In the night He was betrayed, Jesus gave a memorial supper of Himself by which all present and future disciples would remember His sacrifice of love for them. He said, “I shall not eat of it until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Lk. 22:16); “I shall not drink henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come” (Lk. 22:18); and, “I shall not drink henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29). The Lord’s Supper would not be eaten by Jesus with His disciples until the kingdom had come, and it would be eaten by them in the kingdom of God. The Lord’s Supper is a part of God’s kingdom.
There are various terms by which this supper is identified in the New Testament. It is identified as a “communion” (1 Cor. 10:16). It is called the “Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor. 11:22), the “table of the Lord” (1 Cor. 10:21), and “breaking bread” (Acts 20:7). It was Jesus’ request that men remember Him in this supper and Christians who love their Savior and are grateful for what He has done for them, find no problem fulfilling His request.
Sadly, there are errors that have grown around the supper of the Lord with men drawing conclusions Jesus never intended, or emphasizing some things He never intended to be emphasized, as well. These errors exist both outside and inside the body of Christ.
First, consider the teaching that the Lord’s Supper is a “Mass” or death. The doctrine that so concludes is the doctrine of “transubstantiation” — a doctrine which teaches that when the bread and fruit of the vine are blessed by the “priest,” they actually change substance and become literally the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Those who teach this find themselves in an unenviable position with crucial questions they dare not answer: “Is Christ being sacrificed again? Is He dying again?” Catholics are unwilling to affirm for this “flies in the face” of the very nature of the sacrifice of Christ.
New Testament writers, showing the insufficiency of Old Testament animal sacrifices, contrast those with the sacrifice of Christ. Animal sacrifices were offered again and again and yet could not remove sin (Heb. 10:4). Christ offered one sacrifice which is sufficient for all time. Not only is this point critical, but there is additionally the teaching that Jesus died one time and will never die again. The Roman writer comments on this latter: “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death no more hath dominion over him. For the death that he died, he died unto sin once: but the life that he liveth, he liveth unto God” (Rom. 6:9-10).
Furthermore, the prophecy made by David (Psalm 110:1-4) that Christ is a priest “after the order of Melchizedek” poses another problem for the doctrine of “transubstantiation.” The Hebrew writer shows that the priesthoods of Aaron and Melchizedek are radically different. The priesthood of Aaron was constantly changing, death changed the ones who served as priests or high priest continually. Not so under the priesthood of Melchizedek (of which Christ is). Because He never dies, His is an unchanging priesthood: “And they indeed have been made priests many in number, because by death they are hindered from continuing; but he, because he abideth forever, hath his priesthood unchangeable. Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them who draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:23-25). The problem that Catholics face and will not answer would be removed were they to remember that the Lord’s Supper is a memorial, just as the Passover was a memorial. There was the “one-time” event when the blood of a slain lamb sprinkled on the lintels and door posts of homes saved those within that home from death. The yearly Passover feast was just a remembrance of that one, great event. In the same way, Christ, our Passover Lamb, was slain once. The bread (which represents His body) and the fruit of the vine (which represents His blood) do not become literally His body and blood. We eat the bread, we drink the fruit of the vine. Paul wrote, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ? seeing that we, who are many are one bread, one body: for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:16-17).
But brethren are not free from false conceptions regarding the Lord’s Supper either. Many good, honest brethren misunderstand the nature of the word “cup” Jesus spoke of when He instituted this memorial supper. Because when He took a cup and commanded, “Drink ye all of it,” some honestly believe all must drink from the same container. But was that what Jesus commanded? The cup we are all to drink of is something we divide (Lk. 22:17), and something that we drink (1 Cor. 11:27). We do not divide the “container;” we divide what is in that container. We do not drink the container, we drink what is in the container. Yet, Jesus referred in both cases to something we do with the “cup.” We divide it and we drink it. Jesus said that the “cup” we drink “is the blood of the covenant which is poured out for remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). There is symbolism here no matter whether one considers the “cup” to be the container or the contents of the container. The fruit of the vine (contents) is not literally the “blood of the covenant, poured out for remission of sins,” but neither is the container literally “the blood of the covenant, poured out for the remission of sins.” There is symbolism here in that there is something which is not literally the blood of the covenant, which is called blood of the covenant, and there is symbolism in Jesus’ command to “drink the cup” and “divide the cup.” When Jesus commanded His disciples to “drink ye all of it,” He did not command all to drink from the same container. He did command all to drink of the same contents. See this illustrated further when Paul wrote, from Ephesus, to the church in Corinth, saying, “The cup of blessings which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). Paul, in Ephesus, blessed the same “cup” the disciples did in Corinth. They did not all drink from the same container, they all did drink of the same element. The “cup” of the Lord’s Supper is a reference to the fruit of the vine, not to whatever container that fruit of the vine might be in.
The supper is in the kingdom. We should partake of it in a worthy manner which means we examine ourselves (1 Cor. 11:28), remember the great sacrifice of our Lord (1 Cor. 11:29), and remember He is coming again (1 Cor. 11:26). Let all take care that we partake worthily, for if we partake in an unworthy way, we “eat and drink judgment to ourselves” (1 Cor. 11:29).