An essay donated by Mahlon Wickey
The Lord’s Supper and Holy Communion
Every spring during Easter most of today’s Christian churches observe and honor the death of Jesus Christ by what is called the "Holy Communion" service. Some churches do this ceremony of Holy Communion once a year; others do it once a month or even every Sunday; some churches believe Holy Communion should be done as often as feasibly possible; some churches believe it should be done during of the old covenant "Holy Day" festivals.
The service of Holy Communion is usually done by passing around a little piece of ordinary bread (or unleavened bread) followed by a little sip of wine (or grape juice) for those in attendance to "eat and drink" these physical elements. I personally believe it was unleavened bread and real wine (an alcoholic beverage) that Jesus Christ passed around to the apostles at the last supper.
Some churches forbid "non-members" to partake of this most holy ceremonial ritual. Finally, there are a few churches that practice what is known as the "washing of feet". Why are the churches so divided on how this most holy ceremony should be conducted, and on how often it should be observed during the year?
What is very CONSISTENT with today’s churches is that they ALL seem to focus and "zero in" on doing the ceremonial "works" of eating the broken bread and drinking the wine. They want to somehow "copy" what Christ did at the last supper, and all this is supposedly done in remembrance of the death of Jesus Christ. Most churches will insist that yes, without question Jesus Christ did indeed COMMAND Holy Communion to be done in remembrance of His death by all Christians to observe with brothers and sisters in the faith. The fact is, the early believers when they assembled did indeed partake of a special meal called the "Lord’s supper", as we will see. What is the correct history and theology behind the "Lord’s Supper" and "Holy Communion"? Is Holy Communion a part of the Passover meal? Was it an ordinance and ritual that Jesus Christ intended that His Church observe until He comes again? Or is it nothing more than a Catholic tradition called a "Christian" tradition that came from a "Jewish" tradition practiced long before the death of Jesus Christ? We shall see.
The purpose of this article is NOT to judge others on their understanding of the Lord’s Supper and the Holy Communion service. For what its worth this article will be written ONLY to show how I personally have come to understand the scriptures on the subject of the Lord’s Supper and Holy Communion. Everyone must be fully persuaded in their own mind to be happy with the things that they allow so as to not condemn themselves. "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth" (Romans 14:22). If partaking of the bread and wine at Holy Communion makes anyone feel good or happy about themselves then they should do it. I have absolutely no problem with anyone doing the Communion service, nor do I have a problem with anyone disagreeing with this article. Some will disagree simply because they happen to understand the scriptures in a different manner than I do. It’s just that I no longer put faith in physical symbols, rituals, and ceremonies, but rather in WHAT these symbols represent.
There are those that believe that partaking of the bread and wine is a COMMANDED ceremony, but if anything was commanded by Jesus Christ at the last supper, it would be the "washing of feet." That practice is more or less ignored by the majority of today’s churches. Both the consumption of the bread and wine, and the washing of feet are physical rituals, yet the former is generally considered compulsory and the latter unnecessary.
Most churches explain that the Holy Communion service is simply a ceremony of HOW they are "eating" of Christ’s flesh and "drinking" of Christ’s blood as Christ said that we MUST do in order to have the LIFE of Christ in us (John 6:53). We are indeed a nation of churches that seem to DEPEND on ceremonial rituals for somehow being "righteous" before God. The irony is that some churches will indeed admit that the Holy Communion service is simply a ceremonial ritual and NOTHING more; they recognize that this ritual has NO power to change the sinful heart.
Churches generally believe that the tradition of the Holy Communion service was started by Jesus Christ at the last supper, and was supported and taught by the apostle Paul to the Corinthian Church. I want to point out that Paul’s epistles are the ONLY scriptures that talk about the "the Lord’s Supper", and what we call "Holy Communion".
The Corinthian believers were attempting to partake of the "Lord’s Supper"; even though Paul said what they were doing was NOT to eat the Lord’s Supper, as we will see later. It is very strange that in ALL of Paul’s epistles (except to the Corinthians) he NEVER instructed the churches about Holy Communion. If there would be any true valid instructions for this most Holy Communion service it would be Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. Paul gave his complete recommended instructions to Timothy and Titus on how churches are to function and conduct themselves, but NOT ONE statement did Paul write to Timothy and Titus on how this most Holy Communion service should be conducted. If Paul’s faith in Holy Communion was as profound and serious as it is with most of today’s churches, then one would expect that Paul would certainly have mentioned it to Titus and Timothy. But WHY did he give instructions for Communion ONLY to the Corinthian Church? Taking these facts into consideration I get the impression that IF the Corinthian Church would NOT have abused and corrupted the Lord’s Supper (as we shall see) then Paul would NEVER have mentioned the subject of Communion and the Lord’s Supper in ANY of his epistles. It is something to think about.
