The Ordinances - (B) The Lord’s Supper
Arthur G. Clarke
The Ordinances—(B) The Lord's Supper
"The Lord's Supper" (1 Cor. II. 20) is termed also "Breaking of Bread" (Acts 2. 42) and is primarily a common expression for partaking of a meal, and is so used in Scripture (Acts 2. 46 ; 20. 11 ; 27. 35, 30 ; cf. Mk. 6, 41, etc.) ; " bread," lit. loaf, for the dividing of which the Jews did not use knife. Later, the phrase, lit. " The breaking of the loaf " came to have special reference to the observance of the Lord's Supper.— " Eucharist" is a non-Scriptural term, but closely connects with one of the principal acts at the Supper, namely " thanksgiving " (Gk. eucharistia), and but for its ritualistic associations could not be considered objectionable.— " (Holy) Communion," a term based upon 1 Cor. 10, 16, expresses certain aspects of The Supper, The wholly idolatrous conception of the " Mass," as practised in the Roman Church, will be dealt with later.
INSTITUTION. In the N.T. we have four records of this, Matt. 20. 26-30 (dispensational order) ; Mk. 14. 22-26 (chronological order); Lk. 22. 14-23 (moral order); I Cor. 11. 17-34 (essential order). With three oilier passages relating thereto (Acts 2. 42 ; 20. 7 ; 1 Cor. 10. 16. 17) there are seven references in all. A PARTING COMMAND, "This do" (Lk. 22. 19; I Cor. 11. 24, 25) twice spoken ; thrice recorded.
EXEMPLIFICATION. Practice of early disciples clearly indicated Acts 2. 42; 20. 7; I Cor. 10. 16. Writings from sub-apostolic times frequently refer to the importance of this ordinance and show the universality of its observance among Christians. The churches soon departed from the first simplicity of the Scriptural pattern, however, and there gradually developed in certain circles a highly-elaborate ritual, often associated with definitely idolatrous practices. The breaking of bread is a collective exercise, and continued regularly, whereas baptism is a single initiatory rite for the individual believer (Lesson 3).
PARTICIPATION. It is most important to recognize that only true believers in our Lord Jesus Christ are entitled to partake of the Lord's Supper. Participation by doubtful adherents and even known unbelievers as thereby receiving the very " means of grace" is wholly contrary to sound doctrine. See Acts 20. 7, " disciples" ; 2. 41, 42, "they that received His word . . . baptized . . . continued steadfastly ... in the breaking of bread." Here we may point out other terms designating the same class, viz. "believers," Acts 5. 14; "Christians," II. 20; "brethren" 11. 29; "saints," Rom, 1. 7. Moreover, only believers sound in the faith and godly in their walk should be welcomed, 1 Cor. 5. 11 ; 2 Jn. 9-11 ; Tit, 3. 10, 11 ; 2 Thess. 3. 6, 14, etc. If evidence is forthcoming of these requirements there is no warrant in the Word of God for imposing any further restrictions whatever. On the other hand, it is not consistent with godly order to issue a general invitation to the assembled company for anyone who wishes to participate. There should be real personal exercise of heart on the part of each believer concerned.
SIGNIFICATION. This may be exhibited in a seven-fold way. The Lord's Supper is:
1. A Gathering of His Church. 1 Cor. 11. 17-21. The breaking of bread is not a subordinate gathering of the assembly—. a mere appendage to other services. On the contrary it is the normal gathering of Christians, the very central feature of the Christian order of worship. Acts 20. 7 strongly indicates this, and is supported by I Cor. chs. 11-14, in which chapters the term " come together " occurs just seven times and nowhere else in Scripture of the church meeting. In Troas the disciples gathered for the specific purpose of " breaking bread." They did not gather to hear the famous missionary-preacher Paul. Remembrance of the Lord in the manner He Himself had enjoined was the governing thought in the hearts and minds of the believers. In denominational " churches " the central point of a meeting for " divine worship " or " public worship " is the sermon, which is not worship in the Scriptural sense at all. The Supper beautifully expresses the oneness of the Body of Christ, the Church ; the union of that Body in all its individual members [a) with the risen Head in heaven and (b) with one another; also the communion Bowing therefrom, 1 Cor. 10. 16, 17 (K.V., m,). Note the double significance of the one loaf (a) as symbolizing His own precious body, 1 Cor. II. 24, ' and ('<) as symbolizing His mystic Body, the Church, 1 Cor. 10. l(j. 17. The reversed order of cup and loaf here gives the order of the believer's experience, i.e. first, appropriation of the merits of the atoning blood (" cup ") then the resulting membership of the
" body " (loaf) ; 1 Cor. 11 gives the order of observance.
