The Lord's Supper


            The first Corinthian epistle, was written during the early days of the church age and during the transition period in which thousands of believing Jews in the city of Jerusalem were all zealous of the law of Moses (Acts 21:20) while the Gentile believers were admonished not to become entangled with the yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1 and Acts 21:25). Jerusalem was the very center of where the apostles and elders were preaching and if they had been teaching the believing Jews to stop observing the law, Jerusalem would have been the first place for it to happen and the apostles and elders would have been the first to be accused of it by the thousands of Jews in Jerusalem

            Before this time, the council at Jerusalem, concluded that the yoke of the law was not to be placed upon the necks of the Gentiles (Acts 15:10). There was no question at that time, about the Jews continuing to observe the law with its temple worship, Sabbath days, feast days, fast days, holy day, purifications, animal sacrifices, etc. Therefore, there were two walks of the Jew and Gentile believers in the early church until the natural branches were cut off and the wild branches were grafted in (Rom. 11:7-25) and it was revealed that the middle wall of partition had been broken down (Eph. 2 and Col. 2). 

            The unique condition that existed in the first 30 or so years of the church age was filled with unique events that would not be repeated. Paul, at the end of his third missionary journey, came into Jerusalem and was told of the rumor being told about him. The rumor stated that Paul taught the Jew which lived among the Gentiles to forsake Moses. Therefore, Paul was instructed by the elders at Jerusalem to take four other Jewish brethren and to be at charges with them, having a Jewish vow on them. They shaved their heads, and entered the temple to accomplish their Jewish purification (baptism). This was followed by an offering (an animal sacrifice) which was to be made for them at the end of the seven day period (Acts 21:20-28). Paul was not guilty as rumored and was not at this time observing the law to deceive the Jews in Jerusalem . He was instructed by the elders at Jerusalem to do these things to inform the people that their rumor was nothing (not true) and that Paul walked orderly and kept the law. It was to prove the rumor was false, and to show that he had not taught the Jews that lived among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, Corinth being one of those Gentile cities. (Acts 21:21) 

            Many people today believe the same false rumor, believing that Paul was trying to persuade the Jewish believers to quit observing the law where ever he went. This supposition is a basic flaw which has caused churchmen to apply Jewish observances upon the church, simply because Christian Jews were yet observing them after the church had begun. The end result has produced great confusion among Christians, today. 

            A basic understanding of the transition period in the early days of the church age is very important as it relates to the 10th and 11th chapters of first Corinthians if one is to discern the text. 

            Paul and other Jewish believers continued to observe the law, but were often persecuted and sometimes cast out of the Jewish synagogues. As believing Jews, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, they continued to observe the law with its Jewish ceremonies of worship, though their faith in the resurrected Lord caused them to be persecuted by their Jewish brethren. They were unacceptable in part to both their own nation and to the Gentile nations except for the believers among them, which made up the church. Even in the church, the Jews and Gentiles, who believed, had some serious adjustment problems. 

            Paul and the other apostles were given gifts of the spirit for the time then present to perform super-natural deeds, including the word of knowledge, and the word of wisdom, faith, discerning of spirits, gifts of healing, miracles, tongues, etc (1 Cor. 12:). During this time, we find God declaring Himself in behalf of the believers in ways that left no doubt that their faith in the resurrected Lord was valid. The Holy Spirit was given to the apostles in a very dramatic way on the day of Pentecost with gifts following (Acts 2). Peter and John continued to go to the temple to worship and while they were there, they healed the forty year old man, who had been lame from his mother’s womb (Acts 3). With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all (Acts 4). An-a-ni’as and his wife, Sap-phi'ra, were stricken dead on the spot for their deceit and for lying to the Holy Ghost (Acts 5). Believers were more added to the Lord in so-much that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. A multitude out of the cities brought their sick folks and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one (Acts 5).  The apostles were put in the common prison but the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out (Acts 5). Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people (Acts 6), but was stoned into eternity and God allowed it to come to pass (Acts 7). From the apostle Paul, handkerchiefs or aprons were brought unto the sick and their diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them (Acts 19). In Corinth , many were weak and sickly and many slept (in death), because they ate and drank of the Lord’s Supper, unworthily, failing to eat it in remembrance of Christ (1 Cor. 11:23-30).

            Before the “church age” began, the Lord, at the last supper with His Jewish disciples, instructed them to eat the Passover with its spiritual meaning. Not only would they remember the old Passover lamb and the passing over of the death angel and their deliverance out of Egypt , but they were to eat it in remembrance of Christ, the anti-typical Lamb of God. They were about to witness the sacrificial Lamb of God, shedding His blood and dying for their sins and that reality was always to be remembered as they ate their Passover Supper. The Passover supper with its spiritual meaning in the early years of the church, was often called, “The Lord’s Supper.” 

