TGOC Bible Class Curricula - The Church of Christ (1st Quarter) - Lesson 10 - God's Pattern For Worship (Part 2): The Lord's Supper
TGOC Bible Class Curricula - The Church of Christ (1st Quarter)
God's Pattern For Worship (Part 2): The Lord's Supper
When the Christians assembled together on the first day of the week in the first century church, they did so to eat the Lord’s Supper.
Acts 20:7,“7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.”
This was an observance instituted by Jesus just prior to His arrest and crucifixion. In Matthew 26:26-29 we read the account of the events surrounding the establishment of this memorial feast.
Matthew 26:26-29, “26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ 27 Then he took the cup gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom.’”
I. The Purpose and the Importance:
Paul’s account of these events paints for us a clearer picture of the purpose and the importance of this feast.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26, “23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.”
A. It is a memorial. Merriam-Webster defines a “memorial” as “something (such as a monument or ceremony) that honors a person who has died or serves as a reminder of an event in which many people died.” Three times the Scriptures make the statement, “Do this in remembrance of me”—two times in 1Corinthians 11:23-25, and once in Luke 22:19-26.
1. We remember Christ’s death. (1Corinthians 11:26)
“26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.”
When we eat the unleavened bread, we remember the body of Christ that was bruised and broken in the sense of pierced) on the cross. When we drink the fruit of the vine, we remember the blood our Lord shed for the sins of the world. Each time we eat the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of the sacrifice He made for us which enabled us to be reconciled to God.
2. We remember His return. (1Corinthians 11:26)
1 Corinthians 11:26, “26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.”
Paul says that we should eat this memorial feast and remember the death of Christ until He comes again. Incorporated in this memorial feast is not only the memory that Jesus lived and died for all, but also the promise that He would return again.
John 14:3, “3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, “7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
This memorial feast serves as a constant reminder that one day the Lord will return to collect all those who are His.
3. It is a reminder of the New Covenant. (1 Corinthians 11:25)
1 Corinthians 11:25, “25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”
In antiquity, blood was commonly used as a means of confirming a covenant, or agreement between God and His people. Notice the following.
Exodus 24:8, “8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
When our Lord died and shed His blood on the cross, He completed the covenant that God had made with Israel (Old Testament) and He brought into existence and confirmed a New Covenant (New Testament). Each time we eat the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded of the blood He shed that not only cleansed us of our sins, but also sealed this New Covenant between God and His people forever.
II. The Elements & Manner:
A. The Elements of the Lord’s Supper:
The elements used in the Lord’s Supper are the same as used by our Lord when He established it. When we read the account in Matthew 26, we see two elements: the bread and the fruit of the vine.
1. Bread. The bread used by the Jews for the celebration of the Passover was unleavened bread (bread without yeast). This was used for two reasons. First, it was what God commanded to be used in the first Passover celebration. (Exodus 12) Secondly, it was the only bread available at the time. It was the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread. This is significant because in preparation for the Passover, all leaven had to be removed from their houses. (Exodus 12:15-20) It was a symbolic purging of all malice and wickedness before the Passover. Paul alludes to this in his letter to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 5:6-8, “6 Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.”
The bread is a reminder of the body of our Lord who was sacrificed on the tree. As we break the bread every first day of the week, it reminds us that Jesus’ body was broken (pierced) for us.
2. Cup or Fruit of the Vine. The cup or fruit of the vine is a reminder of the blood Jesus shed for the sins of the world. His blood is significant because of the part it played in our cleansing. Notice the following:
1 Corinthians 10:16, “16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?”
Ephesians 1:7, “7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.”
We participate with thanksgiving and we remember what the Savior did to free us from sin.
B. Manner of Observing: In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul issued a warning regarding the manner in which the Lord’s Supper was eaten. He warns them about eating and drinking unworthily. As mentioned above, they were to examine themselves to make sure they were in right standing with God before they ate the Lord’s Supper. If they ate it in the wrong manner or with the wrong attitude, they became guilty of dishonoring the body and blood of Christ. (1Corinthians 11:27-29)
III. Some Questions Answered:
A. How often was this memorial observed? This is a question that concerns many. Some believe that there is no set regularity with which the Lord’s Supper should be observed. To them, the expression “As often as you do this…” means the frequency is left up to us and that there is no set time in which it should be done. They believe it can be done once a week, once a month, or once a year. There are even some who believe observing the Lord’s Supper once in a lifetime is sufficient.
Since God is the author of His Word and the One who authorized the establishment of this memorial feast, He should be the One to dictate how often it should be done. We must turn to the examples left to us by the first century church to accurately determine when and how often we are to partake. Jesus established the church and set in it the pattern which God directed. Therefore, the frequency with which the first century observed the Lord’s Supper would be according to God’s directive.
1. The first church at Jerusalem. In Acts 2:42 we learn that those who were added by the Lord to His church continued (present participle) in the apostle’s doctrine, in breaking of bread (Lord’s Supper), and in prayer. “Continued” indicates that these Christians did these things with frequency.
2. The Church at Troas. Acts 20:7 implies that the Christians in the church at Troas assembled themselves together every first day of the week (Sunday) for the purpose of breaking bread (eating the Lord’s Supper). Leroy Brownlow, in his book Why I am a Member of the Church of Christ, p. 171-172, makes the following conclusions with regard to this practice of the church at Troas:
a) “Their taking it on that day is an approved precedent. If it had been wrong, Paul would have condemned it.”
b) “They came together on that day for the primary purpose of breaking bread.”
c) “Does this mean they took the Lord’s Supper the first day of every week? It does not say ‘every week,’ but neither does it say that God commanded the Jews to keep every Sabbath. God said, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy’. (Exodus 20:8) They were obligated to keep the Sabbath. It came around every week; therefore they were obligated to keep it every week.”
B. Who should eat the Lord’s Supper? Again, to find the answer to this question, we must turn our attention to the approved examples in the New Testament. In Acts 2:42; 20:7 and 1Corinthians 11:20-23 (examples of the early Church observing the Lord’s Supper), only Christians are participating in this event.
Why only Christians? In Luke 22:29-30 Jesus said, “29 And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Jesus was speaking to His disciples. One must be a citizen of the kingdom of God to eat at His table. Who are citizens of God’s kingdom? Answer: those who have submitted themselves to the law of the King. Christians are the only people who have submitted to their King, Jesus Christ. This verse also tells us where this feast was to take place: in the kingdom or the church.
Christians are the only ones who have been baptized into Christ, and who are commanded to “remember” Christ by this memorial feast.
However, the worship to God is an individual act between the worshipper and his/her God. It is the individual’s responsibility of each person to determine if he/she is worthy to eat at the Lord’s table. Paul told the Corinthians,
1 Corinthians 11:28, “28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.”
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