "body" refers to the literal flesh-and-blood physical body of Jesus, as discussed previously.

      In verse 24, "body" refers metaphorically to the unleavened bread in communion.

      In 1 Corinthians 10:17, "body" refers to the church, either locally or universally.

We should always look back at the immediate context for the applicable sense of words with multiple meanings.  If "body" is taken here to mean the local church, we must disregard the senses of Jesus's literal body or of the bread figuratively in the near context and reach back to the previous chapter through about four or five changes in subject matter to arrive at this sense.  In spite of this stretch, it is suggested by some that "not discerning the body" means failing to give preference and deference to brethren in the church as described in verses 20-22.  This is certainly what is happening and is deemed contemptable, as already well-articulated, so it is hard to declare that this interpretation is in error.  However, the reiteration of this problem is not necessarily what the apostle is intending to say.

Instead, remember that this judgment is a consequence for the guilt of their dishonorable behavior: a crime – not against the church as a body – but in connection with "the body and blood of the Lord," as explained previously from verse 27.  So then, this judgment is for their failure to discern the spiritual significance of the bread and the cup: the Lord's body and blood.  It is not because they fail to honor the church but because they fail to honor Christ.

We are spiritually sick or already dead (verse 30) if we, with carnal-mindedness or indifference, consider the Lord's Supper an ordinary thing.

Hebrews 10:26-31 …29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?...

3.       Self-Examination

In 1 Corinthians 11:28, Paul instructs us to pay attention to ourselves.  The word "examine" translates DOKIMAZO {dok-im-ad'-zo} meaning: "1) to test, examine, prove, scrutinise (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals" (JHT).  To this end, as AXIOS indicates, we can start by making sure our demeanor is befitting the solemn occasion with discretion and propriety, honoring the Lord.  A call to genuineness is also seen in 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Consider also the earlier warning about the inconsistency of attempting to commune with God while giving place to idols:

1 Corinthians 10:14-21  Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? …

21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons.

In this context, Paul reminds us of the mistakes of Israel.  It is foolishness to think we can hold on to lusts (verse 6), idolatry (7), fornication (8), provoking (9), grumbling (10), arrogance (12), or selfishness (24) and approach the presence of the Lord in communion.  With further admonition in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, Paul reminds us that God cannot abide in us unless we first separate ourselves from worldly uncleanness.

In Matthew 5:23, 24, Jesus teaches us to first take care of unresolved issues with a brother before going to worship.  Notwithstanding, there is nothing in 1 Corinthians 11 that would suggest we are to excuse ourselves from the Lord's Supper if we are aware of some sin in our life.  If we are aware of unforgiven sin, God has made forgiveness for the Christian the simplest thing: repent of it and pray for forgiveness (Acts 8:22).  We can rectify this immediately and then take the Lord's Supper with a pure conscience.  Consider how hypocritical it would be to conscientiously decline the Lord's Supper because of sin in our life, yet, unconscionably, be unwilling to repent of it.  There's nothing noble in that.  From a practical standpoint, if we know of sin in our life of which we refuse to repent, any act of worship is vain.

By all means, the examination under consideration is not to determine whether we are worthy of God's grace and therefore deserve to eat the Lord's Supper.  We will be indicted by this kind of examination every time (Luke 17:10, Roman 7:14). 

I.            False Doctrines In The Lord's Supper

1.       Part of a common meal

Some brethren are proposing that the Lord's Supper was part of a common meal in the early church – a "fellowship meal" – a normal meal with food variety for satisfying physical hunger.  A careful examination of this proposition exposes a problem of carnal-mindedness.

Proponents seek validation for this "fellowship meal" on the grounds that the inaugural Lord's Supper was part of an ordinary meal – the Passover.  On this basis alone, they affirm that the Lord's Supper was a "memorial in a meal," a "combined table fellowship and memorial," and "an integral part of a real meal."  All such connections of the Lord's Supper to a common meal are scripturally unfounded.

Nevertheless, the advocates of the "common meal" maintain that the supposed fellowship meal was a hearty meal of robust quantity for physical strengthening.  They further disparage the practice of taking only a small morsel of bread and tiny sip of juice, considering it a stylized ritual token.