The term, "this do in remembrance of me" is found ONLY in the gospel of Luke, and it ONLY was applied to the broken bread and NOT to the cup of wine (Luke 22:19). The other gospels say NOTHING about the physical elements being done in remembrance of Christ. Yet Paul QUOTED Christ’s own words that BOTH the bread and wine were to be done in remembrance of Christ (1Cor 11:24-25). Why are these very important words NOT found in three of the Gospels? What is going on here?
The gospel of John devoted several whole chapters of the words of Jesus Christ at the last supper but John NEVER mentioned anything of the bread and cup of wine, and John was the ONLY apostle to mention the "washing of feet". Again, what is going on here?
ALL the apostles (except Judas and Paul) were present at the last supper and heard the words of Jesus Christ. Paul did quote the words of Jesus Christ. However, these words seem to have been "forgotten" by the other apostles. Why? If this very important event was to be symbolically remembered by ALL believers AFTER the death of Christ, then why were Christ's words somehow "lost" by the gospel writers? Are all these "unusual" biblical facts just a coincidence, or does it show a certain divine pattern?
Let us honestly and objectively go "deep" into the scriptures and look at this subject as it is biblically explained. Let us try to mentally go back in history of this event of the last supper and try to put ourselves in the "apostle’s shoes" as Christ explained to them of a certain "change" within the physical elements that He gave to the apostles. It important for us to understood how the apostles understood the way that the Passover meal was conducted. The important point is that Jesus Christ ONLY spoke from the viewpoint of what the apostles understood about the Passover meal when He gave the physical elements for them to eat and drink. As we all know, among Israelites, the Passover meal was always done in "remembrance" of a lamb without spot or blemish that was slain in Egypt many centuries before Christ’s death to spare the firstborn Israelites from being killed by the "death angel," The Passover meal always ENDED with bread and wine symbolizing the flesh and blood of that lamb that Israel had "remembered" for fifteen hundred years!
Because of God’s laws given to Moses the Israelites were very familiar with physical symbols and types, and they literally "memorialized" the flesh and blood of that lamb with the symbols of bread and wine. After Jesus Christ and the apostles ate the Passover meal, he used the same centurys-old symbols of bread and wine to "remember" the slain Lamb that was without spot or blemish.
One source of "Jewish" tradition explains that after the Passover meal the Master of the house would pronounce a blessing and then take a cup of wine, break the hidden cake (unleavened bread) and distribute these elements to all sitting at the table. This was WHAT every Israelite family did after the Passover meal during the time of Christ, and this is WHAT the apostles were very familiar with. At his last Passover meal, Jesus Christ as "Master of the house" was only doing what all families of Israel had done in the privacy of their homes for hundreds of years! He did NOT institute anything NEW to the apostles, even though modern churches believe and teach that HE DID!
Jesus Christ WAS the Lamb of God (John 1:29) who was to take away the "sin of the world." Sin is singular, and should read "offence of the world". The bread and wine were NO LONGER to be taken in remembrance of that lamb sacrificed centuries before. Now the REAL LAMB without spot or blemish was to be sacrificed not only for the sins of Israel but for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD (1John 2:2).
What the Israelite families were ceremonially doing after the Passover meal for hundreds of years was looking FORWARD to the event of Jesus Christ’s death. They were UNKNOWINGLY "showing" Christ’s death UNTIL He came to die as the Lamb of God two thousand years ago. Notice Paul’s statements on this important fact:
As I mentioned before, the statement "this do in remembrance of me" is NOT found in the gospels; Luke mentioned it but ONLY for the broken bread and NOT for the wine. Yet Paul was quoting Christ as having said them! In verse 23 Paul said, "For I have received of the Lord", and yes, the resurrected Jesus Christ did indeed give visions and revelations to Paul (1Cor 12:1, 7). I believe Paul received special revelations NOT stated in the gospels on HOW Christ’s words were to be understood AFTER Christ’s death. The complete statement of verse 26 were Paul’s words (NOT Christ’s words), and there must be a reason WHY Paul mentioned this statement AFTER he quoted Christ’s statements made to the apostles. Christ told the apostles to "remember" Him by the elements of broken bread and wine that represented His body and the new covenant in His blood. But did Christ command the apostles to continue doing what the Israelite families were doing for hundreds of years in showing Christ’s death "TILL HE COME"? That is the question. A burdened and very heavy-hearted Jesus Christ wanted this to be a very special event shared intimately ONLY with his apostles in HOW Christ wanted His death to be remembered before he died. He used the same symbols that the Israelite families used for many centuries; only this time His apostles were to show and "remember" CHRIST’S death --NOT the death of that lamb.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 KJV:
- 23: 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:
- 24: 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.
