In the New Testament, once we get past the book of Acts, the Lord’s Supper is mentioned only in what we call the book of First Corinthians. And, in the entire new covenant message, the term “the Lord’s Supper” is found only one time — in 1 Corinthians 11:20. Paul earlier spoke briefly about the communion of the blood and body of the Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16), but his most lengthy statements concerning the Supper are found in chapter eleven.
We want to focus on a few aspects of the message of 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. Please read it thoughtfully:
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
These are significant matters, matters that touch the life of every disciple of Jesus. Consider these:
Revelation – That which Paul wrote to the church of God in Corinth, he received from the Lord Jesus (11:23). How? By revelation. The gospel which Paul preached did not come from humans; rather, it came via “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). What Paul writes to the brethren in Corinth (and which he previously had delivered to them, 1 Corinthians 11:23), came from the Lord. It was not hearsay. It was not conjecture. It came by revelation. It was God’s truth. With such authority behind what Paul wrote, the Corinthian disciples should take it to heart. So should we. The Lord Himself clearly stated the purpose of breaking bread. It is to be done “in remembrance” of Him (11:24,25). It is not an intake of food to benefit the physical body. It is not a party activity. It is a memorial — a call to remember what the Christ did for us. What was that? “He bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).
Symbolization – When the Master instituted the Lord’s Supper with His apostles on the night of
His betrayal (11:23), He used literal bread and a literal container of juice. There were figurative gestures and words involved, too. When He handed bread to the apostles and said, “This is My body,” did He mean that they would eat His literal body? His literal body was right before their eyes. They knew when they put bread into their mouths that it was not His literal body. Thus, His words “This is My body” must have a figurative meaning. The bread symbolizes His body.
Look further. When He spoke about drinking “this cup” (11:25), the “cup” pointed to the contents within the container, not the container itself. What they literally drank was fruit of the vine (Mark 14:25). It represented the blood which He shed.
Again, when Jesus spoke of the “new covenant in My blood” (11:25), He was highlighting the truth that the new covenant would be sealed, as it were, by His blood. Just as the first covenant (Law of Moses) was dedicated with blood (Hebrews 9:18- 20), so the new covenant was symbolically sealed by Jesus’ blood.
Proclamation – “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). We proclaim Jesus’ death when we teach the gospel. We also proclaim His death when we praise Him and teach one another by singing such songs as “The Old Rugged Cross.” But in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul speaks of proclaiming our Lord’s death as we take the Supper. How is that so? By eating the bread and drinking the cup, our action declares something to those who observe us. What does it proclaim? That we believe what happened at Calvary, that the Christ died on a cross, shedding His blood for our redemption!
Examination – “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (11:28). The examining that I am to do is of one person — myself. This examination to which the Lord through Paul calls us concerns one matter. What am I to examine as I approach the communion? Not how I spoke to someone recently. Not my prayer life. Not my moral conduct. What I am to examine is how I partake of the Supper. Am I properly discerning the Lord’s body? (11:29). Am I concentrating on His death? Am I reflecting on His blood and its significance? At that moment, is my heart focused?
Please seriously consider these precious matters.
— Roger D. Campbell