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The Lord's Supper

VIEWPOINT



We should show our acceptance of the sacrifice that Jesus made to make our salvation possible. However, based on the origins of the celebration, there is only one time of year that this celebration is observed by Messianic Jews - the ones who started it - and that is at Passover. Recently we even discovered a congregation of Messianic Jews that celebrate the Lord's Supper several times a year. That made me curious.

FACT



Christians celebrate The Lord's Supper various times throughout the year to symbolize their acceptance of His sacrifice for them.


BLUE VIEWPOINT



For ages, Christian churches have what they call "communion" or the "Lord's Supper" several times a year. Most of them say that the Bible does not tell us how often to celebrate, so "it only makes sense" that we should do it often.

Got Questions?
It would seem that, since we take the Lord's Supper to remember Christ's death, we should take it fairly often. Some churches have a monthly Lord's Supper service; others do it bi-monthly; others weekly. Since the Bible does not give us specific instruction as to frequency, there is some latitude in how often a church should observe the Lord's Supper. It should be often enough to renew focus on Christ, without being so often that it become routine. In any case, it's not the frequency that matters but the heart attitude of those who participate. We should partake with reverence, love, and a deep sense of gratitude for the Lord Jesus, who was willing to die on the cross to take upon Himself our sins.

at their site is pretty typical of the "worship God however you want" philosophy, regardless of what He tells us to do. It's pretty common knowledge that the Catholics do it as often as every day. Some do it weekly, some monthly, some every few months (quarterly). You hardly ever hear that we should take it once a year. In fact, people get offended if you say that even when Jesus performed the act, it was on a once-a-year holiday designed to anticipate His coming in the flesh.

That coming anticipated His one time death for us, not something you just do whenever you want. To look at it another way, why do we celebrate Christmas, a pagan holiday, only once a year? Maybe it is because He was born only once, so we can't really celebrate a yearly event several times a year. Or, maybe the pagan holiday that we use for Christmas is only celebrated once a year because the god they worship had only one birthday a year. Either way, annual means annual.

"Christians don't do Jewish..."

And, since we are here together, we need to mention that this Passover (and the included "Communion") is a Jewish practice. Why do we Christians who think that every feast involving the Jews is to be avoided - the Sabbath, Pentecost, Tabernacles - except the one we want to take apart and keep the little piece we want, then do it anytime we want? There is not a single reason for this in the Bible, but it has become common practice for no good reason.

There is a site that actually echos these thoughts the Jews have been trying to tell people for years. Go to Messianic Jewish Musings to get the idea. Don't be put off by the title, just listen to the thought
Here is my big question: where does Yeshua ever say we are to drink a little juice and eat a tiny piece of bread in remembrance of him?

he puts out. It's not just what he says here, it's the reasoning he uses to demonstrate his point. It's not the wafer and the thimble of juice that He spoke of. It's the Passover act itself, the meal with the third of the four cups, and the celebration that is to trigger our memory of His sacrifice.

Doing it too much

Looking deeper into this issue, it is apparent that most sites and churches use reasoning that mixes their arbitrary "regular practice" of Sunday worship with the over-use of the Lord's Supper. This is done, not only on the wrong day, but every week or even every day on the wrong day - Sunday instead of the original day of Passover.

Now, how can we make such a dastardly statement? Well, what happens when you take a solemn ceremony and celebrate it all the time? You lose respect for it. You can find out more about why we say this on the Sabbath/Sunday page (see menu) elsewhere on this site. However, rather than assume we already know, let's see where the whole idea came from.

Let's start at the beginning of this discussion. When did "communion", or what we also know as the Lord's Supper in Christian churches, begin to show up? Whew! What a question. Depending on who you read or what site you go to, you hear dates from 35 A.D. (or very shortly before the death of Christ) to the fourth century (300 - 399 A.D.) and all places in between. That's very confusing and not very helpful, so, let's look at it a different way.

When did it start?

Do you remember what Jesus and the Apostles were doing when they performed this ceremony in the New testament (Matt 26:17
17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"

)? Eating the Passover meal during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. How often did they do this? Every year - once a year. Without getting all upset about the suggestion, remember that they did this every year.

