By Elmer Moore
Proposition: The Scriptures teach that the cup (drinking vessel) in the communion represents the new Covenant.
I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the teaching of our Lord about the memorial supper he instituted on the night of his betrayal. A word of appreciation to Truth Magazine and Old Paths Advocate for publishing this exchange. It is my prayer that this exchange will enlighten brethren as to the issue between us. It is more than just a question about how many containers may be used in the Lord’s supper. The proposition of this exchange indicates as much. There are some serious differences between us about the Lord’s supper. It is my hope that this discussion will resolve at least one.
Since brother Hawkins did not number or otherwise label his arguments, I shall assume his major sections to be labels I, II, III, IV, and etc., respectively. I shall enumerate my response to his arguments under these respective sections.
II. The New Covenant and The Blood of Christ
1. I take no issue with what brother Hawkins wrote about “The New Covenant and the blood of Christ.” I would re- mind the readers that he obligates himself to do two things. (1) Prove that Jesus gave some significance to a literal container, and (2) that this literal container represented the New Covenant just like the bread represented his body.
2. I want to preface my statements of reply by a few observations. We are admonished to be “not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17); to do so we need to understand that the New Testament was written to the whole world and not just to the people of Texas and Missouri. Consequently, we need to understand that there was a mode of expression that was peculiar to the time and place of the recording of the New Testament. Serious students of the New Testament will endeavour to understand what was meant at the time the message was written and how it was understood then. I do not believe that brother Hawkins has done this. He writes about metaphor and metonymy and ignores the rules that must be respected when examining such. He treats figurative language as if it were subject to the natural laws of grammar. Bullinger, in his book on figures of speech, writes: “A figure is, as we have said before, a departure from the natural and fixed laws of grammar and syntax” (Intro. 11). This is the same mistake that men have made in dealing with symbols and parables. He also ignores the purpose or design of the Lord’s supper. The purpose for doing a thing is vital. Our brother understands this on the subject of baptism. We need to understand that Jesus was observing the Passover Feast, a feast that was a memorial. Jesus declared, “This do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24, 25). He commanded the design and we had better not forget or ignore it. W.E. Vine writes, “In Christ’s command in the institution of the Lord’s supper (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24, 25) not ‘in memory of’ but in an affectionate calling of the person himself to mind” (957). Anything that is made sig- nificant in the Lord’s supper must meet this design. One can readily see that the bread that represents his body, and the fruit of the vine, which represents his blood, affectionately calls the person himself to mind. Brethren what is there about a literal container that causes one to affectionately call the person himself to mind?
III. The Death of Christ: “Three things happened — Three things are represented.”
1. Our brother writes that “three things of significance occurred when Jesus died on the cross.” I would remind him that there are many more than three things that happened when he died on the cross: He obtained the remission of sins for man (Matt. 26:28); the church was purchased (Acts 20:28); the Old Testament was abrogated (Col. 2:14), to name a few. He settles on three because that is what his proposition demands. I would remind you that Jesus, when he instituted his supper, mentions two things that involve his blood: the forgiveness of sins, and the ratifying of the New Testament. Both necessitated his blood. Under this heading brother Hawkins also tells you that I will say that the statements, “blood of the covenant” (Matt. 26:28) and the “covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20) are “identical statements.” I say no such thing. I say what the New Testament teaches: that these two statements are af- firming the same truth. Both are teaching that the contents of the cup represent the blood of Christ which ratified the covenant. The order of record is not always the order of occurrence.
2. Let me tell you what brother Hawkins has done by failing to understand the nature of figurative language. He has Matthew and Mark contradicting what Luke said. Look at his reasoning. Matthew 26:27 states “and he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, drink from it all of you, for this is my blood . . .” Please note by his reasoning the word “this” refers back to cup. Hence, Matthew and Mark affirm that the “cup” is his blood, and Luke affirms by his reasoning, that the literal “cup” is the New Covenant. Thus, brother Hawkins has these inspired writers contradicting themselves. To avoid this he will have to recognize his improper use of metaphorical and metonymical language; and when he does this he will have to give up his “container represents the New Covenant” theory.
