THE LORD'S TABLE
When teaching the Lord's table I usually have a class discuss the elements,
the sequence of elements and the frequency. Normally there is little discussion
on what the elements are or the sequence, however the frequency stirs some
discussion. I then read the following text.
"And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with
him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover
with you before I suffer; For I say unto you, I will not any more eat of
it, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and
gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves; For I
say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom
of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and
gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you; this do
in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This
cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." Luke 22:14-20
You should notice that the cup was first and that two cups were mentioned.
RELAX! We haven't been doing it wrong. The Lord's Supper was part of the
Passover meal that had multiple cups. We base our observance on I Corinthians
Now as to the frequency question, we should remember that the last supper
where the Lord instituted the observance took place at Passover a YEARLY
observance. In light of this and "as often as ye eat this" should we not
celebrate the Lord's table only once per year? Furthermore, this occurred
after 6 pm on the 13th of Nisan which is April 13th after 6 pm. This is
specifically when the Lord's table should be observed.
NO! "as often as ye eat this" comes from I Cor. 11:26 and this is what
Paul told us to do. This has nothing to do with how often - only that when
we do it, it is to be a remembrance.
Paul does not mention the Passover nor does he mention the second cup.
Indeed, this seems to be the Lord laying out for us through Paul the procedure
for the observance. There is no need to observe the Passover any more so
the idea of "as often as ye eat" would indicate more the idea of every
time you eat bread and wine rather than yearly.
Communion has been defined in many ways among which are the idea of
fellowship, friendship, comradery, agreement or having things in common.
Scripturally communion is the term "koinonia" and has the idea of fellowship
rather than the observance that Christ set forth.
Indeed, the term communion or "koinonia" is translated fellowship and
is placed as separate from the breaking of bread which most feel is the
observance of the Lord's table in Acts 2:42, "and fellowship, and in breaking
The Lord's table certainly should have communion or fellowship between
those involved, but specifically the better term for the observance would
probably be the Lord's table. There is only one passage that mentions communion
and the Lord's table together, and it is somewhat doubtful as to what communion
relates to, the observance as much as the fellowship.
THE LORD'S TABLE
There are four main passages that relate to the rite. There are three
in the Gospels that relate to the beginning of the observation, while the
Corinthians passage relates to the specifics of it. (Mark 14; Matt. 26;
Luke 22; I Cor. 11:23-26)
From Paul, we learn that the bread symbolizes Christ's body, the wine
His blood and the elements remembered are a proclamation of His death.
The command to observe "until He comes" is significant because He is coming
again. The Gospels relate this coming to the setting up of His kingdom.
The Greek terms body, blood, cup, and bread carry no special significance.
They are words that are normally translated as they appear here. The word
translated remembrance has the connotation of remember again.
The text of Heb. 10:3 shows the yearly sacrifice for Israel was so that
they could have a clear conscience. It also was "A REMEMBRANCE AGAIN MADE
OF SINS EVERY YEAR." In I Cor. 11 it is THE REMEMBRANCE AGAIN OF THE TAKING
CARE OF THAT SIN!
There are a number of views held concerning the observance of The Lord's
Table. We will look briefly at these.
Transubstantiation: This teaches that the elements of the Lord's table
(bread and wine) are, through the words that the priest repeats, changed
into the literal body and blood of Christ and are offered before God anew.
The left over host or wafer is kept in a box on the alter, and it cannot
be desecrated, for it is the actual body of Christ. They offer Christ anew
each time the mass is held in every cathedral and church in the world.
They must, by their thinking, view this as one of the sources of grace
and indeed they do. Each time they receive the host they also accept grace.
It is very prevalent in their writing that without the priest to make these
changes in the bread and wine there would be no salvation available to
the people. It is of great interest to me that some of these same people
have accepted the outward trappings of the charismatic movement, and are
now seeking to draw that movement into fellowship with them. The Charismatic
Catholic is a contradiction in true terms. They have just added tongues
to Holy Mother Church and hope that they will fool some with their terminology.