In response, in order to establish scriptural authority, it is crucial to understand what elements in a recorded example are germane to the activity (and thus binding) and what elements are incidental.  Consider what parts of our Lord's Passover scene are relevant to the communion observance.  Jesus sets aside only the bread and the fruit of the vine and makes them something special and unique – nothing else.  The roasted lamb, sop dish, and bitter herbs are not part of the Lord's Supper nor vice versa any more than is eating it in an upper room (Mark 14:15) or in a room with many lights (Acts 20:7, 8) or the accompanying foot washings (John 13).  These are incidentals.

The phrase "Lord's Supper" appears in scripture in only one place: 1 Corinthians 11:20.  The word translated "supper" is DEIPNON {dipe'-non}, meaning: "supper, especially a formal meal usually held at the evening…" (JHT), and other lexicons include a feast, banquet, and dinner in their definition (UBS, TBF, DANK).  In reference to 1 Corinthians 11:20 specifically, Friberg explains that the word is used "figuratively, as a sacred meal with symbolic meaning attached."  Notably, none of the translators of our English Bibles ever apply the words "feast, banquet, or meal" in this verse – words that would suggest the abundance of food to satisfy physical hunger.  By abuse, the Corinthians turn it into such a thing (verse 20, 21) and are sternly rebuked for it (verse 22, 30-34).  In every other reference in scripture to the Lord's Supper, it is termed "communion," indicating a spiritual symbolism, or "breaking bread," a simple eating without respect to quantity.

The Lord's Supper has nothing to do with physical hunger or satisfying the flesh by the quantity eaten.  If eating a small portion seems too ritualistic to us, our hearts are in the wrong place.  All such correlating the Lord's Supper to the physical is wrong-minded.  Consider the words of Jesus in John 6.  (No connection of eating and drinking Christ's body and blood with the Lord's Supper is intended but only a distinction between carnal and spiritual thinking).  He says, "You seek me…because you ate the loaves and were filled" (verse 26).  Jesus explains that he is true meat and true drink that gives life.  The crowd does not understand because they are thinking carnally (verse 60), but, to His disciples, He explains, "It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing.  The words I speak to you are spirit and they are life" (verse 63).  The writer of Hebrews also weighs in on this:

Hebrews 13:9  Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.  For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.

The Lord's Supper has nothing to do with the flesh.  It is completely carnal mindedness to think that the significance of the Lord's Supper is found in the quantity eaten or the amount of time it takes to do it.

Notwithstanding, in some churches today influenced by these ideas, brethren are trying to enlarge the Lord's Supper, that is, spend more of the assembly time doing it.  First of all, understand that the Lord's Supper is only the eating of the bread and the drinking of the cup discerningly with prayerful thanksgiving: nothing else.  A song sung after or before is not part of the Lord's Supper; it is gospel singing.  A reading or an admonition is edifying, but it is not actually part of the Lord's Supper; it is time devoted to exhortation.  Aside from a many-worded blessing (Matthew 6:7), the only way to actually enlarge the Lord's Supper is to eat and drink larger portions.  Some churches today have replaced the traditional communion cups with larger cups, perhaps suitable for a breakfast portion.  They also provide more or larger loaves so that worshipers can break off a hefty helping, which may take them each several minutes to finish eating.  Conversely, our tradition of taking a tiny pinch of bread and sip of juice most likely originates from recognizing that the significance of the memorial lies in the spirituality of the observance, not in the portions consumed or the time devoted to perform it.  We may enlarge the portions if we wish, but do not be deceived into thinking this elevates the experience to a higher spiritual plane.  God, in His wisdom, uses the simple and meager things to put to shame the high-minded and worldly (1 Corinthians 1:25 - 2:5).

