This department is provided for the free and courteous discussion of biblical and spiritual problems which may be considered edifying to the people of God. Letters concerning such matters are requested.
The Lord’s Supper
Question: “Recently heard of a minister in one of the denominations who said as he prepared to administer the holy communion (?), “In the times of Christ it was the custom to use bread and wine, today we use donuts and coffee at our times of good fellowship; that is what we are going to do now.”
A missionary from among the assemblies stated in my hearing that as far as he was concerned, if wine was not available, he would use water.
May I have your opinions on these extravagant assertions.”
Answer: How sad it is that so many errors in thought and practice have crept into the observance of the Lord’s Supper — the occasion that should be among the most holy and blessed for the Lord’s people this side of Heaven! To this simple feast, some have added ritual — more or less elaborate — that has deprived it of its simplicity and beclouded its real significance. Others have taken away from it essential features, robbing the symbols of their true meaning and value. To the latter category belongs the suggestion made in this question. It should be noted, too, that the term — used so frequently in many circles — “to administer the holy communion” — is hardly scriptural.
Simple though they are, and common articles — staple food — in Palestine, the elements of the feast instituted by our Lord are significant symbols. It is important to recognize that the Lord’s supper is not primarily a “time of good fellowship”; it is an occasion to remember the Lord and to show forth His death till He come (1 Cor. 11. 24-26). Donuts and coffee may express our fellowship together but hardly our remembrance of our Lord and proclamation of His death. The bread, betokening the Bread of Life on whom we feed, and reminding us of the corn of wheat that fell into the ground and died, speaks loudly to us of His body given in death for us at Calvary. The outpoured wine, fruit of the vine, crushed and bruised, symbolizes His blood shed. The more we ponder the articles our Lord took, the more we must appreciate that He did not choose them only because they were common and simple but because they were full of meaning.
It should be observed, however, that, in all the records of the institution of the feast (Matthew, Mark, Luke), and in the instructions on the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians, the contents of “the cup” are not specified — though indicated by our Lord’s subsequent words “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine.” May it not be that the writers purposely used the term “cup” rather than the “wine” it contained, so that, in places where wine is unobtainable. the Lord’s Supper can still be celebrated? Wherever possible it is desirable to use the fruit of the vine as used by the Lord Himself. But, in extraordinary circumstances where this is impossible, it would seem better to remember the Lord, using a cup of water than not to remember Him at all.