The Lord’s Supper
1 Cor. 11:17-34
There were only two church ordinances. One is baptism and the other is the Lord’s Supper (1Cor.
11:20). I cannot tell you everything about the Lord’s Supper but I will try to give the important
things about the Lord’s Supper and how the Corinthian Christians did not take it seriously.
Illustration 1: All Equal
It is related that once when the Duke of Wellington remained to take communion at his parish
church, a very poor old man went up the opposite aisle, and reaching the communion table, knelt
down close by the side of the Duke. Someone came and touched the poor man on the shoulder, and
whispered to him to move farther away, or to rise and wait until the Duke had received the bread
and wine. But the eagle eye and the quick ear of the great commander caught the meaning of that
touch and that whisper. He clasped the old man’s hand and held it to prevent his rising; and in a
reverential undertone but most distinctly, said, “Do not move; we are all equal here.”
Illustrations of Bible Truths.
I. Scriptural Teaching.
A. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial meal initiated by the Lord Jesus Christ on the eve of
His passion, symbolizing His death and blood atonement for sin (Mt. 26:26-28; Mk.
14:22-24; Lk. 22:19-21; Jn. 13).
1. It is an Act of Obedience – “This do” (1 Cor. 11:24-25). It is a part of the Great
Commission. (Mk. 14:22-23, Mat. 26:26, 27).
2. It is an Act of Remembrance – “In remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24-25). The
Lord’s Supper is a memorial, reminding the believer of the broken body and the
shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. It is an Act of Praise and Thanksgiving – “when he had given thanks” (1 Cor.
11:24, Lk. 22:19).
4. It is an Act of Testimony – “Ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor.
11:26). The Lord’s Supper is pictorial, prophetic, and perpetual. It is a wonderful
reaffirmation of our faith, testifying the Lord’s death on the cross and
proclaiming His glorious return.
The Lord’s Supper declares salvation through the blood (Mat. 26:28).
5. It is an Act of Examination – “Let a man examine himself”. Our fidelity to Christ
must be examined before partaking of the Supper. Just as the twelve asked the
question, “Is it I?” (Mat. 26:22)
Illustration 2: Legend of The Cup
The ancient legend of the Holy Grail tells how Joseph of Arimathea, who got permission from Pilate
to take the body of Jesus down from the cross and bury it, caught in a golden cup which Christ had
held at the Last Supper the blood which flowed from a wound in his side. This cup he carried to
Glastonbury, on an island in Somerset in England.
There he formed an order of Knights whose work it was to protect the precious blood. The chief of
these knights was made their king. At certain times the king unveiled the golden cup that held the
precious blood, at which times a glorious and radiant light fell on the faces of all who stood about,
filling them with rapture and enduing them with strength from on high. Only the pure in heart could
look upon the cup and behold the wondrous light which streamed from the precious blood. (Mat.
26:27; Mat. 27:59) —C. E. Macartney Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times.
II. The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper
A. Like Baptism, the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is symbolic, and an emblem of our
doctrine. The elements of the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine give the
Supper it’s meaning.
1. The Broken Bread (1 Cor. 11:24). This represents the body of the Lord Jesus
Christ. As a church member partakes of this element, he is reminded of several
precious truths concerning the Lord:
a. The Incarnation of Christ – (Jn. 1:14, Phil. 2:8, 1 Tim. 3:16, Heb. 10:5).
b. The Temptation of Christ – (Heb. 4:15). In His flesh, Christ overcame
every temptation, every sorrow, every heartache.
c. The crucifixion of Christ – (Isa. 52:14, 53:5).
d. The Resurrection of Christ – (Mat. 28:1-6)
2. The Cup (Mat. 26:28) – The fruit of the vine represents the shed blood of the
Lord Jesus Christ. When a church member partakes of this element, he is
reminded of several precious truths:
a. The Nature of sin – It is only at calvary where a soul may comprehend
the real, hideous nature of sin. Sin’s wages could only be paid through
the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22).
b. The cost of salvation – (1 Pet. 1:18-19)
c. The Completeness of Salvation – (Col. 1:14, Heb. 10:18)
d. The Privilege of Salvation – (Heb. 9:11-15; 10:19)
e. The Fellowship attained through the Blood – (1 Jn. 1:7).
f. Our blood bought relationship to the Lord – 1 Cor. 6:20).
g. Note that the mention of “wine” does not occur in connection with the
Lord’s Supper. The only term used is “the cup” (1 Cor. 11:25). Grape
juice is an accurate symbol of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Wine is a generic word in the Bible which can mean an alcoholic or nonalcoholic
beverage, depending on the context. Matthew 9:17
distinguishes between the two. Scriptures condemns the use of alcohol.
