Acts of Worship – Partaking of the Lord’s Supper (Part 1)

It is called: (1) the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:20).  (2) the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42; 20:7).  (3) the bread and cup of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:27).  (4) Communion of the body and blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16).  Note – some have referred to it as the eucharist.  The word means “to give thanks.”  It is based upon the fact that thanks was given before the partaking of the bread and fruit of the vine (Luke 22:19-ff; 1 Corinthians 11:23-ff).  This name is not used in the scriptures for the Lord’s supper.

Elements

The elements of the Lord’s supper are bread and the fruit of the vine.  (1) The bread is the bread that was used in the Passover (Matthew 26:17-ff; Mark 14:12-ff; Luke 22:7-ff).  Unleavened bread was used in the Passover (Exodus 13:6-7; Leviticus 23:5-ff; Deuteronomy 16:1-8).  Leaven was not to be found in their quarters during the Passover (Exodus 13:6-7).  (2) “The fruit of the vine” is unfermented grape juice.  It is never called “wine” (even by using the generic oinos).  It is called “the fruit of the vine.”  The article (“the”) is present (Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18).  This refers to a specific fruit that comes off a specific vine.  “The Jewish historian Josephus, who was a contemporary of the apostles, explicitly calls the three clusters of grapes freshly squeezed in a cup by Pharaoh’s cupbearer as ‘the fruit of the vine’” (Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, abridged edition, p. 49.  The Josephus reference is from Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 2, 5, 2.  Bible ref. Genesis 40:9-11).  William Patton said, “If fermented wine is ‘the fruit of the vine’ then wine vinegar is also.  But neither of them is properly the fruit of the vine, as both vinous and acetous fermentations are the result of chemical agencies outside and independent of the vine.  In each there is a decomposition of the original juice” (William Patton, Bible Wines, p. 22).  Moses Stuart on leaven and the Passover, “The Hebrew word Khahmatz means anything fermented… the great masses of the Jews have ever understood this prohibition as extending to fermented wine, or strong drink, as well as to bread” (ibid, p. 70).  Note: Some may wonder about 1 Corinthians 11:20-24.  This in no way necessitates it was fermented. The word “drunk” is contrasted with “hungry.”  The wording can mean to be filled, satiated, or satisfied.  In fact, the LXX renders the word satiate (Jeremiah 3:14) satisfy (Proverbs 5:19).

The bread represents the body of Christ, and the fruit of the vine represents the blood of Christ (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:24-26).  Jesus is using a figure of speech ( a metaphor).  This is seen in the following: (1) Jesus is before them when He tells them that “this is my body… this is my blood” (Matthew 26:26-28).  (2) Even after blessing is given unto God, He still calls it the fruit of the vine (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25).  (3) It is the bread and cup (metonymy, container for the contained) that is to be consumed (1 Corinthians 11:27).  (4) Jesus does not shed His blood over and over each communion as some claim (Hebrews 7:27; 9:6-12; 10:1-12).  (5) Plain language indicates that we’re not to consume blood (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25).  (6) “This” is the same gender as “body” and not “bread” as one would expect.  This is a clue that this is figurative language (see E.W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, p. 739-740).

Memorial

The disciples came together upon the first day of the week “to break bread”.  The stated reason for their assembling was to partake of the Lord’s supper.  The infinitive phrase “to break bread” denotes the purpose of the assembling of these disciples.  I believe this to be a figure of speech (a synecdoche) in which the part is put for the whole.  Clearly, they did other things in their assemblies (cf. Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7-ff; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2), and more than just bread was a part of the Lord’s supper (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17).   However, clearly, the Lord’s supper was a purpose, if not the chief purpose, of their assembling.  Remembering the death of Christ drew them together.

The Lord’s supper is a memorial.  Jesus said, “this do in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25; Luke 22:19).  What do we remember?  (1) Some say the life of Christ.  You mean that we’re to focus on Jesus at age twelve in the temple?  No, this is far to broad.  (2) Some say we’re to think upon the death, burial, and resurrection.  But, this is still too broad.  (3) The truth is our minds are to be specifically upon the death of Christ (1 Cor. 11:23-26, 29).  We’re to discern the Lord’s body (1 Corinthians 11:29).  He died for me and you.   This requires thought, focus, and meditation.  Here are some suggestions: (a) Read about the Lord’s death, prior to coming to the assembling.  This will help focus your mind.  (b) Song selection should emphasize the Lord’s death, prior to the observance of the Lord’s supper.  (c) If a public scripture reading is offered before the partaking, open your Bible and follow along.  Let the message touch your heart.  If a public scripture reading is not offered, let your mind go back to the cross.  (d) if no public scripture reading is offered (or even if it is), after the prayer and while waiting for the tray to be passed open your Bible and read of what He went through for you.  (e) Don’t daydream, remember you’re worshipping.  Note: The word “unworthily” is an adverb describing the manner of eating and drinking (1 Corinthians 11:27 cf. 29).  It is not an adjective describing our person.  However, it is true that we should strive to be holy when we worship before Him (Exodus 19:10-11; 1 Samuel 15:22; Proverbs 15:8; 21:27; 1 Samuel 1:14-ff; Matthew 5:23-24; 1 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Timothy 2:8).