This is similar to the misunderstanding of the Corinthians.  In carnal-mindedness (1 Corinthians 3:1-4), they changed the Lord's Supper to the extent that Paul could no longer recognize it (1 Corinthians 11:20).  We must be careful not to do the same.  Paul takes great care to explain that the meaning of the Lord's Supper resides in the heart, not the stomach (verses 23-30) and is spiritual.  The "fellowship meal" defenders claim that Paul is here only admonishing them against gluttony.  However, if he had meant to tell them simply not to over-eat in what is supposedly an ordinary meal, that's what he would have said.  Instead, he instructs them to eat their common meals at home.  Most assuredly, we cannot logically derive from this anything about a so-called "fellowship meal."

Advocates of the "fellowship meal" also call the Lord's Supper "The centerpiece of New Testament Christian worship."  These are the words of men, not of our Lord.  No such idea is presented in scripture.  In Acts 20, it is the gospel preaching that lasts until midnight, not the Lord's Supper.  We need to be hungry for the word: the spirit, not the flesh.

2.       Casualness and spontaneity

Supporters of the common meal idea also insist that early church worship assemblies must have been small, intimate gatherings, because they met in their homes.  Due to such a venue, they further claim that Lord's Supper observances as part of a common meal must have been casual and spontaneous.

In all references of churches meeting in homes (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2), there is no indication that physical meals for the flesh are enjoined as part of worship.  When saints come together for a common, social meal or for recreation, it is not "as a church" (1 Corinthians 11:18).  Scripture makes a clear distinction of when saints meet for secular purposes and when they meet for the work of the church.  During a worship service in a home of one of the saints is not the time to bring out meat, potatoes, and gravy.

It is true that early churches met in homes, but that is not the only place they met.  They also met in temple quarters (Acts 2:46) or in furnished upper-story rooms (20:8).  Some churches were quite large (Acts 4:4; 11:26), and meeting in an individual's home would have been non-feasible.  We need to understand how to determine when New Testament examples are binding.  Here, the rule of uniformity indicates that meeting in homes is not binding.  Moreover, we have the recorded, generic command to assemble (Hebrews 10:24), so any recorded example is merely exemplary, not a binding pattern.  Any other meeting place is expedient.

Defenders of this carnality unjustifiably assert that all ritual is inherently evil and go to great lengths to deride order, structure, and purpose in church gatherings.  Doing things in the appropriate way at the appointed time is belittled in the "fellowship meal" concept, and consequently, their remedy for a lifeless, perfunctory Lord's Supper observance is to turn it into part of a carnal feast.  In some cases, for the sake of change, cinnamon, butter, or jelly might be added to the bread to keep things interesting.  To the contrary, these supplements are not expedient and have no place here.  Moreover, there is nothing intrinsically evil with ritual and routine (Daniel 6:10); it is conducive to decency and order.  We should not need to appeal to the flesh to add meaning to our actions.  Our focus should be spiritual, and a "please-pass-the-gravy" mentality is diametrically opposed to this.

3.       Confusing the ordained work of the church

Proponents of the "fellowship meal" make a fundamental error on the idea of fellowship in the church, which many churches have done for over half a century.  In Acts 2:42, the word "fellowship" is used in connection with teaching, prayer, and breaking bread.  This word translates KOINONIA {koy-nohn-ee'-ah}, meaning: "1) fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse" (JHT).  It can involve any kind of sharing as the context indicates.  For example, fellow soldiers share a common enemy, workers a common goal, citizens a common nationality.

We are challenged to understand what kind of bread breaking is indicated here.  Contextually, teaching and prayer are both spiritual things – worship forms.  Sound reasoning suggests that this bread-breaking would also be spiritual: the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16); not carnal: a common meal (Acts 27:34-36).  This is further validated by the fact that the early Jerusalem Christians are using the temple for a place of worship, but common meals are shared in their individual homes, specifically (Acts 2:46).  This corresponds with Paul stating that Lord's Supper time is not common meal time (1 Corinthians 11:22, 34).  Further noting that the kingdom is not carnal but spiritual (John 3:5), the evidence is overwhelming that Acts 2:42 does not refer to a common meal in a worship service of which the Lord's Supper is a part.