            Christ, as the Lamb of God, was sacrificed for them and had caused the penalty of death to pass over believers in salvation. Their eating the supper, without discerning the Lord’s body, is said to have caused them to eat and drink damnation to themselves (1 Cor. 11:27-30). At that time, God’s chastening hand was upon believing Jews, who ate the supper unworthily, even to the extent of death.  

            These and other unusual things were a part of God’s promised sign-program to Israel - “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom.” (1 Cor. 1:22). The ministry of the apostles went forth to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Rom. 1:16; Acts 11:19). The Lord gave special opportunity for the nation of Israel to recognize their promised Lamb of God. God was dealing in a super-natural and miraculous way with the new believers during this transition period and until the epistles to the church were written to reveal God’s order in the church, being yet in the time when believing Jews were observing the law, but the believing Gentiles were to observe no such thing, (Acts 21:25). 

            The Passover Supper was often called the Lord’s Supper after Christ gave them the spiritual meaning of the bread and the fruit of the vine and after He said He would not again eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God . Christ said, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Lk. 22:13-16). The Lord’s Supper was a continuation of the Passover supper: The ingredients of the supper were not changed, the day for it to be eaten was not changed, the people who were to eat it were not changed. Therefore the Lord’s Supper, as recorded in Scripture, was only for the Jews to whom it belonged. When Christ ate the Passover with his twelve disciples at their last Passover supper, He did not institute a new supper. He only gave them a new or spiritual meaning to the old Passover supper which they were eating and which had been observed for over two thousand years. 

            After the time of the last supper, more than twenty of the first years of the church age passed with no instructions to the Gentiles or to the church at large to observe the supper. The council at Jerusalem , recorded in Acts 15, was over the question of the Gentiles. “There rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” (v-5) God’s order was portrayed by Peter, saying, “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (v-10) James further confirmed and established Peter’s words, saying, “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:” (v-19) 

            At the end of the Apostle Paul’s third journey among the Gentile nations, he came to Jerusalem and was advised by the elders at Jerusalem to disprove a false rumor, being told about him, by showing his observance of the law (Acts 21:19-24). The elders further declared what was done at the council at Jerusalem , saying, “As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.” (v-25) 

            During Paul’s third journey, he was at Ephesus for three years in which time he wrote the first Corinthian epistle. Therefore, the epistle was written, when the Jews were observing the Passover Supper (the Lord’s Supper) and the Gentiles were not.

Jew, Gentile, Church of God

            Parts of the first Corinthian epistle were specifically written to and about the Jews among them, though Corinth was predominately Gentile. 

            1 Cor. 10:1-4, Paul began by saying, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” 

            Only the Hebrew fathers passed through the Red Sea to escape the Egyptians as Moses led them out and away from their bondage. So it is easy to see that Paul was addressing his Hebrew brethren, not his Gentile brethren. 

            In verses 15-17, Paul said “I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.” This gives us a clue that his message requires some spiritual discernment. He explains, spiritually, their cup of blessing was their communion of the blood of Christ and the bread they broke was the communion of the body of Christ. Obviously, he was speaking of their spiritual communion with Christ through his sacrifice for their sins. 

             Beginning with verse 18, he says, “Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” In so saying, Paul refers to Israel after the flesh as the fleshly example of the spiritual reality. Therefore, Paul professed that the spiritual cup of blessing and the spiritual bread, which the believers broke, were their communion with the crucifixion of Christ, which was the fulfillment of the fleshly example, portrayed by the Passover observance. 

            In verse 32, Paul gave them a very important rule which he applied to his summation of the matter, saying, “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor the church of God :” There were then three different peoples who must be considered and to recognize God’s instructions for each. 

            Paul told Timothy, saying, “Study to show thy self approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” (2 Tim. 2:15). To rightly divide the word of truth was simply to apply the word which belonged to the Jews, to the Jews; which belonged to the Gentiles, to the Gentiles, and which belonged to the church, to the church. The failure to make these distinctions has caused a great deal of religious confusion throughout the years since the apostles. 

When Ye Come Together in the Church, 1 Cor. 11:18
   20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.
   21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry and another is drunken.
   22 What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in: or despise ye the church of God , and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. 

            In verse 20, Paul spoke of their coming together into one place. This coming together was further described as the church of God (v-18 & 22). Therefore, it was a gathering of believers, both Jews and the Gentiles, who made-up the church of God

            Firstly, they were bringing a Jewish feast into a gathering of the church of God , among Gentiles, who had been told to observe no such things (Acts 21:25). This single fact made it completely inappropriate and was as if they were flaunting their Jewish heritage while despising their church relationship with believing Gentiles. The Jews were giving an offence to the Gentiles and to the church as forbidden in 1 Cor. 10:31-32. 

