The Lord’s Supper — A Holy Meal

The Lord’s Supper — A Holy Meal

[Note:  The following article is a valuable tool for gaining additional understanding about the Lord’s Supper. We have slightly modified it with the author’s permission. Please read it carefully. We are sympathetic with the instructions in this article, though on some fine points we cannot say we have a definitive position. We hope you are instructed and encouraged by it. (CFKC Elders)]

The Lord’s Supper — A Holy Meal

by Steve Atkerson

The Pattern

The first century church celebrated the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s Day as a sacred, covenant feast (the Agapé). It was an actual meal centered around one cup and one loaf. This holy meal was the main reason for the weekly gathering of the church and was a wonderful time of fellowship and edification.

The Purpose

Partaken of as a feast in a joyful, wedding atmosphere, the Lord’s Supper typifies the wedding supper of the Lamb and thus has a forward looking aspect to it. The bread and wine are not only symbolic of Jesus’ body and blood but also serve to remind Jesus of His promise to return and eat of the meal again with His church (Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!). In addition, using a single cup and loaf not only symbolize the oneness of the church, but God also uses it to create unity within a body of believers. Another major benefit of celebrating the Supper as a holy banquet is the fellowship and encouragement that each member experiences. The church is to be like a family and one of the things families do is eat together. It is a primary means of edifying the church during the Lord’s Day gathering.

The Professors

The opinion of scholars is clearly weighted toward the conclusion that the Lord’s Supper was originally eaten as a full meal.  For example, British New Testament scholar Donald Guthrie stated that the apostle Paul “sets the Lord’s supper in the context of the fellowship meal.”[1]

Gordon Fee, Professor Emeritus of Regent College, pointed out “the nearly universal phenomenon of cultic meals as a part of worship in antiquity” and “the fact that in the early church the Lord’s Supper was most likely eaten as, or in conjunction with, such a meal.”  Fee further noted that, “from the beginning the Last Supper was for Christians not an annual Christian Passover, but a regularly repeated meal in ‘honor of the Lord,’ hence the Lord’s Supper.”[2]

G. W. Grogan, principle of the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow, writing for the New Bible Dictionary, observed that “St. Paul’s account (in 1 Cor. 11:17-37) of the administration of the Eucharist shows it set in the context of a fellowship supper . . . The separation of the meal or Agape from the Eucharist lies outside the times of the NT.”[3]

In his commentary on 1 Corinthians, Methodist scholar C. K. Barrett made the observation that “the Lord’s Supper was still at Corinth an ordinary meal to which acts of symbolical significance were attached, rather than a purely symbolical meal.”[4]

Williston Walker, professor of ecclesiastical history at Yale, noted that “Services were held on Sunday, and probably on other days. These had consisted from the Apostles’ time of two kinds:  meetings for reading the Scriptures, preaching, song and prayer; and a common evening meal with which the Lord’s Supper was conjoined.”[5]

        Dr. John Gooch, editor at the United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, Tennessee, wrote, “In the first century, the Lord’s Supper included not only the bread and the cup but an entire meal.”[6] J.J. Pelikan, Sterling Professor of Religious Studies at Yale, concluded, “often, if not always, it was celebrated in the setting of a common meal.”[7]

The Proof: Its Form (A Feast) And Focus (The Future)

The occasion of the first Lord’s Supper was the Passover Feast.  Jesus and His disciples reclined at a table heaped with food (Ex 12, De 16). Jewish tradition tells us that this meal typically lasted hours.  During the course of the meal (“while they were eating,” Mt 26:26), Jesus took bread and compared it to his body. He had already taken up a cup and had them drink from it.  Later, “after the supper” (Lk 22:20), Jesus took the cup again and compared it to his blood, which was soon to be poured out for our sins.  Thus, the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper were introduced in the context of a full meal. Would the Twelve have somehow concluded that the newly instituted Lord’s Supper was not to be a true meal?  Or would they naturally have assumed it to be a feast as was Passover?  It is clear from the New Testament writings that the apostles taught the churches to celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a sacred, covenant feast.

