The Lords Table
There seems to be quite a lot of confusion between professing Christians as to what is the meaning of the Lords Supper , which is known by many other names, such as, Communion Service – Holy Communion - Eucharist – Mass.
This confusion is exacerbated by the verses in John’s Gospel, which refers to the body and blood of Christ.
Joh 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
Joh 6:54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Joh 6:55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
Joh 6:56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
Joh 6:57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
The question arises, is this to be taken literally, or is this allegory, analogy, metaphorical, spiritual?
There are those who take it literally, such as Roman Catholics and this leads to the teaching of Transubstantiation (The bread and wine turning into the literal body and blood of Jesus).
Then there is the idea of Consubstantiation, ( that the elements do not change but that there is a real presence of Christ in the bread and wine), this was believed by Martin Luther.
This is very similar to the Roman Catholic view in that there is something mystical in the elements themselves and that by eating and drinking them it promotes spiritual life and growth.
This is evident in a quote from --The Rev. Dr. Douglass M. Bailey (Episcopal priest )
Quote: In this sacred meal, Jesus takes ordinary table bread and wine, gives God thanks (Eucharist is a Greek word for thanksgiving), beseeches God to bless it, and distributes it with these astounding and eternal words: “This bread is my body. This wine is my blood. Every time you eat this bread and drink this wine in my name, I will be present with you.”
And, so it is for people of faith. Ordinary bread and the wine become, by the grace of God, the body and blood of the Christ. In this timeless, eternal food, the Christ of faith is present with us. It is his spiritual "Real Presence." How does that happen, exactly? I don’t know. It is Holy Mystery. End of quote.
Then there is what I believe to be the correct understanding, that the Lords Table is a remembrance service.
That whenever believers meet together for this ordinance (not sacrament) they eat the bread and drink the cup which represents Christ’s body and blood to remember what Jesus did on our behalf at Calvary.
Notice: in the correct translation of the scripture misquoted by The Rev. Dr.Douglass M. Bailey.
Luke 22:19.And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
I believe that the answer to this problem can be found in the context of the verses in John ch 6 and take them in light of other scripture, there can be no doubt what Jesus is actually meaning.
The Meaning of the Image.
The first question we have to ask is what does Jesus actually mean here by eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
Obviously, he is not talking about cannibalism, about physically eating somebody’s flesh and actually drinking their blood.
Clearly that idea is not here at all, so what is it He is referring to? Why does He use this picture?
Interestingly enough, there is an occasion in David’s life where he also uses the image of drinking blood.
When he was on the run from Saul he gathered a group of mighty men around him. At one point he was fighting the Philistines who had taken the town of Bethlehem and he remarked how much he would love a drink from the well of Bethlehem. Three of his mighty men heard this and took him seriously. They fought their way through the Philistine line, got water from Bethlehem and brought it back to David.
1 Chronicles 11:19 David says, "Far be it from me, O my God, that I should do this! Shall I drink the blood of these men who have put their lives in jeopardy? For at the risk of their lives they brought it."
He says that to drink this water would be like drinking the blood of these men, not literally their blood, but it would be like profiting from their near death, since they risked their lives for him. You could say, enjoying the benefits which came at the expense of their lives.
Perhaps the most powerful image that these words have is simply that of the food and drink that sustains our lives. Food is something we all need moment by moment to sustain us. We cannot go long without a drink because liquid is vital for our bodies.
Jesus is teaching us that we need to depend on Him utterly, moment by moment, in order to survive.
There is another place in John’s Gospel where Jesus uses an image todemonstrate how the believer is sustained moment by moment from Himself. It is the image of the vine and the branches. A branch, cut away from the vine, is cut away from the sap—that source of nourishment and fluid flowing up—and would die straight away.
John 15:5.I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
We must be joined to Christ and constantly feeding from Him and drawing sustenance from Him in order to be sustained.
Abiding in Him.
That is the idea behind this passage, but we must ask how are we to apply it to ourselves?
The verses in John’s Gospel are in the context of Jesus Feeding the Five Thousand in John 6.
John 6:2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. This continued on the mountain.
John 6:14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.
Joh 6:15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. The people followed Him.
John 6:25 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?
Joh 6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?Jesus now goes into teaching “ I am the Bread of Life”
Joh 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
Joh 6:27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
Joh 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. The people asked for a sign and pointed out to Him that God gave their fathers manna to eat.
