Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 14, 1955
NUMBER 48, PAGE 5,10b

The Lord's Supper

Thomas Allen Robertson, San Bernardino, California

The elements used in the institution of the Lord's Supper were the same as those used in the Passover feast. Only two of the elements used in this feast, however, were appointed for the Supper. They were the bread and the cup.

The "bread" (Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19) was "unleavened bread." (Exodus 12:15; 13:6, 7.) Unleavened bread was bread without any yeast or leaven in it to make it rise or puff up. Jesus said, "This is my body." No element would better picture to us the broken body of the Lamb of God on the cross than the pale, lifeless, unleavened bread. Bread is grain that has been harvested, ground, and baked. It has had all the life taken from it.

The "cup" (Matt. 26:27; Mark 24:23; Luke 22:20) was the fruit of the vine. Jesus clearly defines the cup when he calls it "the fruit of the vine" (Mark 14:25) and says, "This is my blood." (Mark 14:24.) Inasmuch as Christ refers to himself as "the vine" and his disciples as "the branches," (John 15:5) certainly we cannot think of any element that would better picture to us the blood of Christ than the fruit of the vine; for the live blood of the vine is seen in its fruit.

In the religious world today there are two false conceptions about the elements of the Lord's Supper. The Roman Catholic Church teaches the doctrine of "trans-substantiation." Now, "trans" is a prefix meaning "to change" or "to cross"; and "substantiation" is from the Latin word "substantia" which means literally "substance." Hence, the doctrine of transubstantiation means "a change in substance." This doctrine sets forth the idea that when the priest blesses the literal bread and wine (with them it is not the 'fruit of the vine' but wine), these material elements are immediately and miraculously "changed" or "crossed over" and converted into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. The argument is based on a misunderstanding of the words of Christ when he said, "This is my body" and "this is my blood." (Matt. 26:26-28.)

But when Jesus said, "This is my body," and "this is my blood," he was using symbolic language. It is precisely the same as when he said, "I am the door" (John 10:9) and "I am the way." (John 14:16.) Did Christ mean that he was a literal "door"? He called himself "the Good Shepherd" and his disciples "sheep." (John 10:14.) But did he mean that he was literally a shepherd and his disciples literal sheep? Christ said, "I am the vine, ye are the branches." (John 15:5.) Surely, no one would understand him to mean that he was a literal vine and his disciples literal branches. These are only figurative expressions. In the same manner, he referred to the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine as his "body" and his "blood." Actually his physical body and his physical blood were there present at the last supper; his body was at the table, and his blood was still flowing through his veins, having not yet been offered. Hence, the bread and the fruit of the vine were in no way his literal body and blood. As we partake of the bread and the fruit of the vine, our minds go back to Calvary, and through faith we see the body and the blood of Christ as a sacrifice for us.

The second false doctrine is very similar to this. Itis the doctrine of "consubstantiation" as held by the Lutherans and some others. In this doctrine it is taught that the elements (bread and fruit of the vine) are not miraculously "changed" or metamorphosed into the actual body and blood of Christ, but in some mysterious way "in, over, under, and around" the bread and wine they contain the real substance. If we break down the word "consubstantiation" we get "with the substance." The answer to this doctrine is the same as the answer given above. The emblems serve as a communion, a memorial, a showing forth, and not as a sacrifice with the literal elements of the body and blood of Christ present.

Weekly Observance

The Lord's Supper must be observed weekly. (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Heb. 10:25; Exodus 20:8.)

The early church came together upon the first day of the week to break bread. (Acts 20:7.) Since the early church assembled regularly upon this day, apostolic Christians were taught to contribute of their means upon this day. (1 Cor. 16:2.) And the letter to the Hebrews exhorts Christians not to forsake their assembling together. (Heb. 10:25.)

But someone might argue that there is no indication in Acts 20:7 that the early Christians came together upon EVERY first day of the week. There is a parallel case under the law of Moses. The fourth commandment of the Decalogue was, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Exodus 20:8.) This passage does not say to remember EVERY Sabbath day, but it could imply nothing else. In the cycle of every seven days there came a Sabbath day; and the faithful Jew observed every Sabbath day under the law of Moses. Likewise under the new covenant of Christ, in the cycle of every seven days there comes a "first day of the week"; and the faithful Christian will break bread upon this day in memory of Christ. Note that the gathering together "upon the first day of the week" was for the very purpose of breaking bread. (Acts 20:7.) This was their reason for assembling. Paul's preaching was merely incidental to the occasion. A faithful Christian will steadfastly remember the Lord upon this day in humble and reverent observance of the Lord's Supper.

Not only is the Lord's Supper to be observed weekly, but it must be observed in a worthy manner. (1 Cor. 11:27-29.) The church at Corinth had corrupted the Lord's Supper, and had lost sight of the real purpose of its observance. (1 Cor. 11:22.) Paul said, Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Cor. 11:27.) This word "unworthily" is an adverb of manner. In the Revised Version it is rendered thus: "in an unworthy manner." So the term has reference to the manner of the observance and not to the worthiness or unworthiness of the one who is observing When we assemble around the Lord's table, our every thought should be directed to the memory of Christ and his gift to us. On the Lord's table we have the emblems of the body and blood of our Lord. We should not allow our thoughts to wander from the sacredness and solemnity of the hour. We should be able to look with the eye of faith back to the cross, and there see the Son of God dying for the sins of the world.

And so, after self-examination, we are ready to eat and drink "worthily," truly discerning the Lord's body. "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. (1 Cor. 11:28 — read all of 1 Cor. 11:20-34.)

Do you remember the Lord upon each first day of the week by observing the Lord's Supper as did these early Christians?