Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 14, 1957
NUMBER 44, PAGE 2-3b

The Lord's Supper

Thomas Allen Robertson, San Bernardino, California

Because of a failure to teach on the Lord's Supper, and because it has been generally minimized by the denominational world, many people know very little about it. Few people understand to whom the Supper has meaning, what its purpose is, how often it is to be observed, or any of the elementary facts connected with it.

Who Is To Eat The Supper?

There are many theories as to who shall partake of the Supper, but the fact remains that only the people of God can appreciate this feast. It has no meaning to those who are not God's people, just as the Passover had no meaning or significance to anyone except a Jew. The full meaning of the Supper can be understood and appreciated only by one who has been saved by the blood of Christ. It is a "memorial," and a memorial has no meaning to anyone save as it serves to recall something to the memory of people who have reason to be interested in the thing "remembered." Thus even those who are a part of the kingdom of God must observe the Supper discerningly and understandably to be acceptable in God's sight. (I Cor. 11:23-29.)

The Lord's Supper was placed in the kingdom. Christ said, "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom . . . ." (Luke 22:29, 30.) But Jesus told Nicodemus that only those who have been "born again" are in the Lord's kingdom; hence, only those "born again" can eat at the Lord's table. Paul said, "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." (I Cor. 11:28.) While the Supper is truly placed within the kingdom, yet Christ has not appointed any man, or any set of men, to determine who in the kingdom shall, or shall not, eat at his table. It is not a "closed communion" with one another, but is a "communion" between the faithful believer and his Lord. (I Cor. 10:16.) For example, a foreigner may celebrate the Fourth of July along with an American, but he cannot appreciate what it means. It does not mean anything to him, because it is not a "memorial" of anything in his national history. So the man who is not a citizen of the Lord's kingdom may indeed eat the physical bread of the Lord's Supper, and may drink of the fruit of the vine, but his act will be meaningless and empty. He has not truly partaken of the Supper.

Jewish Backgrounds

The Supper was instituted under the greatest of solemnity in connection with the great Jewish feast of the Passover. Christ knew that this was to be the last Passover he would eat with his disciples, and said to them, "With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." (Luke 22:15.) There is an inseparable connection between the Passover and the Supper. Here in the sacred upper room the two great institutions briefly touch, the old Jewish institution that is passing away and the new institution of Christ which is to last till he comes again.

The Jewish Passover had a most interesting history. After God had sent the nine plagues on Pharaoh and the Egyptians, he promised that there would be one moreplague — more terrible and more awful than any of the nine that had preceded it. This was to be the destruction of the firstborn of all living things in the land — both man and beast. In order that Israel should not suffer after this plague, God commands that a lamb be slain and its blood sprinkled on the door-post and the lintels of every Israelite dwelling. And God said, "And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt." (Exodus 12:13.) In the long years that followed, the Israelites were to teach their children the meaning of the passover at each yearly recurrence of the day. This feast was also curiously prospective as well as retrospective — the lamb that was slain each year not only looked back to the deliverance in Egypt, but looked forward also to the "lamb of God" who was to die upon the cross. In slaying the passover lamb not a bone of its body should be broken. (Exodus 12:46.) When the Roman soldiers came to the body of Christ upon the cross, they did not break his bones. (John 19:32-36.) Hence the Passover lamb was a type of Christ, who is our Passover now. (I Cor. 5:7.)

As a law-keeping Jew, Christ faithfully observed the Jewish Passover. It was at the Passover feast that he instituted the Lord's Supper. (Matt. 26:30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:19, 20.) After the establishment of the church, we find the early Christians observing the Lord's Supper faithfully upon the first day of the week. (Acts 2:42; 20:7.)

The Purpose Of The Supper

The Lord's Supper is a memorial service in remembrance of Christ. "This do in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19.) As one looks the world over he sees that memorials are common, universal. Those memorials may be in the form of marble monuments, great buildings, or institutions — or special days. The United States has her Fourth of July, her Memorial Day, her Labor Day, and the other holidays to celebrate great events, great persons, or other things to be "remembered." Other countries also have their special days of significance recalling things in their national history. Every tombstone in every cemetery is a monument to the fact that someone has lived, has died — and is remembered.

So the Lord's Supper is a monument; its observance is a memorial service. Those who partake of it "discerning" the Lord's body have their minds carried back to the trials through which Christ passed, to his death on the cross. And as we partake we "remember" his body which was offered for us, his blood which was shed for our sins. Not every one can be a preacher orally proclaiming the gospel of Christ; but every faithful Christian does indeed preach a sermon every time he partakes of the Supper, for he "proclaims" the Lord's death. "Actions speak louder than words" is an adage that is forever true. No sermon from the pulpit on this subject, however impassioned it might be, can ever speak quite as effectively as the whole congregation in joint participation solemnly, faithfully, and discerningly observing the feast. Here our own faith is renewed; our zeal rekindled; our hope brightened; and our love deepened. As a memorial of Christ, as a proclamation of his death, burial, and resurrection, and as a means of remaining spiritually alive and strong, the Lord Supper helps us to enjoy a "like precious faith" with all the redeemed of all ages.