- 25: 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.
- 26: For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
I believe that Christ revealed to Paul that the apostles had permission to continue this ceremony at every Passover IF they chose to do so. Notice Christ’s words, "as OFT as ye drink it" (verse 25) implying that as OFTEN as the apostles chose to symbolically "remember" His death. But Paul knew that the families of Israel for many centuries were UNKNOWINGLY showing Christ’s DEATH; but ONLY "till he come". As strange as this may sound, perhaps Paul did NOT INTEND for the Corinthians to "show" Christ’s death! Was Paul cautioning the Corinthians to NOT do what Israel was doing for hundreds of years in ceremonially showing Christ’s death BEFORE he died and therefore BEFORE they had a savior?
He added the words, "till he come" from the viewpoint that the apostles had BEFORE Christ’s death. This word "come" (G2064) is found over six hundred times in the New Testament (yes, over 600 times) and has NO spiritual application and is only used in the present and imperfect tenses. It is a complete different word than the word "coming" (G3952) which always has a spiritual application of a "coming of Christ" AFTER his death and resurrection. This word (G2064) certainly does NOT mean in the FUTURE sense of the so-called "second coming of Christ".
The meaning of words is very important! I believe that the phrase "till he come" HAS to apply BEFORE Christ’s death. Jesus Christ did indeed COME TO DIE; which means that AFTER Christ’s death the physical elements of bread and wine would LOSE the power of what they were supposed to represent -- NOT the lamb’s sacrifice -- but Christ’s sacrifice. Therefore these physical elements could no longer legally show Christ’s death. I believe that was the point Paul explained to the Corinthian Church!
I believe Paul cautioned them that as OFTEN (every time) they used these symbols of bread and wine they were doing what Israelite families were also doing BEFORE Christ’s death. The modern churches are truly determined to "show" Christ’s death in ceremonial fashion as OFTEN as feasibly possible, NOT realizing that just maybe Paul cautioned AGAINST doing just that! Today’s churches are correct in believing that taking these physical elements of bread and wine does indeed "show" the death of Christ. However, I believe they are very wrong in believing that "till He come" means the FUTURE so-called second coming of Christ.
Paul spoke (as Christ revealed to him) from the viewpoint of what the Israelites UNKNOWINGLY were doing for many hundreds of years; which was showing Christ’s death "till he come". I want to repeat, Christ did indeed COME as a lamb two thousand years ago to give His body and shed blood as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of Israel, but ALSO for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD (1John 2:2).
If we have the Spirit of the LIVING resurrected Jesus Christ in our hearts then WHY is it so NECCESARY to symbolically "show" His death? Are we serving a "dead" Christ until He comes again? Why not symbolically show a LIVING resurrected Christ? Israelite families for hundreds of years were ceremonially showing the death of Jesus Christ BEFORE His actual death. That is a biblical fact! Christ’s "COMING" to die was a PAST event and a fulfilled reality. In the context of Paul’s statement, "Ye do shew the Lord’s death, till he come" he was explaining a PAST event since He was quoting Christ’s statements from the perspective of a Jewish tradition that did indeed look FORWARD to the death of Christ (the TRUE Lamb of God).
I realize that some people will totally disagree with what I tried to explain, but all I’m asking is that you think this through from the viewpoint of WHAT the Israelite families were unknowingly doing for many hundreds of years before the death of Jesus Christ.
What is the "Lord’s Supper"? The Corinthian Church was corrupting and polluting the Lord’s Supper for what this meal was intended for, and Paul pointed out all the wrong things they were doing when "supposedly" eating the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper was designed to be celebrated with love, joy, and true fellowship at "feasts of charity" (Jude 1:12) and were done in the Spirit of the LIVING Jesus Christ! As we know, many scholars call these feasts simply as "love feasts", and Paul had to chastise them sharply for abusing the Lord’s Supper at these feasts. The Lord’s Supper was NOT AT ALL done in the manner that the Holy Communion service is done today by the modern churches. The early churches would NOT even recognize the modern day version of the Lord’s Supper as it is observed today. These love feasts of charity were very special times when believers assembled in "breaking bread", in fellowship, and in prayers (Acts 2:42). It could be said these feasts of love and charity were "showing" the LIVING resurrected Jesus Christ (NOT His death).
