*THE LORD’S SUPPER (COMMUNION)*
part 1 of 2
*A. EARLY OPTIONAL PRACTICES*
There are several practices associated with communion that are Biblical EXAMPLES but not necessarily Biblical commands:
–At least three New Testament verses indicate that the early church had an entire meal, the love feast, before it practiced communion: 1Cor11:20-22; 2Pet2:13; Jude12
While a love feast before communion might not be a requirement, it seems to have been the example of the early church. It can be a good means of bringing the entire church together.
*2. COMMUNION WINE*
–Although GRAPE JUICE qualifies as “the fruit of the vine” (see Matt26:29; Mark14:25; Lk22:18), it is possible that the New Testament church used REAL ALCOHOLIC WINE for communion. On the other hand, the Lord made wine (Jn2:1) and consumed wine (Lk7:33-39), where ”oinos” in Greek, means ‘wine’ but also ‘grape juice’; equivalent word ”tyirosh” in Hebrew, means ‘grape juice’. I can’t imagine Jesus supporting alcoholism (millions are dying every year because of alcohol, I personally hears some use the excuse ”Jesus made wine out of water!”); we will soon write a sermon on the subject of alcohol and its damage to the brain, even in small quantities.
Deut18:4: “Bring the first fruit also of your corn, of your WINE, and of your oil…” “Wine” here is the Hebrew “tirosh,” meaning freshly pressed juice. Similarly in Is65:8 we read of the “new wine (“tirosh” fresh grape juice), found in the cluster” – you don’t find alcoholic wine in clusters but grape juice (see 2Chron31:4-5; Neh10:37-39;13:5,12)
–Jesus is actually the first of the first fruits, 1Cor15:23, and the true vine, Jn15:1. First fruit of wine is grape juice (new wine), Jesus represents the new wine, which is grape juice, not the intoxicating alcoholic wine. Alcoholic wine is a fermentation or alteration of the grape juice, just as an alteration of Bible doctrine brings destruction, also as the manna kept overnight produced worms
–Ex12 forbade any FERMENTATION to be consumed and even kept in the house during Passover, therefore for sure Jesus used grape juice at the Last Supper, also unleavened bread
–The practice of that time was to mix two, three or four PARTS WATER WITH WINE. The Corinthian church must have used real and undiluted wine because they became drunk 1Cor11:21
–If the example of the early church was to use wine in communion, does this mean the modern church is required to do the same? Not necessarily. Think of the OFFENSE to CHILDREN who would be introduced to alcohol at church; the use of real wine could be a STUMBLING BLOCK to those with a background of ALCOHOL PROBLEMS. Rom. 14:21 can be used for a justification for substituting juice as an alternative “fruit of the vine” which can also symbolize blood. 1Cor.10:31-32 is also pertinent and comes in a context that has dealt with communion.
*3.FREQUENCY OF COMMUNION*
–The New Testament church practiced communion at least WEEKLY and at times even DAILY (Acts2:42, Acts20:7). Again, this is an example of how communion was celebrated but not necessarily a command that it must be conducted this way today.
*4.LAST SUPPER PRACTICES*
–In Matt26:30 Christ closed the Last Supper with a HYMN. This may not have been intended to be an essential part of communion but rather something the Lord preferred to do on that particular occasion as it fits the Jewish custom of closing the Passover meal (singing of the second half of the Hallel, Psalms 115-118). Although singing is not mentioned as mandatory in 1Cor11, it is a nice optional feature that can be used to close communion.
–FEET WASHING is a far more controversial practice; there is great argument as to whether Jesus intended this for only the apostles (or for only that one occasion), or whether He desired foot washing to be an integral part of communion for all believers at all times. Jn13:5-7,12-15
Some denominations practice feet washing along with the communion service, like ”Grace Brethren” and some pentecostal churches. Jesus did it as an example for the disciples, just as when He taught the disciples the prayer ”Our Father”, He meant it as an example of prayer, not as a formula, which later He Himself did not even follow when He prayed in John 17. Foot washing is not mentioned in the other three gospel accounts of the Last Supper nor as a church ordinance in the epistles, especially in primary sections about communion in 1Cor10 and 11
*B. MANDATORY COMMUNION PRACTICES*
1Cor11:23-32 gives essential practices that are binding upon the church relative to communion practices (See also Matt26:26-29; Mark14:22-25; Lk22:17-20):
–The pattern of communion laid down in 1Cor11:23, mandates that THANKS be given first, before the BREAD and then before the CUP. It is best to follow this pattern of prayer before partaking and the order of the BREAD FIRST and then the cup
–The passage in Corinthians allows freedom in the FREQUENCY of observance (“…AS OFTEN AS…” in 1Cor11:25). The early church held communion WEEKLY (Acts20:7) and probably even DAYLY (Acts2:42,46). This is understandable given the situation of PERSECUTION. Frequent communion would be a means of encouraging the early church faced with harsh threats and onslaughts of her enemies. For the most part the modern church does not suffer similar pressures. Communion should be observed frequently enough TO PREVENT FORGETFULNESS of the Lord’s sacrifice and to provide regular occasions for a REMINDER TO CONFESS our sins. Yet, communion should not be so frequent as to become a trite, meaningless ritual. Since the Bible allows flexibility as to the frequency of communion, the elders of a church should decide what frequency best serves these goals.
–1Cor11:28 (also v31) requires SELF-EXAMINATION before participating in the Lord’s Supper. Verse 27 refers to drinking in an “unworthy manner.” This is an adverb stressing unworthy manner of observance, not so much unworthiness of a person. In the ultimate sense no one is worthy to take communion. Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf was pure grace. Paul, in this context, is mainly concerned that participants in communion “discern or judge the body” correctly, that they observe with the respect and honor due the seriousness of the ordinance.
–The Corinthians were observing in a disrespectful manner to the point of gorging themselves at the “love feast” and even getting drunk. The point in the context is not that one who observed communion with unconfessed sin will drop over dead. The warning of judgment is specifically directed to those who made a mockery of the Lord’s Supper. These are the objects of the warnings about God’s judgment. Still, it is wise that a general examination of all aspects of Christian living take place along with the specific examination of one’s attitude toward the Lord’s Supper during its actual observance.
…end of part 1 of 2…