IV. What Represents What?
1. Under this heading brother Hawkins correctly states that “by tracing the pronoun ‘this’ back to its antecedent, we learn that the bread represents Christ’s body.” He then cites Matthew 26:27-29 where Jesus “took the cup, gave thanks, gave to them, saying, ‘drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood . . .’ In Christ’s statement, ‘for this is my blood,’ the pronoun ‘this’ refers grammatically to the cup.” You will note that he understood that by tracing “this” in v. 26 back to bread, he learned that the bread represented his body, but he didn’t learn that by tracing the word “this” back to cup that the cup represented his blood. But, my brethren the word “cup” does represent his blood in this passage. Does our brother not see that his reasoning on Luke 22:20 has Matthew and Mark in contradiction with Luke. Matthew and Mark write that the “cup is His blood” and brother Hawkins has Luke declaring that it is not his blood but is his New Covenant. Brother Hawkins please take note: Jesus identified what was in the cup, “fruit of the vine.” We would not know if he had not told us. No drink was required in the Passover. It was there either by custom or in anticipation of what Jesus intended to do. This is why he said “this fruit of the vine”; and in so doing he explained his use of the word cup. He was not emphasizing a container. Certainly, because of the physical nature of grape juice, a container was necessary but served no other purpose.
2. Brother Hawkins tries to avoid his difficulty by arguing that the “cup is not the blood because the fruit of the vine represents the blood.” He has grammatically argued that the cup is his blood. Now he is changing his mind. Why does he get into this predicament? Because he is emphasizing a literal container. He is ignoring the figure of a metaphor and metonymy. He tries to prove that the word “cup” is referring to a literal container that has some significance. He gives an illustration of a cup of coffee. Brother Hawkins this denies what you are arguing, and admits my contention that the emphasis is on the contents and not the container.
V. What Do Scholars Say?
1. Brother Hawkins tries to prove his point by scholars. He writes, “all reputable Bible scholars agree that the word
‘cup’ in this passage is used literally and means a drinking vessel.” Brother Hawkins they do not! You cite Thayer where he defines the word cup and you say he said that the word is used literally. Thayer defines cup to mean a drinking vessel. He then shows how the word is used. He writes, “by metonymy the container for the contained, the contents of the cup, what is offered to be drunk” (Luke 22:20). Brother Hawkins there is no such thing as a figurative definition of a word. All words are defined in their literal sense, but they are capable of being used figuratively. Brother, you misrepresented Thayer.
2. He then tries to show the significance of the container from Robertson and Stringfellow. Please look at what these men say. They say exactly what I am contending, which is that the “cup” is named for its “contents.” The emphasis is on the contents, not the container — the contents, the fruit of the vine which represents his blood that ratified the New Covenant.
3. Paul, in writing to the church at Corinth stated: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not, [it is, e.m.] a com munion of the blood of Christ. The bread which we break, is it not [it is, e.m.] a communion of the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16). Brother Hawkins there are only two elements of significance, not three.
VI. Formulated Conclusions
1. Brother Hawkins “formulates some conclusions.” In these he again states the integral relationship between the covenant and the blood of Christ. No one denies this. As has been noted there are a number of things that are integrally related. Jesus mentioned two in the institution of the Lord’s supper: the forgiveness of sins and the New Covenant. These point to the value that the blood of Christ has in man’s salvation. But that does not help his case by arguing that a literal vessel represents the New Covenant and becomes a significant element in the Lord’s Supper.
VII. 1 Corinthians 11:23-25
1. I kindly suggest that brother Hawkins look at his authority, Thayer, on this passage. Thayer points out that the word “cup” is metonymy, where one thing is named for something that pertains to it. He says “Paul uses the word ‘cup’ in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 to refer to its contents” (533). What does this mean? It means that in whatever way that the “cup” is the New Covenant it is not the container but the contents. This is why Paul writes that you drink the cup (vv. 26, 27, 28). You drink the cup by drinking the contents, you cannot drink the container.
2. There is no doubt that the blood of Christ ratified the New Covenant and abolished the Old Testament just as the blood of Christ made possible the remission of sins and purchased the church. But our Lord instituted a memorial supper. Whatever we make significant must call, affectionately, the person himself to our minds. This is the design of the supper. The bread referring to his body and the fruit of the vine referring to his blood.
3. Brother Hawkins mentions a brother Wayne Fussel but he failed to tell us who he is and what are his credentials.
VIII. Brethren, brother Hawkins failed to sustain his proposition.
IX. Three Questions for brother Hawkins.
1. Did Paul present, in 1 Corinthians 11:23, precisely what Jesus taught in Matthew, Mark and Luke concerning the Lord’s Supper?
2. What two things did Paul state, in 1 Corinthians 11:28, that one would be guilty of if he partook in an unworthy manner?
3. What did Jesus say, in Matthew 26:26-28, the disciples were to eat and drink?