“This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11: 25)
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from The New King James Version,
The Lord’s Supper Instituted
At the time of the annual Passover Jesus and the disciples sat around the table in the upper room. There they ate the Passover (Matthew 26:17-25). This was usually a lengthy procedure among the Jews, for besides eating the Passover, they reviewed the story of the deliverance from Egypt.
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28).
The Gospel of Luke states:
“And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
The last phrase shows that Jesus was instituting a new service. The Passover is observed in remembrance of the deliverance of God’s people from Egypt. But on this occasion Jesus broke bread and asked His disciples to partake of it with a new significance. Before that day ended, Jesus would die as a sacrifice which would result in deliverance from the bondage of sin for all who would accept it. His body would be broken (pierced) and His blood would be shed. The emblems of the Lord’s Supper are to be taken to remember this great sacrifice.
The Lord’s Supper
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul uses the name for this service, “the Lord’s Supper” (verse 20). In verses 23 through 26 he especially emphasizes the commemorative aspect.
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
The Passover was a memorial of an event; the Lord’s Supper is also in remembrance of an event. The first commemorated a type or shadow — the deliverance of Israel from a wicked nation. The second calls to remembrance the slaying of the Son of God which brought deliverance to mankind from sin.
Time and Frequency of the Service
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26)
His use of “often” gives no clue concerning the frequency for the celebration of communion, leaving the Bible’s established pattern as a superior guide.
The Passover, memorializing the deliverance of God’s people from their oppression in Egypt, was celebrated annually on its anniversary date. The Lord’s Supper, also a memorial of deliverance, is logically celebrated annually on its anniversary date.
The 14th day of the first Hebrew month (Nisan) was the date for the Passover. Since Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper while observing this festival, Nisan 14 becomes the appropriate date for celebrating the communion. The Hebrew calendar does not coincide with our Gregorian calendar, so it is necessary to transfer the anniversary date.
The Lord’s Supper should be observed in the beginning of the day; the dark portion beginning at sunset the previous day. This coincides with the night that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper in the upper room.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe the giving of the Lord’s Supper. John 13 refers to the Lord’s Supper and in connection with it, he tells of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Jesus arose from the supper, girded himself with a towel, poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples. Peter objected to Christ’s performing so lowly an act for him, but Jesus said:
“If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8).
Peter then wanted his hands and his head washed, but Jesus answered that the washing of the feet was sufficient. Jesus washed the feet of all the disciples. He then resumed his seat at the table and said to them:
“Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:12-15).
It was in connection with the Lord’s Supper that the disciples were instructed to follow the example of Jesus in washing one another’s feet. The followers of Jesus should obey His instruction and humbly wash one another’s feet. In obedience to this, we ought to practice feet washing in connection with its observance of the Lord’s Supper service.
In this we find a fulfillment of the words of Jesus:
If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them (John 13:17).
The Emblems of Remembrance
When Jesus gave the Lord’s Supper to the disciples,
“And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me”” (Luke 22:19)
This was the same kind of unleavened bread used in the Passover supper, but now instead of representing haste in leaving the land of Egypt, it is to represent the body of Christ. In His teachings Jesus had used leaven to represent false doctrines and sin (Matthew 16:6, 12). How fitting for unleavened bread to represent His body which was free from sin.
The second emblem used in the Lord’s Supper is called “the cup” or the “fruit of the vine.” We read:
“Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God”” (Mark 14:23-25).
The Meaning of the Ordinance
Paul emphasizes the sacredness of the communion. It is with reverence that we partake of the emblems of our crucified Saviour’s body and blood.
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16, 17)
This reference to the Lord’s Supper is part of Paul’s teaching on the propriety of eating meat offered to idols. By sacrificing to devils, the Gentiles expressed fellowship with them. Drinking from the cup of devils implied they were partakers of the table of devils.
“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21)
In this context, the use of the word “communion” refers to the identification of our lives with that of Jesus. Baptism indicates the beginning of a new life in Christ, and the Lord’s Supper demonstrates our continued communion with Him and all of God’s family. We are a fellowship of partakers of that “one bread” and “one body.”
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16).
This memorial service is to be continued until the second advent of Christ. The apostle Paul teaches this in 1 Corinthians 11:26:
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death TILL HE COMES” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Every time we have the service we commemorate the death of our Lord and we anticipate our resurrected Saviour’s return.
Jesus gave the Lord’s Supper to His disciples. Still today it is a part of the service of God’s people who are now disciples of Jesus and who make up the Church of God. It shows faith in the broken body and shed blood of Christ by which we obtain our salvation.
In the last part of the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul warns against taking part in this service “unworthily.” We read:
“Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
It is important that we correctly understand Paul’s use of the word “unworthily,” so that observance of the Lord’s Supper will not be spiritually counter productive. The warning was given to the Corinthian church because of her several faults: 1) the open divisions of the Corinthian congregation in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:18); 2) the disregard of the wealthier or more prominent for others displayed by unethical failure to wait for others before beginning to eat (verse 21); 3) the excessive eating and drinking by certain members, detracting from the sacredness and importance of the emblems of the Lord’s Supper (verses 21, 22).
Recognizing the seriousness of the problem, Paul warned that the continued practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner would produce severe consequences. Until he could arrange a personal visit, he instructed some immediate steps be taken. He advised the members to wait upon each other and share in the communion. They were to review and remember the sacredness of the occasion. The practice of judging one another had to cease, and the hungry were to eat in their own homes before partaking of the emblems as a congregation.
Paul’s warning concerned the manner of observance of the Lord’s Supper advising that its correct purpose and meaning must be kept in mind. While this passage does not deal directly with the moral worthiness of those partaking of the emblems, that concern is worthy of attention.
The people of God once were delivered from the land of Egypt. God asked His people to remember this by having a special ceremony each year on the anniversary of the event. This is called the Passover. The Bible shows that the deliverance from Egypt was a type of the deliverance of the people of God from sin. The lamb killed at the Passover was a type of Christ Who is called “the lamb of God.”
On the night when He was betrayed, Jesus ate the Passover with His disciples. He broke the bread and declared that it was His body, given for them. He took the cup containing the “fruit of the vine,” blessed it and declared that it was His blood which was shed for them and each one was to drink a portion from it. He washed their feet and told them they should follow His example. They had been keeping the Passover to remember a former deliverance. Now Jesus told them to do these things - take of the bread and the fruit of the vine - in remembrance of Him.
The apostle Paul declares that each time we do this we show forth, or commemorate, the death of Christ until He comes back to earth again.
The original Passover is to be observed at only one time of the year, on the 14th day of the Hebrew month Nisan. The Lord’s Supper, also given as a memorial of deliverance, is appropriately observed at the same time.
Let us therefore take the Lord’s Supper, the blessed communion of the body and blood of Christ until He comes.