Unity at the Lord’s Table

MEMORY VERSE: “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.” —I Corinthians 11:26


IT IS believed by many historians that in the Early Church as a whole the first knowledge of the memorial of Jesus’ death was received from Paul, since, it is believed, I Corinthians was written prior to any of the Gospels which contain the account of Jesus’ inauguration of the memorial of his death, referred to by many as the Lord’s Supper. And indeed, Paul gives us a fairly complete account of what took place in the Upper Room the night before the crucifixion.

I Corinthians 11:23-25 reads, “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: 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. 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. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.”

In the preceding chapter Paul gives us additional information concerning the “bread” and the “cup.” We quote: “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? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”—I Cor. 10:16,17

The word “communion” as here used is translated from a Greek word meaning common participation, or partnership. Thus Paul is explaining that when we commemorate the death of Jesus, we are also reminding ourselves that we share in his suffering and death. This thought is clearly stated by Jesus and the apostles. Jesus invited his followers to deny themselves and to take up their cross and follow him into death. Paul wrote, “It is a faithful saying: for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.”—II Tim. 2:11,12

This makes the Memorial Supper a very vital thing to every footstep follower of the Master, for it is a reminder of Jesus’ death as the Redeemer of the world, and also of the fact that we have the privilege of suffering and dying with him. Jesus also explained that the “cup is the new testament in my blood.” (I Cor. 11:25) This is a reference, not to the New Testament part of the Bible, but to God’s promise of a New Covenant, a covenant through which Israel and the whole world will receive blessings of life.

God has promised to bless “all families of the earth,” through the “Seed” of Abraham. That promised “Seed” is Jesus and his church; those who suffer and die with him. (Gal. 3:16,27-29) The followers of Jesus are called to be “ministers” of the New Covenant, and the blood of Christ makes their sacrificial service acceptable as they are being prepared for this future glorious work.

Evidently there were those in the church at Corinth who were not mature in the faith, and had not grasped the real meaning of the Lord’s Supper. This is indicated in I Corinthians 11:20-22. They met together for this purpose, and evidently made it an occasion for a feast, some of the early arrivals seemingly drinking the wine which was to be used at the Lord’s Supper, and becoming intoxicated, and some making gluttons of themselves. This would not be the Lord’s Supper at all.

Paul warns against this practice, and advises that if they want to make a feast they should do it in their own houses. It would seem that it was this corrupt version of the Lord’s Supper that Paul refers to as being partaken of unworthily. (vs. 28) To this he adds, “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation [margin, “judgment”] to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body”


From what source did many in the Early Church receive their knowledge of the Memorial Supper and its significance?

What three meanings are properly attached to our partaking of the “cup” and the “bread” at the communion table?

What is one way of partaking of the Lord’s Supper unworthily?

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |