by William MacDonald
THE LORD’S SUPPER
This solemn act of remembrance was instituted by the Lord Jesus on the night of His betrayal. Immediately after He had celebrated the last Passover with His disciples, He introduced what we know as the Lord’s supper. “He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.’ Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.’ ” (Luke 22:19, 20).
1. Why Keep the Feast?
With regard to the significance of this ordinance, certain facts are presented. First, it is an occasion for remembrance. The Savior said, “This do in remembrance of Me.” It is a time to remember His sufferings and death, the giving of His body, the shedding of His blood. Here Calvary with all its sacred associations passes before the minds of the participants. It is quite impossible thus to remember the passion of the Lord Jesus without responding to God with worship and praise. Thus the Lord’s supper is a time of public worship, a time of adoring God for all He is and all He has done.
Then again, the Lord’s supper is a public witness to the unity of the body of Christ. The loaf of bread is a picture of the body of Christ, made up of all true believers. In partaking of the bread, the believer testifies that he is one with every true child of God. In drinking of the cup, he acknowledges that he is one with everyone who has been cleansed by the precious blood (1 Corinthians 10:16, 17).
Finally, the Lord’s supper is a constant reminder that the One who instituted this memorial of Himself is coming again. “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Thus, the worshipper not only looks back to Golgotha and remembers Him in His death, he not only looks upward to the Throne of God and praises Him for an accomplished redemption, but he also looks forward to that moment when the Lord will descend from heaven and take His waiting people home.
2. As Oft As Ye Do
With regard to the time and frequency of the Lord’s supper, the Scriptures do not command in the language of law, but entreat with the voice of grace. In Acts 20:7, it is stated that “upon the first day of the week, . . . the disciples came together to break bread.” The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day, or Sunday. It is the day of the Lord’s resurrection and a fitting day for His people to meet together for worship and remembrance. The instruction is, “As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The moment a person says it must be observed every week, or month, or quarter, he has gone beyond what the Bible says. At the same time, the probability is very strong that the early disciples met every week to remember the Lord.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon argued strongly for a weekly observance of the Lord’s supper. “My witness is, and I think I speak the mind of many of God’s people now present, that coming as some of us do, weekly, to the Lord’s Table, we do not find the breaking of bread to have lost its significance—it is always fresh to us. I have often remarked on the Lord’s day, whatever the subject may have been, whether Sinai has thundered over our heads, or the plaintive notes of Calvary have pierced our hearts, it always seems equally appropriate to come to the breaking of bread. Shame on the Christian church that she should put it off to once a month, and mar the first day of the week by depriving it of its glory in the meeting together for fellowship and breaking of bread, and showing forth the death of Christ till He come. They who once know the sweetness of each Lord’s day celebrating His supper will not be content, I am sure, to put it off to less frequent seasons.”
Jonathan Edwards also was an advocate of a weekly remembrance of the Lord. “It seems plain by the Scripture, that the primitive Christians were wont to celebrate this memorial of the sufferings of their dear Redeemer every Lord’s Day, and so I believe it will be again in the church of Christ in days that are approaching.”
It should scarcely need to be mentioned that the Lord’s supper is only for Christians. Only those who have been redeemed are eligible and capable of entering into its sacred meaning. Christians themselves should partake of the emblems in a judged condition (1 Corinthians 11:28). Sin must be confessed and forsaken, and the emblems must be taken in a worthy manner (1 Corinthians 11: 21, 22). All who partake without judging themselves are in danger of being chastened by the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:27, 29-32).
Here again it is good to remind ourselves that it is possible to eat the bread and drink the wine without really remembering the Lord. It is possible to reduce this ordinance to a mere ritual if our heart does not answer to what we are doing in symbol. Our lives must be in fellowship with God if we are truly to obey His words, “Remember me.”