One of the most Roman Catholic practices in all of non-Catholic Christianity is the Protestant Mass otherwise known by tradition as the Lord’s Supper.
While denouncing the wrong Catholic teaching that the cracker turns into the real flesh of Jesus, Protestants continue the Catholic sacrament only with a little more irreverence and less mysticism.
Both Catholics and Protestants think that Jesus instituted a sacrament for the church when he passed the cup and broke the bread with his disciples at the Passover (Mat 26:26).
A mid-Acts Bible believer would do well to consider that the church, which is his body, had not yet been revealed, and everyone at that table was a Jew anticipating Pentecost and the kingdom come.
We would not be welcome at that table even if we brought flowers and cake!
Lord’s Supper Not in the Red Letters
It is well proven that the twelve did not understand the mystery of the cross that night. That the twelve were not having a celebration that night is evident from the fact that Jesus called out his betrayers:
“But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.” – Luke 22:21
I don’t get the impression they were bringing out the streamers and balloons in celebration.
“And they were exceeding sorrowful…” – Mat 26:22
What they were doing here was not a reflection of the communion doctrine taught by Paul. What Paul taught was not declared to the twelve.
Communion is purely a Pauline doctrine, and was never taught in Jesus’ earthly ministry.
The phrases “Lord’s supper”, “communion”, and “Lord’s table” only appear in Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians and never in any of the narratives of the Messiah’s ministry to Israel.
The doctrine of the communion is directly associated with the revelation of the mystery of Christ.
Paul says the bread is not the physical body of Jesus; it is the church, the body of Christ.
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” – 1 Cor 10:16-17
According to Paul, the cup is not the blood of Jesus shed in shame for Israel, but the blood that bought the salvation and forgiveness for all men not under any covenants (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor 12:13).
The only meaning of the bread and cup in Luke was that of a necessary sacrifice for Israel’s new testament, and was not a sacrament, institution, ritual, nor celebration for the church.
The doctrine of communion was given first to Paul in order to teach the church about its common free gift of salvation together in Christ.
The Corinthian Supper
The only place the “Lord’s supper” is found is in Paul’s letter of rebuke to the Corinthians:
“When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.” – 1 Cor 11:20-21
The Corinthians were eating more than a small piece of bread and a thimble of grape juice if some were getting drunk (1 Cor 11:21). If it is a problem that some are hungry after the Lord’s supper then every sacrament observing church is guilty and needs Paul’s rebuke. (Can I have a second cracker, please?)
The reality is that the Corinthians came together to eat a meal as members of the body of Christ, thus the admonition to tarry for each other:
“…when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.” – 1 Cor 11:33
The reason they were not eating the Lord’s supper was because they were eating their own selfish sinful separated supper.
“For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.” – 1 Cor 11:21
The problem was that they were not eating in unity and charity as the doctrine of communion teaches about members of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13; 1 Cor 13:4-5). They were keeping food from those they disliked, disrespected, or disassociated.
Paul then reveals the testimony of what Jesus did when he ate among his betrayers.
The night Jesus was betrayed, he ate with those who would betray him and said, “Take, eat”. He did not gorge himself or keep it all to himself. He had the charity to give to others to eat, and to see them benefit, even to the point of giving his own life.
The Corinthians were disrespecting the doctrine of our communion in Christ even among the less comely parts (1 Cor 12:23-25). They needed to eat the Lord’s supper together, instead of their own suppers apart.
Christ Not After the Flesh
Both Catholics and non-Catholics want to emphasize the flesh of Jesus in their sacramental snacks, as well as go back to the Lord’s ministry in the flesh.
While it may be traditional to go back to the Lord’s earthly ministry for our pattern of communion, Paul says we do not know Christ after the flesh any more.
“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” – 2 Cor 516
If we are to remember Jesus’ earthly ministry in our meals together, then it is no wonder that people think we are under Israel’s New Testament, that the church began at Pentecost, and that we are a fulfillment of Israel’s promises.
All of these are doctrinally wrong consequences of not rightly dividing Paul’s doctrine of communion from Israel’s spotless sacrifice.
We now know and teach the communion according to what the Lord revealed from heaven’s glory about Christ and the church. It is what Christ did according to the mystery that we remember as we come together to eat “til he come” (1 Cor 11:26).
The Evangelical Eucharist from Mark 14 is not the Lord’s supper. Paul’s doctrine of communion was not a sacrament nor was eating crackers and grape juice an instituted ordinance. All of this comes from religious tradition, and not the Bible rightly divided.
For some folks traditions die hard.
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For more resources about this topic see our section on Communion.