Through the course of this lesson I hope to address some common questions that one may have about the Lord’s Supper, such as: Where did the Lord’s Supper come from? What is the Lord’s Supper? What is it not? Why do we partake of the Lord’s Supper? How should we conduct ourselves during the Lord’s Supper?
The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
Where did the Lord’s Supper come from? Appropriately enough, it came from the Lord Himself!
We have several accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Let us read the account from Matthew at this time.
Matthew 26:26-29 - 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. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
What the Lord’s Supper is Not
I think it’s important to understand that the Lord’s Supper is not a common meal. This is a mistake that some of the early Christians made.
1 Corinthians 11:20-22 - Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.
Reading through these verses, it is apparent that some of the early Christians were incorrectly observing the Lord’s Supper and treating it as a carnal feast, like a barbecue or something someone would have with their friends on the weekend. Certainly fellowship among Christians is encouraged throughout the Scriptures, but the Lord’s Supper is not a common feast.
Paul corrected and rebuked the offenders in these verses as their conduct was not praise worthy. The Lord’s Supper is to be an act of worship in which focus is on our spiritual nourishment, not fulfilling a physical need for food and drink.
“In Remembrance of Me”
Why did Jesus institute the Lords Supper? In Luke’s account we find an answer to this question.
Luke 22:19-20 - 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.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you..."
In the latter part of Luke 22:19, Jesus states that the purpose of what He is doing is to be “in remembrance of Me.” Basically, the Lord’s Supper is a memorial feast. This is an act of worship in which we are setting our minds back to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, not only His death, but also His resurrection which is the very foundation of our faith!
Emblems of the Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is symbolic in some ways (much like baptism). Jesus states in Luke 22:19-20 that the bread represents His body and that the “cup” or the fruit of the vine symbolizes the His blood that is shed for us.
Some believe that during the Lord’s Supper the bread actually becomes the flesh of Christ and the fruit of the vine becomes His blood. We are hard-pressed to find any evidence of this in the Bible, so we must conclude that this is symbolic in nature; The bread and fruit of the vine represent Christ’s flesh and blood, but do not actually, physically transform into them.
Observation of the Lord’s Supper
Acts 20:7 - Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.
From this verse we can see that the Lord’s Supper (although it is not called such here) is to be done of the first day of the week. There are no other mentions in the Bible that indicate any other day of the week for the Lord’s Supper to take place.
• How often should we partake of the Lord’s Supper?
Acts 2:42 - And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
In this verse we read that the first Christians, those baptized on the day of Pentecost, continued steadfastly not only in the Apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, and in prayers, but also in the “breaking of the bread.” The word “steadfastly” insinuates that this was not something that they did just once, but rather that this was an act of worship that they observed on a regular basis.
From Acts 20:7 and Acts 2:42, we can tell that the Lord’s Supper is to be observed regularly on the first day of the week. Seeing that the first day of the week occurs every week, we can deduce that the Lord's Supper is to be partaken on a weekly basis.
• Who can/should partake of the Lord’s Supper?
I think that Acts 2 also gives us an answer as to who partake of the Lord’s Supper. It’s Christians who observe the Lord’s Supper. The people who were continuing steadfastly in the breaking of the bread were those that were baptized on the day of Pentecost. The Bible indicates that the Lord’s Supper that is to be observed by Christians on the first day of the week.
Conduct during the Lord’s Supper
How are we to conduct ourselves while partaking of the Lord’s Supper?
How should we conduct ourselves during worship in general?
The Israelites in the Old Testament were rebuked for inappropriate worship.
Malachi 3:8-9 Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.
The Israelites were offering less than their best to God, sacrificing lame and sick livestock.
Malachi 1:6-8 “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts.
The Israelites were not exhibiting the proper measure of reverence in their worship. They were offering less than their best. Obviously, this type of worship was not pleasing to God!
For a more specific answer to the original question, let us turn to 1 Corinthians 11.
1 Corinthians 11:23-29 - 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. 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.
From this reading, we notice several things.
First of all, as we have already read, the Lord’s Supper is to be observed in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice, His death and resurrection. I think that it is clear that this is a solemn event that should be approached with reverence. The Lord’s Supper, much like the other acts of worship we offer to our God, is not something to be taken lightly.
We must not partake in an “unworthy manner” as Paul states in verse 27, which would make us guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. I think this verse shows us how serious and solemn the observation of the Lord’s Supper should be.
Additionally, each one that partakes of the Lord’s Supper should “examine himself.” Sometimes it is hard to focus on the Lord’s Supper. We should make every effort to set our thoughts on Jesus. This is almost like a time of meditation in which Jesus is the primary focus of our thoughts.
Some have suggested ways to assist in doing this since our minds tend to wander. Oftentimes we sing a song to help us get into the proper mood and mindset. Memorizing Scripture to focus on or even open your Bible to read during this time could also be beneficial.
Above all, we must remember that the Lord’s Supper is to be done with reverence, as with any other act of worship. We must apply the appropriate focus and mindset when we partake. During the Lord’s Supper, we cannot allow our minds to wander and be distracted by other things.
Before we fully conclude this lesson, let us turn to Luke 22:30 which, once again, gives us a clue as to who can partake of the Lord’s Supper (although this verse does not specifically refer to the Lord's Supper).
Luke 22:30 - ...That you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
This verse indicates that the Lord’s table is in His kingdom. Therefore, we must conclude that in order to eat and drink at His table or partake of the Lord’s Supper, we must be members of Christ’s kingdom. How do we become members of the Lord’s kingdom?
John 3:3-5 - Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
I think it’s important to remember that in order to partake of the Lord’s Supper, we must first be a part of His kingdom. In order to be a part of Christ’s kingdom, we must first become a Christian.