The Lord's Supper
The night before Jesus died, He ate the Passover with His apostles. (Passover was a memorial of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from death through the blood of a lamb.) When that meal was finished, Jesus gave another meal to remind us of His death.
The new meal Jesus gave is called several things in the Bible: breaking bread (Acts 2:42; 20:7), the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20), the table of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:21), and communion (1 Corinthians 10:16, KJV). In our day people at times refer to it as the Eucharist or sacraments. These two terms, however, may introduce concepts about the meal that are not Biblical. It is always best to simply call Bible things by Bible names.
We have already noted the circumstances in which the Supper originated. There are four accounts of it: Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25.
The Lord’s Supper has two components: bread and fruit of the vine. Since the Passover required unleavened bread (Exodus 12:18-20), we may be sure that is what Jesus used. The Bible knows nothing of “communion in one kind” (taking only the bread).
Jesus said of the bread, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Of the fruit of the vine He said, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Clearly, the purpose in eating is to remember Jesus’ death for us.
Jesus’ use of the expression this is has led some to conclude that the bread and fruit of the vine physically change into the literal body and blood of the Lord. No, Jesus was simply using a figure of speech. In the 1 Corinthians account Jesus says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” No one thinks that the fruit of the vine is literally turned into a covenant; it simply represents one. (Note also that cup stands for its contents.) Besides, drinking blood has always been forbidden (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10-14; Acts 15:29).
1 Corinthians indicates several other things accomplished in eating the Lord’s Supper. In it we proclaim Jesus’ death, anticipating His return (11:26). It is a sharing or fellowship in Jesus’ death, a sharing with other partakers (10:16-17).
The first Christians “continued steadfastly” in the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42). That indicates regularity. Acts 20:7 reveals that they met on the first day of the week to break bread. That specifies the time. 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 confirms that the Supper is to be eaten in assemblies of Christians. History concurs that the early church met every Sunday to eat the Lord’s Supper. Monthly, quarterly, or less frequent observance was unknown in New Testament times.
Paul warned that we must eat the Supper in a worthy manner. He did not say we must be worthy of it; no one is worthy of Jesus’ death for him. But all can partake in a worthy manner by distinguishing this from ordinary eating (Paul insisted that the two be kept separate) and by remembering Jesus’ death as we eat. Toward that end we must examine ourselves as we eat (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
The Bible places no importance on the one(s) serving the Supper, nor does it prescribe some ceremony in preparation for our eating. Remarks to help us focus our attention on Jesus’ death are certainly in order. As is true in all avenues of worship, however, proper eating of the Lord’s Supper depends on each individual doing what God said, how God said to do it, from the heart.
“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24).