Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 11, 1960
NUMBER 14, PAGE 2,7b

The Lord's Supper

Herschel E. Patton, Shelbyville, Tennessee

The Lord's Supper

The article of faith to be studied at this time bears the title, "The Lord's Supper." In this review we have been studying the nineteen articles of faith recorded in Hiscox's manual. There is another manual accepted by those who hold to these articles, known as Pendleton's manual. This manual lists only eighteen articles of faith. This is accounted for on the grounds that Pendleton combines Baptism and the Lord's Supper into one article, while Hiscox's manual lists them separately. Both manuals, however, present the same teaching regarding these subjects.

Article No. XV.

"We believe the scriptures teach that the Lord's Supper is a provision of bread and wine, representing Christ's body and blood, partaken of by the members of the church assembled for that purpose, in commemoration of the death of their Lord, showing their faith and participation in the merits of his sacrifice, their dependence on him for spiritual life and nourishment, and their hope of life eternal through his resurrection from the dead; its observance to be preceded by faithful self-examination."

Elements Of The Supper

The first affirmation in this article has to do with the ingredients of the Lord's Supper, and these are said to be bread and wine. In Matthew 26:26-30 we have an account of the institution of the Lord's Supper by our Lord. We also find this in the records of Mark and Luke Mark 14:2226; Luke 22:19-20). From these accounts it is clear that bread is one element of the Lord's Supper. The second element is called "the cup" which is identified by Matthew and Mark as "the fruit of the vine." There have been differences in opinion among men as to the required form of the "fruit of the vine." Some say it must be wine — must be fermented. This contention is based upon what is thought to have been used in the observance of the Passover Supper. Jesus, in instituting the supper, took the ingredients from the Passover Supper table. This means the bread was unleavened. The nature of the wine has been a subject of controversy across the years. In those days, we are told, the pure juice of the grape was often referred to as wine. Since Jesus said "fruit of the vine," it would seem that the juice of the grape in some form would fulfill the requirement.

We are told this bread and fruit of the vine represent Christ's body and blood. This cannot be denied by those who believe the Bible, for Jesus plainly said concerning the bread, "This is my body which is given for you" and concerning the cup, "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you" (Luke 22:19-20). The other gospel writers tell us the same thing and so does Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. Some criticize the statement "the bread and fruit of the vine represents Christ's body and blood" on the grounds that Jesus said "this is my body" and "this is my blood." Some contend that these ingredients, when blessed, become the literal body and blood of Christ. This seems to be a foolish contention; for, if these ingredients are chemically analyzed after being blessed, it will be found that they have not been changed at all. I agree with the statement that these ingredients "represent the body and blood of Christ," for the context truly shows this is the meaning. It might be noted that Jesus also said concerning his body "which IS given for you" and his blood "which IS shed for you"; yet at that time his body had not been nailed to the cross and pierced and his blood had not been shed. This shows that Jesus was speaking representatively and not literally.

Who Partakes?

This article of faith on the Lord's Supper next affirms that Supper is to be "partaken of by the members of the church assembled for that purpose." Two thoughts are embedded in this statement: first, who partakes of the supper, and, second, the purpose of assembling. The scriptures truly teach that the Lord's Supper is for members of the church — for Christians. Jesus said in Luke 22:30 "That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom." The kingdom is the church and it is here affirmed that the Lord's table is in his kingdom or the church; therefore, those who are citizens of the kingdom — members of the church — are to partake of the supper. Those who embrace these articles of faith believe in what is called "close communion." They will admit that other people may be Christians, but they will forbid their communing at the Lord's Table unless they are in fellowship with that body. For this there is no scriptural authority. No man has the right to pass judgment upon fellow-Christians as to who can and who cannot partake. Every Christian — citizen of the kingdom — has a right to the Lord's Table, and the only examination to be made is on the part of the individual himself — "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup" (1 Con 11:28). That Christians did assemble for the purpose of eating the Lord's Supper is evident from Acts 20:7, "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples CAME TOGETHER TO BREAK BREAD." Here we see they came together for the specific purpose of breaking bread.

