Question Time

Question

Would it be in order to have a hymn or reading between breaking bread and drinking the cup?

Answer

Although we are given very clear instructions as to the preparation required by those who participate in the Lord’s Supper, and equally clear guidance as to the purpose of the event, very little detail is supplied relative to the format of the meeting. This does not give us licence to be unwise as to the order of things but it does mean that we need to guard against imposing regulations that are not endorsed in the scriptures. Something may be a personal preference or a pattern that has been followed for decades but that does not make it authoritative and unchangeable.

The only detailed information we have regarding the Lord’s Supper is given in the first three gospel records and Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In comparing these records, we learn that the bread is a symbol of the body of the Saviour that was given for us. As for the symbolic relevance of the cup the Lord Jesus said ‘this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’, Matt. 26. 28. If we only had Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts we would not know that what the Lord did on the eve of His crucifixion was something to be perpetuated throughout the years until His return. That instruction is briefly alluded to by Luke but clearly stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 verses 24-34.

The request made by our Saviour was that we should partake of the bread and cup in remembrance of Him. In addition, as we carry out this request, there is an outcome, for we ‘proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes’, 1 Cor. 11. 26. This is not something we are requested to do, it is something that happens as we eat and drink at the supper. As the bread speaks of the Lord’s body and the cup of His blood, two things which are closely linked, and as we are to call Him to mind in the partaking of them both, I suggest that we ought not to separate them by readings or hymns etc. Other than the giving of thanks prior to using each of the symbols, I am of the mind that it would be preferable that the one should follow the other without any other contributions between.

However, whilst these are my convictions, I would be hard pressed to dogmatize that this is what should be done everywhere and at all times. There seems to be an innate desire with many, maybe for very commendable reasons, to impose regulations as to the format of the Lord’s Supper that go far beyond the simplicity of the meeting as revealed in the scriptures. One danger we need to be aware of is that of becoming very ritualistic or formulaic instead of being sensitive to the guiding of the Spirit of God. I know of no reason why the partaking of the bread and cup has to be reserved for a particular point in the meeting or specific time showing on the clock. On one occasion it may be appropriate to break bread at the start, on another occasion it might be correct to leave it until the later stages of the service.

There is need for those who are mature to be wise in their handling of those who are younger in the faith. Perhaps a younger brother might give out a hymn that is not in keeping with the remembrance of the Lord, or participates in prayer in a manner that indicates their very limited understanding as to the purpose of the meeting. Such a person needs to be gently guided and should not be chastised or publicly embarrassed.

I cannot think of a more privileged way, or more heart warming manner, to commence each new week than that of responding to a request made by our Saviour when, on the night of His betrayal, He said ‘this do in remembrance of me’. Let us respond to that in the joy and liberty of the Holy Spirit, doing so in an orderly manner with hearts bursting with love and gratitude to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.

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