Now we can ask the original question in a different way. When did the Passover Feast originate? Ahh. Now we see things differently, even if not yet more clearly. The answer to this question is also shrouded in mystery. Some say the first mention of a wine and bread blessing session was in Genesis 14:18-20 involving Melchizedek and Abraham (still called Abram at the time):

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand."

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

"C'mon, that's not communion."

Others say this is too cryptic to mean the first Passover service specifically, holding that this was just an ordinary meal provided by a king that respected Abram and wanted to refresh his men. It seems a funny place to put a reference to a priest of God Most High, mentioning a blessing with wine and bread, and then seeing the passing of a tithe to the priest - all if we are only talking about a meal. But, O.K., are there any others?

"O.K., at least that is Passover."

The next reference to Passover, which most people accept without question, is when the Israelites were getting ready to leave Egypt after 400 years of slavery. They were told by God through Moses to prepare a meal, including an acceptable lamb and using unleavened bread, and to eat the whole meal in a special way that is acceptable to Him. This Jewish celebration is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread in Exodus 12:17-21
17 So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.
21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb.

, the first day of which is called Passover, and the lamb is called the Passover lamb in verse 21. After this, this Passover meal was (is) one of the annual Feasts of the Jews (Israelites).

"What is the Passover, anyway?"

A friend of mine read this page and was confused by my reference to the third cup in a paragraph below. It was then that I realized that I have not described the original "Lord's Supper" so that we can have a point of reference. Let's remedy that now.

Once a year, the Jews have a meal on the Passover, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Without getting into the details of why, it is a memorial of the meal described above just before the Israelites left Egypt. This meal consists of normal proper food, but also has four cups that are taken in order to symbolize the events of the original meal and events following in Egypt. There may only be one actual cup, but it is passed four times, each time with a different reference. Each cup has a meaning. It was established by Jewish tradition long before Jesus. However, verse 19 in Exodus 12
whether he is a stranger or a native of the land.

mentions that even strangers or foreigners follow the same instructions. You can find the following at Jews for Jesus (it is reformatted here to show the separate cups, but the words are the same):

Each time the cup is filled, it has a different name. Opinions vary as to what certain cups actually symbolize.

Most agree that the first cup is the Kiddush, which means sanctification. With this cup, we begin the Passover seder.

The second cup is called the cup of plagues.

The third cup is referred to as either the cup of redemption or the cup of blessing.

The fourth cup is often called hallel which means praise, though some traditions call it the cup of acceptance while still others use it as the cup of Elijah. The latter combine the second cup (plagues) with hallel - because we praise God for the plagues He used to bring us out of Egypt.

So, you see that this is an annual Jewish ceremony, for Jews, by Jews, with Jewish symbols, and Jesus was talking to His Jewish Apostles when He gave the instructions of doing it in remembrance of Him. Now, we Gentiles, who would never be caught dead doing anything Jewish, read Matt 26:26-28
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

without even knowing what is happening and decide to take a portion of the Jewish ceremony and do it whenever we want without even knowing what it means or how to do it properly.

"So, once a year, but no one says you can't do it more!"

Maybe that was a little too fast for you there, so let's slow down and say it again. The Passover meal was (is) one day of the annual Feasts of the Jews. They did it every year (still do), and this time with Jesus it was to mean something special because He was to become the substitute for the sacrificial lamb. Also, notice the mention in verse 19 of Exodus 12 as to who is to participate.
whether he is a stranger or a native of the land.

If you think this is for the Jews only, don't forget that our salvation is from the Jews, and that when we accept Christ, we become spiritual Israel (Galatians 3:7
Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.

). Spiritual Israel is a congregation of Jews and Gentiles that are now the "people of God" because of their faith.

O.K. so far? Now, in the Passover meal in Matthew 26 (this time eaten the evening before, after sundown, but before Passover daylight hours so that it would still be on the right day), Jesus indicated that He would be the lamb for this Passover and His body broken and blood shed for "you". From this, we see that Jesus was practicing something that the Jewish people had been doing for centuries, not starting a new practice. He just added a new meaning to the same practice. That is what He meant by a New Covenant in His blood. The reason for the Feast did not change, but He became the sacrifice for that same Feast, and in that way making it New and meaning even more than before.

