What is the Lord’s Supper? How are we to observe it?

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There is much confusion about the Lord’s Supper in churches today. Human explanations and interpretations have crept in because it is difficult for people to understand what the Lord’s Supper is all about and what really takes place, and few actually believe and teach what the Bible teaches on this important and faith-strengthening means of grace.

What does the Bible teach?

In Matthew 26:26-28, we read: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

On the night Jesus was betrayed, He instituted His Supper as a testament and means to offer, give and assure to His disciples the forgiveness of sins and life eternal He was about to obtain for them by His death upon the cross. As they partook of the bread and wine He gave them, they also – in a way we cannot fully grasp and understand by our natural reason – partook of His body given into death for them, and of His blood shed for the remission of all their sins.

As God’s people in Egypt partook of the Passover Lamb which was sacrificed that the angel of death might see the blood upon the door posts and lintels of their houses and pass over them, so Jesus’ disciples were and still are given to partake of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) that God might pass over them in judgment and grant them forgiveness of sins and life everlasting for the sake of Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for the sins of the world.

Jesus’ institution of this Supper is recorded in three of the four Gospels: Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20. The apostle Paul also wrote to the believers in Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:23-29): “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”

In each account, Jesus says of the bread, “This is My body,” and of the wine, “This is My blood.” Paul’s account also makes clear that those who partake of the bread and wine unworthily are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord and fail to recognize and discern that they are partaking of the body of Christ given into death for them and of the blood of Christ shed for the remission of all their sins.

Paul also wrote to the believers in Corinth: “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?” (1 Corinthians 10:16).

Thus, Bible-believing Christians believe and teach that, when the Lord’s Supper is observed according to Christ’s institution – bread and wine are consecrated with God’s Word and distributed to believers in accord with Jesus’ command – Jesus offers and gives to those who partake of the bread and the cup in His Supper not just bread and wine, but His body and blood which were given and shed upon the cross for the remission of all sins.

Those who partake of Christ’s Supper with a penitent heart and faith in Christ’s words receive assurance of the forgiveness of sins and the eternal salvation won for them by Christ’s atoning sacrifice, but those who partake of Christ’s Supper in impenitence and without faith in Christ and His words partake of the Supper to their own condemnation, not discerning the Lord’s body and treating the blood of the covenant by which they were redeemed as an unholy thing (Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; Hebrews 10:29).

It is for this reason that faithful Christian churches receive at the Lord’s Table only those who profess the true Christian and Biblical doctrine and are able to examine themselves and exclude others who have not yet been instructed in the true Christian faith or continue to live in open disobedience to God’s Word (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Romans 16:17; Ephesians 5:11).

We are to observe the Lord’s Supper regularly today because Jesus commanded us to do so in remembrance of Him and to proclaim His death as a sacrifice for sin until He comes again to receive all believers to Himself in heaven (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23ff.; Luke 22:19f.). Though the Bible does not demand that Christians observe the Lord’s Supper at every service, certainly Jesus’ words telling us “this do in remembrance of me” will encourage churches to observe His supper often for the benefit of believers.

Since the Scriptures are clear that Jesus used bread and wine (unleavened bread and the cup of blessing or fruit of the vine in the Passover meal), Christians (in faithfulness to Christ’s testament) continue to use unleavened bread and grape wine in their observance of Christ’s Supper today.

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