FAQ: The Lord’s Supper
What is the Lord’s Supper?
It is an ordinance the Lord Jesus Christ commanded for His church to practice by which He is remembered and celebrated with two symbolic elements: the bread and the cup. This ordinance is commonly identified as “Communion” or “the Eucharist”, but it is specifically called “The Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20) or “the breaking of bread” in the Scriptures (Acts 2:42; 20:7).
What is the meaning of the Lord’s Supper?
Jesus Christ took the annual Jewish celebration of Passover in Exodus 12 which celebrated God’s deliverance of Israel from 400 years of Egyptian slavery and applied it to Himself and His saving death on the cross. The unblemished Passover lamb now represents the sinless Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 5:12). The blood of the slain lamb is now His own blood shed on the cross (Romans 3:25; Ephesians 1:7). The roasted body of the lamb is His own crucified body on the cross (Matthew 27:26; Mark 16:6; Acts 2:36; Galatians 3:1). The blood of the lamb on the doorposts is now applied to our hearts as Christ’s blood covers all our sins (Hebrews 9:14, 26-28; 10:22-23). The deliverance of Israel from the death angel is now our deliverance from slavery to sin (John 8:34; Romans 6:17-18).
What do the elements of “the bread” and “the cup” symbolize?
These elements come from the Passover meal that Jesus commanded His church to use to proclaim His death until He comes again. The “bread” symbolizes His body which was given for us and the “cup” symbolizes His blood shed for the forgiveness of sins and our new covenant relationship with Him (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Do “the bread” and “the cup” impart some special grace from God?
No, this is known as sacramentalism and the Scripture does not teach that a physical act can impart a spiritual grace. The grace of salvation and Christian living only come from faith in Jesus Christ and the empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Supper cannot impart the gift of salvation nor any special grace in the believer’s life. It is a representative ordinance of remembrance (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
How often should the Lord’s Supper be celebrated?
There is no direct commandment regarding the frequency of celebration, but the early New Testament church modelled a frequent participation. Scripture indicates their participation was “day by day” (Acts 2:46) or weekly “on the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7) or “when you meet together” (1 Corinthians 10:20) or “as often as you eat…and drink…” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Who can participate in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper and are there any expectations?
The Lord’s Supper is available only for believers who have established a relationship with Jesus Christ by faith and followed Him in baptism (Acts 2:41-42). God does not want anyone to participate “in an unworthy matter” and potentially face His discipline which included weakness, sickness, and even physical death (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). Self-examination and a careful remembrance of His death for us are expected when participating in this ordinance (1 Corinthians 11:24-25, 28). A person can participate unworthily in the following ways:
- Not being a genuine believer in the Lord Jesus Christ
- Allowing their participation to be mindlessly ritualistic
- Treating the ordinance lightly just as a meal without its proper meaning
- Believing the ordinance can impart salvation or merit to one’s life
- Not addressing sins toward God or others (1 Corinthians 11:18-22)
The Lord’s Supper provides believers an opportunity to worship the Lord by commemorating the act of Christ’s sacrificial and substitutionary death which delivers all who believe in Him. This ceremonial meal (“the bread” and “the cup”) encourages us to do four things:
- To look back and remember Christ’s finished work on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
- Ro look around and rejoice in the truth that Jesus Christ made us “one” and “we all partake of the one bread” together (I Corinthians 10:16-17).
- To look within and examine how we are addressing our sins in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
- To look forward as we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26) when the Lord will eat and drink it new with us in the Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25).