The LORD'S SUPPER / LORD'S TABLE / COMMUNION / EUCHARIST
We expect that the content of this page will be met with the disagreement of many and may even shock some, but we believe that those with "spiritual ears to hear" who have a Berean attitude may see the truthfulness of what we say here. (It may help "break the ice" as to the thought process here if you will first take a moment to read our link regarding Baptism as an ordinance of the church.) Let's jump right in.
Matthew records the following in chapter 26:26-28 "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."
Mark records the following in chapter 14:22-24 "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many."
Luke records the following in chapter 22:14-20 "When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you."
First, let it be affirmed that Jesus was observing the Passover with His disciples. The tremendous significance of this begins with understanding that the Passover meal was observed for 1500 years as a remembrance - looking BACK - to the GREAT deliverance of Israel from Egypt. The reason it continued for so long is that it was intended (by God) to continue (like the sacrifices, etc.) UNTIL the fulfillment occurred. The letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament clarifies that once the thing prophesied/foretold/pictured becomes reality, there is no longer a need for the "promise", the prediction, or the picture! Paul writes in 1 Cor. 5:7 "...For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us." We at BibleTruthForToday contend that the "ceremony" was NOT intended to be perpetuated. If you know your Bible, you should now be asking the question - But didn't Jesus say "Do this in remembrance of Me"? Yes, but not as a command to perpetuate a ceremony. He said it primarily in context to His disciples in the setting of that particular Passover meal (the "Last" Passover supper) that the significance of THAT meal, THAT night was not to be remembrance of Israel's deliverance from Egypt many years before, but RATHER do this THIS NIGHT in remembrance of ME! and the great deliverance I am about to accomplish. WOW!
We will develop this further in just a moment, but just to re-state the premise: We believe that the "Lord's Table, The Lord's Supper, the Communion service, the Eucharist, or whatever term you use for it - is NOT a "sacrament", is NOT a "church ordinance", is NOT a religious ceremony that we are to periodically engage in, and that most Christians have substituted a cheap imitation (one which pleases man's bent for "religion") for the tremendous reality of the truth of the "Lord's Table".
But what about 1 Corinthians 11? We are glad you thought of that. This portion of Scripture is very often read aloud out of context at a "Communion Service". Here is what we read in verses 23-30 "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.” 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.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 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. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged."
As we said, this passage is usually extracted from its overall context and used to reinforce the practice of a "Communion Service". Consider first that Paul is writing to the Corinthian church to correct errors in belief and practice! Reading the entire letter through at one sitting will help you to see this more clearly. Consider Paul's introduction to this matter in 1 Cor. 11:17-20 " Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s supper." And the conclusion to the matter is stated afterwards in 1 Cor. 11:33-34 "Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come." The gluttony, the drunkenness, and primarily the total disregard for one another are the issues at hand. Paul attempts to correct them by using the illustration and example of the Lord Jesus. We are to learn from the Master - from what He taught and what He exemplified; but the point was not to initiate, nor to further reinforce, a religious service which has come to be knwn as the Lord's Supper or Lord's Table.
Furthermore, consider what Paul wrote in the previous part of his letter (1 Cor. 10:14-22): "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. 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. Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?" Do we really believe that Paul is referring to breaking bread and drinking from the cup at a religious ceremony? He is not!
The warnings in 1 Cor. 11:27-32 are most often preached in association with the eating and drinking "unworthily" at the "Communion Service" - let's read what Paul wrote:
"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. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world."
To tie this to the ceremony is "religion" and misses the point. Consider how this passage relates to what Paul wrote in the previous chapter, Chapter 10, verses 1- 22 and see if you can't detect a correlation between the "eating and drinking unworthily" and the idolatrous acts of Israel in the wilderness:
"1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 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? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. 18 Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 19 What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? 20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?"
This "discussion" has everything to do with the totality of life and nothing to do with a religious ceremony!
The last major piece to understanding what we are trying to communicate here is the issue of what Jesus meant when He said "This is My body" and "This is My blood". Please re-read the three gospel accounts appearing at the top of this page. For Roman Catholics and others who have subscribed to the erroneous notion of transubstantiation, these verses have a very real and "sacramental" significance as they believe that the wafer "becomes" the body of Christ and the wine "becomes" the blood of Christ. Many Protestants have become content to assign a "holy" meaning and significance to a remembrance ceremony. We at BibleTruthForToday do not believe that Jesus was at all speaking about these things in such a way as to promote or perpetuate any kind of religious observance, but rather He spoke of the most basic and significant truths of life "in Christ". From what we read in John's account of the Gospel, it is no surprise that so few really "get it". Consider carefully this very important passage:
John 6:22-69 "22 On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone— 23 however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks— 24 when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” 26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” 28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” 30 Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” 35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” 41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” 52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. 60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” 61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
As heretical as this may seem to many, we believe that we as Christians should not be engaged in religious ceremony which includes the "practice" of "observing the Lord's Table". We believe that we should be teaching the Scriptural Truth that there is no life apart from Christ - He is the Vine, we are simply the branches. Our ongoing relationship with Him is vital. The warnings abound in Scripture to stay true and faithful. We SHOULD examine ourselves - not in the context of a religious ceremony (either in anticipation of it or during it), but in the context of our everyday life. We SHOULD be concerned about the warnings in 1 Cor. 11 - not in the context of whether or not we eat a matzoh or drink a sip of grape juice the wrong way, but in the context of everyday life - that if we are not continuing to eat HIS bread and drink from HIS cup, if we stray from Him, He WILL chasten those whom He loves and the results of turning from THE WAY may well be sickness or even death as Paul warned in 1 Cor. 11. We do not believe that Jesus "instituted" a new, or modified, religious ceremony, but that He spoke profound spiritual truth to be digested and assimilated into life.
For further study, a "cup" is often used metaphorically to represent one's lot or experience. Consider: Matt. 20:22-23; Matt. 26:39; Mark 10:38-39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 18:11; 1 Cor. 11:25-28; Rev. 14:10; Rev. 16:19; Rev. 17:4; Rev. 18:6. Regarding metaphoric use of "bread" in addition to the ones cited previously on this page from John 6, consider: 1 Cor. 5:7-8; Matthew 16:5-12.
Also consider that because the "Lord's Table" has become a religious ceremony, we find the preoccupation with when to have it, how often to have it, who can "administer" it, who can participate in it (closed vs open - and who might be refused), what can be used as "bread" (bread vs. crackers, bread pieces vs. a loaf, leavened vs. unleavened), are other foods okay (donuts, pizza, etc.), what quantity is appropriate, what can be used as "wine" (wine vs. grape juice, is orange juice okay), is it a memorial (sadness regarding His death) or a celebration (regarding His resurrection and accomplished work), and on and on it goes.
If, instead, Christians gathered together to break bread (share a real meal together) and "remembered" what Jesus did - with unity of the brethren, in praise and worship and in God-honoring true fellowship - we believe that the result of the "Lord's Table" (historic event with profound spiritual truth) will thus be evident - without the imposition of a religious ceremony.
Another point to consider: some say that the "Lord's Table" is a time for fellowship. Some "argue" that it is fellowship of the believers with one another. Others argue that it is supposed to be a time of fellowship with the Lord. Both of these, however, should be ongoing. And, if we need to attend the "Lord's Table" in order to have fellowship with Christ, then we have indeed ventured into the practice of a religion - and that is not what Christianity is about! "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in their midst!"