These feasts were designed to show the LIVING resurrected Jesus Christ living HIS life in His Church that He was building. This was why Paul was very angry when he saw the corruption of the Lord’s Supper within the Corinthian Church. This anger is expressed very well in 1 Cor 11:20-30. They were NOT to eat the Lord’s Supper in that manner, and were even getting drunk with the wine. They were NOT discerning (G1252) the Lord’s body by eating and drinking unworthily of the Lord’s Supper (G1252 means separate). Many of the Corinthians did NOT "separate" this unworthy behavior FROM the Lord’s body, and for this CAUSE many were weak and sickly, and many DIED prematurely (11:29-30). Paul said this for a REASON! This "unholy" eating and drinking was corrupting the spiritual "health" of the Lord’s body; which then corrupted the HEALTH of their OWN BODIES! The complete man (spirit, soul, and body) was to FEED on the Lord’s body at these love feasts, but their spirits and souls were UNWORTHY of this spiritual food, and their bodies were then physically affected by this spiritual mal-nourishment.
Jesus Christ WANTS us to be in good health and live a FULL life and NOT die a premature death! But today in a much DIVIDED Christian world believers are NOT exempt from disease and sickness, and there are many untimely deaths. In a deceived Church world I believe Christ wants us to be individuals standing on our own "theological" feet. There is still the Lord’s Supper for us to seek and partake of, as we will see. Paul mentioned the "cup of blessing" and "breaking bread" in these scriptures:
1 Corinthians 10:14-17 KJV:
- 14: Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
- 15: I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.
- 16: 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?
- 17: For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
Was Paul talking about what happens at a Holy Communion service as it is practiced in today’s churches, or was he talking about what spiritually happens during the Lord’s Supper at a love feast? That is the question.
It appears that the early churches were actively involved in blessing a "cup" and "breaking bread". As we all know, there are several examples of saints "breaking bread" which I believe was simply eating a meal and a joyous time of fellowship. The subject Paul was discussing in the proper context was to "flee from Idolatry" (verse 14). Paul then asked them to judge what he was about to explain, and what he explained was the COMMUNION of the blood and body of Christ. The sin of idolatry was compared to them blessing the "cup of blessing" and compared to them "breaking bread". The word "communion" (G2842) is the same Greek word used for "fellowship" and simply means partnership and participation. But was it fellowship, partnership, and participation with the actual wine in the cup that they drank and with the actual broken bread that they ate? Paul explained that THEY were the "one bread" and the "one body", and THEY all were partakers of that one bread; which was THEM (NOT a little piece of bread or a little sip of wine).
The REAL COMMUNION was the fellowship, partnership, and participation with the blood and body of Christ which actively bonded them together as one bread and one body. To flee idolatry caused them to bless a certain "cup" and to "break bread". The word, "blessing" (G2129) simply means to speak well, or to praise. When they assembled in these love feasts they blessed (spoke well and praised) what the wine in the cup of blessing represented which was the blood of Christ, and the "broken bread" represented the body of Christ that they were in COMMUNION with; which was THEM. Obviously the "cup of blessing" is directly linked to the cup of wine that Christ used at the last supper, and I do believe REAL WINE was in that cup for their enjoyment, and they were actively in communion with THEMSELVES in truly enjoying these love feasts. There is NOTHING wrong with enjoying wine as long as it is not taken in excess (Eph 5:18).
Psalms 104:15, Zech 10:7, and Eccl 10:19 are examples of wine making the heart glad, making the heart rejoice, and making the heart merry. Drinking wine with breaking bread at a love feast was an excellent recipe to show the glad, joyful, and merry hearts done in the Spirit of the LIVING Jesus Christ! I believe Paul was explaining that the saints when fleeing idolatry was that they simply wanted to assemble themselves at the Lord’s Supper to enjoy a love feast. Their REAL protection from idols, and the cup and table of devils (1Cor 10:21) was their COMMUNION (partnership and participation) with the blood and body of Jesus Christ at the Lord’s Supper. It was called the Lord’s Supper because the same physical elements of broken bread and the cup of wine were used by Christ at the last supper; hence the term "Lord’s Supper".
They were in REAL communion and partaking of the REAL THING; which was the Spirit of Christ living in that ONE bread; which was THEM! The REALITY of communion was NOT with the wine that they no doubt enjoyed at these love feasts, and the REALITY of communion was NOT with that broken bread that they happened to eat. The REAL communion has NOTHING to do with a piece of bread or a tiny sip of wine that we see practiced in today’s churches, but it has EVERYTHING to do with being in fellowship, in partnership, and participating with that ONE bread; the body of Christ made up of many members.
