History of the Lord’s Supper

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One Response to “History of the Lord’s Supper”

  1. ian vincent Says:

    “HISTORY OF THE LORD’S SUPPER” by Lynette Hughes: Today tradition has forced us to take the Lord’s Supper as a thimble of grape juice and a tiny, tasteless bite-size cracker in an atmosphere of solemnness. We are usually told to remember the horrors of our Lord’s death and reflect on our sins. In addition, tradition has taught us that taking the Lord’s Supper can be a dangerous thing. And some churches forbid their congregants to partake without an ordained clergyman present.

    Since Christ ate the Passover dinner with His disciples when He instituted the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, the early church continued that practice by eating an evening meal together at the time of observing the Lord’s Supper.

    The Christians assembled in private homes for the main meal at the end of the day, each bringing what they could as a contribution to the meal: fish, poultry, joints of meat, cheese, milk, honey, fruit, wine and bread. {The social custom of the Jews at the time of Jesus Christ was to drink wine with the Passover. Jesus’ enemies called Him a winebibber {drunkard} in Luke 7:34. Why would anyone call Him a winebibber if it were anything other than wine that He had been seen drinking?}

    Often, the believers broke the bread of communion at the beginning of the meal and concluded the meal with the cup of communion wine as was the custom of the Passover meal. In some homes the meal began by partaking of the bread and wine; but in other places they ate the meal first, and after that the bread and wine were passed around. There was apparently no set tradition. These meals became known as the agape or love feasts – and became a marked feature of the early church.

    For the early Christians, the Lord’s Supper was a festive communal meal; their mood was one of celebration for what Christ had done for them. For the early church the Lord’s Supper meal was practiced to strengthen and celebrate the unity and faith of the believers. Keeping Jesus in the forefront of their lives made them strong as a family….The Lord’s Supper, prayer, worship & the teaching of Jesus’ words became the glue that held the early Church together…and it’s no different for those of us who are believers today.

    Scripture indicates in the earliest days after Pentecost, the church celebrated the Lord’s Supper daily with their evening meal. As the days and years passed, and the church grew and stabilized there is overwhelming and unequivocal testimony from scripture they began to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week {that would be each Sunday}.

    However, there were some abuses that took place that Apostle Paul had to correct, and we are going to look at some of those scriptures for ourselves: It seems that in the first century Corinthian church, there were believers who were wealthy, and believers who were poor. Those who “had” were eating and indulging to the full, and they were overlooking those who “had not.”

    1 Cor 11: 20 & 33 & 34: 20 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper ahead of others; [that is, you say you are gathering to eat the Lord’s Supper, but the way you are doing it reveals something else]; and one is hungry and another is drunk” 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God (your brothers & sisters in Christ) and shame those who have nothing?………….33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.” 34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment.”

    ‘Therefore, when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper’; this is similar to a school teacher telling her pupils, “When you come to class, you are not here to study”. What the teacher means is that they should have come to class for the purpose of studying, but because of their misbehavior, that’s not the case. Similarly, Paul told the Corinthian Christians they should have come to the assembly for the purpose of observing the Lord’s Supper but it was obvious from their misbehavior that they weren’t there to properly observe the Lord’s communion service any more than the misbehaving school children came to study.

    Nobody is going to get drunk from the small amount of wine taken in communion today, nor is it credible that people would receive communion before others because they were hungry. Obviously then what Apostle Paul refers to as the Lord’s Supper is a meal. And it’s quite obvious the meal included wine that could make one drunk. All biblical scholars—Catholic and Protestant, liberal and conservative alike—are agreed on this matter: that the Lord’s Supper was a full meal.

    Everyone who was able brought food and wine to the meal, but not all arrived at the same time. The earliest arrivals were eating without waiting for the others, and by the time the rest arrived—who were apparently sometimes so poor that they were unable to bring any food—everything had already been consumed.

    Getting drunk and hogging all the food at a gathering of believers is a sure way to expose how lightly one esteems God’s children, the church. The Corinthian Christians could not rightfully call the meal “the Lord’s Supper” because selfishness pervaded rather than love.

    Apostle Paul confirms it’s perfectly proper for them to come together to eat in verse 33, but says they must wait for everyone to arrive before they start eating. This is why Paul tells them “So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home.”

