The Lord’s Supper matters. One might even say that the Lord’s Supper is one of the most important things to Christ. And why wouldn’t it be? After all, it does demonstrate His suffering and death on the cross for our redemption. The death of Christ on the cross is not only the signature achievement of the almighty God and His beloved Son, but it is also the turning point of human history, of human destiny.
The Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night He was betrayed, which also happened to be on the day of unleavened bread during Passover. That night, He explained what the Lord’s Supper symbolized, how it was to be observed, and why (to remember Him).
In the centuries since, man has deviated from the intent and method Christ set forth for observing the Lord’s Supper. Some gave it purpose that Christ never gave it, such as obtaining or confirming salvation. Some observe it in settings that Christ never intended, such as weddings, funerals, or public performances. Some have deviated from the elements… unleavened bread being replaced by Italian or French bread. Some have even deviated from how it should be served, with some churches having the priest or pastor take the supper on behalf of the congregation. These all run counter to the Bible’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper, therefore, these are all in error.
This mission drift regarding the Lord’s Supper happens when we drift from the scriptures teaching it, and when we drift from the words and actions of Christ as He instituted it. For that reason, we embark upon this effort to bring us back to the scriptural understanding of the Lord’s Supper with the goal to return us to a scriptural observance of the Lord’s Supper.
There are some points of controversy regarding the Lord’s Supper, such as Open, Close or Closed Communion. You may agree or disagree with our teachings on this. However, it is our desire that, upon reviewing this teaching, you at least understand and accept the importance and symbolism of the Lord’s Supper, and that you give consideration to how you observe it with your church. Something this important need not be taken for granted, and reviewing the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is a good way to stay within God’s will and truth concerning the matter.
The first thing to remember about the Lord’s Supper is that it is important to Christ. In 1 Corinthians 11:23, Paul wrote, “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:”
Do not overlook the first part of that verse, “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you….” In writing this, the Apostle Paul notes that the Lord Jesus Christ personally taught Paul the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. How could this be? When did this happen? Wasn’t Paul still a lost Pharisee when Jesus walked and taught with His disciples? Yes.
However, in Galatians 1, the Apostle Paul tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ personally taught him the Gospel by divine revelation. This likely happened in the three years he was in Arabia following his conversion. The belief is that, after Paul was converted and after he escaped Damascus, Jesus appeared unto him and taught him personally.
Whether Jesus personally appeared to Paul in Arabia to teach him or not, it is clear through Paul’s writings, both here, in Galatians 1, and in 1 Corinthians 15, that he received the truth he taught through divine revelation from the Lord.
Either way, Christ personally taught Paul. The two things Paul learned of the Lord through all of this were (a) that the Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins according to the Old Testament scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), and (b) what the Lord’s Supper is.
If the Lord’s Supper were so important to Christ that He personally took the time to teach it to Paul, then we can conclude that the Lord’s Supper is important, and therefore we should pay special attention to the Bible’s teaching on the subject.
Most Sunday School children can tell you what the elements of the Lord’s Supper represent. The bread represents the body of Christ. The wine (or grape juice in modern times) represents the blood of Christ. Jesus specifically stated this when He instituted the Lord’s Supper, and you also see this written in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25:
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
Pretty basic stuff… but did you know there’s more to the imagery.
First of all, the bread that Jesus broke was unleavened bread. We know this because He instituted the Lord’s Supper during Passover week, a week in which no Jew living in Jerusalem would possess leaven in their homes. Following the commandments from Exodus 12 regarding the Passover, each family would have purged their house of leaven. They would have swept and thrown it out.
There is a symbolism here. In scripture, leaven symbolizes sin. In Passover, the commandment to rid the house of leaven was a symbolic commandment to rid your life of sin. By having unleavened bread represent the body of Christ, we see that the Lord’s Supper upholds the teaching that Christ was sinless. He had no sin. He had no sin nature. He committed no sin. He was perfect, pure, and sinless. Yet, He went to the cross where He died a death suffering the wrath of God as a consequence for the sin of mankind. In that, He bore our punishment upon Himself, and that punishment having been served, we have been redeemed. We are now free from God’s wrath, if we trust Jesus, because He took it on our behalf. That’s what the Lord’s Supper represents.
The wine represents the blood, which is separate from the bread, because Jesus shed His blood on the cross to purchase our redemption, and thus His blood was separated from His body.
Each time we take the Lord’s Supper, we show His death for us on the cross, and we remember His sacrifice for us. We are commanded to continue to do so until He returns (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Finally, let’s look at how we should take the Lord’s Supper. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 teach us that we should take the Lord’s Supper worthily, because those who did so unworthily not only denigrated the Lord’s body, but they also suffered consequences. So, by showing the negative consequences to taking the Lord’s Supper unworthily, the scriptures teach us to take it worthily.
Worthily is an adverb. It’s not about whether you are worthy. It’s about how you take the supper. Are you doing so worthily, or, in a worthy manner. You take the Lord’s Supper worthily every time you take the Lord’s Supper according to the Biblical standard. You take it unworthily every time you take the Lord’s Supper without considering the Lord’s death, or with bitterness and unrepentant sin in your heart.
Therefore, to keep this from happening, 1 Corinthians 11:28, 31-32 teach us to examine ourselves, test ourselves, and judge ourselves to see if there is any sin, bitterness or malice in our hearts. Upon finding it (and we will), repent. Then take the Lord’s Supper.
Finally, the scriptures tell us to take the Lord’s Supper together, as a church. This can be inferred from 1 Corinthians 11:33, “Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.”
The Lord’s Supper is to be taken together with the church, not as an individual outside the church. The Lord’s Supper is intended to be taken with the church, not as a small group within the church. And, the Lord’s Supper is intended to be taken by the church, not as an outreach to the general public.
For this reason, Life Point Baptist Church teaches closed communion, though we also teach that the ultimate responsibility for whether the Lord’s Supper is properly taken falls upon the individual worshiper, who is commanded by scripture to examine and judge themselves.
If this post has accomplished nothing else, we hope it inspires you to ponder, and consider what the Lord’s Supper is, and to focus more on its meaning the next time you take it at church. May God bless you as you continue to learn of Him.