(Prov. 20:1, Isa. 5:11, 22; 28:1, 7, Hab. 2:15)
III. Who may Partake of the Lord’s Supper?
A. Closed Communion – The ordinance is for each church to observe, and only the
actual members in good standing of that particular church may come to the Lord’s
B. Close Communion – The ordinance is restricted to church members, but is open to
any visiting members of churches of like faith and order
Illustration 1: Tradition
A small country church in Wisconsin has a special tradition that they have used at the close of their
communion services for a number of years. It is adapted from an ancient Jewish closing of the
Passover meal. Since it is the hope of every devout Jew to celebrate the Passover at least once in
David’s city, the Jewish custom is to end the meal with a toast. Passover participants raise the cup
and say, “Next year, in Jerusalem!”
The cup in the Lord’s Supper serves as two reminders: we are to look back to the shed blood of
Christ and forward to the Lord’s second coming. In other words, for all Christians, there will be a last
sharing of the bread and the cup on this side of eternity: when they meet once again, they will be in
Christ’s presence. At the close of communion, the members of this church raise their cups in
anticipation and say, “Next time, with Christ!” Today in the Word, May, 1996, p. 26
IV. Errors of the Corinthian Believers
A. They were acting in a divisive manner (1 Cor. 11:18-19).
1. The party cliques that exhibited themselves in the Lord’s Supper were an
expression of their carnality and an extension of the party spirit that held sway
in the church (1 Cor. 1:11-12).
2. Paul describes these divisions as “heresies” (1 Cor. 11:19). The root meaning of
this word is a division. This word means “a choice, i.e. (specially) a party or
(abstractly) disunion” (Strong). The word refers to divisions, whether caused by
the truth or by error. The same Greek word (hairesis) is often translated “sect”
and was used by the Jews to describe the early Christians (Acts 24:5; 28:22).
When the word is used to describe heresies within the churches (2 Pet. 2:1) it
refers to a self-willed choice of some false teaching that subsequently causes
trouble and creates improper divisions.
B. They were acting in a selfish manner (1 Cor. 11:21). Some church member brought
ample food ad drink for themselves, but disregard for the needs of the other
members, letting poorer brethren go away hungry.
C. They were acting in a fleshly, worldly manner (1 Cor. 11:21). Some of them were
even getting drunk during the Lord’s Supper!
D. They were acting in a careless manner whereby they despised the church of God (1
Cor. 11:22). Here Paul uses the church of God to describe the church services. The
word “church” means a called-out assembly and it can describe the church members
as a body whether assembled or not and it can also describe the assemblies
themselves. The church is not a building, but the church usually assembles in a
building and that assembly is the church. We see in 1 Corinthians 11 that the church
of God should be highly honored and every action in the assembly should be done in
consideration of the fact that the church of God is special and holy.
V. Punishments for those who partake the Lord’s Supper Unworthily
A. By the term unworthily means in an attitude of unconfessed sin, and thus being
“guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” transgressing against the very essence of
the meaning of Christ’s death which liberates the believer from sin.
B. Damnation – the basic meaning of this in Greek is “judgment” (Rom. 11:33, 1 Pet.
4:17, Rev. 20:4). This judgement was:
1. Through physical sickness (1 Cor. 11:30)
2. Through physical death – “and many sleep”. The Greek word for sleep here
refers to physical death (Jn. 11;11, 12; Acts 7:60, 1 Cor. 15:6, 18, 20, 51).
C. Note that “sleep” is applicable only to real believers or real Christians. Those who
disregard the warning and hypocritically partake the Lord’s Supper will be punished
or chastised but they will never lose their salvation.
The Lord’s Supper is a perpetual ordinance which we must do till He come. Those
who have taken the Lord’s Supper unworthily have been punished by the Lord. How
frequently must we observe it? The Word of God gives only one positive statement as to
the frequency of observance in 1 Cor. 11:26 – “as often as ye eat”. Some churches do it
every first Sunday of the month. Some do it once a year, others quarterly. None of these
practice violate the command “as often as ye eat”.