ROBERT >> The Lord’s supper was a unique aspect of the church you read about in the Bible. But various churches today observe that supper in different ways and on different days. What does the Bible have to say about the Lord’s supper, the eating of the bread, the drinking of the juice? What’s it really all about? Stay tuned. We’ll be back in just a moment.
>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.
ROBERT >> The last several weeks we’ve been talking about the church you read about in the Bible. That church was built by Christ. It was a divine church. It consisted of all those who were saved by Jesus Christ. We learned that Christ is the head of that church and each member is an important part of his spiritual body, the church. We also noted that that church had true worshipers who worshiped God in spirit and truth. And so we’ve been looking at the worship of that church. Already we’ve discussed how that church prayed and preached, and today we’re going to look at another aspect of that church, the Lord’s supper. Let’s notice that that church partook of the Lord’s supper.
If you will, turn with me in your Bibles to Acts the 20th chapter, and we’ll read together in just a moment. Before we do, I want you to notice that the apostle Paul was on his second missionary journey. He had been preaching the gospel, and he and Luke are leaving Philippi to meet some other brethren that had gone on ahead of them to the city of Troas. Let’s read here what Luke writes in Luke 20:6-7. But we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and in five days joined them at Troas where we stayed seven days. Now on the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. You notice in these verses it appears that Paul and Luke had stayed with the brethren at Troas for seven days just so they could meet with the disciples on the first day of the week.
Here in verse 7, we learn that they met on the first day of the week to break bread and Paul preached to them. Now, let me emphasize how important the first day of the week was to that church. You see, Jesus was raised on the first day of the week. That’s what we read in Mark 16:9. But not only that, the church had its beginning on the first day of the week. When we read about the beginning of the church in Acts chapter 2, we notice in verse 1 that it was on the day of Pentecost. This was a feast day of the Jews. You can read about it in Leviticus chapter 23. And there we learn that this day always fell on the first day of the week. And so the Lord was raised on that day, the church had its beginning on that day, so we should not be surprised to see that this is the day the church met to worship the Lord.
In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, we see they were commanded to give on the first day of the week. And we read about the Lord’s day in Revelation 1:10, a phrase that the earliest Christians used to speak of the first day of the week. And so it was on this day that the church there at Troas, these disciples had gathered together, and Paul preached to them, and the Bible says that they broke bread. Now what about this phrase, break bread? How was that used in the Bible? Well, the phrase break bread was used in the New Testament of eating a common meal. We might say let’s go to the table. But they would say let’s break bread. Let’s go eat. Let’s understand that this phrase was also used of the Lord’s supper, that special meal that the Lord had ordained.
Let’s notice this in a few places. Go back to Acts the 2nd chapter, and you’ll notice here when we read about the beginning of the church and how three thousand souls became Christians that day in verse 41. Well, verse 42 tells us, And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, in fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. So you see here the breaking of bread in the context of the apostles’ doctrine, prayers, these kinds of things. And so it appears here that the term was used to speak of the Lord’s supper, not just a common meal. Look down in verse 46, and we read this. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart. Now here it appears that we’re talking not about the Lord’s supper, but rather about a common meal. This was something they did day after day. They did it in their houses. They, it says, took their food. And so we see in one place it speaks of the Lord’s supper; in the other place it speaks of a common meal.
We see the same thing in Acts chapter 20. If you’ll turn back there, you remember we read verse 7 where the disciples were gathered together to break bread and Paul preached to them on the first day of the week. It appears then they were observing the Lord’s supper in their worship assembly there on the first day. But then we look down in verse 11 of Acts chapter 20, and it says that, When he had come up and had broken bread and eaten and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. He’s talking about the apostle Paul that next morning, and it says he broke bread and had eaten. Not of the Lord’s supper. They did that on the first day when they gathered together. But now the next morning, the apostle Paul is getting his breakfast before he’s departing out. He’s partaking of a common meal.
