28. The Lord’s Supper


In London, in Trafalgar Square, there stands a monument called Nelson’s Column, and in the United States of America the Washington Monument reaches high into the sky in memory of the first American President.

When men desire to remember a great man or woman, they usually erect a monument of wood or stone, so that when passers-by look upon it they may all to mind the one in whose honour it as built.

However, all such memorials eventually crumble or decay. Therefore, when Jesus Christ determined to leave a monument to his name, he gave one which would stand as long as the earth remains.


On the night of his betrayal to be crucified, Jesus ate the Passover with his disciples in an upper room.

While eating it he took some unleavened bread, offered thanks, broke the bread, and gave it to the disciples with the words, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24-25.

Thus, there came into being that memorial which has, from the death of Christ to the present time, reminded Christians of the sacrifice made for them by their crucified Saviour.


Three expressions are used in the scriptures with respect to this memorial feast. As already suggested, it is called the “Lord’s supper.” It is appropriately so called because it was inaugurated by Jesus and is in memory of him.

In 1 Corinthians 10:16 it is called a “communion” of the body and blood of Christ because in partaking of it Christians participate with one another and with Jesus in his sufferings.

It is spoken of in Acts 2:42 and Acts 20:7 as the “breaking of bread.” While this phrase sometimes denotes a common meal, in these verses it has special reference to the feast in which bread is broken in memory of Christ.

The Lord’s supper is sometimes called the Eucharist, meaning “giving of thanks”. However, this expression is never applied by the inspired writers to the Lord’s supper and cannot be so used with scriptural authority.

It is also designated a sacrament, as are baptism and marriage. But here again, we have no scriptural sanction for the use of this word as a designation of the Lord’s supper.


Primarily, the Lord’s supper is a memorial. The words of Jesus, “Do this in remembrance of me,” identify it as such. When Christians partake of the bread and fruit of the vine, they should take their minds back over 1900 years to that occasion when Jesus was suspended on Calvary’s cross for the sins of all mankind.

To them the bread represents the torture-wracked body of the Saviour. The fruit of the vine is emblematic of his blood, shed as a perfect sin offering for the sins of each individual.

However, this communion with Christ signifies more to the Christian than a memorial. Jesus said of the cup, “This cup is the new testament in my blood.” 1 Corinthians 11:25. The word testament may also be translated as covenant, and this is the prime meaning in this passage.

The fruit of the vine is a visible expression of the agreement between Christ and the Christian, the covenant that if the disciple of the Lord is faithful to him, he will reward him at the end of the way with an eternal home.

As a memorial, the Lord’s supper looks backward to his death. As a covenant, it declares our present, living faith. But the supper also looks to the future.

Paul says, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:26. It is thus a proclamation to the world that Christ will return again to take home with him the faithful.

Since it does point to the second coming of Christ, the breaking of bread is to be observed until the end of time.

The Lord’s supper also serves as a symbol of the unity within the body of Christ. “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.” 1 Corinthians 10:16-17.

The one bread of which the Christian partakes reminds him of the one body. The one body is the one, undivided church of Jesus Christ. “And he is the head of the body, the church.” Colossians 1:18. While individually, Christians are many, they are unified in one church and this unity is symbolised by one bread.


Several erroneous ideas have become attached to the Lord’s supper. One is the doctrine of transubstantiation. This is defined in the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent as follows: “In the Eucharist are contained truly, really, and substantially the body and blood, together with soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ.”

Again, “The whole substance of the bread is converted into the body, and whole substance of the wine into the blood.” Thus, the idea is presented that, in partaking of the bread and fruit of the vine, one eats the literal body of Christ and drinks his literal blood.

The authority for this teaching is given as Matthew 26:26-28. Here Jesus, in instituting the supper, states “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

It is argued that when Jesus said “this is my body” and “this is my blood” he meant it was his literal body and blood, the actual body suspended on Calvary and the actual blood shed at the cross.

In his teaching, Jesus made frequent use of the metaphor, a comparison in which the likeness is implied rather than specifically stated.

When he said in John 10:9 “I am the door” and in John 15:5 “I am the vine,” he obviously was using this form of speech. Likewise, when he said, “This is my body,” it is apparent that he was employing a metaphor since he stood before the disciples in the flesh. And when he said, “This is my blood,” he could not have meant his literal blood since it was still coursing through his veins.

Moreover, as already noticed, the emblems were to serve as a memorial to Christ. A memorial stands for something but is never the real thing itself.

Were the bread and fruit of the vine the literal body and blood of our Saviour, they could not be taken in remembrance of him, since they would then be the actual body and blood of Jesus. Therefore, the doctrine of transubstantiation violates the purpose which the Lord’s supper is to serve.

As an outgrowth of transubstantiation, there came the teaching of the Sacrifice of the Mass. This is the theory that a priest repeats the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross each time that Mass is said. But the idea of a continual repetition of the death of Christ contradicts the plain teaching of the Hebrew letter.

“Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” Hebrews 7:26-27. Since the sacrifice of Jesus was perfect, it need not be repeated.

Another theory is that in partaking of the Lord’s Supper, one receives the remission of sins. This concept is drawn from the statement, “This is my blood of the9  covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28.

It is concluded that the fruit of the vine is for the remission of sins. However, in this verse, the antecedent of “forgiveness of sins” is “blood”, not the cup. The forgiveness of sins is procured by the shed blood of Christ, not by drinking the fruit of the vine.


The Lord’s Supper was never intended for the sinner. Only for the child of God is it a memorial of the death of Jesus, only for the child of God is this communion a symbol of the divine covenant: only for him is it a proclamation of faith in the return of the Son of God; only to the Christian is the bread a sign of the unity of the one body. For the non-Christian the Lord’s supper is meaningless. It should be partaken of only by the disciple of Christ.


“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.” 1 Corinthians 11:27-29.

This condemnation for partaking in an unworthy manner should cause us to meditate seriously upon our method of observance. To partake in a worthy manner, one must centre his mind upon Christ and his death.

If, instead, he allows his mind to wander to the material things about him, he is guilty of the body and blood of Christ. Too often Christians may eat the Lord’s Supper in a mechanical fashion, allowing it to degenerate into a mere ritual. This is displeasing to God.


“On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people…” Acts 20:7. The stated purpose of this assembly was to partake of the Lord’s supper, not to hear Paul preach. Observe that this occurred on the first day of the week or Sunday.

The use of the definite article “the” implies that the early Christians observed the Lord’s supper every first day of the week, just as the command, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” Exodus 20:8, meant to each devout Jew that he should observe 52 Sabbaths a year.

Church historians of various faiths concur that the practice of early Christians was to eat the Lord’s supper weekly. The observance of the memorial feast on a monthly or quarterly basis is of human origin.

To be infallibly safe the Christian should partake of it every Lord’s day in memory of his blessed Saviour. Surely if he loves him, he will not consider this a burden.


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