According to Greek scholar Fritz Reinecker, “The Passover celebrated two events, the deliverance from Egypt and the anticipated coming Messianic deliverance.”[8] It had both a backward and a forward looking aspect to it. Jesus turned the Passover Feast into the Lord’s Supper, which also has both a backward and a forward looking aspect to it. The church looks back to Jesus’ sacrifice as the ultimate Passover Lamb, delivering His people from their sins. And as with the Passover, Jesus also gave the Lord’s Supper a forward looking aspect. The reason Jesus gave his disciples for partaking of the cup is because He would “not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk 22:18).  Every time we partake of the cup, Jesus’ promise to return and drink it again with us should be brought to mind. Many believe that the “fulfillment” (Lk 22:16) of this was later written about by John in Revelation 19:7-9 (“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”).  Thus, the Lord’s Supper also looks forward to its fulfillment in the wedding supper of the Lamb.  What better way to typify a banquet than with a banquet? Celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly as a full fellowship meal is like rehearsal dinner before a wedding. No less an authority than the Encyclopaedia Britannica declared that “early Christianity regarded this institution as a mandate . . . learning to know, even in this present life, the joys of the heavenly banquet that was to come in the kingdom of God . . . the past, the present, and the future came together in the Eucharist.”[9]

His future wedding banquet was much on our Lord’s mind during the Last Supper. Jesus first mentioned it at the beginning of the Passover feast when He said, “I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God” (Lk 22:16).  He mentioned it a second time when passing the cup, saying, “I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk 22:18).  Then, after the supper, He referred to the banquet yet again, saying, “I confer on you a kingdom . . . so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom” (Lk 22:29-30).  R.P. Martin, Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, wrote that there are “eschatological overtones” to the Lord’s Supper “with a forward look to the advent in glory.”[10]

Whereas Western Christian art has traditionally associated heaven with clouds and harps, first century Jews thought of heaven as a time of feasting at Messiah’s table.  This idea of eating and drinking at the Messiah’s table was common imagery during the first century.  For instance, a Jewish leader once said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God” (Lk 14:15).  Jesus Himself said that “many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 8:11). This picture of heaven as dining in God’s presence may have developed from the Sinai experience. The elders of Israel went with Moses up to the top of the mountain.  Moses noted that “God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites.” Instead, “they saw God, and they ate and drank” (Ex 24:11).

This eating that is associated with the coming of Christ’s kingdom may also be reflected in Jesus’ model prayer.  In reference to the kingdom, He taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come” (Lk 11:2, KJV). The very next request is “Give us each day our daily bread” (Lk 11:3).  The Greek underlying Luke 11:3 is difficult to translate.  Literally, it reads something akin to, “the bread of us belonging to the coming day give us today” (the NASV marginal note reads, “bread for the coming day”).  Linking together both Luke 11:2 and Luke 11:3, Jesus may have been instructing us to ask that the bread of the coming Messianic banquet be given to us today. That is, “Let your kingdom come — Let the feast begin today!”  Athanasius explained it as “the bread of the world to come.”[11]

Obviously, major changes came with the transition from old covenant to new and from the Passover Feast to the Lord’s Supper. The Passover was an annual event. The Lord’s Supper was celebrated weekly.  Passover regulations necessitated lamb and bitter herbs. No such dietary requirements bind the Lord’s Supper.  Moses said nothing about wine for the Passover.  Jesus added the fruit of the vine as an essential part of the Supper. Little of what Jesus had to say about such foundational changes was recorded in the Gospels.  It was left to His apostles to more fully explain and model Jesus’ teachings, and this they did in the epistles. The writings of the Apostles are, in essence, commentaries on the teachings of Jesus as found in the Gospel accounts. Among the changes from Passover to Lord’s Supper, some might argue that Jesus orally instructed the apostles to do away with the meal, keeping only the bread and wine. Since Jesus said that He would not eat of it again until its future consummation, could it not be argued that the church also should wait for Jesus to return before eating it again? The answer to this can be found in the subsequent practice and teachings of the apostles.