We are likewise challenged to understand what kind of fellowship is indicated in Acts 2:42.  Carnal-minded brethren naturally think of church fellowship carnally: food and fun; spiritual-minded brethren naturally think of spiritual sharing: our worship.  To this point, note that KOINONIA is often connected with the contribution (Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:13), which is most fitting in this context (verse 44, 45).  We should stop thinking carnally and work to remove all social and recreational functions from the church.

In Acts 20:7, disciples come together for the purpose of breaking bread.  We are again challenged to understand what kind of bread breaking is indicated.  If this is a common, social meal, then it would not be the disciples gathering together for worship (1 Corinthians 11:18), since Paul has ordered that ordinary meals are out of place in worship (1 Corinthians 11:22, 34).  However, from all other indications, this is a worship service dominated by gospel preaching.  As this is evidently a spiritual function and the reason for it is to break bread, this must be for the Lord's Supper.

Paul teaches at length in this assembly, and there is some excitement with a man who is overcome with sleep and falls from a three-story window.  Afterward, they are breaking bread, mentioned in verse 11, and further discussion continues until daybreak.  We are left to consider whether this is the Lord's Supper observance or a common meal.  The brethren are spending all night together, and an ordinary meal will certainly become an incidental necessity.  Nevertheless, even if this is an accommodating common meal, a connection with the Lord's Supper is not necessarily inferred.

4.       Misunderstanding "love feasts"

Proponents of the "fellowship meal" concept of the Lord's Supper look also to the love feasts mentioned in Jude 1:12 for defense.  Jude writes:

Jude 1:11-13  Woe to them!  For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 12 These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves.  They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; 13 raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

Similar language appears in 2 Peter 2:12-17.  Jude's phrase, "love feasts," translates the plural of AGAPE {ag-ah'-pay}, which in this form means, "love feasts, fellowship meals, meals in which members of a Christian community eat together in fellowship" (JHT).  The fact that Christians regularly shared common meals together is not disputed; this is clearly presented in scripture (Acts 2:46; 1 Corinthians 5:11; Galatians 2:12).  It is also not disputed that the brethren might have called these occasions "AGAPAE."  However, there is absolutely no indication that this was the action of the church as a body assembled in worship nor that it had anything to do with the Lord's Supper.  Any such conclusion is derived solely from conjecture.

Jude's language is intensively figurative, so it is also reasonable that he is not talking about a feast with literal food but filling ourselves with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), the "unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8), and the pure milk of the word (1 Peter 2:2) – gorging ourselves on the love of God (Ephesians 3:19) – and the evil deceivers are a hindrance to it.  With so much emphasis on spiritual food in scripture (John 4:32-34; 6:27-63; 1 Corinthians 10:3; Hebrews 5:12-14; 13:10; Revelation 2:7, 17), it seems unlikely for Jude to be concerned that their dinnertime is spoiled.

Consider also that if the Lord's Supper is part of a common meal and we are not to eat such with a persistently disorderly, impenitent Christian (1 Corinthians 5:11), then if such a person gathers with us to worship, we must actively deny him from partaking of the Lord's Supper.  This is unreasonable.

If we look to the totality of rightly applied scripture for support of a church "fellowship meal," we find nothing.  To the contrary, we see that Christians individually shared common meals in their homes and that the church is not carnal but spiritual.  Men have for decades tried to find in Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 11, and Jude 12 justification for church-sponsored social dinners, but it's just not there.  Such carnality is wrong-mindedness, and it is disgraceful to propose a similar perversion of which the Corinthians were guilty.

5.       One cup

There are brethren who maintain that there should only be a single container for the fruit of the vine in a communion service.  This idea is derived from the fact that wherever in scripture the communion cup is mentioned, the original word is always in the singular, POTERION {pot-ay'-ree-on}, meaning "a cup, a drinking vessel" (JHT).  Regardless, most Greek lexicons elaborate on its frequent use by metonymy, "of the container for the contained, the contents of the cup, what is offered to be drunk" (JHT, John 18:11).  The vernacular accepts that it is not the actual container that is consumed.  Correspondingly, notice what Luke reveals regarding the preparations Jesus makes for the Lord's Supper:

Luke 22:17, 18  Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

Here, the phrase "fruit of the vine" (the contents) is interchangeable with the word "cup" (the container).  Furthermore, the disciples do not yet drink the cup; they only divide it among them, and it is intrinsically impossible to do this without separate containers.  There is actually a stronger case that separate cups must be used.

