The Lord’s Supper
Recently we focused on the local church, how it is defined, what its purposes are and how the local church should be governed. Today we focus on the Lord’s Supper as a church ordinance. We ask how one determines whether an act is an ordinance of the Church or not, what the meaning of the Lord’s Supper is and which names we find in the Bible for this act of remembrance. We also discuss the purpose of the Lord’s Supper and how and by whom it should be practiced.
The Qualifications of an Ordinance
An act qualifies as an ordinance if it meets three criteria. First, was the act commanded by Jesus? In the case of the Lord’s Supper, it was indeed commanded by the Lord (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19-20). Second, was the act observed in the Book of Acts? The breaking of the bread was certainly observed (Acts 2:42; 20:7). Third, was the act expounded on, explained or its theological significance spelled out in any of the Epistles? Yes, the apostle Paul discussed the table of the Lord in 1 Corinthians 10:21 and 11:23-26. There is no doubt that the Lord’s Supper is an ordinance that the Church must obey.
The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper
But what is the meaning of this blessed thanksgiving service? The key meaning of the Lord’s Supper is that it is a memorial, a remembrance of Jesus (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:26). Jesus said we are to do this “in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). We are to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Other ideas about the Lord’s Supper, such as transubstantiation, consubstantiation or the spiritual presence are discussed and refuted by dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum in his article ‘The Lord’s Supper’.
Biblical Names for the Ordinance
There are six Biblical names for this ordinance. It is the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20), the table of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:21), the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42; 20:7), the thanksgiving service (cf. Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17), the eulogia or blessing (1 Corinthians 10:16) or the communion (1 Corinthians 10:16).
The Purposes of the Lord’s Supper
The first purpose of communion is as a memorial and remembrance of the life and death of Jesus. Second, it also announces basic facts of the gospel in that it proclaims the Lord’s death. But third, it also quickens an anticipation of Christ’s return, because we are to perform this service until He returns (implying not only Jesus’ death and burial but also His resurrection). Four, we are also reminded of our oneness with all believers (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:17).
The Frequency of the Practice of this Ordinance
How often should we meet to have communion? The answer is “for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The frequency should be decided by the leadership of each local church. Since the context of the Lord’s Supper is the Passover meal, the absolute minimum that a local church should practice communion is once a year.
Three prerequisites must be met before one can partake in the Lord’s Supper. The first is salvation, for the table of the Lord is for believers only. The second prerequisite is noted as a ‘possible’ prerequisite. In the early Church, everyone who partook of communion had been baptized and it might be that this was a prerequisite. The third prerequisite is self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:27-28), so that the believer will not partake of this blessing in an unworthy manner or without first confessing all known sins to the Lord. God will discipline those believers who treat the Lord’s Supper lightly and who do not examine themselves before partaking. This judgment can take four forms: chastisement, discipline, physical weakness and physical death (1 Corinthians 11:29-31).
Communion should be practiced when a local body of the church is assembled (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:18, 20, 33-34). Leaven points symbolically to sin, but the body of Christ was a sinless body. Therefore, unleavened bread should be used. Since Jesus used red wine at the last Passover, red wine should be used. The bread should be served first, then the red wine. Believers should partake of both the bread and the wine.
There should be a real sense of honour and awe when participating in communion, “for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
If you would like to read more about The Lord’s Supper, we suggest you read the original article and source of this post, The Lord’s Supper, written by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum and published by Ariel Ministries in San Antonio.
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