I would like to include a cute short story from an Irish viewpoint concerning
this topic. The author is unknown, but I received it from Gospel Outreach;
PO 7078; Philadelphia, PA; 19149.
A ROMAN MIRACLE (?)
"A pretty maid, a Protestant, was to a Catholic wed;
To love all Bible Truths and tales, quite early she'd been bred.
It sorely grieved her husband's heart that she would not comply
And join the Mother Church of Rome and heretics deny.
"So day by day he flattered her, but still she saw no good
Would ever come from bowing down to idols made of wood;
The mass, the host, the miracles, were made but to deceive;
And transubstantiation, too, she'd never dare believe.
"He went to see his clergyman and told him his sad tale
'My wife's an unbeliever, sir, you can perhaps prevail;
For all your Romish miracles my wife has strong aversion,
To really work a miracle may lead to her conversion.'
"The priest went with the gentleman - he thought to gain a prize.
He said, 'I will convert her, sir, and open both her eyes.'
So when they came into the house, the husband loudly cried,
'The priest has come to dine with us!' 'He's welcome,; she replied.
"And when, at last, the meal was o'er, the priest at once began
To teach his hostess all about the sinful state of man;
The greatness of our Savior's love, which Christians can't deny
To give Himself a sacrifice and for our sins to die.
"'I will return tomorrow, lass, prepare some bread and wine;
The sacramental miracle will stop your soul's decline.'
'I'll bake the bread,' the lady said. 'You may,' he did reply.
'And when you've seen this miracle, convinced you'll be, say I.'
"The priest did come accordingly, the bread and wine did bless.
The lady asked, 'Sir, is it changed?' The priest answered, 'Yes,
It's changed from common bread and wine to truly flesh and blood;
Begorra, lass, this power of mine has changed it into God!'
"So having blessed the bread and wine, to eat they did prepare;
The lady said unto the priest, 'I warn you to take care,
For half an ounce of arsenic was mixed right in the batter,
But since you have its nature changed, it cannot really matter.'
"The priest was struck real dumb -- he looked as pale as death.
The bread and wine fell from his hands and he did gasp for breath.
'Bring me my horse!' the priest cried, 'This is a cursed home!'
The lady replied, 'Begone, tis you who shares the curse of Rome.'
"The husband too, he sat surprised, and not a word did say
At length he spoke, 'My dear,' said he, 'The priest has run away;
To gulp such mummery and tripe, I'm not, for sure, quite able;
I'll go with you and will renounce this Roman Catholic Fable.'"
Consubstantiation: In years past this was the thought that as the bread
and wine descended into your stomach it became the actual body and blood
of Christ. This is a bit more believable than the Roman view. This has
changed, I have been told, to a system of belief that the elements are
bread and wine, however as you receive them you receive the body and blood
of Christ which is in and around the elements.
The original Lutheran, Martin Luther, believed that grace was transmitted
through the elements. This is natural because he was coming out of the
Roman church and would not have been able to change all of his false teaching
over night. From a Short Exposition of Dr. Martin Luther's Small Catechism
P 26 "...that in the sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation
are given us...." This is based on Mat. 26:28 "For this is my blood of
the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Since
remission of sins comes from the blood of Christ - to say there is forgiveness
in communion is to say that the wine IS the blood of Christ.
They speak of the "real presence" of Christ in the elements.
These people believe that the elements are as they were when Christ
used them - symbolic of the body and blood. There is no change of elements
nor benefit in the taking of the elements.
It is only a remembrance of the Lord's death on the cross for our sins.
There is no grace or benefit forthcoming from the elements nor from the
The Christian church I attended as a child held the communion service
every Sunday as an integrated part of the worship service. While speaking
of the past I might observe from my childhood and adulthood, a marked difference
in the observance and the people participating. In my unsaved childhood
days, I observed a very marked reverence toward the observance. The older
men of the church served the elements after two of the men had a devotional
and prayer. There was lots of goofing off in my area during church, but
when the communion service was in progress the order of the day was no
fooling around, no reading, no gum chewing and nothing else. You were to
sit quietly and do nothing. I KNEW there was something special about this
observance though I did not know what it was.
