Several years ago, when we lived at Greenville, SC, a sister approached
us with a question which was, to the best or our recollection, "Should
the cup and fruit of the vine be separated when discussing them at the
Lord's table." She then said that she thought they ought not to be
separated. To this we agreed.
In Luke 22:20 (KJV) we read, "Likewise also the cup after supper,
saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for
you." Or the American Standard Version, and others call it "the new
covenant in my blood". From this we see two spiritual elements pictured
in what is referred to, in this passage, as "this cup". Hebrews 9:15-17
reads, "And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that
by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were
under the first testament, they which are called might receive the
promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must
also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of
force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while
the testator liveth." Again, in verse 15 of this passage the American
Standard Version and others employ the word "covenant" demonstrating
that "testament" and "covenant" are synonymous. The Moffett translation
of Jesus speaking in Luke 22:20 is, "This cup means the new covenant
ratified by my blood for your sake." Which is in agreement with the
teaching of Hebrews 9. Therefore, we are given the one spiritual element
"the new covenant" or "new testament" which was put in force or ratified
by the other spiritual element "the blood of Christ."
We all know the covenant and the blood are two different things. Surely
no one thinks that Jesus "shed the covenant" on the cross. In Acts
20:28 Paul give instruction to the elders of Ephesus "to feed the church
of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." He again writes to
Christians in Corinth saying, "Ye are bought with a price" (1
Corinthians 6:20; 7:23). He shows that the Christians who comprise the
church were bought or purchased with the blood of Christ. We also know
the church and the blood are two different things with a clear spiritual
relationship. This brings us to a simple but pertinent question - "Can
the purchased object also be the purchase price?" Certainly not! We
might say, "We bought a coat for $100." No one would think that the
coat, and the money paid for the coat, were the same thing. If we can
see that the coat and its purchase price are not the same, cannot we see
that the church and the blood of Christ which purchased the church two
different things. Likewise, the cup filled with fruit of the vine, and
the fruit of the vine, are two different things, and neither gives its
proper signification without the other.
In 1 Corinthians 10:16,17 we read where the inspired writer reasons,
"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 being many are one bread, and one body: for
we are all partakers of that one bread." To constitute "the cup of
blessing" the two elements must be present in their proper positions.
The one cup (drinking vessel) needs to be filled with fruit of the vine
for the saints to drink. Also there needs to be one bread or loaf
(artos) to be eaten.
We understand the language when we say, "the cup of water." Where is
the water? In the cup of water. Similarly, we understand the language
when the Scripture calls it, "the cup of blessing." Well, now look at
Isaiah 65:8. In that passage there is a very interesting statement. It
says, "Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and
one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it...." Where is the
"blessing"? In the "new wine" which is found "in the cluster." In the
communion where is the blessing? In "the cup of blessing."
To bring the new wine out of the cluster and present it for drinking, as
in the Lord's supper, it must go through the ancient process called
"pressing." A mechanical device was invented to crush or press great
quantities of grapes to extract the juice for drinking-the device was
naturally called a "winepress". Passage after passage in the Old
Testament refers to the winepress (See Numbers 18:27,30; Deuteronomy
15:14; Judges 6:11; 7:25; 2 Kings 6:27; Isaiah 5:2; 63:3; etc.).
Strong wine, intoxicating wine results from the process called
"fermentation." No vine on earth has ever produced fermented wine. The
liquid which is produced by pressing grapes is "grape juice", or as
Jesus called it, the "fruit of the vine"-literally "product of the
vine." There is a little picture presented in the dream as told to
Joseph in an Egyptian prison way back in Genesis 40:10,11. The
Pharaoh's butler or cup-bearer, telling his dream, said, "And in the
vine were three branches: and it was as though it budded, and her
blossoms shot forth; and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes:
And Pharaoh's cup was in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed
them into Pharaoh's cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand." Here
we have a beautifully simple picture of a cup being filled with the
fruit of the vine, or grape juice, by simply pressing the grapes and
allowing their content to fill the cup. This was a service for Pharaoh
which the butler saw himself again performing in his dream. Joseph
interpreted the dream to say that the butler would be restored to his
former position doing this very act for the king.
