By Randy Harshbarger
As our Savior came to the end of His ministry on earth, He gathered with His disciples in the city of Jerusalem to observe the Passover Feast. This feast was a reminder to the Jews of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, under the mighty arm of God. Moses instructed the people to kill a lamb and apply the blood to the doorposts of their houses, thus averting the death of the first-born as the Lord passed through the land of Egypt. Jesus chose bread and fruit of the vine as memorials of His body and blood. Matthew’s account says: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it; and he gave to the disciples, and said, Take eat; this is my body. And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins” (Matt. 26:26-28). The bread Jesus used was unleavened. For seven days leaven was removed from the house, with strong warning to the Jew who contaminated himself or his house with it (Ex. 12:15, 19,20). Jesus, of course, did not break the Law (Heb. 4:14-16; 1 Pet. 2:21). The fruit of the vine was simply the product of the grape.(1) The slain lamb of the Passover Feast was typical of the salvation made possible by Jesus’ death or as He said, “. . . this is my blood. . . which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Paul later told the Corinthians: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7).
New Testament Christians partook of the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1,2). The day for eating the Supper was bound, but the time of day was not. The eating of the Lord’s Supper was one reason for their coming together. In the midst of Paul’s warnings regarding abuses of the Supper he said: “When therefore ye assemble yourselves together, it is not possible to eat the Lord’s supper” (1 Cor. 11:20). They were supposed to be partaking of the Lord’s Supper, but were doing something else.
Paul gives strong admonitions relating to the manner in which Christians should eat the Lord’s Supper. A great danger is in partaking but missing the true significance of the Supper. Paul said: “For he that eateth and drinketh, eateth and drinketh judgment unto himself, if he discern not the body” (1 Cor. 11:29). Partaking of the Lord’s Supper is more than just eating and drinking, which was something the Corinthians evidently did not properly understand; they did not receive Paul’s praise or approval (1 Cor. 11:17).
Christians must partake of the Lord’s Supper, remembering Christ (1 Cor. 11:24,25). We remember when Christ instituted the Supper. We remember His great sacrifice on the cross. We discern or make a distinction between the Supper and a common meal. A “communion” (1 Cor. 10: 16), involves motive, intent, mind, will, heart, and intellect. Our minds must go back to the time Jesus instituted the Supper, with its intended purpose and great significance for us as Christians.
In 1 Corinthians 11:28 Paul said: “But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup.” The Christian must examine himself before and while he partakes. We must not treat the Supper in a light hearted or trivial manner. We must look within and approach the Lord’s Supper with the proper mind with regard to the Lord, His death, and the accruing benefits that belong to Christians. The Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of the Lord’s death; it is a reminder that the Lord died, but is coming back some day (1 Cor. 11:26; Acts 1:11; 2 Pet. 3:12). In loving memory of our Savior, with great hope and fervency of heart, we focus on the One who died for all!
False Views Regarding The Lord’s Supper
Luke 22:19 says: “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” Matthew 26:28 says: “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins.” Roman Catholicism abuses what is obviously figurative language on Christ’s part, and suggests that the bread and fruit of the vine literally become the flesh and blood of Christ. This is the doctrine of transubstantiation. Jesus employed the figure of speech known as a metaphor. A metaphor is “a figure of speech in which a word or a phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.”(2) For example, in Matthew 16:6, Jesus said, “. . . beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” The disciples, after Jesus’ explanation, understood that they should beware of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees, with its leavening effect. Just so, when Jesus took the bread and the fruit of the vine, and said “this is my body” and “this is my blood,” He said these are representative of my body and blood. Roman Catholicism asserts that when the priest says the mass over the bread and wine, they literally become the flesh and blood of Jesus. It is important to understand what Jesus said and meant, but we must be careful not to find more than was intended.
Consubstantiation, while closely akin to transubstantiation, argues that there is a real physical presence of Christ in the bread and wine.(3) “The idea is that Christ’s body and blood flow or mingle together with the bread and fruit of the vine. This is a slight difference from transubstantiation, but for all practical purposes is essentially the same and is met with the same arguments.”(4) The doctrine of consubstantiation is often traced to Luther, and while it was a major emphasis in his “reformation,” both consubstantiation and transubstantiation can be traced beyond Luther to Cyprian.(5)
Catholicism also says that when one partakes of the “eucharist” (their term for the Lord’s Supper), if he has a penitent attitude, his venial sins can be remitted.(6) But, Jesus said that His blood was shed “unto remission of sins.” We are redeemed by His blood, and we partake of the Lord’s supper remembering that great sacrifice on the cross. We are saved by His blood, not by His Supper.
Edward T. Hiscox, in his manual for Baptist churches said: “As to the time, place, and frequency of the ordinances, no Scriptural directions are given. These are left optional with the churches. They are usually observed on Sundays, but not necessarily. As to the Supper, our churches have very generally come to observe it on the first Sunday of each month.”(7) New Testament Christians came together every first day of the week to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Their purpose for coming together was to break bread! Baptists use 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 to justify taking a collection every week but will not follow Acts 20:7 in regard to the Supper. In recent years, discussion as to the binding authority of New Testament examples has lead some to the conclusion that the Lord’s Supper may be eaten on the Lord’s Day, but Acts 20:7 does not require Christians to do so, nor does it limit the day Christians may eat to the first day of the week.(8) It is easy to see that the controversies surrounding the Lord’s Supper are many. It is also sad that so much trouble and heartache has occurred among God’s people over this great memorial.
Let us as God’s people, appreciate the importance and privilege of observing the Lord’s Supper. On the first day of the week, let us be thankful, as we remember the Lord’s death, proclaiming the Lord’s great sacrifice on the cross. With great anticipation let us look to that future reward of heaven. Let us remember the seriousness of the Supper as we keep alive the great, precious memory of our Savior. Let us worship God “in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24).
Oft we come together, Oft we sing and pray
Here we bring our off’ring On his holy day.
May we keep in mem’ry, All that Thou hast said,
May we truly worship As we eat the bread,
May we all in spirit All with one accord,
Take this cup of blessing, Given by the Lord.
Help us Lord, Thy love to see, May we all in truth and spirit worship Thee.
5. Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1972), pp. 75-76; Hubert Cunliffe-Jones, A History of Christian Doctrine (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1978), pp. 176-178.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 11, pp. 341-342
June 5, 1986