When we partake there should be a looking back to the cross (1 Corinthians 11:24-29), and a looking inward to make sure that we are looking backward (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). Our partaking proclaims the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). Our partaking should bring us together (Acts 20:7).
There are a few specific details that some have wondered about, these are the issues we’ll deal with at this time.
Some have thought that 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 teaches that only one loaf can be used in communion. Are they correct?
1. There is nothing in the singular number ‘bread’ which necessitates one loaf. Jesus used the singular number on Matthew 4:4 and 6:11. Did He mean one loaf? The manna which fell from heaven is called ‘bread’ (John 6:31). Was it one giant loaf? The singular is often used for the plural (e.g. John 6:23 cf. 6:9-11).
2. But it says one! Gary Workman remarked, “Paul is not speaking of the one congregation at Corinth (to whom he writes from Ephesus) or he would have said ‘you’. Instead it is ‘we’ – Christians in every locality – who together make up the one body and who partake of the one bread… He is not speaking of bread that is physically and literally one any more than the members of the Lord’s body (the church) are one physically. The body of Christ is ‘many’ literally and ‘one’ figuratively (1 Corinthians 10:17). And since the bread is compared to the body (the church) the same is true of it. There is ‘one bread’ only in the sense that there is ‘one baptism’ (Ephesians 4:5)” [The First Annual Denton Lectures, p. 148-149].
3. Consider the context: (a) Many of the children of Israel fell in times of old (1 Corinthians 10:1-5). They didn’t all make it to the promised land. Yet, they were all baptized in the cloud and in the sea (1 Corinthians 10:2); They all did eat and drink from the same source (1 Corinthians 10:3-4). There is a warning here for us to take heed unto ourselves (1 Corinthians 10:12-13). Just because we all eat the same bread doesn’t mean that we’ll all make it. (b) We’re Suppose to be in fellowship, and communion with Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). How does it look if we partake of another table and cup dedicated to an idol (1 Corinthians 10:20-21)?
Some have thought that only one cup should be used in the communion services. Are they correct?
1. It is said that Jesus and His disciples only had one cup. This cannot be proved. There seems to have been multiple containers present. Read Luke 22:17. Gary Workman, “The most natural meaning of the words is that each poured some into his own vessel. The same seems to be indicated also in the cup of the Lord’s supper itself. For grammatically it is clear the cup, rather than the blood, which Jesus said ‘it is poured out for you’ (v. 20)”… [note: “’This cup’ and ‘poured out’ are both in the nomitive case and thus go together, whereas ‘blood’ is dative”] (ibid, p. 150, 162). H. Leo Boles wrote of the Passover, “A cup was passed at different intervals; they would eat for a while, then pass the large cup or vessel… and each one would fill his own cup, as they drank, different scriptures would be recited” (Gospel Advocate Commentary on Luke, p. 414). We acknowledge that Luke 22:17 isn’t speaking of the Lord’s Supper, Luke 22:20; However, the point is that they seem to have had access to multiple containers.
2. It is said that they drank “of it” (Mark 14:23). Does this suggest that they all put their lips to the same vessel? The same wording is found in John 4:12. Did they all actually put their heads into the same well and lap the water? Does the language demand such? J.D. Tant provided a couple of useful illustrations: (a) “In my last meeting at Hope, New Mexico, the country was so dry that a thousand people were hauling water from the same well, thus one thousand were drinking of one well” (J.D. Tant – Texas Preacher by Fanning Yater Tant, p. 444). (b) Again he said, “the ‘one baptism’ could be obeyed in a thousand different holes of water at the same time and still be the ‘one baptism’. Likewise, the ‘one cup’ could be partaken of by a thousand members at once and still be the same cup” (ibid, p. 445).
3. Some things to notice from the record of Jesus and the Lord’s Supper: (a) Cups can be divided (Luke 22:17). It is obvious that the content is being spoken of here and this is a figure of speech (metonymy) where by the container is put for the contents. (b) cups can be poured (Luke 22:20) NASB). Again, this is the same figure of speech (metonymy). We conclude it is the contents not the container that is being emphasized.
4. Some have argued that the one container symbolizes the one covenant which we’re all under today (Luke 22:20). But, let’s ask was Jesus referring to the container or the contents of the containers? Both Matthew and Mark read, ‘This is my blood of the New Testament…” (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24). Luke reads, “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20 NASB). These verses may well be saying the same thing. David Smith commented, “The fruit of the vine represents the Lord’s blood which makes possible the New Testament (Hebrews 9:15-17) and the remission of sins” (2006 Spring church of Christ Lectureship, p. 354). The cup in Luke 22:20 most likely refers to the blood of Matthew 26:28 and Mark 14:24. The cup is a reference to the contents (metonymy) which represents the blood (metaphor).
Another thought – even if Jesus and His disciples used just one cup (and this is far from established) one would still need to show that this is obligatory and not optional. An upper room would be an example of an option which flows from the obligation to assemble and partake.
6. Some things to ponder: (a) If one is going to bind the container, why not bind the original container? It says, “the cup” not “a cup” and “Drink ye… of it” (Matthew 26:27). (b) Consider the practical problems of a large congregation having one loaf and one cup. A congregation of 2000 would need: a 2000 square inch loaf, allowing one square inch per person. A cup of 2000 ounces in volume, allowing one fluid ounce per person. Allowing 10 seconds per person to take each element it would take more than eleven hours for all to be served!
It should be evident that if a cup can be divided (Luke 22:17), and poured (Luke 22:20 NASB) that it is the contents not the container that is being spoken of and emphasized in these passages.
Carrying the Lord’s Supper to ‘shut-ins’
It is common for well-meaning people to want to carry the Lord’s Supper to those shut-in (at home, in nursing homes, hospitals, etc.).
Should we be doing this? (1) There is no command, or implication that this is to be done. (2) There is no example of this being done in the New Testament record. (3) The Lord’s Supper is to be observed by the disciples in an assembly together (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). It is my belief that taking the Lord’s Supper to others outside the assembly diminishes the importance of the assembly. (4) God has never demanded that a person do what he can’t do (example: Leviticus 12:8; 14:1-ff; Numbers 5:1-ff; 2 Corinthians 8:12). If one due to genuine health, or other legitimate issues can’t assemble, God understands this. (5) It is strange to me that many single out the Lord’s Supper. Do they engage in the other acts of worship with the person? Do they take the collection plate with them?
Some have taught that it is wrong to observe the Lord’s Supper after dark upon Sunday night. It is claimed that God reckons time, as do the Jews, beginning a new day with each evening. It is true that this is how God strictly counts time (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31; Mark 5:5, etc.).
However there is indication in the scriptures themselves that binding this is being too picky. Jesus arose upon the first day of the week (John 20:1-2; Matthew 28:1-f; Mark 16:1-f; Luke 24:1-f). Yet, even that evening the day is still referred to as the first day (John 20:19). John uses Roman time. If inspiration can refer to it still as the first day, it seems too picky to say that we cannot.