Lord's Supper

"The Lord's Supper, so-called in Paul's letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:20), was”and remains”a regular feature of Christian worship.  The origin of this activity is to be found in the final Passover meal Jesus ate with his disciples, just prior to his crucifixion.


The Passover was an annual Jewish festival that celebrated Israel's deliverance from Egyptian bondage.  The specific instance recalled was the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians and the sparing of the Hebrews' firstborn.  Each Hebrew household was instructed to kill a young sheep or goat for eating and to place some of its blood around the doorway of their home on a specific night God had chosen to deliver them.  The visible blood would result in the Lord's "passing over the home and sparing the Hebrew firstborn”hence, a Passover sacrifice.  The meal was to be eaten with bread without yeast.  Consequently, the meal was called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The affair was also associated with the "consecration of every firstborn male and the firstborn's "redemption, as the firstborn was reckoned as belonging to God.  Observance of the Passover has a specific point of reference”Israel's deliverance from Egyptian bondage.  But it carried more significance in "redeeming of the firstborn sons.  For a full biblical account, read Exodus 11:1-13:16.


When Jesus observed his final Passover or Feast of Unleavened Bread with his disciples, he did so as a faithful Jew.  But during the course of that meal, he gave the meal new meaning.  He held a piece of unleavened bread in his hand, gave thanks, broke it, and said, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.  With the cup filled with juice from the grape in his hand, he said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.   For the full biblical account, read Luke 22:7-20.

That observance of the Lord's Supper was a regular part of the practice of the first century church seems evident from the Corinthian correspondence.  The occasion for Paul to reference the Supper was unbecoming behavior by Corinthian Christians.  From the letter, it appears the practice was to observe this communion activity as part of a larger meal, much like Jesus did at the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  However, in the Corinthian setting, some were getting drunk from the wine, and the activity was done in an exclusive manner so that the true benefit of the Supper was missed.  Here, the apostle Paul elaborated on the purpose of the meal and its correct context.  For the full biblical account, read 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.


According to the New Testament, the Lord's Supper may be described as a memorial, a communion, and a proclamation.  In the words of Jesus, his followers were to partake of the bread and cup "in remembrance of me, for the blood of Jesus sealed the new covenant, which grants forgiveness of sins and the possibility of life with God.  The intent of the supper is to unify the saints and celebrate their oneness as the body of Christ.  The event itself declares confidence in the future consummation of all things by the hand of God.


The Lord's Supper is, therefore, a feast or communion held by and for Christians.  The strongest hint in the New Testament and in the days of the early post-apostolic church is that the Lord's Supper was observed every first day of the week (Sunday).  It was a most significant event for what it symbolized”remembrance, unity, and assurance.  There is no indication from the New Testament that any special qualification was required for the "officiating at the Lord's table.  Where a Christian community regularly assembles on any Sunday, the group can conduct its own remembrance.  All that is needed is unleavened bread and fruit of the grape (fermented or unfermented).  Following the pattern of Jesus, someone offers thanks before the bread is consumed and then again before the wine is consumed.  The setting is simple; the prayers should be genuine expressions of the heart, but need not follow any specific form.


Observance of the Lord's Supper should be a focal part of a Sunday service.  There is not a more powerful expression of faith, unity, and assurance than the Supper of the Lord.  Why would one want to miss such an occasion?  An assembly on the Lord's Day is incomplete without it.