    In other words, if you’re too hungry to wait for all your brothers and sister to eat when you come together, eat at home before you come. Clearly, the Lord’s Supper in the early church was a gathering of Christians from different social and economic classes, something that made it absolutely unique, a foretaste of the marriage feast of the Lamb. Caring for the poor is part and parcel of what Christianity is intended to be, so much so that it was a component of the Lord’s Supper that was regularly and frequently enjoyed by the early Christians.

    By means of the Lord’s Supper, the first believers fulfilled a commandment of Christ within the church that seems to be virtually ignored today: “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

    Surely such a dinner would truly be a “love feast”! I hope you are beginning to see that the little ritual we rehearse in our churches is a far cry from what the Lord originally intended for His memorial supper to be.

    Christian history indicates that it wasn’t until the end of the second century that the bread and wine began to be separated from the meal of the Lord’s Supper. They began to have the bread and wine on Sunday mornings and the agape meals – on Sunday evenings.

    As the church began to grow and develop, it became increasingly organized, and with the organization came the rise of ceremony, ritual, and tradition along with corruption. This impacted every area of church life and practice, including the Lord’s Supper. In an effort to control the laity, the agape meals were moved into buildings and eventually became a charity supper in which the church fed the poor; by the end of the fourth century, the clergy actually forbid the love feasts although in some places it continued to be practiced longer.

    The Lord’s Supper evolved into a somber and mystical ritual, no longer a community event due in part to the influence of the pagan mystery religions. No longer was it a simple memorial meal shared by Christian families in their homes and with fellow believers. Instead, it came to be viewed as a Sacrament, with a host of laws and regulations surrounding it. And in time the bread and cup came to be viewed as sacred objects in and of themselves. The Lord’s Supper could now only be administered by a bishop or an ordained church official. Now began the doctrine of transubstantiation; the belief that the bread and wine actually changed into the body and blood of Christ. With this doctrine, God’s people approached the elements with a feeling of fear and were reluctant to even take them.

    While contemporary Protestant Christians have discarded the Catholic notion that the Lord’s Supper is a “resacrifice” of Jesus Christ for our sins in contradiction to what Scripture says, that Jesus died “once for all” and does not need to be sacrificed again, they have continued to embrace many of the Catholic practices of Communion.

    The truth is, however, that the Lord’s Supper as practiced by the early Christians never occurred in a special church building, but in homes. And it was never a little snack but always a full meal. And there was never an “ordained minister” present to “officiate.” It was ordinary Christians celebrating the Lord’s Supper and enjoying the fellowship of a meal together; a meal shared by friends in private homes who loved each other like family. Meals are meant to bring people into relationships that have lasting impact and should always center on Him. (Col 3:17) Sometimes, more ministry happens when you share a meal than when you go to church.

    Only Christians should partake of the Lord’s Supper. I think it’s interesting to see what they did under the Old Testament in regards to the Passover. Exodus 12:48 “For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.” Before anyone could participate in the Passover, he had to become a Jew and be circumcised and enter into God’s covenant. The Passover was not open to outsiders.

    In a similar manner, only Christians are to partake of the Lord’s Supper. The Bible describes our conversion to Christianity as a spiritual circumcision made without hands (Col 2:11). 1 Corinthians 10:16: “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?” Do unbelievers have a part in the blood of Christ? Do unbelievers have a part in the body of Christ? Obviously, no. Unbelievers are not in communion or fellowship with Jesus.

    Unbelievers who partake of communion without understanding what Christ did for them would be eating and drinking in an unworthy manner. Unbelievers do not and cannot value what Christ has done for them. A celebration of redemption would be meaningless to them. And it is for this reason unbelievers should not partake of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is for those who have, in faith, recognized Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

    The Lord’s Supper, although a memorial of Christ’s death, is not a funeral, as if Jesus were still dead. Quite the contrary – we observe this memorial knowing that death held Jesus only three days – knowing that death will not hold us either.

    When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are remembering God’s work of redemption in the past, we are proclaiming His grace in the present, and we are looking forward to Jesus’ glorious appearing in the near future with eager anticipation.

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