The Lord’s Supper- 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

Jesus Himself commanded His disciples to observe two sacraments: baptism and Holy Communion. In this passage, the Apostle Paul gives us insight into and instructions regarding the observance of Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper. We will examine this passage in some detail in order to better understand exactly what we do when we partake of this sacrament. Paul begins, in verse 23, by telling us he had received what he is about to tell us “from the Lord”. What we see here is divine revelation, given to Paul by Jesus Himself for Paul to pass on to his fellow believers. Paul passed this on to the Corinthians (and to all other believers as well), and his intent is for every Christian church to administer this sacrament and for every believer to partake of it. He then tells us what we are to do and why we are to do it. Jesus Himself instituted this practice on “the night He was betrayed”. This refers to the night before the cross, the night of the Last Supper and His betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. The first of the two “elements” of communion is then given, bread. Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks for it, breaks it and distributes it to all 11 present with Him. Judas is not present at this point, for he has left to betray Jesus. Paul then quotes Jesus words for us, telling us that Jesus said that “This (bread) is my body, which is for you, do this in remembrance of me”. Jesus tells us here that the first element of communion represents His body, which is “for us”, the body which would be given as a sacrificial offering for sin. The word “do” here is a present imperative, a command to keep on doing this, to continue to observe this sacrament. This, therefore, is a sacrament which the church is to continue to observe until the return of Jesus. We now address the most crucial word in this command given us be Jesus, the word “remembrance”. The Greek word remembrance here is anamnesis, and does tell us merely to recollect, remember or bring to mind, for it is not merely a recollection but a re-enactment. The word can be literally defined as a “recollection through action, a repeating of the remembered’s experience”. To remember here is not merely to ponder or reflect upon, but rather to re-enact or re-do. We are commanded to repeat what Jesus did that night (more on this shortly). Jesus then presents to us the second element, the cup, in this case a cup of wine. This wine, Jesus tells us, is the “New Covenant in my blood”. He also distributes the cup to all 11 and repeats the same command to do this in remembrance of Him. We are told, in both elements, to do this in remembrance of Jesus, to re-enact what Jesus did that night, so the critical question to be answered here is “just what did Jesus do that night”? Did He merely eat bread and drink wine and command us all to do the same, or was there more to it than that? Paul provides our answer in verse 26 by telling us that whenever we partake of this sacrament we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”. Jesus’ actions that night at this supper were not merely to share a meal but to make a proclamation, and this supper truly was a proclamation by Jesus of His intent to offer up His body and blood for our sin the next day on the cross. The Greek word “to proclaim” here is katangello, and was a Greek word commonly used to describe a promise made to the gods in order to get the gods to do something. Service was promised to the gods in return for the gods doing what the promiser wanted. It is not used in this way by Jesus here, but rather used to describe a promise he was making to us, a promise of what he would do for us. So when we partake in Communion “in remembrance” of Jesus, we also make a proclamation, a public proclamation of our intent to do what Jesus did, to offer our body to God as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), to embrace the cross Jesus calls us to. This is done not as a promise to God to do something for Him in order to get Him to do something for us, but as a response to what He has already done for us. Communion, then, is a proclamation by all who partake of it of their intent to do what Jesus did, of their intent not to go to Calvary (only Jesus could go there) but to Gethsemane, a proclamation of our intent to live our lives in light of “not my will but thy will be done”, a proclamation of the reality of the death of Jesus, and also a proclamation of our intent to “die” just as He did. There remains much more to be said here, and our next post will continue our examination of this passage and of the true meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

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