THE LORD'S SUPPER
It is very wonderful to realize that Paul’s instructions on the Lord’s Supper give the earliest utterance by our Lord ever recorded; and it is a totally independent instruction, on the rite, imparted to Paul directly by Christ Himself. "For I received of the Lord," he says, "how the Lord Jesus took bread" (1 Cor. 11: 23). It is no oral tradition; it is not even a report given by an Apostle who saw it all done in the Upper Room: it is a special revelation given for all time and to all Churches, by the Apostle of the Gentiles - the Apostle to the whole Gentile world outside Jewry. Exactly as Paul’s Gospel, so his instructions on the Lord’s Supper:- "Neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1: 12).
A rite (or ritual) enshrines a truth, and studiedly pictures it: so "the Lord Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, This is my body, which is broken for you." The act of breaking the bread - the Greek word mans a loaf, or cake of bread (Dean Stanley) - reveals, like lightning, the fact in His life which our Lord selects as vital and all important - the body sword-broken on the tree; and therefore He embodies it for all time in a studied, yet extremely simple, ritual; and, the method of the ritual is determined for ever - "the bread", or loaf, which we "break", even as our Lord did. It reveals the Atonement as the central sun of our universe. The one fact in our Lord’s history which every natural feeling would have led His followers to conceal, and which (if it stood alone) could only have revived every feeling of horror with which the Apostles watched Calvary, the Lord makes for ever the undying memorial of Himself: not a picture of the Incarnation, or of the Transfiguration, or of the Resurrection, or of the Ascension, but - "This is my body broken for you, this is my blood shed for you."* Only a broken Christ could ever have made us whole.
[* That is, a sinless Christ; and therefore the bread should be without leaven.]
Our Lord next commands the ritual: "THIS DO"; and He embraces the whole Church* - "Drink ye ALL of it" (Matt. 26: 27) - all believers, without exception, are to drink. He commands it without specifying how often - "as oft as ye drink it" (1 Cor. 11: 25): so here Paul says, "as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup,** ye show forth the Lord’s death." The Apostolic Church appears to have observed the rite every Lord’s Day. "On the first day of the week we were gathered together to break bread" (Acts 20: 7). But the command that all believers should so obey is brought out with signal distinctness in this Epistle itself; for, like the Epistle, the ‘Do this’ is addressed (1 Cor. 1: 2) to "all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ IN EVERY PLACE"; and the command is to eat and drink it. “EAT: not take and lay up; not take and carry about; not take and worship: but ‘Take, eat’ " (Bp. Beveridge). So here is the institution. All laws, once enacted, remain in force until repealed by the authority which made them: the Lord’s Supper, therefore, no man can alter or cancel: it is to abide, as it has done, at least two thousand years - "ye proclaim the Lord's death till he come".
"This cup," not cups: there is
plurality of cups only because of the numbers present: if it were the ‘two or three’, or even the dozen of the Upper Room, the
ritual would perfectly express the unity.¹ So
also the loaf. A cup for each
believer, as also a wafer or a cut morsel of bread, is an annihilation of the
ritual, and has arisen solely, the
one from Modernism, and the other from
[¹ All therefore who have a ‘closed table’ are in violation of the Lord’s command: they are a sect!]
It is a critically decisive proof that the Church is not to "observe times or seasons". No ‘season’ could be more overwhelming than
It is very touching to see the reason our Lord gives for observing the rite. "This do, in remembrance of me; this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me." We are apt to be tremendously thrilled in the first months or years of our conversion; we feel we could die for Christ: but the best musical instrument flags with wear, and needs re-tuning: so we gather to refresh our memories with Him, and supremely with the Saviour on the Cross. We remember that we owe Him all:- our sins pardoned; our God reconciled; our nature renewed; our destiny transformed. We remember that because a whole, a perfect Christ, was broken for us, Law can challenge no more, and justice is satisfied for ever. Do we so remember Him? "Christ watches you at the door. Some of you go home, and Christ says, - ‘I thought I said, This do, in remembrance of me.’ Some of you keep your seats as spectators. Christ sits with you, and He says, - ‘I thought I said, This do in remembrance of me’ " (C. H. Spurgeon).
