By Ronny Wade
The Real Issue
The real issue in this discussion is whether or not the New Testament authorizes the use of a plurality of cups (containers) to distribute the fruit of the vine in the Lord’s supper. For such a practice to be authorized it must either be exemplified, commanded, or necessarily inferred. The affirmant has already admitted that “cups” are not exemplified, i.e. he cannot read verbatim about them being used. Thus he must either find a command demanding their use or some passage that necessarily infers their usage. By his own admission he believes the church of the first century used them (GOT, 1/2/86). What causes him to reach this conclusion? Nothing in the first affirmative pointed to the fact that they were used, by the Lord at the institution of the supper or that the early church employed their use. On what basis then may we assert the first century church used them?
Assertions of the Affirmative
The two main arguments used in the preceding article were: (1) The cup is the fruit of the vine, hence a container is never under consideration when the word cup is used in the Lord’s supper accounts. (2) The container has no significance, therefore the number used is incidental. Both assertions are false.
First of all it should be pointed out that the New Testament never says, “This cup is my blood,” or “This cup is the fruit of the vine.” What the record does say is this, “He took the cup” (Mt. 26:27). The word translated cup is poterion in the Greek. The scholars say that in Matthew 26:27 the word is used literally and means “a drinking vessel” (cf. Robinson; “a drinking vessel,” Vine; “a cup, a drinking vessel,” Thayer; “drinking vessel,” Young).
What Did Jesus Do?
“He took the cup.” Took (“to take with the hand,” Thayer p. 870), thus Jesus took something with His hand. What? A cup, “a drinking vessel” (Thayer p. 533). He then gave (“reach out, extend, present,” Thayer p. 145) what He took, to His disciples and commanded them to drink from it, “drink ye all of it” or “from it” or “out of it.” It is obvious then that the cup He took and gave was not empty, but contained something which Jesus identifies as the fruit of the vine. The disciples had no difficulty understanding what Jesus wanted them to do for Mark records, “They all drank of it” (Mk. 14:23), i.e., they all drank “from or out of” it.
The following parallel will help us grasp the teaching of Matthew 26:27-28.
“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 I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until the day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
He picked up the cup (container) and drank it (contents) and sighed gustily saying, “this is good coffee.”
Notice (1) cup is literal in both places. (2) This and it both refer back to cup (literal) but the pronouns (this, it) refer by metonymy to the contents of the cup. (Cup is still literal and cup does not become the contents). (3) The fruit of the vine was not the cup. The coffee was not the cup.
The fact that Jesus refers to the contents of the cup by saying, “this is my blood,” does not in any way negate the fact that He took a literal cup and commanded His disciples to drink from it.
Christ commanded the disciples to drink of one cup. “And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, drink ye all of it” (Mt. 26:27). The disciples understood the command and “they all drank of it” (Mk. 14:23).
Paul commands us to keep the communion as he delivered it. “Now I praise you brethren, that ye remember me in all things and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2). “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, . . . after the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, this cup is the New Testament in my blood” (1 Cor. 11:23-25). Paul also commands an assembly to “drink of that cup. ” He delivers instructions applying “when ye come together to eat” (1 Cor. 11:33). The command is, “but let a man examine himself and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). Thus an assembly of the church which has “come together to eat” (v. 33) should “drink of” (out of, from) that cup (v. 28). A congregation that drinks from cups fails to obey the commands of both Jesus and Paul.
The contention of the affirmative that “every passage that teaches the obligation to drink the fruit of the vine, is a passage that authorizes a plurality of drinking vessels (Lk. 22:19),” is ridiculous and totally without biblical foundation. I had just as well contend that every passage that teaches the obligation to support gospel preachers, authorizes an indirect plan of support or that every passage that teaches the obligation to support the needy, authorizes the support of non-saints as well as saints. The truth of the matter is this; every passage that teaches the obligation to drink the fruit of the vine, also teaches that we are to “drink of (or out of) that cup.” When cups are used, the command is disobeyed and the example disregarded. The entire energy of the affirmative’s first argument was designed to prove that the Bible doesn’t mean what it says, i.e. cup is not a cup. Remember, had the Bible said, “He took the cups,” or “He took the fruit of the vine,” this discussion would be unnecessary. What the Bible could have said that would have allowed the use of a plurality of containers, it did not say. On the other hand, what it did say, excludes a plurality and that is why it becomes necessary for the affirmative in this discussion to try to explain it away.