Doing it right

In the gospels, Jesus said to drink the cup and eat the bread in remembrance of Him. From then on, the third cup of the Feast (not the first thimble), called the cup of "redemption" or "blessing", is supposed to remind us of His sacrifice for us whenever we celebrate the Feast, not whenever we feel like it. Look at the difference between Paul's statement in 1 Cor 11:26
New International Version
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

New American Standard Bible
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.

, where the phrase "as often as you do this" is added by Paul, and the statements in the gospels
Matthew Chapter 26: The phrase to remember is not used by Jesus.

Mark Chapter 14: The phrase to remember is not used by Jesus.

Luke Chapter 22:19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

John Chapter 13: The phrase to remember is not used by Jesus.

and you will see that Paul is referring to the Feast. Here is where some take liberties with the original words and add unspoken meaning to them to make it look like we can just do this any old time we want. Also, not being alone in this thought, a site at Bible Hub, in the list of commentaries by many different prominent sources, we get several different viewpoints, some with foundation, many with no foundation at all.

Examples are Barnes' Notes at Bible Hub Commentaries, with no frequency specified:

That it was designed that this ordinance should be perpetuated, and observed to the end of time. In every generation, therefore, and in every place where there are Christians, it is to be observed, until the Son of God shall return; and the necessity of its observance shall cease only when the whole body of the redeemed shall be permitted to see their Lord, and there shall be no need of those emblems to remind them of him, for all shall see him as he is.

"Let's just change this little bit..."

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary (go to Christian Classics Ethereal Library and, using your browser search tool, search that page for "Le 24:5-8". Don't use the search tool on the page or it will search every document on the site for the phrase) actually ties the frequency to the "bread of the presence" which is put out every Sabbath in Leviticus, but somehow they magically change the day of the ceremony for that "showbread" event to every Sunday (their "sabbath") because we are called "priests unto God":

Meantime, as the showbread was placed anew, every sabbath, on the table before the Lord (Le 24:5-8); so the Lord's death was shown, or announced afresh at the Lord's table the first day of every week in the primitive Church.

Note how the passage assumes that the ancient command from Leviticus 24:5-8
5 "Take the finest flour and bake twelve loaves of bread, using two-tenths of an ephah for each loaf. 6 Arrange them in two stacks, six in each stack, on the table of pure gold before the Lord. 7 By each stack put some pure incense as a memorial portion to represent the bread and to be a food offering presented to the Lord. 8 This bread is to be set out before the Lord regularly, Sabbath after Sabbath, on behalf of the Israelites, as a lasting covenant.

for "every Sabbath" as a lasting covenant has been changed to "the first day of every week" with no Biblical reference or explanation. The term "in the primitive Church" is included to "convince" us that the church in Jesus' day had already changed to Sunday from Sabbath. This is the danger of "additive interpretation" where modern tradition is accepted over Biblical command.

And, here is another example of how some select thing that was "designated only for the Israelites" (think about Sabbath, Ten Commandments, "clean" meat, incest laws) has become a regular ritual for Gentiles, while other rituals and direct commands have not. The difference? Whatever we Gentiles decide we want to keep, regardless of what the Lord says.

Now, Meyer's NT Commentary Communion


gets more to the point from a factual and practical view based on what the text actually says rather than some interpretation based on common feelings (I have provided the English in bold below because the Greek phrases did not transfer well to this page. You can find the original on the site at Bible Hub):

