In the Bible, there are two ordinances. The first is Baptism, and the second is the Lordís Supper. The Lordís Supper is also known as Communion or the Breaking of Bread. Who started the Lordís Supper, and how should it be administered today? What is the meaning of the Lordís Supper? Who should take the Lordís Supper? These are simple questions that I hope to answer in this tract.
First of all, who started the Lordís Supper? Jesus started the ordinance of the Lordís Supper. The first time the Lordís Supper was observed was when Jesus was with his disciples, after they had partaken of the Passover meal. The first Lordís Supper is recorded in three places -- Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, and Luke 22:13-39. Another important rendition of the Lordís Supper is in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. I advise anyone studying the Lordís Supper to read these passages. We can see from these four passages that our Savior Jesus Christ was the one who instituted the Lordís Supper. It is therefore not merely a tradition of men, but an ordinance instituted by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
I should also mention that Jesus intended for his church to continue practicing the Lordís Supper. ďThis do in remembrance of me.Ē (Luke 22:19). ďThis do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.Ē (1 Corinthians 11:25). It can also be seen that the early New Testament church practiced the Lordís Supper frequently. ďAnd they continued steadfastly in the apostlesí doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.Ē (Acts 2:42).
The next question we should ask is, ďHow should the Lordís Supper be administered today?Ē Since Christ established the Lordís Supper, we should be very careful to follow his example as closely as possible. The Bible gives us a general procedure that should be followed when we partake of the Lordís Supper.
I have written the following example format based upon Matthew 26.
1) ďJesus took bread, and blessed it,Ē
The bread that Jesus used was unleavened bread. We know this because they had just finished the Passover, and the bread for the Passover was unleavened bread (Exodus 12:15-20). As such, when we take the Lordís Supper we should use unleavened bread. The first thing that Jesus did with the bread was bless it. Therefore, when we observe the Lordís Supper, we should have prayer to ask God to bless the bread.
2) ďand brake it,Ē
The pastor of the church should then break at least some of the bread.
3) ďand gave it to the disciples,Ē
The bread should then be distributed among the church.
4) ďTake, eat; this is my body.Ē
After it is distributed, we should eat the bread.
5) ďAnd he took the cup,Ē
Jesus then took the cup. What was in the cup? Luke 18:18 says that it is the ďfruit of the vine.Ē The fruit of the vine makes reference to grapes. Therefore, the drink was grape juice. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the church used fermented grape juice or wine. Also, since the church has taken a stand against drinking alcoholic beverages, we use grape juice.
6) ďand gave thanks,Ē
The church should have prayer to ask God to bless the grape juice.
7) ďand gave it to them,Ē
The juice should be distributed among the church.
8) ďDrink ye all of it;Ē
Once distributed, the church should then drink of the cup.
9) ďAnd when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.Ē
The church should then sing a good hymn, and then quietly leave the church in reverence.
What is the meaning of the Lordís Supper? The Lordís Supper represents the crucifixion of our Savior Jesus Christ. The scripture says that Jesus took the bread, blessed it, and broke it. He then said, ďTake, eat; this is my body.Ē The bread represents the broken body of a crucified Christ. Jesus then took the cup, and said, ďDrink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.Ē The grape juice represents the blood of Jesus Christ, which was shed when he died on the cross. The Lordís Supper is symbolic of Jesusí atoning death on the cross.
Why is Jesusí death on the cross so important? According to the Bible, everyone is a sinner, and is therefore separated from God. The punishment for our sin is not only death (Genesis 3:19), but also eternal punishment in Hell (Matthew 13:41-42). Even though mankind deserved to go to Hell, God sent his blessed Son Jesus to be a propitiation for our sins (Romans 3:25). Jesus suffered a terrible death so that we could be saved. He was spit upon and beaten (Mark 14:65). He was scourged (John 19:1). They put a crown of thorns on his head, and mocked him (John 19:2-5). Finally, he was nailed to the cross (John 19:18). Jesus was perfectly holy and innocent. He never sinned against God (1 Peter 2:22). Yet he loved us so much that he died on the cruel cross of Calvary. After his long, agonizing death, Jesusí body was placed in a tomb. On the third day, he was resurrected! The only way we could be saved was by his death and resurrection. Therefore, when we take the Lordís Supper, we should come in reverence and solemnity. We should dwell on its meaning Ė Jesusí atoning death on the cross.
The final question I would like to ask is, ďWho should take the Lordís Supper? The Bible gives us some very important requirements for who should take the Lordís Supper. First of all, someone who takes the Lordís Supper must be born-again and baptized. Every time that the Lordís Super is mentioned in the Bible, it is taken by people who have been saved and validly baptized. Since baptism is the method by which a saved person joins the church, only church members can take the Lordís Supper. One clear example is from Acts 2:41-42. ďThen they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostlesí doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.Ē These people only took the Lordís Supper after they were saved and baptized.
Also, the Bible teaches that we should not allow excluded members to eat the Lordís Supper. ďBut now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.Ē (1 Corinthians 5:11).
Besides this, the Bible says that a man should examine himself before taking the Lordís Supper. ďBut let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lordís body.Ē (1 Corinthians 11:28-29). From this, we can see that even if someone is saved and baptized, he should examine himself before taking the Lordís Supper. The Bible teaches that only church members who have not been excluded and who have examined themselves should take the Lordís Supper. Therefore, we only allow members of our church to partake of it. We do not exclude people from the Lordís Supper because we believe people outside the church are inferior. We exclude people from the Lordís Supper because of our desire to remain as true to the Bible as possible.
In closing, the Lordís Supper was instituted by Jesus Christ, and is to be carried out by his church. It is a memorial service, and it reminds us of the cruel death of our Savior Jesus Christ. When we take the Lordís Supper, we should do so with deep reverence towards God. It makes us examine ourselves, and it brings the church into a closer fellowship. The Lordís Supper is one of the two ordinances of the New Testament, and should be respected as such.