Frequency

The Bible indicates that: (1) The church “continued stedfastly… in the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42 NKJV).  The phrase “the breaking of bread” refers to the Lord’s supper.  It is joined with other worship acts {the apostles’ doctrine = preaching; the breaking of bread = the Lord’s supper; the prayers = prayer; the fellowship = fellowship in general which is a part of the assembly, or possible reference to singing and giving.  [Fellowship is joined to communion (1 Corinthians 10:17-18); giving (Romans 15:26, rendered contribution; 2 Corinthians 9:13, rendered distribution.  Both are from Koinonia).  Though the specific term isn’t applied singing is also fellowship one with another (Ephesians 5:19 cf. Colossians 3:16)]}.  The definite article (the) is present as it is with each item in the list.  (2) Acts 2:46 does not contain the article.  It refers to a common meal.  Note: the word “and” beginning the second clause of the verse is adjunctive not conjunctive (Thayer).  The NIV uses a period here to show a break in thought.  The point of this verse seems to be that the church wasn’t just together in public activities (Acts 2:46a; worshipping in the Temple, Luke 24:53; Acts 3:1; evangelizing in the Temple, Acts 5:12, 25); They had social interaction.  They had each other over to eat.  They were close.  (3) Acts 20:7 indicates that they came together upon the first day of the week to break bread.  The day is specified.   The definite article appears in context (Acts 20:11).  There are a few of possibilities:(a) If computed by Jewish time, it was the first day of the week both before and after midnight.  (b) If computed by Roman time, they assembled upon Saturday night in anticipation of their partaking upon the first day.  Paul preached till midnight (making it the first day).  They partook of the Lord’s supper.  (c) Others believe that verse 7 refers to the Lord’s supper which they took at some unstated point in the evening, and that verse 11 refers to a common meal.  This is partially based upon difficulties reconciling verse 7 with verse 11.  It is partially based upon the plural of verse 7 and the singular of verse 11.  The reason I’m inclined to see verse 11 as a reference to the Lord’s supper is due to the presence of the definite article.  (4) 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NASB expresses the literal wording well saying, “Now concerning the collection… on the first day of every week…”  They were to lay by in store upon every first day.  [Charles Hodge remarked, “The only reason that can be assigned for requiring the thing br done on the first day of the week, is that on that day the Christians were accustomed to meet” ( First Epistle to the Corinthians, p.364). J. W. McGarvey has commented,  “If each had laid by in his own house, all these scattered collections would have had to be gathered after Paul`s arrival, which was the very thing that he forbade” ( Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, p. 161)] . Yet, the reason for their assembling on this day was “to break bread” (Acts 20:7).  It seems to follow that they were doing this each first day.

Let’s approach it a simpler way.  In Exodus 20:8 Israelites were instructed to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.  They weren’t told in so many words to keep every Sabbath.  However, they understood that they were to do such, because every week had a seventh day.  Even so, every week has a first day.  We should assemble and remember the death of Christ.  The Sabbath commemorated the children of Israel’s deliverance from bondage (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).  We, Christians, were delivered from the bondage of sin due to the events of the first day: (1) Jesus resurrection occurred upon the first day of the week (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1; John 20:1) (2) The church was established upon the first day of the week (Acts 2:1 cf. Leviticus 23:15-16).  (3) The church assembled upon the first day (Acts 20:7).

The song You Are my All in All reads in the chorus, “Jesus, Lamb of God, Worthy is Your Name!  Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is Your Name.  Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is Your name.  Worthy is Your name.  Worthy is Your name!”  Indeed He is!

Caution: This is not the only act of worship in which we’re to engage.  I’ve seen folks over the years who’ll show up and partake of the Lord’s supper and leave.  Don’t be like this!

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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