This week, we continue our series on Fundamentals of the Faith. Enjoy!
Why do we have a snack in the middle of worship on Sundays?
Why do we call it a supper?
Why is it always the same thing?
Does it mean anything?
Is there a reason why we take it so often?
There are a lot of questions surrounding what is called “The Lord’s Supper.”
There are so many people who teach conflicting doctrines about it, and in the church there are many different views and attitudes towards it. You want to see how confused some people are on this topic? Here’s things that are said about the Lord’s Supper:
- Take it annually; take it quarterly; take it monthly; take it each week; take it whenever you feel like it.
- Must be unleavened bread and alcoholic wine; must be unleavened bread and non-alcoholic grape juice; it doesn’t matter what you use there so long as you’re thinking about Jesus; you can take the bread, but only a priest can take the fruit of the vine.
- It is to be done until the end of the world; it isn’t to be done at all; it had to be done religiously until Jerusalem was destroyed.
- It is supposed to be part of a congregational meal; it is to be the centerpiece of our worship; it is irrelevant.
- It represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; it is something to keep the parents from getting hungry in the middle of services; it is a time set aside by Jesus so you can make out a check or dig through your purse to find money to put in the collection plate.
How can we cure all this confusion? BACK TO THE BIBLE!
Where did it come from?
There are a lot of things that are done religiously that are nothing more than traditions. The specific order of worship (announcements, two songs, Lord’s Supper, two songs, sermon, two songs, prayer). The time to assemble (9:00? 9:30? 10:00?).
But the Lord’s Supper isn’t a tradition—it’s from the Bible!
It was instituted during the Passover. You may say, why does that matter? It matters because (1) the Bible specifically says it, and (2) It helps us understand what specifically is being referenced.
Matthew 26:17-29 records that the Lord’s Supper was instituted during the Passover celebration, on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread.
It was instituted by Jesus Christ. Matthew 26:26-29 shows clearly that Jesus is the one who established the Lord’s Supper. I Corinthians 11:23-26 reiterates that it was Christ who instituted the Lord’s Supper.
Thus, the Lord’s Supper is not a tradition of man, but is a Divinely-given ordinance for the followers of Jesus Christ.
What does it consist of?
Some years back, there was a great uproar in the religious world when a denominational leader came out in favor of changing the contents of the Lord’s Supper to hamburgers and coke. When you don’t believe that the Bible is the standard, then things like this sound acceptable. But when you follow God’s word as your standard, you know that making changes like that are unauthorized, disrespectful, and sinful.
Jesus authorized specific items which were to be used in the Lord’s Supper. He used “bread.” This bread was unleavened. What this means is that it was a flat bread, with nothing in it that would make it rise. The modern-day equivalent would be a tortilla, which may actually be more authentic than the cracker-type bread we normally use.
How do we know that it was unleavened bread? Because the Lord’s Supper was instituted during the feast of unleavened bread (Matthew 26:17). Because the Passover feast, when instituted by God, began with getting rid of all leavening from the house (Exodus 12:15). Because of the evidence, the only acceptable bread for use in the Lord’s Supper is unleavened bread.
He used “the fruit of the vine.” It seems noteworthy to me that the Bible never once describes the drink that Jesus used here as “wine.” In all the accounts of the Lord’s Supper being instituted, it is called “the fruit of the vine” (Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25, Luke 22:18) or “the cup” (I Corinthians 11:25). The only “fruit of the vine” that the Jews drank was grape juice.
Well, was it grape juice or was it alcoholic grape juice—wine?
One thing that is important to remember is that grape juice becomes alcoholic when it ferments, when yeast forms in it and “leavens” it. If all leavening was to be cast from the house before the feast began, could there have been any “leavened” or “fermented” grape juice in the house?
Why is that question important? Because if it was grape juice, then it would be sinful to substitute alcoholic wine in its place (just like it would be sinful to used leavened bread). Because if it was alcoholic wine, then it would be sinful to use regular grape juice.
By inspiration, the writers of the Bible did not use the word oinos which can refer to either grape juice or alcoholic wine. Instead, by direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, the writers used the phrase “fruit of the vine,” which refers to juice as it is directly from the grape—grape juice.
These are the only two items authorized for use in the Lord’s Supper.
What does it represent?
The bread and the fruit of the vine are meaningless unless you know why you’re taking them.
The bread is the body of Christ. That is, it is a reminder of the body of Christ; it represents the body of Christ. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He said of the bread, “this is my body which is for you.” Jesus hadn’t died yet, so it obviously wasn’t the literal body of Christ.
Instead, the bread is there to remind us of the body of Christ, the body that was beaten and nailed to the cross because of our sins, and the need for our sins to have a means of forgiveness.
When you take the bread, it is a reminder of your sins, and that they caused the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
The fruit of the vine is the blood of Jesus Christ. Again, it is a reminder or a representation of the blood of Christ. Christ had not yet shed His blood, but He knew it was going to happen. Because of the surety of its taking place, Jesus could say “this is my blood which is shed for many for remission of sins” (Matthew 26:29).
The blood of Christ is that which washes away our sins (Revelation 1:5). When you take of the fruit of the vine, remember that your sins put Christ on the cross, but the blood of Christ is what has brought forgiveness.
The bread reminds you of your sins, the fruit of the vine reminds you of the forgiveness.
It is the perfect representation of the gospel message.