The Ordinances – (B) The Lord’s Supper

The Ordinances–(B) The Lord’s Supper {continued)


According to the Scriptural pattern–Departure seen in Christendom, grievous errors and ritualistic practices having obscured original meaning. Loose observance also destroys its true character (1 Cor. 11. 20 ff). At first observed by Christians in connection with a social meal, later called “ love-feast “ (Gk. agape), Jude 12 ; 2 Pet. 2. 13, R-V.; 1 Cor. 11. 21, 22 ; and probably Acts 2. 46 as a necessary arrange-ment owing to numbers. For worship the Christians still gathered with the rest of the Jews in the temple. The practice shows also that the early communal order did not involve the break-up of family life. Appearance of abuses and other considerations event-ually led to the separation of the Lord’s Supper from ordinary and social meals (1 Cor. 11. 34). It is to be regretted that the social character of Christianity is largely lost sight of today. The Word of God avoids laying down laws of celebration. Scope is thereby given lo Christian liberty, devotion and obedience.

(1) Day and Time. Injunction is “as often" (1 Cor. 11. 25, 26), not “ as seldom “ or “ as often as you may choose.” This indicates frequency, not a yearly observance (as was the Jewish Passover), or thrice yearly or monthly. Acts 20. 7 denotes regular practice ; disciples met on the first day of the week for this specific purpose. Paul had arrived at Troas the previous Monday but, though his journey was urgent (v. 16), he called no special meeting but patiently waited till the ensuing Lord’s Day, after which he departed without further loss of time (vv. 11, 13). It is significant that our Lord first appeared to His own on His resurrection-day and on successive “ first-of-the-week “ days, symbolic of “ new creation “ day, whereas the Jewish Sabbath looked back to the old creation order. Gk. “ kuriakos “ (only twice in the N.T.) links the Lord’s Supper and the Lord’s Day (1 Cor. 11. 20; Rev. 1. 10). 1 Cor. 16. 1, 2 gives indirect support. The word “supper’ need not determine time of day. It is fitting that worship and breaking of bread should have first place in all Christian exercises.

(2)Elements. Controversy over their composition to be eschewed. It was at the Passover meal that our Lord instituted His supper, but the two must not be confounded. He took a loaf of bread and a cup of wine as simple elements ready to hand. The emphasis in M.T. is never on “ bread “ and “ wine “ but always on “ loaf “ and “ cup “ as lilting symbols of the Lord’s vicarious death. With us the elements are already set aside before we gather. In Scripture no lesson is drawn either from composition of the bread or contents of the cup. The wisdom of this arrangement is appreciated in lands where wheaten loaves and grape juice are unobtainable. The modern practice of cut wafers and individual cups, however, quite destroys significance of the Supper as a “ com-munion," etc.

(3)Distribution. In the Scripture regulating the order of this gathering (1 Cor. chs. 11-14) it is important to notice that no president, whether leading elder or other “ official “ person, is seen. The claim to have special authority to administer the elements entirely alters the character of the Supper, and is plainly contrary to the Word of God. Even apostles had no official status in this respect, but simply took their place with the rest of the saints. Acts 20. 11 is no exception as this refers to taking an ordinary meal (verbs all in singular, denoting individual acts)–Luke and others had probably already gone aboard ship (v. 13). Clerisy today strongly entrenched behind this unscriptural practice of allowing only “ ordained “ ministers or other appointed persons to “ officiate.”

(4)Regulation. In 1 Cor. 11. 17 to 14. 40, Paul deals with disorders in the gathering of the church and gives divine regula-tions for (a) Observance of the Lord’s Supper, 11. 17-34 ; (b) Use of Spiritual Gifts, chaps. 12-14 (Their Endowment, 12–Energy, 13–Exercise, 14). That one gathering is contemplated after the pattern of Acts 20. 7 is here shown by the use of characteristic words(a) "come-together “ (Gk. suncrchomai) 7 times in section, not else in N.T. of the church ; {b) “ give-thanks” (Gk. eucharistco) 14. 16, 17 with 11. 24 ; (<;) “ whole assembly," 14. 23. Most significant is it that the Spirit of God is not mentioned after 12. 13. He retires from view, so to speak, in favour of the Lord Jesus, who is recog-nized in the midst as Head of His Church and Host at His Supper (In. 16. 14). On the other hand, the personal responsibility of those taking part is emphasized (21 imperatives used in ch. 14), Common expression (often heard) “ leading of the Spirit “ occurs only twice in N.T. (Rom. 8. 14 ; Gal. 5. 18) and is connected with the be-liever’s walk, not with worship. However, if not walking by the Spirit during the week we cannot expect to be “ led of the Spirit “ at the Supper. Spirit’s prompting is not by some supernatural impulse, not by unintelligent zeal and certainly not by a fleshly desire to display gift, (all errors seen in the church, at Corinth), nor by purely emotional exercise, but through the spiritual under-standing and spiritual discernment of spiritual persons (1 Cor. 14. 14, 15, 19. 20). While regulation of order is seen primarily in connection with “ tongues “ and “ prophecy “ (gifts which have passed) seven underlying principles are discernible; (i) Not every-one to take part, v. 26 (ironical) ; (ii) Messages limited to two or three ami in turn, vv. 20-31 ; (iii) Speech to be in language heard and understood, vv. 6-11 ; (iv) Consideration to be given to other gifted persons present, vv. 30, 31 ; (v) Gift to be under self-control, w. 32, 33–the appropriateness or otherwise of what is said is to be judged by others, not by the speaker concerned, v. 29 ; (vi) Con-stant aim to be edification, vv. 12, 26–" building up “ not “ pulling down “ ministry–five words fitly spoken may encourage the spirit of worship, v. 19–not vain talking, 1 Tim. 1. 3-7 ; Tit. 1. 9 ; (vii) Everything to be seemly (in outward deportment) and harmonious (appropriate to the occasion). See 2 Cor. 3. 17–liberty is neither licence nor legality, which arc both manifestations of fleshly activity. If merely a question of unintelligent zeal, elders should correct and instruct in a spirit of patient grace.

