From Heaven Or From Men
Clinton D. Hamilton
This column deals with a question about the Lord's supper. In the words of the querist, the issues are set forth below:
Question: "In communion, breaking bread, Matthew 26:26 states that Jesus took bread, blessed it and brake it. Mark gives (14:22) the same account. Luke 22:19, 'And he took bread, gave thanks and brake it.' In I Corinthians 11:23,24 - 'took bread and when he given thanks, he broke it and said take eat this is my body which is broken for you; This do in remembrance of me.'
"Four times this is stated in order:
1. He took bread
2. Gave thanks
3. Broke it
"When one is waiting on the Lord's table is it sound doctrine to give thanks before (breaking the bread) into separate plates for distributing, or divide the bread (dividing the bread), give thanks, and break to eat the Lord's supper they pass to each individual?"
Response: Of fundamental importance in the partaking of the Lord's supper is the disposition of one's mind. Observance of the supper is a proclamation of the Lord's death until he come (1 Cor. 11:26). But it is also an observance in remembrance of Christ (Lk. 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25). Bread and fruit of the vine are the elements of the supper. What is being done is a communion of the body and the blood of the Lord (1 Cor. 10:16). When one partakes of the bread and fruit of the vine, one shares in the benefits of the body and the blood of the Lord.
Central to the observance of the supper is the worthiness of the manner in which it is done. Because one who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, "if he discern not the body" (1 Cor. 11:29). Unworthily is from anaxios which signifies that one's manner does not accord with the symbolic significance of what is being done. Discern is from diakrino, to separate, discriminate. One must discriminate what is being done: a remembrance of the body and the blood of the Lord. It is not merely eating food. There is a symbolic significance to what is being done related to the body of the Lord. This discrimination or discernment is essential to receiving benefit from the observance, and not damnation.
Ritualistic form has led many to overlook the inner significance Of what is being done. This is not to say that form has no significance. However, one must not become so enmeshed in form or ritual that one overloooks what is in the heart and what is being discriminated in the observance of the Lord's supper.
In all four accounts of the institution of the Lord's supper, it is stated that Jesus took bread, gave thanks, brake it, and told them to eat it (Matt. 26:26; Mk. 14:22; Lk. 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:23-24). These passages tell us what he did. Paul told the Corinthians that he delivered to them what he received of the Lord and setting forth what he had received he gave the order: took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and said take, eat. Certainly, one cannot be wrong in following exactly this order. There one should leave it and do likewise without any fear of being wrong.
Having said all in the preceding two paragraphs, one should proceed to read all Paul had to say about what is essential to proper observance of the Lord's supper in 1 Corinthians 11:20-33. (1) The supper is in remembrance of the Lord. (2) It is a proclamation of his death until he come. (3) There must be a discernment of the body of the Lord in one's observance. (4) It must be observed as a unified body, not in small segregated groups. (5) It is not a common meal which should be eaten at home.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 22, p. 677