September 21, 2017

The One Container Question

By J. T. Smith

There has been much disputing among members of the body of Christ over whether the cup (fruit of the vine) must be served in one container or be served in different containers. Actually, I believe the solution to this problem is a simple one. If we would not confuse our words and would say what we mean, we could come a lot closer to getting the issue settled.

One Cup

The discussion of the "one cup" should really be a, simple one. I do not know of anyone who is a member of the Lord's church that does not believe in only "one cup." If we have a proper understanding of the Scriptures, we can see that the "one cup" is the contents, the fruit of the vine, and not the drinking vessel. I wish I could get my brethren to just say what they mean when they talk about this subject. Brethren, who believe in one container should be labeled as "one container brethren," and should not be spoken of as "one cup" brethren.

One Container

None of the passages that mention the 'cup in the New Testament refers to the container, but the contents. I want us to take every passage in the New Testament that deals with the subject and see what each one ACTUALLY says; and not what we want to read into them.

Matt. 26:27-29 "And he took, the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins. But this I say unto you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (Practically the same wording is used in Mark 14:23-26, and also in Luke 22:20).

I Cor. 11:25-26 "After the same manner also he took the cup, and when he had supped, saying, this cup is the New Testament in my blood; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do shew the Lord's death till he comes." You will notice that in these passages several words have been italicized for emphasis, and to help us to keep in mind our subject. In Matt. 26 Jesus took the cup and gave thanks. Was he giving thanks for the container or the CONTENTS??? Then he told them to all drink it. Were they to drink the container or the contents? Christ said that which they were to drink was his blood. Was he referring to the container or the contents??? Christ said that what they were drinking (the cup) was the fruit of the vine, verse 20. THAT OUGHT TO SETTLE IT WITH HONEST PEOPLE!!!!

Then in I Cor. 11, Paul relates to them what the Lord's Supper is, and why they were to partake of it. However, we note that Paul said the cup could be supped. Was that the container or the contents? He said they could drink it - and even says "drink this cup! What more do you want?


It is usually argued (and rightly so) that a figure of speech known as Metonymy is used in I Cor. 11, when these brethren are faced with the fact of having to drink a literal cup. "According to the figure of speech, Metonymy, a cup may be named to suggest its real and actual contents" (Stated by brother Irving Waters in the Porert-Waters Debate, Page 15). Of course this is true. In this, kind of figure of speech, the one thing is used to represent or suggest the actual thing under consideration. But if it will work in I Cor. 11 where Paul is repeating what Jesus said, why won't it work on the passage where Jesus actually said it? Do we have to have just one cup? Yes sir the fruit of the vine. Does the Bible teach just -one container? No sir - not in any of the passages that we have considered. Let me give you an example of how metonymy is used. My wife makes delicious spaghetti. Often, when we have company, she has to put it in more than one container. I might say "that is my favorite dish." Would I be talking about the container? No! about the contents; and it might be in a half-dozen or a dozen containers. Thus, the term "dish" would, by metonymy, have reference to the spaghetti and not the container (s) that contained it. I believe you can see this.

Now for a Bible example of this same reasoning. In John 4:12, the woman at the well told Jesus that the well was given by Jacob, and that he drank thereof, and his children, and his cattle. Now, did each one actually go up and stick his head inside the container of the water, (the rock and mortar) and drink? Obviously not, for she said the well was deep (v. 11). Whether the water was drawn and all of them drank from one container, or Jacob from one, his children from another, and his cattle from a hundred, wouldn't they still be drinking of Jacob's well?? Again, the word "well" is used, by Metonymy, to refer to the contents (water) and not to the actual container. So, according to the one-container brethren's reasoning, Jacob, his children, and all his cattle would have to put their lips to the same container in order to drink "of Jacob's well." Yes, we believe in using only one cup - the fruit of the vine. The only way you could use more than one cup would be to use Blackberry juice, and Tomato juice, and several other kinds of juice that would come from a vine. (Speaking now of the Biblical cup under consideration). Then, you would have more than one cup.


Brethren have divided the Body of Christ over something for which they do not offer thanks (the container), and which they cannot sup (the container), and which they cannot drink (the container). I beg of you, just use the cup - grape juice - in one or a thousand containers, and quit splitting the Body of Christ over an old piece of glass, clay or metal that has nothing to do with worship. Divisions have always come over what the Bible does not say instead of what it does say. It does say one cup, (fruit of the vine). It does not say into how many containers this one cup should be placed.

TRUTH MAGAZINE XIII: 11, pp. 10-11
August 1969