SHOULD CHRISTIANS EAT THE
LORD'S SUPPER TODAY?
By John Aldworth
This is an important issue that poses questions going to the very heart of what many Christians believe.
Almost every form of organised Christianity has a communion service of some sort, be it partaking of wine soaked wafers or merely eating bread and sipping grape juice as emblems of Christ’s death.
Some call this ritual the “breaking of bread” and for others it is “the Lord’s table” or “the Lord’s Supper”. For Catholics it is the “Mass”; for Anglicans the “Eucharist”. For plainer folk it is simply “Communion”.
However, the real question is not what we call it, nor how we do it, but rather whether we should do it all. If the answer is “yes”, then we must also ask if the price we pay for doing so is not exclusion from the far higher spiritual “communion” God has ordained for believers in the current “dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:2 and 3:12).).
As always the Bible has the answer. So it is to the Word of God that those willing to be taught by the Lord will go. Here then are several little known scriptural facts that throw light on the matter:
- In the Bible there is no such thing as “Holy Communion” as distinct from the Jewish feast of Passover. In 1 Cor. 11:23-26 Paul and the Corinthian Jews were keeping Passover in the Jewish tradition (see 1 Cor. 5:7-8). Here it is clear that Jews and Jews only are addressed. Proof of this is in verse one where Paul chides the Corinthian Jews for allowing fornication among them “…as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife”. He could not have addressed Gentiles in this way.
- It should be understood that saved Gentiles in the Acts period were graffed” (Rom. 11:17 and 11) into Israel’s olive tree, to provoke the Israelites “to jealousy”. They received forgiveness of sins and imputed righteousness through faith apart from the law. However, they had to be “baptised for the dead” (1 Cor. 15:29) to be made part of Israel’s hope of national resurrection and there is no proof they were ever admitted to the Passover which commemorates God’s deliverance of the Jews from Egypt. What’s more there was no separate “communion service” for them in the “church of God” of the Acts period.
- Importantly, Gentile standing before God changes hugely under the mystery programme revealed by the Lord through Paul’s prison epistles. Hitherto a secret “hid in God”, the mystery teaches that Gentiles are now “made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13) in their own right without having to join Israel. Like Jews saved under this new gospel Gentiles now have “access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. 2:18) without water baptism, circumcision, the law or keeping any ordinances. In fact ordinances are abolished (Eph. 2:15 and Col. 2:14). Consequently since it is an “ordinance” (Num. 9:14), Passover (and any form of communion supposedly derived from it) has been “abolished”. We are told the Father “took it out of the way, nailing it to his (the Lord’s) cross.
- Accordingly there is no reason today to seek God’s blessing through the Passover feast. Today we are “saved by grace through faith, not of works lest any man should boast” not by the leftovers of an ordinance that has been abolished by God.
- As stated, there is no biblical evidence that Gentiles ever took part of the Passover feast. Peter and Barnabas withdrew from even eating ordinary meals with Gentile believers (Gal. 2:12-13). Would they then have sat down at the Passover meal with saved Gentiles? Especially when Exodus 12:48 commands that “no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof”? I don’t think so.
- The “breaking of bread” in Bible times was, and today still should be, a simple meal without sacramental or emblematic significance that is shared by believers. It is not “the Lord’s table” and should not involve any ritual. (1 Cor. 11:20).
- The purpose of the Passover feast the Messiah ate with his disciples shortly before his death was to inaugurate the New Covenant between the Lord as God Himself and his people Israel (Matt. 26:28, Lk. 22:20, Mk. 14:24, Jer. 31:31) The blessings of forgiveness in this New Covenant were extended to saved Gentiles having the “faith of Abraham” in the Acts period (Rom. 4:16) but the Passover, inaugurated by Moses, was not (Ex.12:43-48). Yet despite this clear exclusion 99 per cent of the professing Christian church believes a truncated form of the Passover ordinance is a valid ritual for them.
The first and last supper
It was the first supper because it was the only Passover which Jesus ate with his disciples and it was the last supper because Jesus said He would know more drink “of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom”. So anyone who takes “the cup and the bread” today believing it brings them closer to Jesus should understand that He has said that for the present He will have no part in it.
At the “Last Supper” Jesus and the disciples shared a meal of roast lamb with horseradish, bitter herbs and unleavened bread, punctuated by four cups of wine, one of which was the “cup of blessing” (1 Cor. 10: 16). The bread was a hard biscuit that had to be “broken”. It depicted both his death and his words which He said were “spirit and life” (Jn. 35:63).
In Luke 22:20 Jesus plainly says, “This cup is the new testament in my blood which is shed for you”. In Mt. 26:28 the Lord says: “This is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins”. The Messiah’s whole ministry on earth, as summed up by Paul, was to “confirm the promises made unto the (Jewish) fathers” (Rom. 15:8).
Eph. 2:12 teaches that “in time past Gentiles in the flesh were without Christ and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world”. Time past runs from Abraham through to the Apostle Paul’s proclamation of the grace and mystery dispensation in Eph. 3:1-5.
This 1500-year exclusion by God of Gentiles is broken in Eph. 2:12 where the apostle pronounces: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ”. Importantly, the blood of Christ is made freely available by grace, not through the Passover nor through any covenant God made with Israel (see Eph. 2:5 and 8).
Saved Gentiles therefore are now “made nigh” solely by Christ’s blood entirely apart from “laws and commandments contained in ordinances” since it is now revealed (for the first time) that these have been “abolished in his flesh” And this the Lord has done so that He might “reconcile both” (Jew and Gentile, that is) “unto God in one new body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:16-18).
Importantly, believers saved today (whether Gentile or Jew) already have “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins according to his grace” (Eph. 1:7) and reconciliation "in the body of his flesh” Col. 1:22). And nowhere in Paul’s later, prison epistles are they told to celebrate the Passover meal in order to receive “the cup of blessing” which the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 10:16 describes as “the communion of the blood of Christ.”
It is important to understand that salvation today is for all men and is by grace (not by works, not by covenant, not by ritual, not by baptism, not by repentance). It is through Christ “by grace through faith and that not of yourselves". It is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8-8). Today we are “justified by grace” (Titus 3:7) not “by faith”, that is human faith, the “faith of Abraham” (Rom. 5:1, 4:16). Far from today’s “saving faith” being our faith we are told repeatedly in scripture it is “by the faith of Him” (Eph. 3:12) that we have “boldness and access (to God that is) with confidence (that is, assurance). As in Eph. 2:8-9 this boldness and confidence is by “the faith of Him”; it is faith which “is the gift of God”. We Gentiles are not of “Abraham’s faith”. Furthermore the body into which we are saved are now is not Israel but “the one new man” (Eph. 2:15).
Since “ordinances” and commandments have been abolished (Eph. 2:15 and Col. 2:14) and Israel and its covenants set aside (Acts 28:28, Rom. 11:15) the redeeming blood of Christ is now ministered to us Gentiles directly through Christ, not through the Passover feast nor through the New Covenant. As Gentile believers we must stand in what God says He is doing now, not what He did in “time past”.
So what is our “communion” today? It includes:
- Unity of the faith and in doctrine (Eph. 4:1-4, 13).
- Giving thanks unto God in all things) (Eph. 5:20, Phil. 4:6).
- Glorying in his grace, realising that we are “his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them”. (Eph. 2:10).