The majority of churches that I have attended over the years have observed
it once a month.
We were in a church in Parkersberg, PA years ago and they were trying
to get back to the "Biblical standard" of the Lord's Supper. The following
is a part of the paragraph explaining this desire in the bulletin. "We
will have the Lord's Supper the first Sunday of each month." Now you know
- it is every first Sunday! Others hold the communion every three months.
Who is correct and why are they correct? The Bible says "And they, continuing
daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread...." DAILY might
be suggested. At Troas, they did it on the first day of the week for sure
but maybe more - we aren't told. "And upon the first day of the week, when
the disciples came together to break bread," Acts 20:7 (We assume that
break bread is related to the Lord's table.)
We don't have a command of scripture that states, thou shalt - but we
do have the idea that it was at a meal. The idea of daily may have no justification
in history, yet think about it. Every time you break bread, you remember
the Lord's death. I have to wonder just how much of an impact that would
have on the believer's daily life.
So, before you draw conclusions you need to consider: What is communion?
Why do we do it? How do we do it - what is the formula? Who is to be involved?
Should we call it communion? Are we doing it right? Do we need both elements?
Do we need either element?
Another question of some minor significance to people in the U.S. but
of importance to the Swedish. Can you do communion over the TV? They have
had some serious theological discussion on the subject.
If you are going to be a missionary there are other questions for you
to struggle with. For example should you use orange juice and crackers
as for the Lord's table as they do in some of the tropical areas of the
world, or should you maintain the grape juice and cracker standard? (Actually
this is not correct if you are going to be specific. The New Testament
people used wine and unleavened bread.)
Should we use unleavened bread instead of the usual fish food? After
all, the bread of Passover is unleavened.
Should we use wine? There is a growing debate about this in our country
at this time in our history. Some are beginning to think that we should
and others abhor the possibility.
Can you have the Lord's table with someone in a hospital, care home
or laid up at home? Can you have the Lord's table at camps, Bible studies
and Bible colleges. These questions have some ramifications if we hold
to the observance being an ordinance of the church. That would indicate
that the local church is the one that is to be involved and no other organization.
Lord's supper is an observance commemorating the Lord's death on the
cross. It is a remembrance of His suffering for our sin.
1. Instituted by: Christ Himself.
2. Occasion: Christ wanted to celebrate the Passover with the disciples
Mark 14:14-16. a. As a Jew He would want to keep the Passover. b. As Christ
He would want to keep the Passover as part of His perfect life. c. As Jesus,
a man, He would want to be with His disciples before His death Luke 22:15.
"And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover
with you before I suffer"
The Passover was depicting Israel's firstborn being saved, while the
cross was where provision for the salvation of mankind was made. A lamb
was slain and eaten as a sacrifice of thanksgiving in the Passover. In
the Church Age a Lamb was slain and we eat the bread that symbolizes His
flesh as the sacrifice for which we offer thanksgiving.
3. Elements: a. Bread - unleavened from the Passover meal. b. Wine -
fermented if you believe the wine they drank everyday was fermented, or
non-fermented if you believe the wine they drank everyday was non-fermented.
(We won't try to answer that one. Do consider however Paul's use of the
thought of controlled by wine in Ephesians five when he talks about being
filled with the Spirit. Control by wine demands fermentation.)
4. Participants: a. In the Gospels it was Christ and the eleven disciples.
(Judas had gone - John 13:30) b. In the book of Acts it was all Christians.
c. In I Cor. it was the believers at Corinth. (I Cor. 1:1,2) d. Today it
should be those that have reason to remember what the Lord did - believers.
5. Setting: In the Gospels it was the Passover MEAL and in the book
of Acts it is tied with a MEAL and in I Cor. 11 it is tied with a MEAL.
The question which arises: Is it permissible to have the observance
as a part of a meal? Why or why not? I have been told of churches that
place the Lord's table as an integrated part of a potluck dinner and having
it work quite well.