(5)Procedure. Breaking the loaf has no ceremonial signi-ficance, but is for convenience of the company, esp. if loaf large and crusty, otherwise need not be broken. All “ break “ it in the sense of partaking (1 Cor. 10. 16, 17) ; our Lord’s body was not “ broken “ (Jn. 19. 36; 1 Cor. 11. 24, K.V.). So with pouring of the wine, where such is done, no special meaning attaches to the act. In the already separated loaf (body) and cup (blood) we may see death set forth. All ritual order and use of formulas must be avoided. Insistence on details of no importance, only genders strifes, 2 Tim. 2. 23 ; Tit. 3. 9. As with the gospel-meeting and all other gather-ings of the church, there is nothing secret about the Lord’s Supper, in marked contrast to Masonic and other Lodges, which originate in the ancient mysterv-cults of paganism (note incidental reference to “ many lights,” Acts 20. 8 ; cf. 1 Cor. 14. 23-25).

(6)Preparation. I Cor. 11. 27-32 is of solemn importance. Corinthian excesses may not occur today, but irreverent behaviour and meaningless formality are far too common. Distinguish be-tween unworthy personspartaking and unworthy manner, which is in view here. A divided fellowship, a discordant spirit, distracting thoughts, disturbing movements, are all unworthy of the presence of the Lord. A defiled conscience hinders remembrance and wor-ship. Prior self-examination is therefore necessary and sin should be judged, confessed and cleansed (1 Jn. 1. 9), otherwise the chasten-ing of the Lord is invited. Such judgment (v. 29) is temporal not eternal. Verse 2S removes all excuse for absence. Another’s faultiness does not alter the obligation “ this do.” If personally involved, one should follow the procedure given in J as. 5. 16; Matt. 18. 15ff and the principle of Matt. 5. 23, 24. Note that our Lord prepared His disciples for the Supper by the feet-washing, an action of deep symbolic importance as the context shows, Jn. 13. 1-10.


As pointed out already, many erroneous doctrines and practices have gathered round this originally simple ordinance.Perhaps the most serious are :

(1) Transubstantiation. This doctrine of the Roman Church, introduced A.D. 831, teaches that “ at the instant of con-secration the elements arc changed into that body which was born of the virgin ; the outward appearance only remains as before.” The commemorative aspect is thus changed into a celebration of the idolatrous Mass, during which, at the elevation of the Host, communicants adore Christ as being actually present. To quote further, “ there is uttered to God a true, proper and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead.” A most ornate ritual, so attractive to the flesh, accompanies the performance. Contrast Heb. 7. 27; 9. 14;10. 10-14.

(2) Consubstantiation. Lutheran doctrine dating from the Reformation in the 16th century. This movement, though it accom-plished much, did not break completely free born established clerical order. Certain errors of doctrine and practice remain in the “ Reformation Churches.” Consubstantiation teaches that Christ is bodily present with the elements at the moment of par-taking.

MISCONCEPTION. Certain Scriptures are often misapplied to the Lord’s Supper. Jn. (>. 48-58 has no direct reference thereto, for the Supper had not then been instituted. It has to do with appropriation of Christ by faith for eternal life (v. 54), 1 Cor. 5. 7, 8 does not point to the Lord’s Supper, see R.V.m. Passover typifies the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ as the Lamb of God. The seven days’ festival that immediately followed (“Unleavened Bread”) typifies the whole round of the Christian life, which is to be “kept“ free from spiritual leaven–" malice “ (in motives), “ wickedness" (in conduct). One name, either “ Passover’ or Unleavened Bread," often covered both feasts. Lk. 22. 1 ; Mk. 14. 12, with Lev. 23. 5, 6. As to breaking bread where there is no established assembly: 1 Cor. ch. 11 gives the assembly order, but this does not rule out the exercise of the privilege by believers in circumstances of a temporary nature, e.g., those travelling aboard ship, etc. Our Lord instituted the ordinance for “ disciples” before the Church was in actual existence. It is significant that the breaking of bread is predicated of “ disciples," not of the assembly, in Acts 2. 42 ; 20. 7 ; cf. Lk. 24. 30, 35 in keeping with Matt. 18. 20.


The Believer’s Relation to the Lord’s Supper. It is:

(1) an Act of Submission–One’s will exercised–Response to His authority–Itcsult, the Joy of Obedience.

(2) an Act of Devotion–One’s heart exercised–Response to His love–Result, the Joy of Mutual Attachment.

(3) an Act of AppropriationOne’s faith exercised–Response to His grace–Result, the Joy of Satisfaction.

(4)an Act of Adoration–One’s spirit exercised–Response to His deity–Result, the Joy of Worship.

(5) an Act of Communion -One’s brotherly love exercised–Response to His kinship–Result, the Joy of Fellowship,

(6)an Act of expectation –One’s hope exercised–Response to His promise–Result, Joy of Anticipation.

(7) an Act of Self-examination–One’s conscience exercised–Response to His holiness–Result, the Joy of Restoration.


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