We also see this in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Look in 1 Corinthians 10:16, where the apostle Paul describes it this way: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? The bread which we break here is spoken of as the communion of the body of Christ, and therefore we’re talking not about a common meal, but the Lord’s supper.
The Lord’s supper is mentioned specifically in chapter 11 of 1 Corinthians. If you’ll notice in verse 20, he speaks of the Lord’s supper. And then he describes it in verse 23 and 24 this way: For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and said, Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me. And so it’s clear here that we have the breaking of bread that was practiced, observed in the Lord’s church on the Lord’s day. The church met on the first day of the week for the express purpose of partaking of the Lord’s supper. Now, if the church met every first day of the week, as is clear from the New Testament, they met to worship together and they met on the first day of the week to partake of the Lord’s supper, then they met every first day of the week to partake of the Lord’s supper. It should also be noted that nowhere do we read of the Lord’s supper being taken on any other day than the first day of the week.
The Lord’s people are to take the Lord’s supper on the Lord’s day. But now most importantly, let’s ask, what was the Lord’s supper that church partook of? I want you to notice several things about it today. First of all, it was a communion. Let’s read again 1 Corinthians 10:16, and let’s also read verse 17. Here it says, The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body, for we all partake of that one bread. He calls it a communion. The word communion means participation, fellowship, that which is shared in common.
The Lord’s supper is a communion, or as somebody put it, a common union with the Lord and his people. Did you notice in these verses that the communion is not only with the Lord, but with other Christians? In fact, to partake of the common bread and the cup is what makes the church. Just as families gather around the table to eat in their homes, so the family of God is brought together around the table of the Lord in his house, the church. This was why the apostle Paul told the church in Corinth that they didn’t come together to eat the Lord’s supper. They were divided, not united as the family of God should be. They had parties you read about in the first several chapters of Paul’s letter to this church. They had lawsuits against one another. And they were all divided in their assemblies, as you read here in chapter 11 and 12 and 13 and 14. And so to this divided church Paul said, you can’t eat the Lord’s supper.
Read with me 1 Corinthians 11:17-20. Now in giving these instructions, I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church I hear that there are divisions among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. And therefore, when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s supper.
No, you see, they could not partake of that supper because they were a divided people. And still today we may go through the motions of partaking the Lord’s supper, we may take the bread and take the cup, but if we’re divided, if there are factions among us, if we have formed little parties in our congregations or cliques and leaving others out, if there is a division between the rich and the poor, between the young and the old and the black and the white and the male and the female, then we are not united together in the love of God, in the faith of the scriptures; we are divided, and we cannot partake the Lord’s supper. We must love and we must care for one another, we must treat one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord, or we’re not partaking of the Lord’s supper.
If we want to partake of the Lord’s supper, we must be united in the faith and the love of God. It’s a communion, a common union, a fellowship with the Lord and one another in the body of Christ. But now let’s notice a second thing today. Not only was that supper a communion for that church you read about in the Bible, it was also a memorial. It was a remembrance, as is expressed by the phrase, This do in remembrance of Me, a phrase that is etched on the communion tables in many churches today. But let’s go back and let’s read Paul’s description of what happened that night when Jesus instituted this memorial supper, the Lord’s supper. 1 Corinthians chapter 11, look with me in verses 23 through 25. For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread. And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you. This do in remembrance of Me. In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do as often as you drink it in remembrance of Me.
Yes, from this we learn that the Lord’s supper involved a partaking of two elements: The bread and the cup. The bread and the cup that was used in the Passover meal where the Lord instituted this supper would have been unleavened bread, it would have been an unfermented fruit of the vine, the juice of the grape, as Passover would contain no symbols of corruption like leaven or fermentation. And you can read about the background of that great feast in Exodus 12, and the apostle Paul also makes comment concerning this in 1 Corinthians chapter 5. But now the Lord’s supper that was instituted there at that Passover meal the night in which Jesus was betrayed is now a part of the worship of the New Testament church. Now, sometimes in the church we’ll argue about whether it ought to be one loaf or different pieces of the unleavened bread or whether it ought to be one cup or many different cups; but I want you to notice that the Bible is not talking about one piece of bread or one cup, but a common loaf, a common cup. If you notice back in 1 Corinthians 11:16-17 that the apostle Paul said, The bread which we break.
When Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, he was in Ephesus, all the way across the Aegean Sea from Corinth, 150 miles away. That had to be a pretty big loaf to stretch all the way across that to shared with the apostle Paul. No, they didn’t partake of the same piece of bread, but the common loaf that the Lord brought to this supper as a memorial. And of course they didn’t drink from the same cup. He wasn’t talking about drinking the cup and how many cups there were, but he was talking about the contents in the cup. You put one thing for another. The cup was put for the contents that they drank. You don’t drink a cup, but you drink the juice in the cup. Paul and the church at Corinth shared that same cup together, that memorial that Christ brought to the Lord’s supper. And so we are not to worry about how many pieces of bread there are or how many cups we might use, but we need to recognize the importance of these two elements, the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine, as a memorial of the death of Christ.
We’re also not to think, as some teach, that we actually eat Christ’s body of flesh or drink his blood, but that the bread and the cup are taken in memory of the bloody sacrifice of his body when crucified on the cross. When Jesus spoke these words before them, This is My body, he would say, his body was there before them. It wasn’t that piece of bread. And when he said concerning the cup, This is My blood, his blood was coursing through his veins. It was not in that cup.
No, the Lord’s supper is not an act of cannibalism, but a memorial of Christ’s death. In the Lord’s supper we are to remember how his body was broken and his blood flowed, first in the awful scourging by the Roman soldiers. His back would have been in shreds, a bloody mess by the time they were finished. And then they’d press a crown of thorns into his head, and bowing before him would mock him, saying, Hail, king of the Jews. And finally they’d drive spikes through his hands and feet into the cross. Lifting him up, they let it fall into the hole dug for it with a great thud, and Jesus would struggle for every breath, pulling and pushing against the nails and rubbing his bleeding back against the cross until his last breath. This didn’t happen to him because of anything he had done, but for us. It was for us that Jesus gave himself at Calvary that day. Yes, Isaiah 53:5-6 reminds us how, He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, by His stripes you are healed.
Yes, Jesus Christ became our sin bearer. And the Bible says as we go on in Isaiah, That all we like sheep have gone astray, and turned every one to his own way; but God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. In Romans 5:6 we learn that while we were weak and without strength, Christ died for the ungodly. Verse 8 says, God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. And in 1 John 2:2 we learn that he is the propitiation, that atoning sacrifice for our sins; and not for our sins only, but for the sins also of the whole world.
Yes, God gave us the Lord’s supper so that we would never forget what Christ did for us. But don’t misunderstand this. We often think of a memorial as a funeral service; but you don’t have a funeral service for someone who’s alive. But someone who’s raised from the dead like Jesus Christ is remembered not as though he’s still dead, but alive. And so any sadness we have over the death of Christ is overcome with the joy of his resurrection.
But then finally today I want you to notice this third point. Not only was the Lord’s supper a communion and a memorial, but it was also a proclamation for that church you read about in your Bibles. In 1 Corinthians 11:26 the apostle makes this point: For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Yes, you see, the partaking of the Lord’s supper, when we observe that supper, we are proclaiming his death, we are preaching his death. But it’s not a verbal sermon. The Lord’s supper is a visual performance, an acting out of the message that Christ died for our sins and that because of his death we are forgiven. And notice how this is done in certain anticipation of his coming to take us home to heaven to be with him forever. In the Lord’s supper we look back at his death, but we also look forward to his coming. And now it’s right here that Paul gives us a very solemn warning regarding the Lord’s supper. Read 1 Corinthians 11:27-30. Here he says, Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. Don’t misunderstand Paul. He’s not saying that any of us are worthy of partaking the Lord’s supper. We’re not. We’re not worthy, because we’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23. No, it’s God’s grace that has provided for our salvation by the sacrifice of the sinless Christ. By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest anyone should boast, Ephesians 2:8-9.