2. A Memorial of His Person, I Cor. II. 24, 25, RV. Note " This do," i.e. it is not a matter of retrospection simply but an act of commemoration, and that not of His death but of His Person (" for a remembrance of ME "). It should not therefore be compared to a memorial service for a long-dead national hero or a notable martyr in a great cause. We gather on the first day of the week, the Lord's resurrection-day, not on the day of His death, and ours is the joyful celebration of One who having accomplished the atoning work of the Cross, rose triumphant from the tomb and ascended to the right hand of God. Moreover, we commemorate Him not so much as a long-absent One but as One ever-living and graciously present according to His own promise, Matt. 18. 20.
3. A Token of His Love, 1 Cor. 11. 23 (" the night in which He was betrayed "), cf. Jn. 13. 1. Love delights to serve and to give. Matt. 20. 28 ; Lk. 22. 19; Jn. 10. 11, and is measured by the extent of its sacrifice. As we partake of the Supper, the Lord is afforded an opportunity to impart a further impulse to our devotion to Him in a fresh realization of His love.
4. A Pledge of His Covenant, 1 Cor. 11. 25 ; Lk. 22. 20. Every divine covenant mentioned in Scripture has its distinctive sign, e.g. the sign of the Mosaic Covenant given to Israel was the weekly sabbath, Ex. 31. 13. 17 ; Ezek. 20. 12, 20. The " sign " of the New Covenant is the cup of which we partake at the Supper. Lk. 22. 20, for it symbolizes His blood shed in ratification of it ; see Heb. 9. 15-22. For further teaching on the New (better) covenant see Hob. 7. 22 ; 8. 6-13 ; 10. 16-18; 12. 24 ; 13. 20; 2 Cor. 3. 6-18.
5. A Partaking of His Feast, 1 Cor. 11. 26 ('* eat. . . drink "). Some are averse from referring to the Lord's Supper as a " feast." Rightly understood, however, there seems no valid objection to the term. It surely is a fitting occasion for believers to express the joy of their reconciliation to God (Lk. 15. 22-24) made possible only on the ground of the death of His Son for us (Roro. 5. 10, 11. cf. the significance of the peace-offering, Lev. chs. 3 and 7). Personal participation is indicated by the four imperatives, " Take—eat— drink—do." The Lord's Supper is symbol of a broader concept— the Lord's Table (1 Cor. 10. 21). These are not interchangeable terms, though we often treat them as such. The " table " represents fellowship in all the gracious provision the Lord has made for His redeemed people. At this the believer is always " sitting "
((cf. Psa. 23. 5), but he sits at the Supper but once weekly. 1 Cor. 10 contrasts the " table of the Lord " with the " table of demons," which latter stands for all the worldly provision the devil prepares for his devotees, even hi the moral and religious spheres. The Christian should have no fellowship whatever with such. He should do nothing to compromise his testimony for God before the world or to stumble a weaker brother (see context). Christ Himself is the unseen Host and Ruler of " the feast " (Jn. 2. 9). The table is spread by Him at great cost to Himself, but freely to us. "Take" also speaks of abundant grace and a generous sufficiency, 2 Sam. 9.
6. A Proclamation of His Death, 1 Cor. 11. 26, R.V. The A.V. word " show " has been misunderstood and is often cited as " show forth." The Gk. however indicates not representation but proclamation, not showing to God but witnessing to men. It is the gospel in object-lesson, 1 Cor. 15. 3, 4. Same Gk. word used 2. 1 ; 9. 14 and often elsewhere in sense of " to preach." We have already seen that baptism also is a gospel testimony through eye-gate, the emphasis being upon resurrection, whilst the Supper stresses the death of our Lord. The combined witness of the two ordinances is very strong. It has been pointed out that the announcing is not in the " breaking " of the loaf but in the eating and drinking (text). We may perhaps see the death of our Lord already set forth in the separation of the loaf (body) and the cup (blood). Both the fact and the significance of His death are announced.
7. A Prophecy of His Coming, 1 Cor. 11. 26. "Till He come" is Paul's inspired comment. Here is the glorious consummation for which we look. It sets a limit upon the observance of the ordinance, so precious to all true believers. It is also a clear indication that obedience to the Lord's parting command must not be neglected in this waiting time.
" Backward look we, drawn to Calvary, musing while we sing ;
Forward haste we to Thy coming. Lord and King !"