            Secondly, they were eating their own supper before others (apparently the Gentiles), who had none (v-21-22), and they were not eating the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of the Lord (v-27). Apparently, they were eating the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of the passing over of the death angel and their exodus out of Egypt and were not eating the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Christ (the Lamb of God), His crucifixion, and the spiritual death which had passed over the believers in Christ. The fulfillment of the physical type had now come, and the eating of the physical supper without discerning its fulfillment was a serious sin. Also, it is possible that they may have been eating the Supper in disregard for godly values and may have been eating in a flagrant display of festive indulgence to satisfy their hunger and their fleshly lust. 

            Knowing the Corinthian behavior in these matters, Paul infers that they despised the church of God and shamed them that had not (v-22). Their behavior was a very serious corruption of a sacred, memorial feast, which brought upon them the discipline of God to the extent that many were weak and sickly among them, and many slept (in death). This infraction was not merely some greedy or lavish feasting of a common meal, but a degradation of the Passover Supper with its spiritual meaning. 

            According to the Greek/English Interlinear translation, verse 20 is rendered as, “coming together therefore ye into one place, not it is [the] Lord’s supper to eat.” 

            These words were translated, “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper,” in the King James Version. 

            These same words were translated, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper you eat,” in the New International Version. 

            The two controversial thoughts are obvious and the first or second is usually chosen, depending upon each persons personal choice or his religious background. 

            To those, who respect the two walks of the Jews and the Gentiles, they choose to believe Paul’s words clearly forbid the whole idea of observing the Lord’s Supper in a gathering of the church of God or among the Gentiles, who were very surely told not to observe such things (Acts 21:25). They point out that Paul indicated that they could have eaten this supper at home, rather than in the church assembly, to avoid the disrespect and shame toward the church of God . Likewise, the misguided zeal of the believing Jews, in the observance of one of their special feast, was now causing the discipline of God to be upon them, even to the point of death. And such discipline was appropriate only upon Jews who were yet accountable to the law and subject to its condemnation. 

            To those, who disregard the two walks of the believers, during the transition period, they choose not to condemn the practice of the Lord’s Supper in the church of God or among believing Gentiles and choose to believe Paul was saying they were not eating the Lord’s Supper. They conclude that the Lord’s Supper would have been in order in the church of God , if they were, in fact, eating the Lord’s Supper. They conclude that the Lord’s Supper was not the Passover Supper, but was a new supper instituted at the last supper of Christ and the twelve. Likewise, they conclude that Paul imposed Christ’s words to the twelve Jewish apostles upon the Corinthian Gentiles, also, and upon the church of God in general.

            Given the difference in the sentence structure of the Greek and the English language, with its order of words and phrases, this controversy, as strange as it may seem, will not soon end, if ever. However, either position is not sufficient to annul the over-whelming fact and the clearly stated verses that the Gentiles were to observe no such things. Unanimous agreement on this verse is not required in order to know beyond reasonable doubt, that the Lord’s Supper was never authorized by the Lord to be observed in the church of God or by the Gentiles in it. The total lack of specific authorization and instructions is an evident token of its misuse and of the confusing and contradictory practices relating to its observance in the church setting. 

            The Apostle Paul addressed the errors of the believing Jews in regard to the Lord’s Supper. In so doing, he reminded the Jews at Corinth of Christ’s words to his twelve apostles at the last supper, how the twelve were to eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of Him as shown in 1 Cor. 11:23-26. To the twelve, Christ said: 

   23 For I received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread.
   24 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.
   25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
   26 “For as oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”
            Christ said these words to the twelve at the last supper and Paul admonished the Jewish believers at Corinth to partake of it in remembrance of the Lord’s body also. He did not thereby grant them the choice to eat the Passover on any other dates or with any other ingredients. Christ simply stated that each time the twelve ate and drank of it they were to show the Lord’s death till He came. Paul’s reminder to the Corinthian Jews of Christ’s words, spoken to the apostles at the last supper, did not institute or confirm the Lord’s Supper upon the entire church or upon the Gentiles, but was spoken to correct the error of the Jewish believers, who were eating the Passover unworthily. He further admonished the Corinthian Jews, saying:
   27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
   29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
   30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
            Their eating and drinking brought condemnation upon themselves by not discerning the Lord’s body, which was the chastening of the Lord upon believing Israel , who casually partook of this sacred feast in careless profanity. The Gentiles had no part in this observance and neither were they under the penalty. Experimental knowledge should be sufficient to know such penalty is not imposed upon the Gentiles of this day.
   33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
   34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest I will set in order when I come. 

            Here, Paul further admonishes these Jews, when they came together to observe their Jewish supper, to tarry one for the other that they might eat at the same time in an atmosphere of remembrance as a memorial in which they would discern the Lord’s body. Also, Paul admonished, if any man was hungry, let him eat at home so that he might eat the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of the Lord, not merely eating to satisfy his hunger. 

