Monday, February 11, 2013

Print Page The Lord's Supper

The Lord's Supper is one of two Biblical ordinances that churches are to observe. The other ordinance is Baptism which is covered in this article. The account of the original Lord's Super takes place in all 4 of the gospels (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-25, Luke 22:7-23 and John 13). It is important to understand the Lord's Supper from a Biblical perspective since there are so many different ideas out there. We'll being with the purpose.

The Purpose

Different groups have different ideas of what the Lord's Supper is.

1. Roman Catholics Churches

 Roman Catholics use the term Eucharist instead of Lord's Supper. According to Catholics the Lord's Supper is a sacrament and is required for salvation. The Catholic Catechism is the official doctrine of the Roman Catholics. Here is a quote from paragraph 1129:
1129 The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.
Not only do they claim the Lord's supper is required for salvation but they believe the bread and wine actually become the flesh and blood of Jesus (transubstantiation):
1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation." 
According to Catholics not only is the bread the flesh and the wine the blood of Jesus but Jesus is also being sacrificed each time:
1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different." "And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory."
2. Eastern Orthodox Churches

Just as Roman Catholics the Easter Orthodox believe that the bread and wine actually become the flesh and blood of Jesus. As quoted from the Orthodox Church in America web site:
Thus, the bread of the eucharist is Christ’s flesh, and Christ’s flesh is the eucharistic bread.
Also, they believe the Lord's Salvation is a means of salvation as stated by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America:
This ceremony of the Holy Eucharist is both His sacrifice for the salvation of man and a sacred mysterion. The Holy Eucharist is the seal of the proclamation of the communion with God. It is the only Sacrament offered by the Church in which the elements of bread and wine not only carry the Grace of God, as amysterion, but are "changed" into and "are" the very Body and the very Blood of Christ, being a propitiatory sacrifice.
3.  Lutheran Churches- Sacramental union

Lutherans have a similar view to that of the Catholics and Orthodox. They believe in sacramental union. This is very similar to transubstantiation but instead of completely turning into the flesh and blood of Jesus the flesh and blood coexist with the bread and the wine. Here is a quote from the Lutheran Church Synod Missouri Synod web site:
The answer to your question is that we receive in, with, and under the bread and wine the true body and blood of Christ shed on the cross, Jesus Christ Who is now risen and ascended and sits at the right hand of God the Father.
4. Emergent Churches

A fourth group worth mentioning are the emergent churches. There a growing number of churches who's goal  is to become friends with the world. They do Bible studies in bars while drinking a pitcher of beer. Instead of a typical church service they have a rock concert followed by everyone sitting on couches and telling each other what a verse means to them. They embrace homosexuality and anything that is part of the liberal agenda. In some of these churches instead of using wine and bread they may drink Coke and eat Doritos  Others use beer and pizza. Others yet use milk and cookies.

5. Biblical Churches

This brings us to our final group, Biblical churches. These are the churches that follow the Bible for all their doctrine. They don't follow the writings or creeds of fallen men in times past. As Jesus said in Luke 22:19 that the Lord's Supper was to be done as a remembrance of him. Passages such as Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 10:9-10 tell us that salvation is my faith alone. Baptism and the Lord's Supper in no way contribute to a person's salvation.

Now that we have talked about the purpose of the Lord's Supper let us talk about the manner in which it should take place.

The Recipients

Only born again Christians are to partake in the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Christians partaking of the Lord's Supper need to examine themselves. If they are partaking of he Lord's Supper for the wrong reason (ex. they are hungry) then they could bring weakness, sickness and even death unto themselves (1 Corinthians 11:27-34). We are also told to not eat with a self professed Christian who is involved in fornication, covetousness, idolatry, verbal abuse, drunkenness or exhortation (1 Corinthians 5:11). 2 Thessalonians 3:6 also tells us we are not to have fellowship with those Christians that are living disorderly and not following sound doctrine.

There are 3 ways a church can decide to handle who is allowed to partake in the Lord's Support. First there is the open position. This means that anyone is allowed to partake, even if their doctrine is much different than that of the church. Second there is close communion. In this case only people that hold the similar doctrines to that of the church are allowed to partake. The final position is closed communion. In this case only members of that church are allowed to participate. The open position is unwise. As mention earlier there can be dire consequences if a recipient of the Lord's Supper isn't in right standing with God. I don't see anywhere in the Bible where a person is said to have to belong to the church to partake in the Lord's Supper. The only position I see that is fully Biblical is close communion. I do understand the concerns though that closed communion churches have. For how can they know the positions of others if they are not members of their church?

The Materials

The liquid is grape juice. Nowhere is it called wine and even if it was it wouldn't necessarily mean it was alcoholic. It would make not sense to use alcoholic wine. Alcoholic wine would cause others to stumble (Romans 14:21). There are countless verses warning about alcoholic wine (Proverbs 20:1, Proverbs 23:29-31, Isaiah 28:7 and etc).

The bread is is unleavened bread. The Lord's Supper took place on the first day of the Passover (Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:7).  It was commanded in Exodus 12:18-20 that only unleavened bread be used from the 14th through the 21st day of the first month (Abib Deuteronomy 16:1-10 or later Nisan Esther 3:7).

The Order

1. A church gathers together in the evening. - Matthew 26:20, Mark 14:17, Luke 22:14, 1 Corinthians 11:18
2. Supper is eaten first. - Luke 22:20
3. The Pastor takes unleavened bread, blesses it and breaks it and it is distributed- Matthew 26:26,  Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24
4. The Pastor states that the bread represents the body of Jesus. - Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24
5. The Pastor takes a cup of juice and gives thanks - Matthew 26:27, Mark 14:23 and 1 Corinthians 11:25
6. After the juice is consumed the Pastor states the juice represents the blood of Jesus which was shed for the remission of sins.- Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25
7. There is a singing of a Hymn by the church. - Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26

How Often

The Bible doesn't specifically say how often the Lord's Supper should take place. Some use Acts 20:7 to state that early churches did practice the Lord's Supper weekly. This isn't a clear case though. If we look at Acts 2:46 you would be led to believe it actually should be daily. If a church does decide to have the Lord's Supper weekly they need to be careful that doesn't become a matter of going through the motions. If done yearly it can increase the importance of the remembrance but at the same time there may be people that wouldn't be able to participate for a number of reasons. The most common practice in Baptist circles is monthly. It is a balance for not making it routine but at the same time not risking leaving people out of a once a year practice.


In conclusion it is important we stick with what the Bible says in all matters. We shouldn't look outside of the Bible to see how the Lord's Supper should be practiced. We need to remember that the Lord's Supper is a memorial to what Jesus did for us and nothing more. We also need to remember that the right attitude is extremely important when partaking in the Lord's Supper.

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