The most extensive treatment of the Lord’s Supper is found in 1 Corinthians 10-11. Deep divisions between Corinthian believers resulted in their Lord’s Supper meetings doing more harm than good (11:17-18). They were guilty of partaking of the Supper in an “unworthy manner” (11:27).  The wealthier among them, perhaps not wanting to eat with those of a lower social class, evidently came to the gathering so early and remained there so long that some became drunk.  Making matters worse, by the time that the working class believers arrived, delayed perhaps by employment constraints, all the food had been consumed. The poor went home hungry (11:21-22). Some of the Corinthians failed to recognize the Supper as a sacred, covenant meal and they failed to esteem their impoverished brethren as equal parts of the body of Christ (11:23-32).

The Corinthian abuses were so serious that what was supposed to be the Lord’s Supper had instead become their own supper (11:21, NASV). If merely eating one’s own supper were the entire objective, then private dining at home would do.  Thus Paul asked, “Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in?”   Their sinful selfishness absolutely betrayed the very essence of what the Lord’s Supper is all about.

From the nature of their abuse, it is evident that the Corinthian church regularly partook of the Lord’s Supper as a full meal.  In contrast, very few people in modern churches would ever come to a typical Lord’s Supper service expecting to have physical hunger satisfied. Nor could they possibly get drunk from drinking a thimble-sized cup of wine. Keep in mind that Paul wrote to the Corinthian church some twenty years after Jesus turned His Last Supper into our Lord’s Supper.  The Last Supper was a full meal and so too the Corinthians understood the Lord’s Supper to be a true meal. Where would they have gotten the idea of celebrating the Lord’s Supper as a true banquet if not from the apostles themselves?

Some have suggested that Jesus, the apostles, and the early church did indeed celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a full meal, but that its abuses in Corinth caused Paul to put an end to it. For instance, the commentary found in the Geneva Bible of 1599 states, “The Apostle thinketh it good to take away the love feasts, for their abuse, although they had been a long time, and with commendation used in Churches, and were appointed and instituted by the Apostles.”[12] To this we wonder, can one apostle single-handedly overturn something that was established by the Lord Himself and practiced by all the other apostles and churches?  Indeed, would he even if he could?  Though we humbly disagree with the learned brothers who penned the commentary, we do appreciate that they recognized that the Lord’s Supper and the church’s love feasts were not only co-terminus but appointed and instituted by the Apostles.

The inspired solution to the Corinthian abuse of the Supper was not that the Church cease to eat it as a full meal. Instead, Paul wrote “when you come together to eat, wait for each other.” Only those so famished or undisciplined or selfish that they could not wait for the others are instructed to “eat at home” (1Co 11:34).  Commentator C.K. Barrett cautioned, “On the surface this seems to imply that ordinary non-cultic eating and drinking should be done at home . . . But Paul’s point is that, if the rich wish to eat and drink on their own, enjoying better food than their poorer brothers, they should do this at home; if they cannot wait for others (verse 33), if they must indulge to excess, they can at least keep the church’s common meal free from practices that can only bring discredit upon it . . . Paul simply means that those who are so hungry that they cannot wait for their brothers should satisfy their hunger before they leave home, in order that decency and order may prevail in the assembly.”[13]

Additionally, the word behind “supper” in 1Corinthians 11:20, deipnon, fundamentally means dinner, the main meal toward evening, a banquet.[14] Arguably, it never refers to anything less than a full meal.  What is the possibility that the authors of the New Testament would use deipnon to refer to the Lord’s “Supper” if it were not supposed to be a full meal? The Lord’s Supper has numerous forward looking aspects to it.  As a full meal, it prefigures the feast of the coming kingdom, the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Its Functions:  1.) Reminding Jesus

Partaking of the bread and cup as an integral part of the meal serves several important functions.  One is to remind Jesus of His promise to return. Reminding God of His covenant promises is a thoroughly scriptural concept.  In the covenant God made with Noah, He promised never to destroy the earth by flood again, signified by the rainbow. The rainbow is certainly designed to remind us of God’s promise, but God also declared, “whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (Ge 9:16, italics mine ).  God remembers covenant promises.

