The Memorial Supper

Colly Caldwell
Columbia, Tennessee


1. The following passages will be considered: Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:14-30; Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10: 16, 21; 11: 17-34.

2. This compendium is not intended as an argumentative essay or an effort to answer in depth the theological disputes arising from doctrinal differences on the Lord's Supper.

The study is intended, on the other hand, to call to remembrance the often forgotten meaning of the Supper and to thus edify.


1. WHAT? A Communion Supper Composed of Bread and Fruit of the Vine.

A. Background

1. On the day of His betrayal, Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare for the Passover (Luke 22:8-13). That included:

a. Finding a place inside the city of Jerusalem as required by the Law. Jesus instructed as to how to find this place.

b. Preparing the feast; including securing a lamb, having it sacrificed, cooking and setting the meal. An all-day job.

2. The Passover Lamb

a. The lamb was usually bought from merchants in the city by those who had traveled to Jerusalem.

b. The lamb was to be offered after the regular evening sacrifice at about 3:00 p.m. but before sundown. The meal could be eaten in the evening any time after 6:00 p.m.

At the temple, each worshipper slit the throat of his own lamb; a priest caught the blood and passed it down a row of priests to the altar where it was poured out on the base.

d. One lamb was offered for each company. A company consisted of not less than 10 or more than 20 persons,

3. The Passover Meal

a. The unleavened bread was baked.

b. The lamb was roasted.

c. A bowl of salt water was prepared (to remind of tears shed in Egypt and of the waters of the Red Sea through which Jehovah had led them).

d. Bitter herbs were gathered and cleaned (to remind of bitterness of bondage).

e. The Charosheth was prepared (a paste of apples, dates, pomegranates and nuts to remind of clay used in making bricks).

f. Four cups of "fruit of the vine" were set on the table with the other elements (to remind of the four promises of Exodus 6: 6-7).

B. Jesus' Communion Supper (Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-23; Luke 22:14-20;

1 Cor. 11:23-25).

1. Jesus took two of the Passover elements and gave them spiritual and memorial significance in the New Covenant kingdom.

2. The Unleavened Bread

a. Thin cakes, no leavening, like water biscuits.

b. Had been used in Passover in remembrance of bread baked hurriedly under God's commands before the Exodus.

c. Used by Christ to exemplify his body broken in death.

3. The Fruit of the Vine

a. A mixture of juice from the grape. "Often mixed with 2 / 3 water" (Robertson). The Law did not require fermentation. The word "wine" (oinos) is never used in the New Testament to refer to the Lord's Supper.

b. Fruit of the vine used in the Passover to remember the salvation from death received by those who put blood over the doors in Egypt.

c. Jesus used fruit of the vine to symbolize His blood, shed in death for the salvation of men. The "cup" which he took is, then, the contents (not the container) which symbolize his sacrifice.

4. Changes of elements in some modern "churches."

a. A Des Moines, Iowa, Methodist church has served hamburgers and soft drinks.

b. The Broadway Church of Christ, Lubbock, Texas, published the following report in its paper, Advance: "One Sunday, a child was happy beyond words that the preacher had taken time out so that even one could have Kool-Aid and cookies . . . it was the Lord's Supper."

c. Any change in elements perverts the pattern established by Jesus. He chose elements which peculiarly symbolize important elements in man's salvation. They must not be changed.

II. WHO? Jesus and His Disciples

A. Originally

1. Jesus partook with the twelve (Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-23; Luke 22: 14:20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25).

2. He commanded, "Drink ye all of it" (Matt. 26:27); that is, all of them were to drink. "All drank of it" (Mark 14: 23).

B. In the Church

1. Jesus said in instituting the Supper that it stands for his blood which was "shed for many" (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24). This gives the Supper significance for all those (but only those) who appropriate that blood in salvation.

2. "They" broke bread. They who? "They" that gladly received the word and were baptized (Acts 2:46, 41). "They" were those who were added to the church (vs. 47).

3. Disciples met to take the supper (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11: 18-34).

4. While we do not practice "close" communion, in the sense of expelling or forbidding non-Christians, we understand that one who is not a Christian is not promised the blessings attendant upon those who observe this memorial.

Ill. WHERE? In Assemblies of Citizens of the Kingdom.

A. In the Kingdom

1. Jesus promised that He would commune in the kingdom (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:15-18).

2. Jesus was looking forward to the victory over death and the establishment of the kingdom, the church. The eating and drinking of Christ is a figurative expression denoting the communing of. Jesus with disciples around the Lord's Table in the church.

B. In Local Assemblies

1. The Lord's Supper was to be observed in the same environment in which the doctrine was taught, spiritual fellowship was enjoyed, and prayers were made (Acts 2:42).

2. To be done when they came together (Acts20:7; I Cor. 11:20).

3. In the church 0 Cor. 11: 18).

4. There seems to be no New Testament requirement for those who are unable to participate in the assembled worship to partake of the Lord's Supper.

IV. WHEN? The First Day of the Week

A. Significance of the First Day

1. The significance of the 1st day observance seems to be found in the fact that Jesus was resurrected on that day (John 20: 1).

2. Scholars also generally concede that the expression, "eight days later" (John 20:26), refers to the first day of the next week after the resurrection when Jesus first met with his disciples.

B. Every First Day

1. Every reputable scholar admits that both the wording of Acts 20:7 and all historical evidence affirm that New Testament Christians met every 1st day for worship and communion.

