The Lord's Supper
Most countries in the world have certain memorial holidays in their yearly calendar. For instance, the citizens of the United States of America celebrate their independence as a nation on the fourth day of July every year. Jesus Christ came to this earth “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10). He was successful in His mission by means of the cruel cross of Calvary. Those who are Christians, being found “in Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27), have a freedom to celebrate! Christ died on the cross “so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:6). Since this is the case, it is appropriate that our God would establish a memorial for Christians to celebrate in order to remember the sacrifice and blessings of such wonderful freedom. There is nothing more important to know and remember than the crucifixion of our Lord (1 Cor. 2:2). The memorial of this event that we read about in the Scriptures is known by different names, such as the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20), breaking of bread (Acts 20:7), and communion (1 Cor. 10:16, KJV).
Before we read about Judas Iscariot’s infamous betrayal of Christ in the book of Matthew, we read of Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper. “While [Christ and the Twelve] were eating [the Passover of the Jews], Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom’” (Mt. 26:26-29). Jesus had been teaching His disciples about His impending death and resurrection (Mt. 16:21). He knew how important it would be for all of His disciples to remember His sacrifice; therefore, He instituted the Lord’s Supper.
As mentioned, it was during their partaking of the Jewish Passover meal that Christ introduced the Lord’s Supper. “While they were eating, Jesus took some bread” (Mt. 26:26). The type of bread that was at the feast was unleavened bread (bread that does not include a rising agent, such as yeast) (Ex. 12:20; Mt. 26:17). After praying over it, Jesus claimed that the bread of the Lord’s Supper represented His body that was to be slain. The text also tells us that He took a cup, or “fruit of the vine,” which represented His blood that was to be poured out for forgiveness of sins (Mt. 26:27-29). He then prayed over the fruit of the vine, and gave it to His disciples. The Bible defines fruit of the vine as juice from the grape (which is a fruit that grows on a vine) (Gen. 40:9-11).
Although the apostle Paul was not there the night that Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper, from a revelation of the Holy Spirit, He “received from the Lord” information regarding the Lord’s Supper. “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 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.’ In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly” (1 Cor. 11:23-29). According to this passage, the reason for Christians to take the Lord’s Supper is to remember and proclaim the Lord’s sacrifice. We are told that this is to be done “until He comes,” which has not happened yet. According to this passage, Christians are also to partake of this memorial in a worthy manner. No one by himself or herself has ever been worthy of the body and blood of Christ. We, by ourselves, are worthy of only death (Rom. 6:23)! But, since Christ has made the sacrifice for us, He gives us the opportunity to be worthy and justified (Rom. 5:9). Since it is Christ’s blood that makes us worthy, when we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we need to be covered in His blood. The way to do so is to be sure that “we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light,” because if we do so, “we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7). Therefore, it would be a complete profaning of the sacrifice of Christ for me to live in disregard of Christ throughout the week, living by the world’s standards, and then for me to commune in the sacrifice of Christ on Sunday. For you and I to take the bread and cup of the Lord in a worthy manner, we need to do so while walking in His Light. That is why Paul also says, “[A] man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28).
Another name for the Lord’s Supper is communion. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:16-17, NKJV). In the King James and New King James translations of this passage, we read the word, communion. In other translations, participation (NIV) and sharing (NASB) are used in place of communion. The Lord’s Supper is a communal event, shared among members of Christ’s spiritual body who participate in this wonderful celebration (Eph. 1:22-23).
Many churches recognize the memorial of our Lord through the Lord’s Supper. Some of them take it every Sunday. Some take it one Sunday a month. Others take it one Sunday per year. Still, others do not limit the Lord’s Supper to Sundays, but they also partake of the communion on special occasions, such as weddings (even if the weddings are not on Sunday). Is one of these practices correct over the other, or is it all the same to the Lord? Jesus gave His apostles the authority by the Holy Spirit to teach and do that which He commanded (Mt. 18:18-20, 28:18-20; Jn. 14:25-26, 16:12-15). For this reason, we should look to the Bible to learn what the apostles did in order to please the Lord regarding the Lord’s Supper.
Christ Jesus came out from the grave alive on the first day of the week (Sunday), having overcome death and defeating Satan (Mt. 28:1-6). This day was later known as the “Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10). We read in Acts 20, where the apostle Paul was in a hurry while on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:16). Although he was in a hurry, we read that he stopped in Troas for seven days (Acts 20:6). Why did he stay with them for so long if he was in a hurry? It is speculation, but it seems he was interested in worshiping on the Lord’s Day with the disciples in Troas. The next verse tells us about their worship. “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7). They probably prayed and sang together throughout the week, but it was upon the first day of the week (Sunday) that they gathered together “to break bread.” The Lord’s Supper is not being indicated every time we see this phrase (“breaking of bread”); however, the context of this passage shows that they did it on Sunday in their worship assemblies; therefore, it is safe to assume that this was something different than a common meal (which seems to be mentioned just a couple verses down- Acts 20:11).
We know that the Christians in the New Testament gathered together on every first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Not only can read about it in the New Testament, but we can also read about it in the history books from that time. Acts 20:7 seems to tell us that the primary reason that they gathered together on the first day of the week was “to break bread” (or to commune in the Lord’s Supper). Since the authority of the apostles comes from the Lord Himself, we ought to respect their example as we would the Lord’s example. Since that is the case, we should also come together on the first day of the week in order to share the Lord’s Supper. I cannot imagine a better reason to assemble with other souls than to remember and proclaim our Lord and Savior “until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26)!
We read in the Bible about the one church that Christ built (Mt. 16:18). It is called His body (Eph. 1:22-23), and He is the Savior of His body (Eph. 5:23). If we want to be saved, we must be a part of the church that Christ built- the one we can read about in the Bible. How? God must add us to the church/body by His own accord (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:13). Then, we must follow in the biblical practices of the church found in the Bible, including partaking of the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week. If someone is part of a group of people that do not proclaim the Lord’s death in this manner, then that group of people is not identical to the church that is called the body of Christ in the Bible. If you are a biblical Christian, be sure that you worship with people that commune with the Lord this Sunday and every Sunday. If you are not a Christian, be sure to seek God’s salvation before it is everlastingly too late!