The function of a drinking vessel, a cup, is to hold a liquid to be
drunk. Just as we may hand someone what we call, "the cup of water," we
may also hand someone, "the cup of blessing." The communion cup
containing fruit of the vine is the "cup of blessing" because
inspiration called it that (1 Corinthians 10:16).
When it comes time for the Lord's supper, in the process of worship,
bread should be there ready for use to be the body of Jesus. In all
four detailed accounts of the communion Jesus says of the bread which he
took, "This is my body." When should the bread be called the "body of
Jesus"? What do the Scriptures say- "And as they were eating, Jesus took
bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and
said, Take, eat; this is my body" (Matthew 26:26); "And as they did eat,
Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said,
Take, eat: this is my body" (Mark 14:22); "And he took bread, and gave
thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which
is given for you: this do in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19); and in the
last account, "And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said,
Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in
remembrance of me" (1 Corinthians 11:40). Scriptures say, "Jesus took
From these passages we see, bread, a loaf (artos) is to be consecrated,
set apart, "blessed" which is from EULOGEO meaning "to speak well of,
(religiously) to bless (thank or invoke a benediction upon, prosper):--
bless, praise" (Strong). Jesus gave it to the disciples, commanding
them "to take and eat," announcing "this is my body." Today, the one,
before the congregation taking care of the Lord's supper, needs to make
the proper observations to let all present know that we are about to
partake of the body of Christ. The Scripture says, Jesus "gave thanks"
before he broke it and gave it to the disciple. So he who attends to
the Supper should take the bread, give thanks and request God's
blessing, before he brakes it to partake of it. (Note - Jesus' breaking
the bread was not a special breaking to make it the broken body.
However, I'll possibly pursue this for another article). After he
breaks the bread and partakes, the one at the table should give it to
the congregation to "take, eat." When the bread is blessed and thanks
are given, then to the Christian it is the body of Christ in which each
disciple communes. It does not become the literal flesh or body of
Jesus, but the figure of His body. The disciple sees or discerns the
body of Jesus in the bread.
The flour, in a bag sitting in the grocery store or placed on the
kitchen shelf, and the water, in the pipe or the tap, are not the body
of Christ. Neither are those same elements when mixed together into
dough the body of Christ. Even after that same dough is baked into a
loaf of bread, it is still not the body of Christ. Only when that bread
is properly placed along with a cup of fruit of the vine does it
approach being the body of Christ. But those elements all become what
they are to be spiritually, when the proper steps are taken to make them
those spiritual elements.
To the Christian an empty cup has no spiritual meaning. A cup, on a
kitchen shelf or boxed with other cups in a store, is not the New
Testament. You can't point at a cup in a store and tell a clerk, "I
want to buy the New Testament." Talk about giving you a strange look!
No empty cup anywhere, under any circumstances, is the New Testament.
Even when you put grape juice into a cup it is still not the New
Testament, otherwise mothers would be handing their youngsters the New
Testament at the breakfast table. Oh, how silly!
The juice in the cluster of grapes is not the blood of Christ. Grape
juice is not the blood of Christ sitting in a bottle in the back room of
the meeting house. Grape juice alone is never, and under no
circumstances the blood of Jesus. It is easy to see that you cannot
sensibly go to a vineyard, and remark to the farmer, "You sure are
growing a lot of the blood of Jesus." He probably would wonder about
your sanity. You cannot go down to the supermarket and ask a clerk to
help you find a bottle of "the blood of Jesus." "No, no," you say, "I
see that; it has to be in the Lord's supper to be called that." Right!
But a cup in the correct setting, which is, when it has been filled with
fruit of the vine to represent the blood of Christ, and placed with the
bread in the Lord's Supper, can be, and should be, called the New
Testament. Remove the one cup and you cannot have the blood of Christ.
Remove the fruit of the vine from the cup and you cannot have the New
Testament. Jesus said, "This cup is the new testament in my blood: this
do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me" (1 Corinthians
11:25); or "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for
you" (Luke 22:20).
Let's all make a conscious effort to use proper terms and proper
references which always magnify the unity of the elements in the Lord's