6. Time: In the Gospels it is in the evening. Other than the Gospels,
I don't believe there is any indication in the New Testament as to the
time of day.
7. Reasons for: a. Remember His death. b. Remember His death till HE
COMES. c. The death remembered till He comes indicates as well the resurrection!
8. In History: a. 125-135 AD The Didache (teaching of the apostles)
states, "On every Lord's day - His special day - come together and break
bread and give thanks, first confessing your sins so your sacrifice may
b. Unger mentions, "In the earliest notices of the Lord's Supper a simple
and almost literal imitation of the meal as instituted by Christ is prevalent."
This would indicate similar to the Passover meal. (Unger, Merrill F.; "UNGER'S
BIBLE DICTIONARY"; Chicago: Moody Press, 1957; P 666)
c. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia and Matthew Henry hold
to similar thought - that of a meal with the observance as an integral
part of the meal.
d. Vincent, in his word studies, makes a lengthy comment that is worth
mentioning. "The emphasis is on Lord's." "...supper, represents the principal
meal of the day, answering to the late dinner. The Eucharist proper was
originally celebrated as a private expression of devotion, and in connection
with a common, daily meal, an agape or love-feast. In the apostolic period
it was celebrated daily. The communion-meal of the first and second centuries
exhibited this character in being a feast of contribution, to which each
brought his own provision." (Vincent, M.R.; "WORD STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT";
Mac Dill AFB, Florida, Mac Donald Publishing, (no copyright) PP 787-788)
9. Historical setting: Jesus, a Jew with Jewish disciples, desired to
celebrate the Jewish Passover. The only thing in the Lord's mind was based
on the Old Testament. The Passover feast was a sacrifice of thanks for
their first born having been spared. (Ex. 12:27)
He wanted to incorporate a new concept into His disciples' thinking.
He was introducing the new covenant which was about to be sealed by His
blood. New elements or old elements with meaning added is the question.
It seems that He used the old elements of the meal (the wine and the bread)
and gave them new significance. (Heb. 9:15 mentions the new covenant.)
IT IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE THAT CHRIST WAS DYING ON THE CROSS AS THE JEWS
WERE KILLING THEIR PASSOVER LAMBS.
We would be remiss not to suggest a possible application of all this
to our personal lives. We have spoken of sacrifice in this study however
it is concerning the lamb of the Old Testament and the Lamb of God, Jesus
Christ. Ought we not talk of the sacrifice that Christ calls us to make?
Rom. 12:1,2 mentions that we should present ourselves a living sacrifice,
Phil 2:17 mentions that the faith of those we lead to the Lord are sacrifices
(soul winning), Heb. 13:15 mentions that prayer is a sacrifice and Phil
4:18 states that giving is a sacrifice. We enjoy and remember his for us
but do we sacrifice for Him?
We are to remember His death till he comes HOWEVER THAT INCLUDES HIS
DEATH, BURIAL, RESURRECTION, AND ASCENSION! At times we may want to dwell
on the somber side of the remembrance, and other times we may want to dwell
on the joyful side of the remembrance. The Passover was thanksgiving. Christ
Himself placed the observance within that general context for our benefit.
We should remember, but also be thankful for what He has done on our behalf.
In my adulthood I have seen all sorts of variations of methodology used
in an attempt to make the time more meaningful for the participants. In
general, I would guess "TRADITION" is a term that describes it in many
churches. Ritual is a close second to tradition.
I would submit one further observation and suggest that the most meaningful
Lord's Table observances were in a church years ago when the pastor centered
the entire service, including his message, around some aspect of the Lord's
Table. This was very meaningful to all the people.
Don't be afraid to make the observance of the Lord's table meaningful.
Take an entire service and center it around the observance. Try your church
board sometime when you get brave, and see if they would go with having
it as a part or ending to a congregation meal.
I would suggest you read a poem by Helen Steiner Rice entitled "MAN
CANNOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE."