The Lord's Supper
Any discussion of the Lords Supper as an act of worship necessitates decisions regarding what aspect of the subject is to be explored. In addition to the institution and observance of the supper, there are questions regarding the emblems, frequency of observance, and to whom it is to be offered. In following our format in this series, the material offered for consideration constitutes a general, cursory view of the topic.
Concisely stated, the Lords Supper is a commemorative meal. It is designed to help us remember our Lord and Savior. While the emblems bring to mind the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross, His divine instructions at the institution of the supper are to be understood more broadly, stating that the eating of the emblems is to be done in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19). In addition to the death of our Lord, his perfect life, authoritative teaching, confirming miracles, and resurrection should be considered as well. Each of these combined show him to be our Savior and Lord.
So, it can be first said that the Supper is commemorative in intent. Rather than establishing some great monument of stone or precious metal, which would crumble or tarnish with time, Jesus chose a means which is new each time it is observed. For 2,000 years His disciples have each week commemorated His death in this simple way (cf. Acts 20:7).
It can also be determined that the observance of the supper is declarative. Paul wrote, For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). The supper is a powerful tool in preaching our Lords death to the world. We adore Him as our effectual sacrifice, the Lamb of God slain to take away the sins of the world. "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!" (Revelation 5:12).
Jesus chose emblems from the Jewish Passover to establish His supper. On that Thursday before his death, he took the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine, used in the Passover feast, and gave the emblems new significance. And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you (Luke 22:19-20).
Contrary to the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, the emblems do not literally become the body and blood of Christ after the blessing. Such a claim is a vestige of a more superstitious time, and ignores the obvious symbolism of Christs statement. When Jesus said, I am the vine (John 1:55); I am the door (John 10:7); or, I am the way (John 14:6), He did not mean this literally. The same is true of his statements regarding the emblems of His supper. After the blessing, the constituent elements of the bread and the vine remain the same. They symbolize, however, the body and blood of the crucified Lord.
The example of New Testament Christians establishes that the Supper is to be observed weekly on the first day of the week, also called the Lords Day (cf. Revelation 1:10). God intended for his people to meet on that day for worship, and specified that the Supper (cf. Acts 20:7), as well as the weekly contribution (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2), were to be observed on that day. Luke wrote, 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 (Acts 20:7).
A Final Thought
The Lords Supper is a wonderful and serious commemoration of our Lords sacrificial death. We must examine ourselves, to ensure we are seriously and sincerely observing it. The Corinthians failed in this, and were admonished by Paul, Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. We should heed his warning to them, But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup (1 Corinthians 11:27-28).