            A large portion of Christendom erroneously deny the two walks of the believers, during the transition period, holding that believing Gentiles and the church were supposed to observe the Lord’s Supper during that time and thereafter. 

            The Gentiles were explicitly told not to observe such things and not to be entangled with the yoke of bondage which was the works or ordnances of the law, (Acts 21:25; Gal. 3:1-5; 5:1; and Acts 15.) 

            The council at Jerusalem (Acts 15) established among the believing Jews for the first time that the Gentiles were not to participate with their Jewish brethren in the observance of the law (Acts 15 and Acts 21). And only after Paul wrote the later church epistles (prison epistles), was it revealed that the middle wall of partition between the Jews and Gentiles was broken down and that the law had been nailed to the cross, thus liberating the believing Jews from the ceremonial observances of the law for the church age. 

Breaking of Bread 

            When the Lord feed five thousand, “He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave of the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude,” (Matt. 14:19-21). Also, when the Lord feed four thousand, “He took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude,” (Matt. 15:35-38). These verses and others show the recorded term for the “breaking of the bread” was the same for a common meal as it was for the Lord’s Supper. Therefore, it would be presumption to arbitrarily assume they were eating the Lord’s Supper when that term is used. 

            In the evening of the same day that the women had found Jesus risen from the tomb, Christ joined Ce-phas and Cle’o-pas on the road to Em-ma-us. Their eyes were holden that they might not know him, but when they arrived, “as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight” (Lk. 24:13-31). 

            On the days following the falling of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, the disciples “continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking of bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” (Acts 2:46). In this recorded event, they were not eating the Lord’s Passover Supper; they were eating the meals of the seven day feast of Pentecost, also known as the feast of weeks, which came about fifty days after the feast of Passover. 

When the Disciples Came Together to Break Bread 

            Again, we read in Acts 20:6-12, “And we sailed away from Phil-lip’pi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days. And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.”

            The time was about twelve days after the Passover Supper and its seven days of feasting had ended; therefore, the “breaking of bread” in this event was not the Lord’s Passover Supper or any part of the seven days of the feast, relating to the Passover. Why would one think this event was the Lord’s Supper? Is it because men so desperately need a verse to uphold their preconceived doctrine? To contend that the “breaking of bread” in this event was the Lord’s Supper, is nothing less than assumption and it contradicts the very precise and biblical date on which it was to be eaten. There is no biblical basis to contend that this “breaking of bread” was anything other than a common meal among Christians. The Lord’s Supper idea has been propelled by the erroneous suppositions of former teachers, passed down by tradition and the doctrines of men.  

            Paul and other ministering brethren had come to Troas by ship and the disciples used the limited time together in eating and in sharing in the word. It was such a special time to be with these brethren, where he had previously ministered continually for three years, that Paul spoke a long time. About midnight a young man, named Eu’ty-chus, drifted off to sleep and fell out of a window, falling from the third story and was taken up dead, but Paul went down and restored him to life again. “When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.”

            They had come together to break bread on the day before his departure, because Paul was prepared to depart on the morrow (v-7). Paul spoke to them until midnight and afterwards restored Eu’ty-chus to life and then they “broke bread” again after which Paul talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed (v-11). Obviously, there were two meals; the first meal on the day they came together and another, after midnight. The second meal, which was eaten after midnight, was apparently eaten on the next day and was not the primary meal for which they had come together. The “breaking of bread” in either the first or second meal could not have been the Lord’s Supper because it was about twelve days after the seven days of feasting, associated with the Passover Supper. Therefore, the breaking of bread in Acts 20:7, was a common meal and cannot be biblically used to build a doctrine for a new supper for the church or new ingredients or new dates.

            The eating of the Lord’s Supper in a church gathering of both Jews and Gentiles would have been inappropriate even if it had been on the correct date, because it would be imposing a Jewish feast upon the Gentiles and upon the church of God .

            This text is a good example of how men have imposed their preconceived doctrines upon a verse that truthfully says no such thing and have held to ideas which are inconsistent to a host of well known bible facts. And the religious confusion continues generation after generation. Those, who do not stand in awe of the word of God, often allow traditions and the commandments of men to prevail (Matt. 15:3, 6, 9).

            During the early days of the church, before it was revealed that the middle wall of partition was broken down, the Passover Supper (the Lord’s Supper) continued to be observed by the Jewish believers in the church, while the Gentiles were specifically told to observe no such things (Acts 21:25). The key to this subject is rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).

            There is much more truth related to this subject, to the general subject of the Passover, to the Hebrew calendar of feasts, to the observing of Sabbath days and holy days, to the observing of types and shadows and examples versus their fulfillment, to rightly dividing in the transition period, etc.

            “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:12-13).

            Questions and comments are welcome.
            Milton Dunavant, P. O. Box 37122 , Fort Worth, TX 76117


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