Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

THE LORD'S SUPPER

On the night that the Lord Jesus was betrayed, he took bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken on behalf of you; do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19). He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the New Covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.  For as often as you may eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes." (1 Corinthians 11:24-26)

Thus, the Lord Jesus commanded his disciples to periodically observe a meal consisting of bread and wine to remember his body and blood - his death. This is called the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20). It is also called "communion" (fellowship) or the eucharist (gratefulness or thanksgiving).

Christians must keep the Lord's Supper because the Lord Jesus commanded it (1 Corinthians 11:24f, John 14:15).

The purpose/significance

The Lord's Supper is important because the Lord Jesus instituted it "on the night that he was betrayed" (1 Corinthians 11:23), a poignant and crucial time, just before he would pour himself out for our redemption. The following are the significances of the Lord's Supper:
  1. The Lord's Supper commemorates the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. This follows from Jesus words describing the bread as "my body broken for you" (Luke 22:19) and the cup of wine as "the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you" (Luke 22:20).
  2. The Lord's Supper commemorates the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. If a person has died, and is yet coming back (1 Corinthians 11:26), it follows that he has risen from the dead.
  3. It is also a celebration of our fellowship and unity in Christ. This follows from the plural "ye" in 1 Corinthians 11:26. When a group of people commemorate something together, it means they have some relationship to each other. This significance can also be derived as an application from 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. (I say "derived as an application" because 1 Corinthians 10:16-21 seems to be describing the Christian's continual feeding on Christ like the Lord Jesus said in John 6:54 and not the periodic observance of the Lord's Supper)
  4. The Lord's Supper is also a testimony to the fact that the Lord Jesus is coming again (1Corinthians 11:26f).

Note that 1 and 2 have to do with the past, 3 has to do with the present and 4 has to do with the future

The timing

The Lord Jesus did not specify any time but it was apostolic practice to break bread on Sundays (Acts 20:7). Thus, the Lord's Supper is to be a regular affair. If a church meets together on every Sunday and does not want to break bread - something specifically commanded by the Lord Jesus, the question arises: why is it gathering? What activity have they found to be more important?

Giving v/s receiving

There are two parties at the Lord's Supper: the Lord Jesus and his people. Who is giving to whom?

At the time of instituting the Lord's Supper, the Lord Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). When you remember someone, you are giving a tribute to him. Thus, when we gather to celebrate the Lord's Supper, we are coming to give, not to receive. Of course, any time spent with God is bound to have blessings for us, but our primary objective is to give to God, not to receive. We will be able to give properly if we have been abiding in Christ during the week.

When/how do we receive from Christ?

There was a group of people very keen to get food from the Lord Jesus. He told them not to work for physical food but for heavenly bread (John 6:27). Over the course of their conversation, Jesus said:-
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh that I will give for the life of the world" – John 6:51
The "eats" is in the Greek aorist tense indicating a once and for all action. So here we have a once-for-all meal that fetches us everlasting life. Jesus has made an IF [once] - THEN [future] statement. The single meal is the instrument/cause of eternal life.

But Jesus also said:-
"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life" – John 6:54
The "eats" is in the Greek present participle, indicating a continuous action. This is not an IF (now) - THEN (future) statement. It is an indicative statement. Jesus is mentioning a characteristic of true Christians. They feed on him - continuously.

All this admittedly sounds cannibalistic. But observe what Jesus said in the same conversation:-
  1. "He who believes in me has everlasting life" – John 6:47
  2. "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread..." – John 6:51
  3. "It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits for nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." – John 6:63
Look at the middle verse above (John 6:51). Jesus' literal flesh did not come from heaven. It was made from the food he ate on earth. It was the Son of God who came down from heaven, not the literal flesh and blood that Jesus had. Therefore, the living bread is not Jesus' literal flesh, but Christ himself, the son of God. Eating is really believing and absorbing Jesus' words, as John 6:47 and John 6:51 clarify. Thus, we receive continuously from God by earnestly reading the Bible and praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Thus, there are two modes of receiving from Christ. A once and for all eating that fetches us eternal life, and a continuous eating that is symptomatic of the fact that we already have eternal life. Note that continuous eating is a proof of physical life as well.

