By James R. Cope
For the Christian the Lord’s Supper is a confession. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:26). The word “show” as here used simply means to declare, proclaim, or make known. This is what the apostle affirms of the Lord’s Supper. It is a confession.
What Does The Christian Confess In The Lord’s Supper?
1. He confesses the death of Jesus. This is what the passage says: “Ye do show the Lord’s death.” This memorial feast stands as a witness to the death of Jesus with all the implications that death entails. Whatever the Bible declares about the death of Jesus the Lord’s Supper attests. It affirms the historicity of His life, for had He not lived He could not have died. It affirms the historicity of His death and the benefits derived therefrom. Whether it be considered from the divine viewpoint or the human, the Lord’s Supper affirms whatever may be revealed about the purpose of Jesus’ death. If the sacrifice of His Son was necessary to the satisfying of God’s sense of justice in considering the reconciliation of sinful man, the Lord’s Supper testifies to this justice. If the giving of His Son was the expression of infinite love for a lost world, the Lord’s Supper bears witness to that love. If there must be a mediator between God and man, the Lord’s Supper affirms the sufficiency of Christ as that mediator. If a high priest is necessary in the divine scheme, the Lord’s Supper avows Jesus to be fitted for that office. If the sinfulness of man must be viewed in all its heinousness, the Lord’s Supper stands as a perpetual reminder of that sin and the infinite interest of Jehovah in its removal.
2. He confesses the second coming of Christ. “Ye do show the Lord’s death till he come. ” In the communion of the body and blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 10:16), the disciple looks forward as well as backward and has fellowship with the death of his Lord but not with a dead Lord. He eats and drinks with a living Lord, the one who was dead but is now alive forevermore, who, though dead, everything from the death of Christ till His second coming. It is the summit of faith upon which the Christian places his feet and with panoramic view sweeps everything before and after him. In it he connects the past with the future and rejoices at the prospects of his eternal redemption made real at the Lord’s second advent and made possible by the Lord’s sacrifice of Himself.
3. He confesses the validity of the New Covenant. When Jesus instituted the Supper He said, “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Luke’s record says, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed “dieth no more” for “death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God” (Rom. 6:9,10). In the same line of thought Paul writes: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28). The Lord’s Supper, then, comprehends for you” (Luke 22:20). That the Old Covenant was to cease and a new one to be established was foretold by Jeremiah: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt . . . but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in ther hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (31:31-34). In Hebrews 8:8-12 Jeremiah’s prophecy is quoted by the Holy Spirit and the following comment made concerning it; “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old” (8:13).
The foregoing passages establish the point that in God’s plan there are two covenants, the old and the new. The cessation of the old and the establishment of the new were both foretold by the prophet. The old covenant was dedicated with blood, and this blood foreshadowed the blood of the new covenant to be shed by Christ, as Hebrews 9:18-26 declares: “Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled likewise with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
Hebrews 9:20 is a quotation from Exodus 24:8. The similarity between this statement by Moses at the dedication of the Old Covenant and the statement of Jesus when He gave the Lord’s Supper is readily seen. Note them: Moses – “This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined upon you” (Heb. 9:20); Jesus – “This is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). That the blood of Christ dedicated and made valid the new covenant is clear from the following: “But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:11-14) It is the blood of Jesus, then, that makes the new covenant valid and thus purges its subjects from sin, sanctifies, and makes them meet for the Master’s use, “for by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).
In his observance of the Lord’s Supper, then, the Christian confesses the validity of the new covenant because the blood of Christ is that which gives power and effectuality to it. In this feast he bears witness that every thought of his heart, every word of his mouth, and every deed of his life, prompted by his relationship to the testator of the New Covenant, is registered with approval in heaven. Not because of any inherent righteousness within the person who performs such deed-but because of the righteousness transmitted to the New Covenant by the testator of it, is his approval possible. It is with this consciousness that disciples should partake of the sacred feast. “But let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Cor. 11:28,29).
4. He confesses the existence of the kingdom. At the giving of the Lord’s Supper Jesus said, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29). From this we conclude that the Lord’s Supper was to be a feature of His kingdom. Wheresoever, therefore, we find the observance of the Lord’s Supper by those for whom it was intended, we find the kingdom of God. Acts 20:7 shows the disciples at Troas observing the “breaking of bread” and 1 Corinthians 10:16 and 11:20-30 reveal the church at Corinth communing with Christ in the Lord’s Supper. The kingdom existed, therefore, for the Lord’s Supper was observed.
5. He confesses the identity of the kingdom and the church. The Supper was to be in the kingdom, but 1 Corinthians 11 shows the “church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2) participating in its observance. Unless, therefore, it can be shown that the Lord’s Table was removed from the kingdom and placed in the church, we necessarily conclude that the church and the kingdom are identical in their ruler, citizenship, and law. Christ is the king of the kingdom and head of the church; Christians are citizens in the kingdom and members of His church; the apostles’ doctrine is the law of the kingdom and the rule of the church, and it was the apostles’ doctrine which gave direction concerning the proper observance of the Lord’s Supper in the church at Corinth. Jesus said, “I appoint unto you a kingdom – that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom” (Lk. 22:29,30). 1 Corinthians 10:21 shows that the church of Christ cannot partake “of the Lord’s table and the table of devils” at the same time, thus not only identifying the church and the kingdom again through the Lord’s table, but also identifying the kingdom of God (Matt. 26:29) with the kingdom of Christ – “my kingdom” (Lk. 22:30).
When Does The Christian Make This Confession?
The text says, “As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.” How oft is “as often”? This question is answered in the New Testament by the practice of the disciples regarding the observance of the Lord’s Supper.
When Jesus gave the Great Commission He told the apostles to baptize those taught “teaching them (the baptized ones) to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18-20). If the apostles followed the Lord’s instructions, whatever the church (baptized ones) practiced in its assembly, it practiced at the apostles’ instructions. Acts 20:7 shows that “upon the first day of the week” the disciples at Troas “came together to break bread.” This church had been planted according to the apostles’ doctrine and hence had been instructed not only in what was to be done with reference to the Lord’s Supper but when it was to be done also. It was the “first day of the week,” the record declares.
The presence of Paul in the meeting and participation in that service is proof positive it was by apostolic approval and instruction that the first day of the week was the day peculiar to the observance of the Lord’s Supper. This point is further enhanced by the fact that Paul and his company waited in Troas seven days after arriving there before having opportunity to “break bread.” The purpose of the assembling was to “break bread” and the assembling occurred on “the first day of the week.” Had there been no “breaking of bread” in that assembly there is no reason to think there would have been an assembly of any kind by the disciples on “the first day of the week.” The same verse in the New Testament that authorizes Christians to meet together at all on the Lord’s Day shows unmistakably the primary design of their assembling – that which brought them together. While teaching, prayer, and other acts of edification undoubtedly characterized the meeting once it had taken place, the fact remains that the object of their assembling was “to break bread,” to observe the Lord’s Supper. Since the first day of the week came every eighth day and since every week has a first day, we conclude that 66as often” as the first day of each week came, each first day the disciples assembled to break bread. On the first day of the week, each week, and every week, like the brethren at Troas, disciples now come together “to break bread” and thus “show the Lord’s death till he come.”
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 5, pp. 129, 139-140
March 5, 1987