The Lord’s Supper
Thomas Fitzgerald, Bath
WE shall assume that we are approaching the subject of the Lord’s Supper for the first time, taking nothing for granted. We commence, therefore, with what is simple and elementary.
There are two ordinances only, authorised by our Lord, and described in the New Testament for the observance of believers in this present Age (Matt. 28. 16-20; Luke 22. 14-20).
i. The first of the two ordinances, as described throughout the Acts, is the baptism of believers by immersion in water, and was observed on confession of faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord. This was done publicly and once only, and introduced the believer into the fellowship of the Church or the Assembly (Acts 2. 41, 42, and chap. 8. 36-39).
ii. The second ordinance instituted for believers of this Age, called the Lord’s Supper, was, unlike baptism, to be observed repeatedly. It is a continuous celebration of a past event, and let us ever remember that celebrations or commemorations of an event are not repetitions of that event.
We celebrate the Lord’s death each first day of the week (as was the custom of the Early Church), but we do not crucify our Lord again, nor offer up again His Flesh and Blood to God. (See Luke 24. 33; John 20. 19, 26; Acts 20. 7; 1 Cor. 16. 2.)
II. THE TITLES GIVEN IN THE NEW TESTAMENT TO THIS ORDINANCE.
1. Negative. No names or titles as used by men or churches are found there, such as:—
i. The Sacrament.
ii. Holy Communion.
iii. The Eucharist.
iv. The Sacrifice of the Roman Mass.
We therefore discard these names, while ever remembering that it is a holy and solemn occasion; a season of worship and of thanksgiving (Greek, eucharisteo, I give thanks) to God.
2. Positive. We use the New Testament names such as:—
i. The breaking of bread (Acts 2. 42 and chap. 20. 7).
ii. The Lord’s Table, not Altar (1. Cor. 10. 21).
iii. The Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11. 20).
III. WHAT DO THESE SIGNIFY?
1. The Lord’s Table indicates the common place of gathering. The saints meet around one common board; the believer’s meeting place on earth. It is the LORD’S Table, not MAN’S. His real presence spiritually pervades the gathering, “there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18. 20). He presides at His Table. He is acknowledged by the members as The Head. What holy behaviour becomes us in such exalted presence “When at His Table sits the Lord.’’
2. The Lord’s Supper indicates a meal, the common food of which all present partake. The believers feed on the same “luxurious food which loads the board.” Though simple elements, yet “the bread, how sweet, the wine, how rich, when Jesus deigns the guests to meet.” The bread and wine are His own appointed elements, and no man has any right to alter them.
The supper is the last meal of the day. The night of the judgment of this world is to follow.
3. The breaking of bread is a term which describes the act or manner of observing the feast. Each believer breaks the bread and drinks of the cup. We eat and drink personally and give thanks. The Table may be there, the Supper may be prepared, but unless we eat the broken bread and drink the outpoured wine, we do not keep the feast as instituted by the Lord. Referring to the bread, He said, “Take eat.” Referring to the wine, He said, “Drink ye all (everyone) of it.” (See Matt. 26. 26, 27.)
IV. WE HAVE THE HIGHEST AUTHORITY FOR THIS ORDINANCE .
1. It was instituted by the Lord Himself on earth, just before His crucifixion. (See Matt. 26. 26-28; Mark 14. 22-25; Luke 22. 19, 20.) When men want to verify the validity of an Institution or Custom, they refer to the original documents. We, therefore, refer back to the New Testament. The institution of the Lord’s Supper is an historic fact recorded in the Gospels. Regarding the sufficiency of Holy Scripture, even the Established Church of England states in Article 6, “that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith.”
2. This ordinance was confirmed by our Risen Lord from heaven, in the special revelation given to the Apostle Paul, with added instructions as to the doctrine and meaning of its observance (1 Cor. 11. 23-32 and chap. 10. 16-17).
3. From the earliest times of Church History and throughout the centuries up to the present, the Lord’s Supper has been observed in all lands where the light of the Gospel has penetrated. Although it has been spoiled of its simplicity and spiritual profit by human inventions and traditions, the ordinance is an established fact recorded in history.
V. SOME THINGS WE SHOULD REMEMBER AS TO OUR BEHAVIOUR AND RESPONSIBILITY IN OBSERVING THIS ORDINANCE.
1. Negatively. No malice or wickedness should be allowed in the heart or conduct.
Positively . Sincerity and Truth should characterise the believer’s manner of life (1 Cor. 3. 6-13).
2. There should be unity and harmony among the saints. It is sadly possible to come together for the worse and not for the better, and to fail in rightly eating the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11. 17-22).
3. Self-examination, or judgment of ourselves should precede attendance at the Lord’s Table (1 Cor. 11. 28).
4. Spiritual discernment should be in exercise. To make much of the symbols and fail to enter into the true and deep meaning of the Lord’s body given up and His blood shed in death, leads to cold formality and will bring the participant under the judgment of God (1 Cor. 11. 27-34).
5. The period of its observance. There will come a time when its observance shall come to an end. The symbols will no longer be needed. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come.” Then in glory with Himself, the saints will see Him face to face, “as He is.” The symbols will then give place to the reality.
“Too soon we rise, the symbols disappear;
The feast, though not the love, is past and gone;
The bread and wine remove, but Thou art here—
Nearer than ever—still my shield and sun.
“Feast after feast thus comes and passes by,
Yet, passing, points to the glad feast above,
And gives sweet foretastes of the festal joy,
The Lamb’s great bridal feast of bliss and love.”