1 Corinthians 11:26. Not still words of Christ (Ewald),[1865] in citing which Paul glides involuntarily into the form into which they had by this time become moulded in the church; for against this view there is (1) the unsuitableness in itself of such a "latter event first" in the expression (especially after 1 Corinthians 11:23); (2) the fact of the words being linked to the preceding by "assigning an unstated reason", which is less in keeping with the tone and direct form of the words of institution, but, on the other hand, naturally marks the apostle himself again beginning to speak; and (3) the fact that Luke has nothing of a similar kind in his account of the Supper. The common view is the right one, that Paul proceeds here in his own person. But what he gives is neither a further reason assigned for "praising those who show lack of respect" in 1 Corinthians 11:22 (so Hofmann, in connection with his incorrect interpretation of "for, because" in 1 Corinthians 11:23), nor is it an experimental elucidation of the last words of 1 Corinthians 11:25 (the ordinary view), for the contents of 1 Corinthians 11:26 stand rather in the logical relation of consequence to the foregoing narrative of institution. No; "actually, after all, although" is to be taken here (comp on 1 Corinthians 11:22) in its inferential sense, and made to refer to the whole preceding account of the origin of the Supper. We may paraphrase thus: Such, then, being the facts of the original institution, it comes to pass that as often as ye, etc.

The meaning of a phrase

To me this phrase "as often as you do this" from Paul means, "From now on, when you celebrate the Passover meal and come to this point, remember what I do for you."

The view that we can use a tiny piece of this "Jewish" Feast outline as a Christian way to commune with Jesus without recognizing the original meaning of the Feast is one of those "disputable matters" because we have no word from God stating that we can't. However, the point is that the whole meaning of the Passover Feast is that through certain actions, we can make sure that the final judgment that was announced for the future will pass over us if we follow the instructions from God exactly, not pick the piece we like and leave the rest undone. Those instructions were made clear in Exodus Chapter 12
1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 "This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire - with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord's Passover.

12 "On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

14 "This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord-a lasting ordinance. 15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.

17 "Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 18 In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. 19 For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. 20 Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread."

, specifically through verse 20.

One of those instructions was to use a lamb the the people had lived with and taken care of (pardon my grammar here) for four days (Exodus 12: verses 3 and 6 in the link above) - so this was not just any old animal; they knew it, much as we know a pet. Jesus and His apostles performed all the preparation steps before they sat down to eat the meal, including living with Jesus and getting to know Him before He was sacrificed. They did not just sit down with a thimble of juice and a microscopic wafer and "symbolize" oneness and peace with the Lord, even if they were not fully aware that they were preparing for His death.

Making more changes, so we can be less Jewish...

Some say that this is not supposed to be a full meal, but only the taking of a small amount of juice and an unleavened wafer to commemorate the occasion. It is amazing to me that so few people even stop to think about what is happening and why before they just accept a practice. I suppose 1 Cor 11:17-34 is a large reason for this interpretation, but is that the only, or even the best, way to interpret the words of Paul?

17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter! 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. 33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.

Here Paul seems to be chastising the Corinthians, but does so about the manner in which they observe the Feast. He is suggesting that they are treating it like a party instead of reverently recognizing the purpose of the meal. Also, he doesn't say juice and cracker, but bread and wine. And what does he say in verse 33 and 34?

33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions. (emphasis mine)

More than just a meal

Each part of Passover service has a meaning that is lost when you just concentrate on the "warm fuzzy" meditative part. All of us realize that remembering the sacrifice of Jesus during "communion" is not something you do casually. However, it is called Passover even by the Lord Himself, not "communion", and we do not have this feast as part of a short meditation practice. It is a feast to the Lord where we remember the original events while also remembering His sacrifice. Some think that maybe we should just separate the two practices so that there is no conflict, and many have done that very thing, but then "communion" is not tied to the reason for the Passover, which is what we are really looking forward to with "communion". Aren't we looking forward to the judgment when we anticipate being "passed over" from that judgment because of our faith in Him?

Now, a final thought. If we can perform the Lord's supper at any time, is that O.K. with Jesus? Today's philosophy is that decision is up to the individual. No. I cannot accept that we have the freedom to decide what Jesus will accept. If we are continuing a ceremony of the people of God from centuries before Christ came the first time, we should take care, lest we make it less important with our indifference or unlimited repetition. God's word is clear on what the practice is to include and when (Exodus 12:17-21
17 So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.
21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb."

). However, it appears that the word of God is not good enough for most Christians. Of course, if you change the Sabbath to Sunday without reason or cause, then it must be that you can change the words of the Lord to mean whatever you want. Certainly, He won't mind, will He?


Disagree? Find an error? Contact us at glenjjr@gmail.com and give us your view.

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