picture is made still more vivid by the total separation of the bread
and the wine. "In like manner also the cup, saying, This
cup is the new testament in my blood": this cup is a fresh
testament signed and sealed in my blood, a last will and testament bequeathed
One very lovely aspect of the Supper has given it its most frequent name. "The bread which we break, is it not a communion" - a sharing, a joint participation - "of the body of Christ? seeing that we, who are many, are one body: for, we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Cor. 11: 16). So the Lord’s own words, cancelling for ever the Roman withdrawal of the cup from the ‘laity’ binds all in one:- "Drink ye all." For we are brothers and sisters in one family; we are seated at one table; we join in one meal; we eat of one loaf; we drink of one cup; and together we remember one Saviour. And this is emphasized by the ritual in an extraordinary manner. The whole loaf is in the whole body of believers that has consumed it. Our unity is demonstrated by the act, and deepened by the feeding. In the heart of him who consumes it, and in a sense known only to God, he feeds on Christ. The grave practical consequences, even including death (ver. 30),* that can follow a mishandling of the Supper, imply and involve a corresponding actuality and power of blessing, when it is rightly partaken of, which it is difficult to conceive.
[* "Many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep." The judgment on believers here revealed is most startling. For the words that follow lodge it foursquare on the regenerate. "When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world."]
then the age-long ritual is summed up. "As often
as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death TILL
HE COME."* That is, the Supper is a solemn
liturgical exhibition of the heart of the Gospel, namely, the sacrifice of
Christ on the Cross, to be constantly repeated all down the Christian ages, a
picture more eloquent than words. It
is a wedlock between the believer’s memory and his hope, between the
First Advent and the Second; and the Lord's Supper is a divine
pledge that He who has expiated sin will come "a
second time, apart from sin unto salvation" (Heb 9: 28). "From the
apostolic age down to this hour,” says Dean Farrar, "through nineteen long
centuries, the Supper has been kept by all the branches of the true Church. Hundreds of generations have passed away, many
systems have risen and disappeared, nations have been organized, flourished,
and broken up; but this ordinance continues: is there any other fact in history
sustained by evidence half so powerful as this witness
[* That is, the Supper looks forward as well as backward. It looks back at the ultimate price paid by Christ - the Overcomer - for His throne; and it looks forward at the price every disciple of Christ is expected to pay (when called upon) to be "accounted worthy" and judged by Him as an overcomer, and therefore, a "joint-heir" with Him during the Millennial Kingdom: "He that overcometh, I will give TO HIM to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne." "Be thou faithful UNTO DEATH, and I will give thee the CROWN OF LIFE." (Rom. 8: 17; Rev. 3: 21; 2: 10).]
Finally, we have the gate of entry into the Rite. "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup." It is one thing to say, "Christ died for all"; it is quite another to say, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me": therefore each man must stretch forth his own hand, and take for himself the atoning sacrifice, and afterwards its ritual. No unbeliever is an invited guest, but a child of wrath: he is invited to Christ - then, and only then, to His Table. The Apostle sweeps aside all ‘fencing of the Table’. "Let a man examine himself" - he alone is to do the examining, but he must do it rigidly; "and so let him" - whoever he is, and apart from all sect or schism - "eat" - the welcome guest of his Lord. With believers guilty of any one of the excommunicating sins, proved and un-abandoned, we are "no, not to eat" (1 Cor. 5: 11), which must include the supreme Meal: all other ‘fencing of the Table’ - invariably for sectarian purposes - IS DISOBEDIENCE TO CHRIST.
I hunger and I thirst,
Jesu! my manna be;
Ye living waters, burst
Out of the rock for me.
Thou bruised and broken Bread,
My life-long wants supply;
As living souls are fed,
O, feed me, or I die!