Joh 6:30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?
Joh 6:31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Jesus points out the real truth of what He was saying.
Joh 6:32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
Joh 6:33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
Joh 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
Joh 6:36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.
Joh 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
Joh 6:48 I am that bread of life.
Joh 6:49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
Joh 6:50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
Joh 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The people could not grasp this truth
Joh 6:60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
So what did he mean?
Here are the clues:
How do you labor for the food that endures to eternal life?
Believe in me! (v. 27, 29)“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me [in faith] shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (v. 35)“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (v. 40)“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (v. 47)For Jesus eating is believing; drinking is believing. He promises eternal life to those who believe in him.
Believe that his death—the breaking of his body and spilling of his blood—pays in full the penalty for our sin and that his perfect righteousness is freely given to us in exchange for our unrighteousness.
Believing this is how we “eat” Jesus’ flesh and “drink” his blood.
This is why he instituted the Lord’s Supper: he did not want us to forget the very core of what we believe.
When the crowd took offense at his gruesome talk, Jesus exposed their unbelief: “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe” (vv. 63-64).
Believing is partaking of His death and resurrection.
This is the meaning of partaking:
Formal1.eat or drink (something)."he partook of a well-earned drink"
synonyms:consume, have, eat, drink, take, devour, polish off, ingest;
2. join in (an activity).synonyms:participate in, take part in, engage in, enter into, join in, get involved in, share in, play a part in, contribute to, have a hand in, have something to do with.join in (an activity).
KJV Dictionary Definition:
PARTA'KE, v.i. pret. partook; pp. partaken. part and take.
To take a part, portion or share in common with others; to have a share or part; to participate;2. To have something of the property, nature, claim or right.3. To be admitted; not to be excluded.
From G2844; to share with others (objectively or subjectively): -communicate, distribute, be partaker.
The eating and the drinking has to do with shared life, mutual indwelling. By eating His Flesh and Drinking His Blood. We have become one with Christ through faith in Him.
Our belief has brought us into a relationship with Him.
By eating of the Bread of Life given by the Father and drinking His Blood that was shed for us, we are born again and become partakers of His divine nature.'He hath given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.' -- 2 Peter 1.4.
When we partake of the Lords Supper we are showing that we are in communion with one another as part of His body (the Body of Christ) of which we are all members.
This is what is meant by “discerning the Body”.
1Cor 11:23 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,
24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.
28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
Note: Jesus took bread, ordinary bread and wine. This was to represent His broken body and shed blood.
The teaching of which the whole New Testament is full, is that men may, and do, by their faith, receive into their spirits a real communication of the life of God.
What else does it mean being 'the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty'?
What else does the teaching of regeneration mean? But being raised from spiritual death to spiritual life.
What else can it mean when Christ frequently declares that He dwells in us and we in Him, as the branch in the vine, as the members in the body?
What else does it mean that 'he that is joined to the Lord in one spirit'? To eat the flesh of Christ and to drink His blood is to believe.
Eating and drinking leads to everlasting life.
Believing leads to everlasting life.
Eating and drinking, Believing, Coming leads to everlasting life.
Also: 6:56 "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him."
Abiding in Christ = keeping His commandments
Abiding in Christ = Eating and drinking
By eating and drinking we share in His death and resurrection.We become part of His body, in fellowship with Him and our brethren the other parts of His body.
When we meet together for the Lords Supper, we share together in a remembrance service, remembering the broken body and shed blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
There is no mystical mystery in the bread and wine. Jesus used what was there to represent His body and blood.Salvation is by grace through faith , by belief in His death , His broken body and shed blood.
That is all that the thief on the cross had.Luke 23:42 “Lord remember me when you come into your Kingdom”
He partook of the body and blood of Christ and was saved.
By partaking in the body and blood of Christ, we are believing in Him for our salvation and sharing in His death. By continuing in the ordinance of the Lords table, we abide in that faith and continually remember His death till He comes.
1Cor 11:26. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
No rule or law is found in scripture as to when or how often we should celebrate the Lord’s table. The text just says “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup” you do show the Lord’s death till He come.Acts 2:42
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Just like baptism, the Lord’s table is not essential for salvation, which is by faith alone apart from works.
Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.