The Lord's Supper

The Lord’s Supper: Biblical Overview and Theological Reflections                            WC McCarter


(1) Eucharistχαριστω): Matt 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17, 19; 1 Cor 11:24
“17 [Jesus] took the cup, and gave thanks . . . . 19 And He took bread, gave thanks. . . .”

Not a title for the meal in the Bible but has become one, especially for Roman Catholics.

(2) Communion (κοινωνα): 1 Cor 10:16-17
“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, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.”

Fellowship, sharing, communion. Here we find a description of the event of the meal, yet it has become a title in many traditions.

(3) Breaking of Bread κλσει το ρτου): Luke 24:35; Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7; 1 Cor 10:16
“7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.”

Most scholars, nearly universally, believe that this phrase refers to the Lord’s Supper. Remember, Jesus was known to the disciples “in the breaking of bread” after traveling the road to Emmaus. So, here, we have a biblical title for the meal.

(4) The Lord’s Table (τραπζης κυρου): 1 Cor 10:21
“21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons.”

We are instructed to come to the Lord’s Table with sincerity and purity of heart and relationships. Here, we have another biblical title for the meal.

(5) The Lord’s Supper (κυριακν δεπνον): 1 Cor 11:20
“20 When you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper.”

Here, the meal is specifically referred to with this title, which is the most common of all the titles. The Corinthians were rebuked for making a mockery of the Lord’s Supper. They called it such, but they were actually getting drunk and eating their fill before others could make it to the gathering.


(1) Passover: Beginning at Exodus. The Lord commanded the people to keep the Passover meal for generation after generation to remember their salvation from slavery in Egypt. There was a Passover Lamb, a blood sacrifice, and there was salvation.

(2) Last Supper: Passover Meal. Jesus took the position of the “head of household” and instituted a new covenant in His blood.

(3) NT Christians: Meal within the meal (agape love feast). They practiced this regularly, even weekly (devoted/continued steadfastly).

(4) Church History: As one dictionary says, “At first the ceremony was part of a larger meal . . . but, being a special part, it could be separated” (ZIBD). The dictionary article goes on to teach, Historically speaking, the Lord’s Supper was later separated and became the second part of the weekly worship time, the first being the ministry of the word (ZIBD). So, what the church had was two major pillars for the service around which was placed prayers and songs: the ministry of the word and the Lord’s Supper. For the first 300 years, it seems to be regularly practiced.


(1) Bread: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

(2) Cup: Blood of the new covenant poured out for many. The word wine is never used. Fruit of the vine. May have been unfermented grape juice.


(1) Remember: There is no doubt that one of the chief purposes of the Supper is to remember. Jesus commanded, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” The Table is a memorial of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ (Heb 7:27; 9:12), and, contrary to Catholicism, it is not a continual, active offering of a sacrifice. The Table serves to remind us of the one-time sacrifice. And, “Remembrance, biblically, involves a realization and appropriation in the present of what was done in the past” (source unknown). It is an active memory. We put ourselves back in time. We think of ourselves in the Upper Room. We think of ourselves at the cross. We imagine being present at the empty tomb and at the Lord’s ascension.

(2) Examine: The apostle instructs in 1 Cor 11:28-29, “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.” The Lord’s Supper gives us a weekly opportunity to examine our own lives, our own souls to see if our motives are pure and if our minds are set on the Lord.

Let me point out that the “unworthy manner” here is specifically “not discerning the Lord’s body” which is, in the context, not considering your brothers and sisters in Christ. You see, the Lord’s Supper is not something you do alone. It is not just a fellowship of you and the Lord like you’re in a bubble or like a man on the moon. No, the Lord’s Supper is a fellowship of the whole church. You must think of the person in front of you, behind, beside, and across the room. The Lord died for each one of us. If there is ill-will between you and someone else, if there is conflict, if you are ignoring others, overlooking his/her needs, then you are eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.

(3) Commune: Again, we have 1 Cor 10:16-17,
“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, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.”

The word used is the word for fellowship. Of course, this piggybacks off of the last point. This is a communion that we share with one another and with the Lord Himself. This is the most important, the most special form of fellowship that the Christian has.

(4) Proclaim: The famous words of the apostle come in 1 Cor 11:26 when he says, “26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.” We are making a statement. We are preaching to our own souls, to all those in the assembly, and to the whole world. We are heralding the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

(5) Pledge: Coming to the Lord’s Table and participating in His Supper is a pledge of loyalty to the Lord, a pledge of allegiance to Christ and His church. It is to come wholeheartedly and single-mindedly, focusing completely on the Lord and His purposes. One author says, “To eat at His table is to be committed to Him, identified with His people, and dedicated to the service of His cause in the world” (BEB, 1355).

(6) Anticipate: In each of the accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, from Matthew, Mark, and Luke to Paul in 1 Corinthians, there is some form of hope for the future. When we partake, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. And, we will all one day participate in this meal with the Lord in the Father’s kingdom.


(1) Christians Only: With all these things in mind, one can see that it is assumed that this a meal for Christians only. Why would one want to participate if he/she does not believe?

(2) Weekly Meal: It appears that the Lord’s Supper was practiced weekly in the New Testament, but that is not conclusive. Early church history also shows a weekly participation in the Supper. There is no prescription, no commandment about frequency, but it was done regularly. So, we choose to make it part of our weekly worship time, much like the Bible lesson, the singing, the prayers, and the Scripture readings. It is our opportunity, each week, to be reminded of the Gospel message, to examine ourselves, to fellowship at the Lord’s Table, and to proclaim the Gospel to one another. We engage in this weekly because we cannot think of a reason not to do so. This is as important an activity as there is in the Christian life.

(3) Both And: The Lord's Supper should be both solemn and joyful at the same time, both serious and a celebration.