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  1. The Lord’s Supper/Communion/Holy Communion

    There is a ritual that we call the “Lord’s Supper”, “The Lord’s Table”, or “Communion”. I have done some study into this in order to determine just what understanding we should have of it.

    The basis for what we call “The Lord’s Supper” is found in the accounts of what we call “The Last Supper”, or the last meal that Jesus had with His closest disciples. The accounts of this are found in Matthew 26: 17-29, Mark 14: 12-26, Luke 22: 7-38, and 1 Cor 11: 23-25. While you should read all the accounts, I will quote the one from 1 Corinthians 11: 23-25 – 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

    The term “Lord’s Supper” appears once in the New Testament. It is found in the passage in 1 Cor 11: 17-34. This passage reads: “17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.”

    In this passage, is Paul primarily speaking of “The Lord’s Supper” or is he speaking of the relationships of the Corinthians? The Lord’s Supper was just one example of the problems and divisions among them. However, even within this framework there are things that we can learn about the Lord’s Supper. They are not considering each other when they come together and eat. Paul says that “one remains hungry, another gets drunk. Well, if their Lord’s Supper was like what we do, that doesn’t make any sense. A bite of cracker and a thimble full of grape juice would not keep anyone from being hungry and you couldn’t get drunk on a whole bottle of grape juice. The Lord’s Supper that Paul was speaking of was more of a meal (like our pot lucks) than what we call the Lord’s Supper. I will let you draw your own conclusions about how someone got drunk at the Lord’s Supper.

    The term “Lord’s Table” also appears only once in the New Testament. That appearance is in the text of 1 Cor 10: 14-22, which says: “14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. 18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?”

    In this passage, Paul is speaking primarily of idolatry and eating what has been sacrificed to an idol. In this passage, it would make sense that, again, Paul is talking about a meal – possibly a meal in which some brought food to the meal that had been sacrificed to idols. In Chapter 8, Paul deals specifically with eating food that has been sacrificed to idols. He says that we know the idol is nothing and whatever we have comes from God. He goes on to say that not everyone knows this, and that some are so accustom to idols that when they eat such food that they consider that it has been sacrificed to an idol and because their conscience is weak they defile themselves. We know that if the Lord’s Table is what we are familiar with, this would not be a problem because the only thing that would be on the table is crackers and grape juice, nothing that would have been sacrificed to an idol. The Lord’s Table that Paul is talking about seems to have had meats and other foods as well.

    The term “break bread” also appears only once in the New Testament. It appears in Acts 20: 5-12, which reads: “5 These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. 6 But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days. 7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.”

    Though the phrase “break bread” only appears once in the New Testament, it does appear in the Old Testament a couple of times and in both cases (Ex 2:20, Jer 16:7) it seems to apply to a meal. This particular passage has been used by many to say that we should have the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. The primary thrust of this passage is the raising of Eutychus from the dead. The sentence “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” is just as easily understood to indicate that this story took place on a day when they came together to have a meal and since Paul was leaving the next day, he spoke until midnight.

    It would seem that in all the passages we use about the “Lord’s Supper”, each passage has more to do with a meal than with the “ceremony” or “ritual” that we call the Lord’s Supper. It would seem also that there is no clear indication of when or how often we are to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

    Jesus seems to have taken two very common items on the table at their meal, two things that would have been on any table of the day at any meal, and used them to create “memory hooks” for the disciples to remember Him.

    In Matthew 26:26-27 and Mark 14: 22-23, it says that Jesus took the bread and the cup “while they were eating”, so this happened during a meal. Jesus told His disciples to eat the bread and drink the wine in remembrance of Him. He also said that WHENEVER you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim His death until He comes.(1 Cor 11:26).

    It would seem that the Lord’s Supper is part of a meal, any meal, at any time. It would not be out of line with the scriptures to understand that EVERY time you eat bead or drink from the cup that you are to remember the Lord – not just on Sunday during a specific ritual – and in so doing, you would proclaim the Lord’s death at every meal.


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