Later in redemptive history, as part of His covenant with Abraham, God promised to bring the Israelites out of their Egyptian bondage. Accordingly, at the appointed time, “God heard their groaning and He remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.  So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them” (Ex 2:24-25, italics mine).  God remembers covenant promises.

During the Babylonian captivity, God promised the Jews, “I will remember the covenant I made with you” (back at Mount Sinai, Eze 16:60, italics mine). God remembers covenant promises.

The Lord’s Supper is the sign of the new covenant.  As Jesus took the cup He said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28).  The purpose of any sign is to serve as a reminder of covenant promises.  Thus Jesus said that we are to partake of the bread “in remembrance of Me” (Lk 22:19). The Greek word translated “remembrance,” anamnesis, means “reminder.”  Literally translated, Jesus said, “do this unto my reminder.”

The question before us is whether that reminder is to be primarily for Jesus’ benefit or ours.  German theologian Joachim Jeremias understood Jesus to use anamnesis in the sense of a reminder for God, “The Lord’s Supper would thus be an enacted prayer.”[15] In The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, it is argued that the Greek underlying the word “until” (1Co 11:26, achri hou) is not simply a temporal reference, but functions as a kind of final clause.  That is, the meal’s function is as a constant reminder to God to bring about the Parousia.[16]

The word “my” in Luke 22:19 is translated from the Greek word, emou, an emphatic form of “my” which grammatically denotes possession (suggesting that the reminder actually belongs to Jesus).  More than a mere personal pronoun, it is a possessive pronoun. Thus, the church is to partake of the bread of the Lord’s Supper specifically to remind Jesus of His promise to return and eat the Supper again with us, in person (Lk 22:16, 18). Understood in this light, it is designed to be like a prayer asking Jesus to return (“Thy kingdom come,” Lk 11:2). Just as the rainbow reminds God of His covenant with Noah, just like the groaning reminded God of His covenant with Abraham, so too partaking of the bread of the Lord’s Supper is designed to remind Jesus of His promise to return.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:26, confirms this idea by stating that the church, in eating the Lord’s Supper, is to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” To whom do we proclaim His death, and why?  Arguably, it is proclaimed to the Lord Himself, as a reminder for Him to return. The normal Greek for until (heos hutou) merely denotes a time frame.  For example, I might say that I will use an umbrella “until” it stops raining, merely denoting a time frame.  (Using the umbrella has nothing to do with causing the rain to stop). However, this is not how “until’ is used in 1 Corinthians 11:26. The Greek behind “until” in 1 Corinthians 11:26 is achri hou. Reinecker points out that as it is used here (achri hou with an aorist subjunctive verb), it denotes much more than a mere time frame; grammatically it can denote a goal or an objective.[17] Paul was instructing the church to partake of the bread and cup as a means of proclaiming the Lord’s death (as a reminder) until (with the goal of persuading) Him to come back!  Thus, in proclaiming His death through the loaf and cup, the Supper looked forward to and anticipated His return.