Conclusively, this is all beside the point.  The reasoning to bind a single serving cup is invalid.  Nevertheless, if one cup is coincidentally utilized in communion, there is no sin; it is still expedient.  However, churches have actually divided over this trifling dispute.  This is appalling.  God is imploring us to please just remember His Son, but this has become a disappointing conflict in some places.

6.       Transubstantiation

Jesus said we must eat His flesh and drink his blood to have life (John 6:48-58).  This is hard to understand.  To take it literally sounds like cannibalism, which is absurd, and the disciples are confused also (verse 60).  Knowing this, Jesus explains, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (verse 63).  His attention is on the spirit, not the flesh.  The bread which gives eternal life is His words.  Metaphorically, as we ingest His words like bread, it makes us what we are (Ezekiel 2:8 – 3:4).

Notwithstanding, in order to force a carnal explanation of these verses, Catholicism professes a doctrine known as "transubstantiation" – a highly elaborate philosophical theology about the transformation of substances.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares that the literal, physical body and blood of the Lord together with the soul and divinity, are "really, truly and substantially present under the remaining appearances of bread and wine."   A miracle is implied, but there is no physical evidence (Acts 4:16).  Notwithstanding, those not confessing this belief are deemed accursed.

The doctrine seeks validation from the fact that Christ blesses the bread, that is, He consecrates it, as expressed by the Greek EULOGEO mentioned earlier.  This reasoning is based upon equivocation: a fallacy of ambiguity.  To explain, when a thing is consecrated, it is made holy, but holiness has two meanings: (1) set apart for a special use and (2) worthy of worship as a divine being.  Consecration involves exclusively the first sense.  When Jesus therefore blesses the bread, it does not become a divine object of worship; it is only devoted to a spiritual purpose.

The doctrine additionally sites 1 Corinthians 10:16, which depicts the bread and the cup as a communion of the Lord's body and blood.  However, as discussed earlier, the word translated "communion," KOINONIA {koy-nohn-ee'-ah}, indicates a fellowship and association with, implying agreement, union, and accord (2 Corinthians 6:14).  No support for transubstantiation actually resides here.  Paul is contextually declaring that the Lord's Supper is an affirmation of our association with Christ, and we cannot have at the same time harmony with the worship of idols and demons (1 Corinthians 10:17-22).

When Jesus clarifies His words in John 6:63, this would be the perfect time to expound on the philosophy of transubstantiation.  Instead, He describes His words in simple terms that are to be spiritually discerned.  This explanation is all that is necessary.  There is no need to develop a theologically complex literal or carnal interpretation, just as there is no need to develop such a doctrine to explain that Jesus a literal door (John 10:9) or a literal vine (John 15:5); we understand such terminology is figurative.

The doctrine of transubstantiation is of human origin and not in harmony with scripture.

7.       Closed communion

Many so-called Christian religions practice "closed communion," where only attendees who have been judged acceptable by church officials are permitted to partake of the Lord's Supper; all others are denied.  In response, in the scriptures indicating the worthiness of the participants, the judgment is one's own or the Lord's, not another's. 

1 Corinthians 10:15, 16  I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?

1 Corinthians 11:28-33  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. … 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord….

Hebrew 13:10 states, "We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat."  However, this is not the Lord's Supper.  The context clearly indicates that those participants are not literally eating food but are figuratively filled with grace (verse 9).  There is no scriptural precedent by which anyone would declare that another must be denied partaking the Lord's Supper.

Moreover, at different locations and times in some churches accepting transubstantiation, it is common practice that laity receive only the bread; the consecrated wine is received only by their ordained priests on their behalf.  The practical reason for this is because the wine, believed to be the literal, physical blood of the Lord together with the soul and divinity, could be more easily desecrated if accidentally spilled.  To the contrary, Jesus says, "Drink from it, all of you" (Matthew 26:27).



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