Note that there is:-
  1. A once-and-for-all feeding
  2. A continuous feeding
  3. But No regular feeding.
That is, the Sunday morning affair (the Lord's Supper), being regular, is not a feeding - it is an offering (tribute) by us to God.

Does the bread and wine actually become the body of Christ?

No, it doesn't. Any chemist (or layman) can verify this. The following are some reasons why Catholics and Orthodox believe that the bread and wine actually become the body of Christ, and my responses.
  1. "Some ancient church fathers say so". This is an invalid argument.
  2. Jesus did say, "This is my body". The church is called the "body of Christ". No Catholic or Orthodox apologist tries to find out which Christians make up the ear of Christ, who makes up the eyes, and so on. In other words, they easily see that "the body of Christ" is just a metaphor. In the same way, the statement of Jesus that "this is my body" does not imply that the bread literally becomes the body. Plus, Jesus' body was as usual. Did he suddenly acquire 2 bodies?! Also: even if the bread became the body of Christ, it would be a certain loaf of bread 2000 years ago. Nothing in the text says that a miraculous transformation would happen every time a Catholic or orthodox priest held up the bread.
  3. "In John 6, Jesus clearly said we should eat his flesh and drink his blood". Yes, but as shown above,
    1. This means we should absorb his words
    2. This feeding and drinking has nothing to do with the Lord's Supper on Sunday morning because the former is continuous/once-for-all, but the latter is periodic/regular.
  4. "In 1 Corinthians 10:16, Paul says that we have the communion of the blood of Christ - that is, we are sharing blood, so our cup must contain blood." No. We have communion, or intimate fellowship, of the blood, that is the communion that has been made possible by the blood. The cup does not contain blood.
  5. "Paul says we should discern the Lord's body during the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:29)". The Greek word rendered "discern" does not mean "recognize/identify". It means "distinguish". Thus, in simpler language: "not making a distinction regarding the Lord's body", or "not holding special the Lord's body". Hence, it does not mean that the bread has now become the Lord's body.
  6. Doesn't Paul ask us to examine ourselves and not eat unworthily? Yes he does, but this does not prove that the bread becomes Christ's body or that Christ becomes "present again". We ought to examine ourselves to see that we are not living with unforgiven sin. Holiness and reverence is becoming when the Lord Jesus is remembered and commemorated.
  7. It is okay to consume blood. No it isn't (see Acts 15:20).
All the above arguments ignore a basic fact:
 
Stupendous claims require stupendous documentation.
 
If the bread/wine really turned into the body/blood, extremely explicit statements and clarification would be needed in the Bible. Such statements are absent. Merely referring to the bread/wine as body/blood does not prove transubstantiation.
 
There is no need for the bread and wine to become the body and blood and be sacrificed again (as Roman Catholicism teaches) or "become present again" (as the Orthodox Church teaches) for one fundamental reason: the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus was completed once and for all when Jesus was crucified (Hebrews 10:14, John 19:30, Hebrews 1:3). Roman Catholic and Orthodox teaching about the bread and wine is based on the Aristotelian theory of substances and accidents. This theory has been discredited by modern science. To learn how wrong and destructive it is to adopt Greek theories and pass them off as Christianity, one only has to think of Galileo's harassment by the Roman Catholic Church because his scientific observations did not agree with Greek/Catholic theories of the universe. The Roman Catholic Church thus made Christianity look anti-progress, and is thus largely responsible for the anti-Christian nature of popular culture.

Are our sins forgiven when we have the bread and wine?

No. When a person repents and believes in Christ, his sins are forgiven once and for all in a judicial sense (John 5:24, Romans 5:1) and he becomes a child of God (Romans 8:15). [Note the tenses of the verbs in the verses just quoted]. But even as a child of God he sins occasionally. This requires filial forgiveness, which is obtained by confession to God (1 John 1:9). In fact, we must examine ourselves to check for unconfessed/unforgiven sin before taking part of the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28).

God deals with moral realities. Carbohydrates, grape extracts, human tissue and hemoglobin are ultimately, just molecules. They cannot fetch us any moral or spiritual benefit. The only reason Jesus' blood fetched us forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7) is that the soul is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11) and Jesus' soul was made an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10). Molecules of any kind on our taste buds do not achieve anything. Learn about The solution that God has provided for sin