This concept of seeking to persuade the Lord to return is not unlike the plea of the martyrs of Revelation 6 who called out, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Re 6:10). And what did Peter have in mind when he wrote that his readers should look forward to the day of God and “speed its coming” (2Pet. 3:12)?  If it were futile to seek to persuade Jesus to return, then why did He instruct us to pray, “Thy kingdom come?” (Mt 6:10).  It is interesting that the earliest believers, in Didache x. 6, used maranatha (“Our Lord, come”) as a prayer in connection with the Lord’s Supper, “a context at once eucharistic and eschatological.”[18] With regard to the use of the word maranatha in 1 Corinthians 16:22, Dr. R. P. Martin writes, “Maranatha in 1 Cor. 16:22 may very well be placed in a eucharistic setting so that the conclusion of the letter ends with the invocation ‘Our Lord, come!’ and prepares the scene for the celebration of the meal after the letter has been read to the congregation.”[19]

Its Functions:  2.) Creating Unity

All this emphasis on the Supper as a true meal does not mean that we should jettison the loaf and cup, representative of the body and blood of our Lord. To the contrary, they remain a vital part of the Supper (1Co 11:23-26). The bread and the wine serve as representations of the body and blood of our Lord. His propitiatory death on the cross is the very foundation of the Lord’s Supper.

Just as the form of the Lord’s Supper is important (a full fellowship meal that prefigured the wedding banquet of the Lamb), also important are the form of the bread and cup.  Mention is made in Scripture of the cup of thanksgiving (a single cup) and of only one loaf:  “Because there is one loaf, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1Co 10:16-17).  The one loaf not only pictures our unity in Christ, but according to 1 Corinthians 10:17 it may even create unity!  Notice carefully the wording of the inspired text.  “Because” there is one loaf, therefore we are one body, “for” we all partake of the one loaf (1Co 10:17).  Partaking of a pile of broken cracker crumbs and multiple cups of juice is a picture of disunity, division, and individuality.  At the very least, it completely misses the imagery of unity. One scholar wrote that Lord’s Supper was “intended as means of fostering the unity of the church . . .”[20]

Some in Corinth were guilty of partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner” (1Co 11:27). The wealthy refused to eat the Supper with the poor. Thus, the rich arrived at the place of meeting so early that when the poor got there later, some of the rich had become drunk and all the food had been eaten.  The poor went home hungry.  These shameful class divisions cut at the heart of the unity the Lord’s Supper is designed to achieve.   The Corinthian abuses were so bad that it had ceased being the Lord’s Supper and had instead become their “own” supper (1Co 11:21, NASV).  This failure of the rich to recognize the body of the Lord in their poorer brethren resulted in divine judgment: many of them were sick, and a number had even died (1Co 11:27-32).  What was Paul’s solution to the harmful meetings?  “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other” (1Co 11:33).  Anyone so hungry he could not wait was instructed to “eat at home” (1Co 11:34). Part of the reason the Corinthians were not unified is precisely because they failed to eat the Lord’s Supper together, as an actual meal, centered around the one cup and loaf.

 Its Functions:   3.)  Fellowship

Our resurrected Lord offered to come in and eat (deipneo) with anyone who heard His voice and opened the door, a picture of fellowship and communion (Re 3:20). The idea that fellowship and acceptance is epitomized by eating together was derived not only from the Hebrew culture of Jesus’ day, but also from the earliest Hebrew Scriptures.  At the cutting of the Sinai covenant, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders of Israel went up on Mount Sinai where they “saw God, and they ate and drank” (Ex 24:9-11).  It is significant that “God did not raise his hand against these leaders” (Ex 24:11a). They were accepted by Him, as evidenced in the holy meal they ate in His presence.

This fellowship in feasting theme is continued on in the book of Acts, where we learn that the early church devoted themselves to “fellowship in the breaking of bread” (2:42, literal translation).  In many English versions there is an “and” between “teaching” and “fellowship” and between “bread” and “prayer” but not between “fellowship” and “bread” (Ac 2:42).  This is because in the Greek the words “fellowship” and “breaking of bread” are linked together as simultaneous activities.  They had fellowship with one another as they broke bread together. Luke further informs us that this eating was done with “glad and sincere hearts” (2:46).  Sounds inviting, doesn’t it?