In Memory Of Christ

It is next affirmed that Christians eat of the supper "in commemoration of the death of their Lord." No one should be disposed to deny this, for Jesus plainly said "This do in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19), and Paul says the Lord said "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he comes" (1 Cor. 11:26). In view of these scriptures we do not hesitate to say that the Lord's Supper is a memorial institution — a memorial of his death and suffering upon the cross for our transgressions.

Spiritual Nourishment

We are referred to John 6:35, 54-56 as proof that Christians, in observing the supper, show their dependence on Christ for spiritual life and nourishment. These verses say, 'And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst" (vs. 85) and "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, bath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him" (vs. 5456). Though man have applied these verses to the Lord's Supper, it is very doubtful that any reference is made to the Lords' Supper here at all. These words were spoken before Christ instituted the Supper. From verse 25 we learn that Jesus is the bread and water of life and that those who come to him as believers have their hunger and thirst satisfied. Verse 47 tells us "He that believeth on me hath everlasting life," and in verse 51 the Lord says "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." Here we see that eating of his flesh is equivalent to believing on him, as stated in verse 47, for both have the same results — eternal life. Then, on down in verse 63 our Lord said "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." Hence it is not the literal flesh eaten that makes alive, but the words of Christ are endowed with spirit and life. By faith in the crucified and risen Christ, which comes by hearing the word, and by the incorporation of the will and life, as expressed in his word, into our lives, we are made alive. This is what it means to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ, according to the context of John the sixth chapter.

I am not denying that spiritual life and nourishment is received in observing the Lord's Supper, but I do not believe that John 6:5-63 is the passage which teaches this. Observing the Lord's Supper furnishes us an opportunity to search our hearts, correct our lives and solemnize our thoughts — centering them upon Calvary where Christ made the supreme sacrifice for our sins; and by so doing the spiritual man is renewed and strengthened. Furthermore, Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 10:16 "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?" So, here is the passage which shows we are communing with the body and blood of Christ in observing the Lords' Supper.

It is further admitted that one does, in observing the Lord's Supper, show his hope of eternal life, because Paul said, in quoting the Lord, "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death TILL HE COME" (1 Cor. 11:26). Hence, in observing the supper, our minds are carried forward to his coming — to the time when the crown of life will be bestowed upon the faithful (Rev. 2:10).


The last thing affirmed of the Lord's Supper in this particular article of faith is "its observance is to be preceded by faithful self-examination." First Corinthians 11:28 "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup" is sufficient for this claim. However, in view of this statement and scriptural quotation, we wonder on what grounds the professors of these articles practice "close communion." They will admit that others are Christians, but THEY examine these and declare they are not permitted to eat at the Lord's table with them unless they become affiliated with their own particular religious body. Didn't the Lord say "let a man examine himself"? Why then do they seek to examine those whom they refer to as fellow-Christians ?

Time For Observing

This article of faith says nothing about the time for observing the Lord's Supper, and this is a matter on which the scriptures are not silent. We must therefore say a few words about this important matter before closing this study. Those who embrace these articles do not regard the "time of observance" as being important. With them, Christians may observe it as frequently or infrequently as they desire. And, if pressed on the "once saved always saved theory" which they hold dear, they will even admit that one can be saved whether he ever uses his opportunities to observe the supper or not.

Acts 20:7 furnishes us a Bible example of the early Christians coming together on the first day of the week for the specific purpose of breaking bread. This should be sufficient to settle the questions as to when the supper is to be observed. However, it is well to remember that the observance of the supper was a frequent thing in New Testament times Acts 2:42). If one prayed only once a year or quarterly, it would not be said that he is frequent in prayer. This same thing is true concerning the Lord's Supper; hence, we conclude it is a duty which occurred frequently, which agrees with the idea of a weekly observance.

In Hebrews 10:25 Christians are commanded to assemble. The command to assemble naturally implies a time. Furthermore, it will be admitted from verses already studied that Christians are commanded to eat the Lord's Supper. From 1 Corinthians 11:33 and Acts 20:7 we learn that early Christians assembled for the purpose of eating the Lord's Supper; therefore in New Testament times the assembly and eating the Supper were closely connected. Acts 20:7 is the passage in God's word which tells us when New Testament Christians obeyed the commands to assemble and eat the supper. It was "the first day of the week." Friends, here is a worship God has ordained for the first day of the week. No Christian can afford to forsake this.