2. Compare: If each Sabbath, then each 1st day. "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy" (Ex. 20:8). "The first day of the week to break bread" (Acts 20: 7)

V. WHY? To Symbolize, to Memorialize, to Edify

A. To Symbolize

1. Calls to mind Christ's broken body and shed blood (Matt. 26: 26-29; Mark 14:22-23; Luke 22:19-20).

a. Jesus took emblems which are quite ordinary and gave them spiritual symbolism.

b. Roman Catholicism's transubstantiation theories of the emblems literally becoming the body and blood of Christ miss the true purpose and emphasize something physical.

2. Calls to mind the "Lord's death till he come" (I Cor. 11: 26)

a. The symbolism is extended from His death to a return in life to accept true disciples.

3. Calls to mind the New Testament or Covenant (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24).

a. A covenant is a contract between persons: God and Israel in the Old, and God and the Christian in the New.

b. This New Covenant is sealed by the blood of Christ (Heb. 10:29; 13:20).

c. The Lord's Supper symbolizes liberation from sin and the sacrifice made by Christ that death might pass over us. The covenant is God's agreement that we may be partakers in these blessings.

B. To Memorialize

1. "This do in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11: 24-25).

2. How easy it would be to forget Jesus' sacrifice in a fast moving world. How easy to remember through weekly observance of the monument to His death.

3. If the Supper does not stand as a monument in the minds of the communicants, it cannot be properly observed.

C. To Edify

1. To make better, not worse (I Cor. 11:17).

2. The Supper makes better, builds up, or edifies by reviving our memories, recalling what has been done for us. It gives us strength for today by pointing us to the hope of tomorrow (1 Cor. 11: 26).

3. It should be noted, however, that the therapeutic, preventive, and uplifting values it provides do not override other acts of worship. It is not enough to come solely for the Lord's Supper with a view toward forsaking other assemblies or other acts of worship or service.

VI. HOW? Worthily

A. The Term "Worthily"

1. An adverb of manner ... the manner of observance, the way we partake.

2. "Worthily" (axios) is defined as "befitting, congruous, corresponding to a thing . . ." (Thayer, p. 52).

3. The word does not mean that one must be worthy in the sense of being sinless or even that one must be so good at the time as to deserve to partake.

4. It suggests that one must think properly and be filled with correct motives and attitudes while partaking.

B. What To Think While Partaking

1. In order to partake worthily one must discern the Lord's death (I Cor. 11:29). That means:

a. We must think about the cross and what happened there.

b. We must understand the meaning of the emblems of which we are partaking.

c. We must make proper distinction between the holy and the material.

d. We must have reverence for the sanctity of what we are doing.

2. In order to partake worthily one must look to the future coming of Christ (1 Cor. 11:26).

a. The past has little meaning apart from the future. The plan of salvation connects the death of Christ with the return of Christ.

b. His death was for the purpose of giving us hope. In the future is found the personal meaning of Christ's death for me and for you.

C. Attitudes Connected With Proper Observance Of The Lord's Supper In The New Testament

1. Attitudes toward God.

a. Should commune prayerfully, thanking God.

(1) Jesus blessed it, thanked God for it (Matt. 26:26-27; Mark 14:22-23; Luke 22:17-19).

(2) This ordinarily should not include long prayers around the table concerning other items of faith or practice.

b. Should partake with a view toward communing with Deity.

(1) Jesus' relationship with disciples strengthened in partaking (I Cor. 11: 10:16).

(2) Our relationship made closer by communion. Attitudes toward the Brethren

a. In fellowship without divisions (I Cor. 11:18-34).

b. Not shaming others to prefer ourselves and tarrying one for another (I Cor. 11:22-33).

c. Paul clearly indicates that one cannot properly observe the Lord's Supper while fostering hatred and a divisive spirit in his heart.

d. Love stands behind the Lord's actions for us. We are remembering those actions of Love. We must love one another.

3. Attitudes toward Self

a. Should personally examine self as to manner of partaking (I Cor. 11: 28).

b. Should personally examine self as to consistency in life and personal dedication to the Lord (1 Cor. 10:21).

4. Attitudes toward the Supper

a. Should observe steadfastly and continually (Acts 2:42).

b. Should observe purposely (they came together for that purpose, among others) (Acts 20: 7).

Should not observe with gluttony and drunkenness or make of it a common meal (I Cor. 11:21-22, 34).

D. Some - Suggested Helps In Observing Worthily

1. To keep the mind properly centered on the Supper you might wish to read one of the Bible accounts of the institution of the Supper or of the crucifixion.

2. You might wish to engage in silent prayer of thanksgiving for Christ's sacrifices for you and petition that your life might be conformed more to his image. I would not allow my prayer, however, to wander from the memorial.

3. You might prefer to read the words of some of the excellent songs in the hymn books which connect with or relate to these events.

4. We will all certainly not want to allow noises or movements in the house to interrupt our concentration. Do not turn around and look back or around. It might nullify the meaning of the Supper to you or me.

E. Punishments For Observing "Unworthily"

1. The Christian who partakes unworthily "shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord"; that is, guilty of profaning, degrading, and affronting the serious significance of the sacrifice made by Christ, taking lightly his death and its meaning.

2. The Christian who partakes unworthily "eateth and drinketh damnation." To partake unworthily is sin by which one may be condemned.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 17, pp. 5-9
March 4, 1971