The Lord’s Supper

Almost every denomination, with the exception of two (Quakers and Christian Scientists) observe something which they call the Lord’s Supper. No doubt this memorial feast is the most significant practice throughout “Christianity”. The Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20) is also referred to as “the table of the Lord” (1 Cor. 10:21); “communion” or “fellowship” (1 Cor. 10); and “the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 10:16).

Those who may participate in the Lord’s Supper are the citizens of the Kingdom – those in the Kingdom or the church. Jesus placed the Lord’s Supper in the kingdom (Mk. 14:25) and in the church (1 Cor. 11:18). We are baptized into the Kingdom (Jn. 3:3-5) and into the church (1 Cor. 12:13). Who are the members of the Lord’s church? Those who have a spiritual relationship with Christ. Those who have remission of sins through the blood of Christ (Ac. 2:38). How can a sinner have a communion with His body and blood (1 Cor. 10:16) if he has not been redeemed by the blood? The members are those who look forward to the Second Coming of Christ. The Lord’s Supper is a proclamation by everyone who partakes that the Lord will come again and in this they hope. Why would a sinner want the Lord to come while he is in this lost state?

Although the Lord’s Supper is offered to the saints, the early church did not teach a form of closed communion where only those who they deemed worthy were allowed to partake.

From Acts 2:42; 20:7; I Cor. 11:20-26; 16:2 it is learned that the Lord’s Supper should be partaken of on every Sunday. It was observed “on the first day of the week.” If a certain day of the year is commanded, that is, a specific month and day – the observance of was to be yearly such as those in Lev. 23:27 or Ex. 30:10. Independence Day is observed annually on the fourth of July. If the day of the month is given, the observance is monthly such as Num. 28:11. For example, “My rent is due on the tenth day of the month.” If the day of the week is given, the observance is weekly. The Sabbath was observed once every week because every week had a seventh day (Ex. 20:8). The Lord’s Supper is to be kept every week which has a first day.

Although this is all the proof and authority needed, it is interesting to note that there is post-Biblical evidence from early Christians. The following quotes are from the writings of Christians who lived shortly after the close of the New Testament. Their writings are not considered authoritative for us today, but they do give us some insight as to the worship of the early church. Their writings show that the early Christians observed the Lord’s Supper on the first day of every week. “But every Lord’s Day do ye gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving.” (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, XIV, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7, p . 381).

According to Justin Martyr, “on the day called Sunday, all who live in the cities or in the country gather together in one place…Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgiving, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that of which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons” (Justin Martyr [114-165], FIRST APOLOGY, LXXII, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 186).

Many denominational scholars have supported this truth. Thomas Scott (Presbyterian): “This ordinance seems to have been administered every Lord’s Day; and probably no professed Christian absented themselves…” (The Holy Bible with Notes, Observations and References, Vol. 5, p. 729). F. F. Bruce when commenting on Acts 20:7 wrote, “to celebrate the eucharist (Lord’s Supper, drv); probably it was their practice to do this each Sunday” (The New Bible Commentary: Revised, p. 1000). May the Lord’s Church ever follow the Lord’s Will and observe the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day.

The Lord’s Supper is to be a commemoration of Christ’s death. “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me’” (1 Cor. 11:23,24).

It is also a symbol of the authorization of the New Covenant. “In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Cor. 11:25). The Lord’s Supper is for the proclamation of the Gospel as it is partaken. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). Every time the local church partakes of this memorial feast, they are preaching. The word “proclaim” is from the Greek word kataggello. Vincent says, “The Lord’s death is preached in the celebration…” (Word Studies of the New Testament, Vol. 3, p. 252). It is in the present tense verb indicating that the preaching is continual or habitual. Thus, every time the saints gather to partake each Sunday, they by example are preaching.

Also, communion is observed as an anticipation of the Second Coming. The Lord’s Supper is to last for a specified period of time – “till He come.” When that time is, no one knows. Yet, one thing we know for certain, the Lord’s Supper will end when He does come. Why? Because the Supper as a form of spiritual communion will become obsolete.

The Lord’s Supper is the greatest memorial ever made and a regular reminder of the Second Coming of Christ. According to the apostle Paul, whenever a local group of Christians assemble to observe the Lord’s Supper, they manifest the unity which they have with one another through the body of Christ. “For we, though many are one bread and one body, for we all partake of that one bread” (I Cor. 10:17).

Many view the Kingdom as something in the distant future. Premillennialists feel that Christ failed in his first attempts to establish the kingdom so as an afterthought He established the church. One day, they say, He will come again and will establish His kingdom and rule on earth for a thousand years. This reign will take place at Jerusalem upon the throne of David. However, the Kingdom was established, and the Lord’s Supper proves it. We can partake of the memorial in the kingdom and the church today, because they are both one and the same. After all, Christ is the king of the kingdom and head of the church.

Christians are citizens in the kingdom and members of His church. Those that believe that the kingdom is not the church, but is to be established in the future, can never observe the Lord’s supper properly for we are only to partake of it with Christ in His kingdom, but this must cease when He comes again. Paul clearly told the Corinthian brethren that “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (I Cor. 11:26).

The Christian must partake of the Lord’s Supper in the proper manner. “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Cor. 11:27-29).

Although feasts of men may contain several dishes, the Lord’s Supper only has to elements: the fruit of the vine or literally, the juice from the grape and unleavened bread.

– Daniel R. Vess

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