May We Change the Lord's Supper?

by Irvin Barnes

Originally published in
The Christian Informer

CHRISTIANS MUST EAT THE LORD'S SUPPER IN REMEMBRANCE OF CHRIST, discerning His body, showing forth His death until He comes again (1 Corinthians 11:23-29).

A PRACTICAL ILLUSTRATION

Suppose Brother Smith, Brother Jones, and Brother Brown went on a two week fishing and camping excursion in some isolated wilderness region. The first Sunday came and went. They missed worship services altogether.

Monday evening, as they sat around the campfire, Bro. Smith began to confess a feeling of guilt for fishing instead of worshiping. "You know, brethren, I feel guilty for missing worship yesterday. This is the first time since I have been a Christian that I have ever missed assembling with the saints to eat the Lord's supper. I rather regret having done so."

"I know the feeling," confessed Bro. Jones, "I feel the same way. But, I am wondering, why couldn't the three of us just commune together here and now? I realize the early church met in assemblies on the first day of the week to eat the Lord's supper, but since there was no assembly nearby and since we were so involved in fishing yesterday, I really fail to see how that the day is of such importance. I really can't see why we would have to be in a church service. After all, we commune with God and Christ regardless of how many are present. The important thing is to remember Christ's death and it seems the three of us could remember Him just as well on Monday as on Sunday. Bro. Brown, what do you think?"

ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER

"Well," he replied, "I do feel rather badly that we missed worship yesterday. Perhaps it would be good if we were to commune in memory of Christ. We have no unleavened bread. I did happen to bring some cheese. There's plenty of it left. I suppose we could bless it and all eat together. The eating and drinking together in His memory is the important thing, anyhow. If the day doesn't matter I suppose as long as we discern the Lord's body in a proper remembrance, what we use in the eating doesn't really matter either."

Bro. Smith joined in, "This all sounds good to me. We didn't pack any grape juice, but I do have some tomato juice. Tomatoes grow on vines. One kind of fruit of the vine ought to serve as well as another."

So, around a campfire, late on the second day of the week, three Christians offered thanks for some cheese and tomato juice and ate and drank together in memory of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.

THE LORD'S SUPPER WAS DELIVERED IN PATTERN

Acts 18:1, says, "...Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth." Acts 18:8 says, "And many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized." It must have been at this time that Paul delivered unto them the pattern for eating the Lord's supper, for in 1 Corinthians 11:2, he writes back to Corinth from Phillipi, "Keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you." It makes no sense that Paul could have left the baptized believers at Corinth without having instructed them concerning worship.

By turning the Lord's supper into a carnal feast to satisfy physical hunger, the Corinthians disobeyed the ordinances which Paul had delivered. (See 1 Cor. 11:17-22).

Beginning in verse 23, Paul reminds them that what he had previously delivered to them was received from the Lord. He then calls them back to the original pattern by rehearsing it step by step.

JESUS TOOK BREAD

Jesus took bread. Jesus did not take cheese. Jesus did not take a plurality of loaves of bread. Jesus must have taken a loaf for the word bread is used in the singular with regard to the communion and is defined by W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, as "a small loaf or cake, composed of flour and water, and baked, in shape either oblong or round, and about as thick as the thumb" (Page 146). The bread of the communion is called one bread in 1 Cor. 10:17, "for we are all partakers of that one bread."

Jesus blessed and broke bread. Jesus broke bread either for the purpose of eating or for the purpose of merely dividing the loaf. There are two reasons for believing that Jesus broke in order to eat or broke off a portion to eat rather than breaking the loaf just to be tearing it into pieces.

JESUS BROKE TO EAT

First, Jesus, after he blessed and broke, gave the bread to the disciples and commanded, "This do." In other words, now you do what I have done. If he had broken the bread in order to divide it, then the disciples would have understood that they should take it and in turn break it to divide it some more. Such an interpretation defies logic and demands that Jesus blessed, broke in order to partake and then commanded the disciples, to do what he had done.

Second, the bread is called Jesus' body (1 Cor. 11:24). The church is Christ's body, (Ephesians 1:22,23). It should not be divided (1 Cor. 1:10). The Passover lamb was to be eaten whole. It could not be divided (Exodus 12:1-10). The lamb was a type of Christ (1 Cor. 5:7), "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." The physical body of Christ was never divided. (See John 19:31-36, especially the prophecy concerning Christ,"A bone of him shall not be broken").

A divided loaf then is completely out of order in the Lord's supper except to break in order to eat or partake. How can one properly discern an undivided Christ by eating a divided loaf? One loaf of bread in each congregation with all the members eating of that one bread is a picture of true communion and unity. A divided loaf is a picture of disunity and division.

THE CUP OF BLESSING

After the same manner also, he took the cup. The same is called the cup of blessing, (1 Cor. 10:16), and the cup of the Lord, (1 Cor. 10:21). The word cup means, literally a drinking vessel. Jesus did not take an empty vessel for Paul went on to say "as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup..." The drinking vessel (cup) contained a drink element, the fruit of the vine. The cup [filled with fruit of the vine] is metaphorically referred to as the New Testament and the fruit of the vine [itself] is metaphorically Christ's blood, (1 Cor. 11:25), "This cup is the New Testament in my blood."

NOT CUPS

Jesus did not take cups. He took the cup. With regard to the cup he commanded, "This do ye." Since Jesus took the cup, we cannot take the cups and do what He did.

May we change the communion? It is obvious we must not! If we can change cup to cups then why not bread to cheese and grape juice to tomato juice. If the example Jesus set for us in how to commune does not have to be followed then why must we follow the example of Acts 20:7, of meeting on the first day [of the week]? Once the changes begin to be brought in there is no end to the innovations that have been and will be introduced. Let us go back to the Bible for faith and practice in worship!

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