Any matter or thing which has been designated by God’s word to be a part of Christian worship, is spiritually significant. Examples: (1) The first day of the week is spiritually significant because God designated it to be the day of worship (Acts 20:7). (2) Fruit of the vine is spiritually significant because God designated it to be an emblem of Christ’s blood (Mt. 26:28). We have no right to demand that a matter lacking spiritual significance be preserved. But by the same token we cannot deny a matter or thing the spiritual significance given it by God in His word. When we demand the spiritual significance be preserved, we have made no law; we are merely contending for what has been revealed in the Bible.
The significance of the cup may be seen in at least two ways: (1) Jesus took a cup containing the fruit of the vine and commanded the disciples to drink out of it. Whatever else He might have done, this is what He did and that cannot be overlooked in preference for what I might like to do. (2) The following parallel demonstrates the significance of the cup:
This (bread) is my body (Lk. 22:19) This (fruit of vine) Is my blood (Mk. 14:24) This cup is the New Testament in my blood (Lk. 22:20)
(1) These three statements are contextual, analogical, syntactical and grammatical parallels in their essential particulars.
(2) Each has a subject and a predicate joined by the copula “is.”
(3) Each embraces a metaphor which is a figure of comparison and which is suggested by “is” in which usage “is” carries with it the idea “represents.”
(4) Each also embraces a prolepsis, “is given,” itis shed,” anticipatory language, in which a future event is spoken of as an accomplished fact.
(5) The subject of each is a literal something.
(6) If bread is literal and the fruit of the vine is literal, then the cup is literal.
(7) If after Christ made these statements, the bread was still literal bread but with a spiritual significance, and the fruit of the vine was still literal fruit of the vine but with a spiritual significance, then the cup was still a literal cup but with a spiritual significance.
(8) If when Christ said of the bread, “This is my body, which is given for you,” the bread and the body of Christ were two different things but with a spiritual relationship; and if when Christ said of the fruit of the vine, “This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many,” the fruit of the vine and the shed blood were two different things but with a spiritual relationship; then when Christ said, “This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you,” the cup and the new testament were two different things but with a spiritual relationship.
(9) If the bread Christ took was literal bread before, when, and after He took it, and if the fruit of the vine He took was literal fruit of the vine before, when, and after He took it, then the cup He took was a literal cup before, when, and after He took it.
(10) Jesus was no more defining “cup” than He was defining “bread” and “fruit of the vine.” Bread was still bread. Fruit of the vine was still fruit of the vine. Cup was still a cup.
To deny the above is to deny what Jesus taught. There is a tremendous difference between: (1) this is my blood of the new testament and (2) this cup is the new testament in my blood.
The former teaches that the fruit of the vine represents the blood that ratified or sealed the new covenant. The latter teaches that the cup is emblematic of the new testament that was ratified by the blood. They are not the same at all. If we can understand the difference between the blood that ratified the covenant and the covenant itself, we should be able to see the difference in the symbols used by Christ to represent both.
1. His Body was sacrificed
2. His Blood was shed
3. The New Covenant was ratified
The statement that the drinking vessel is implicit in the command to drink, does not warrant the conclusion that the number is incidental. First of all the drinking vessel is named and specified (Mt. 26:27); let our brother deny it. If it is specified and named (as it is) then we can conclude that it is taught explicitly (i.e. “clearly developed with all its elements apparent”). The number is not incidental because Jesus specified the number (i.e. “a cup,” “the cup”). Paul specified “this cup,” “that cup.” There is no room for a plurality in New Testament teaching. To teach that cups are taught implicitly is to teach something totally foreign to the Scripture. Our brother has failed to find an approved “ample, divine command, or necessary inference for his practice. He has been unable to substantiate his contention by implicit teaching. The first affirmative utterly fails in its attempt to find biblical authorization for individual cups in the Lord’s supper.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 5, pp. 143-144, 148
March 5, 1987