Many commentaries associate the phrase “breaking of bread” throughout the book of Acts with the Lord’s Supper.  This is because Luke, who wrote Acts, recorded in his gospel that Jesus took bread and “broke it” at the last supper (Lk 22:19). If this conclusion is accurate, then the early church enjoyed the Lord’s Supper as a time of fellowship and gladness, just like one would enjoy at a wedding banquet.  It was also the opinion of F.F. Bruce that in Acts 2, the fellowship enjoyed was expressed practically in the breaking of bread. Bruce further held that the phrase “breaking of bread” denotes “something more than the ordinary partaking of food together: the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper is no doubt indicated . . . this observance appears to have formed the part of an ordinary meal.”[21]

In contrast, many modern churches partake of the Lord’s Supper with more of a funeral atmosphere.  An organ softly plays reflective music. Every head is bowed and every eye is closed as people quietly and introspectively search their souls for unconfessed sin. The cup and loaf are laid out on a small table, covered over by a white cloth, almost like a corpse would be during a funeral. Deacons somberly, like pall bearers, pass out the elements. Is this really in keeping with the tradition of the apostles concerning the Supper? Remember that it was the unworthy manner that Paul criticized (1Co 11:27), not the unworthy people. The unworthy manner consisted in drunkenness at the table of the Lord, in not eating together and in causing the poor to go home hungry and humiliated. Indeed, every person ought to examine himself before arriving for the meal, to be sure he is not guilty of the same gross sin — failing to recognize the body of the Lord in one’s fellow believers (1Co 11:28-29). Once we have each judged ourselves, we can come to the meal without fear of judgment and enjoy the fellowship of Lord’s Supper as the true wedding banquet it is intended to be.

Its Frequency: Weekly

How often did the New Testament church partake of the Supper?  Early believers ate the Lord’s Supper weekly as the main purpose for their coming together as a church each Lord’s Day.  Again quoting the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Lord’s Supper is “the central rite of Christian worship” and “has been an indispensable component of the Christian service since the earliest days of the church.”[22]

The first evidence for this weekly celebration is grammatical. The “Lord’s Day” is a technical term.  It is from a unique phrase in the Greek, kuriakon hemeran, which literally reads, “the day belonging to the Lord.” The words “belonging to the Lord” are from kuriakos, which occurs in the New Testament only in Revelation 1:10 and in 1 Corinthians 11:20, where Paul uses it to refer to the “Lord’s Supper” (the “Supper belonging to the Lord” — kuriakon deipnon). The connection between these two uses must not be missed. If the purpose of the weekly church meeting is to observe the Lord’s Supper, it only makes sense that this supper belonging to the Lord would be eaten on the day belonging to the Lord (the first day of the week). John’s revelation (Re 1:10) evidently thus occurred on the first day of the week, the day on which Jesus rose from the dead and the day on which the early church met to eat the Supper belonging to the Lord.  The resurrection, the day, and the supper go together as a package deal.

It is noteworthy that the only reason ever given in the New Testament for the regular purpose of a church meeting is to eat the Lord’s Supper. In Acts 20:7, Luke informs us that, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” The words “to break bread” in Acts 20:7 reflect what is known as a telic infinitive.  It denotes a purpose or objective.  Their meeting was a meating!

Another place that the New Testament states the purpose for a church gathering is 1 Corinthians 11:17-22. Their “meetings” (11:17) were doing more harm than good because when they came “together as a church” (11:18a) they had deep divisions. Thus Paul wrote, “when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat” (11:20).  From this it is obvious that the stated reason for their church meetings was to eat the Lord’s Supper. Sadly, their abuses of the Supper were so gross that it had ceased being the Lord’s Supper, but the fact remains that they ostensibly were gathering each week to celebrate the Supper.

The third and last reference to the reason for an assembly is found in 1 Corinthians 11:33, “When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” As before, it shows that the reason they came together was to “eat.”  Lest this appear to be making much out of little, it must be realized that no other reason is ever given in the Scriptures as to the purpose of a regular, weekly church meeting.

