Bible Q&A – How Many Cups?

Dear sir, a friend of mine said that it is sinful to use more than one cup per congregation when taking the Lord’s Supper, and that everyone must drink from that one cup.  He said that Jesus took “the cup” (singular), and therefore, we can only use one cup.  What does the Bible say about this?–Anonymous

Thanks for the question.  It is true that we have some good, sincere brethren that insist that you can only use one cup in the Lord’s Supper.  They claim there is a special significance to the one cup.  They claim that Jesus only authorized one cup.

How can we know for sure? As always, let’s go to the Bible!

I Corinthians 10:16-17 has the apostle Paul (who at that point was sitting in the city of Ephesus) writing to Christians in Corinth (which was over 100 miles away, across the Aegean Sea).  And in that passage, he says “the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

Did you notice that? He said that the Christians in Ephesus, as well as the Christians in Corinth all used the same cup!  Now, was Paul saying they (over 100 miles apart) used the same literal cup each time they took the Lord’s Supper?  Of course not, because that would be physically impossible.

It is pointed out by these brethren that the Bible says we are to “drink this cup [singular]” (I Corinthians 11:26), and that Jesus took the cup and said that as often as we drink it [the cup, singular] we are to do it in remembrance of Him (I Corinthians 11:25).  Our brethren in Christ then ask, “In light of this evidence, how can we come to any other conclusion?”

It’s not the cup that is being drunk, it’s the stuff in the cup.

If the focus is on one literal cup, then that one literal cup (not the stuff in it, but the cup itself) has to be drunk…by each person present.  Don’t drink the contents, but drink the actual container.  Put it in your mouth and swallow it.  Jesus is obviously talking about drinking the “fruit of the vine” which is in the cup.  You can’t drink a literal cup.

IF we are only permitted to use one cup in the Lord’s Supper, then it must be the same cup that Jesus Himself used!  Jesus said this cup is the New Testament in my blood (I Corinthians 10:25).  And every congregation across the entire world must use that one exact cup.

But let’s look at one more verse which settles the issue.

Luke 22:17 – “And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “take this, and divide it among yourselves.

Look at that passage, and you will see that it was after telling them to divide it among themselves that he instituted the Lord’s Supper (verses 19-20).  When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, the fruit of the vine was already in twelve different cups.

The conclusion from this is that the number of cups doesn’t matter—it’s what is in the cup that counts.

–Bradley Cobb

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