These love feasts were simply a time of true fellowship of joy and peace which represented the REALITY of a LIVING Christ (NOT a dead Christ) in fellowship, partnership, and participation living within the many members of His body; the Church. Here is another example of "breaking bread"….
Acts 20:6-7 KJV:
- 6: And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.
- 7: And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
They came together to break bread on the first day of the week (Sunday). I’m sorry all you Saturday Sabbath keepers, they did indeed come together on a Sunday. Over the years I heard ALL the spinning and twisting of scripture "proving" that this meeting was actually on a Saturday and continued to midnight. They say, sure Saturday at midnight would be called the "first day of the week" since the days started at sunset at that time. No, Paul specifically stated that WHEN they came together was UPON the first day of the week.
Another theory is that this particular first day of the week was the first of seven Sabbaths that are counted from the last day of unleavened bread to Pentecost (the last day of course being the first of seven Sabbaths). But the problem with that theory is that this particular Sunday happened to come AFTER the days of unleavened bread (verse 6), therefore I do believe Sunday was indeed the day that these love feasts of charity took place.
As we all know Jesus Christ was resurrected early on the first day of the week (Sunday) and His disciples assembled on that resurrection day, and again a week later (John 20:19, 26). Could it be that this is how these love feasts got started on a Sunday? They simply wanted to celebrate a LIVING Jesus Christ on the day of His resurrection. A LIVING Jesus Christ was IN them at these love feasts, and that was HOW the love, joy, and peace was ACTIVE in "showing" the LIVING resurrected Jesus Christ that was spiritually in their hearts (it was NOT showing the death of Christ).
We all are familiar with John 6:51-63 when Christ talked of eating and drinking of His flesh and blood. I will not display all these scriptures for the sake of space, but I want to show the three scriptures where Christ explained the spiritual application of eating and drinking of His flesh and blood.
John 6:62-64 KJV
- 62: What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
- 63: It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
- 64: But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
As we all know, Christ spoke in parables and hard sayings to people that would not believe and understand Him anyhow; as in the case of literally eating and drinking his physical flesh and blood. Christ knew from the beginning those that would not believe the TRUE meaning of eating and drinking of Christ’s body, which is why he said this hard saying to them (verse 64). He seemed to mock them; as if to say, "What IF you see me ascend UP to where I was before (disappear) then how can you eat and drink of my "invisible" flesh and blood?" He then explained it is our spirit that quickens (makes alive); it is NOT the flesh physically eating and drinking that makes us alive (the flesh profiteth nothing). Our spirits quicken us by the spoken words of Jesus Christ which are SPIRIT and they are LIFE. We must FEED on Christ’s words (and all scripture) by BELIEVING on them in faith. That is how we spiritually eat and drink of Christ, and then our spirit quickens us to make us alive with HIS LIFE. The principle is that we physically and spiritually ARE what we eat and drink. Jesus Christ is very much alive and has passed into the spiritual invisible realm of "heaven", and that is WHERE we must COMMUNE with Him. But Jesus Christ was also "in heaven" while in the flesh two thousand years ago.
John 3:13 KJV
- 13: And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, [even] the Son of man which is in heaven.
Notice Christ was IN HEAVEN while on the earth speaking these words, and if we have Christ IN US we are ALSO "in heaven" while in these flesh bodies, and we can have COMMUNION with him spiritually "in heaven". When millions of Christians partake of the Holy Communion in their churches they are NOT AWARE that what they are doing is WHAT all the Israelite families were doing for many centuries before Christ; which was simply an old covenant ceremonial ritual and a "Jewish" tradition where there is NO LIFE! This is NOT partaking of Holy Communion "in heaven" where Christ is.
In conclusion, this article has presented a theological viewpoint about Holy Communion that millions of Christians have NEVER heard of, and I fully realize this article will not change the minds of those that love to do Holy Communion. But maybe some will "rethink" this subject and begin to think more into the REAL COMMUNION "in heaven" where Jesus Christ has SUPPER with us and we with Him (Revelation 3:20), but we must open the DOOR of our hearts to let Him in. Oh yes, the LIVING Jesus Christ wants to "break bread" and have fellowship with us!
The author, Mahlon Wickey, can be Emailed at email@example.com He is the webmaster of:
Originally posted: 2011-FEB-20
Latest update: 2011-FEB-20
Author: Mahlon Wickey