You see, without Jesus Christ, no one can be forgiven; but because of him, all of us can be forgiven. So Paul is saying that we must be careful to partake of the Lord’s supper in a manner worthy of the Christ who died for us. He deserves our respect. He deserves our love for what he has done. We owe him our very lives for all of eternity. That’s the spirit, that’s the heart and the life with which we are to approach the table of the Lord. Take a look at yourself and see if you have come to worship, to truly worship the Lord. If not, it’s as though you’re crucifying him all over again. In Hebrews chapter 6 and in Hebrews chapter 10 the Hebrew writer speaks of those who fall away so they cannot repent, of those who sin willfully, that is, in high-handed rebellion against God, knowingly, purposefully. They crucify afresh the Son of God. They trod under foot the Son of God. They count the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing. They insult the Spirit of grace. Instead of being blessed by truly partaking of the Lord’s supper, you’ve brought condemnation on yourself.
Yes, that church partook the Lord’s supper each Lord’s day, communing with Christ, remembering and proclaiming his death till he comes. Any other church is not that church.
Mark Teske, a fellow preacher, posted on Facebook recently about a preacher who wanted to draw attention to the resurrection with a special presentation of the death and the burial and the resurrection of Christ. But God gave us a special presentation: Baptism. In Romans chapter 6 the Bible teaches us that baptism not only depicts Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, but it is our spiritual death, burial, and resurrection with him. Let’s remember that when we are baptized into Christ, we die with Christ, being baptized into him, baptized into his death. We are buried with him by baptism into death, and then we’re raised with him to walk in newness of life. It is this special presentation that makes us a Christian, that not only proclaims the gospel of Christ, but puts us into Christ. And it’s there in Christ that we remember him every Lord’s day with the Lord’s people in the partaking of the Lord’s supper.
>> Each day I’ll do a golden deed by helping those who are need. My life on earth is but a span, and so I’ll do the best I can. Life’s evening sun is sinking low, a few more days, and I must go to meet the deeds that I have done, where there will be no setting sun. To be a child of God each day, my light must shine along the way. I’ll sing his praise while ages roll, and try to help some troubled soul. Life’s evening sun is sinking low, a few more days, and I must go to meet the deeds that I have done, where there will be no setting sun. While going down life’s weary road, I’ll try to lift some traveler’s load. I’ll try to turn the night to day, make flowers bloom along the way. Life’s evening sun is sinking low, a few more days, and I must go to meet the deeds that I have done, where there will be no setting sun.
ROBERT >> I want to thank you for watching our program today, and we would really like to hear from you. If you have any questions, comments, or requests, if you would like a personal home Bible study or special prayers, if you’d like to order today’s lesson or any other lesson on CD, DVD, or in manuscript form, let me encourage you to write The Truth In Love at P.O. Box 865, Hurst, Texas 76053. You may e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call our toll-free number, 800-819-2966. And also, please visit our web site at www.ttil.tv. All our materials and services are absolutely free of charge. We want to thank the many churches of Christ who help support this program and encourage you to visit one of them in your area very soon. Their names are going to be scrolled on the screen at the end of our program. We just want to do what we can to help us all towards heaven. So let us know how we can help you, and please join us next time right here on The Truth In Love.
>> Sing to me of heaven, sing that song of peace. From the toils that bind me it will bring release. Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so, showers of great blessing o’er my heart will flow. Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam. Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall, sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all. Sing to me of heaven tenderly and low till the shadows o’er me rise and swiftly go. When my heart is weary, when the day is long, sing to me of heaven, sing that old, sweet song. Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam. Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall, sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.