The fellowship and encouragement that each member enjoys in such a gathering is tremendous.  It is a time that God uses to create unity in a body of believers. This aspect of the church’s meeting should not be rushed or replaced. Certainly it is appropriate to also have a “1 Corinthians 14 phase” of the gathering (a participatory time of teaching, worship, singing, testimony, prayer, etc.), but not at the expense of the weekly Lord’s Supper.

The Proposition

In summary, the Lord’s Supper is the primary purpose for which the church is to gather each Lord’s Day. Eaten as a full meal, the Supper typifies the wedding supper of the Lamb and thus has a forward looking component. It is to be partaken of as a feast, in a joyful, wedding atmosphere rather than in a somber, funeral atmosphere. A major benefit of the Supper as a banquet is the fellowship and encouragement each member experiences. Within the context of this full meal, there is to be one cup and one loaf from which all partake. One single loaf is to be used, not only to symbolize the unity of a body of believers, but also because God will use it to create unity within a body of believers. The bread and wine are also symbolic of Jesus’ body and blood and serve to remind Jesus of His promise to return and eat of the meal again with His church (Amen.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!).

As was demonstrated above, there is general agreement within the scholarly circles of all denominations regarding the fact that the early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper as a full meal.  However, the post-apostolic church has had no use for this practice.  According to Dr. Williston Walker, well respected professor of church history at Yale, “by the time Justin Martyr wrote his Apology in Rome (153), the common meal had disappeared, and the Supper was joined with the assembly for preaching, as a concluding sacrament.”[23]

We feel that the church is missing a tremendous blessing in neglecting the practice of the early church regarding the Lord’s Supper. Since this was in the practice of the early church, should we not follow their example?

Adapted. © Copyright   2014 New Testament Reformation Fellowship. All Rights Reserved.

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[1] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove, IL:  Inter-Varsity Press, 1981), p. 758.

[2] Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to The CorinthiansNew International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), p. 532 & 555.

[3] G. W. Grogan, “Love Feast,” The New Bible Dictionary, ed. J. D. Douglas, (Wheaton, IL:  Tyndale House Publishers, 1982), p. 712.

[4] C. K. Barrett, The Fist Epistle to The Corinthians, Black’s New Testament Commentary, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1968), p. 276.

[5] Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church, 3rd Ed. (New York, NY:  Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970), p. 38.

[6] John Gooch, Christian History & Biography, Issue 37 (Carol Stream, IL:  Christianity Today) p. 3.

[7] Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, “Eucharist,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, ed.Warren Preece, Vol. 8 (Chicago:  William Benton, Publisher, 1973), p. 808.

[8] Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1980), p. 207.

[9] Pelikan, p. 808.

[10] R. P. Martin, “The Lord’s Supper,” The New Bible Dictionary, ed. J. D. Douglas (Wheaton, IL:  Tyndale House Publishers, 1982), p. 709.

[11] Frederick Godet, Commentary on Luke (Grand Rapids, MI:  Kregel Publications, 1981), p. 314.

[12] 1599 Geneva Bible (White Hall, WV:  Telle Lege Press, 2006), p. 1180.

[13] C. K. Barrett, The Fist Epistle to The Corinthians, Black’s New Testament Commentary, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1968), p. 263 & 277.

[14] Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NewTestament (Chicago, IL:  University of Chicago Press, 1979) p. 173.

[15] Colin Brown, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. III (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1981) p. 244.

[16] Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1966), p. 252-254.

[17] Reinecker, p. 34.  Other instances of this construction in eschatological passages include Luke 21:24, Romans 11:25 and 1 Corinthians 15:25.

[18] Barrett, p. 397

[19] Martin, p. 709.

[20] Pelikan, p. 807

[21]F. F. Bruce, Acts of The Apostles (Grand Rapids, MI:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981) p. 79.

[22] Pelikan, p. 807.

[23] Walker, p. 38.