Proper Practice of the Lord’s Supper

Christians are commanded to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Paul gave instructions regarding the practice when he wrote to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:20-34). He relayed to them the command he had “received from the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:23). The command from Christ was to “do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24). As the Christians in Corinth were commanded to partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are to partake as well.

When God gives a command, He expects us to do what He said to do. But more than that, He expects us to do it in the way He said to do it. We could cite various examples to illustrate this principle. One such example is with baptism. We are told we must be baptized in order to be saved (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). Cornelius and his household were commanded to be baptized (Acts 10:48). But for baptism to do any good, we must do more than simply be “baptized.” We must do so God’s way, not man’s way. Man’s way might have one “baptized” by sprinkling, baptized in order to join a denomination, or baptized to show that salvation has already come to that person. It is not good enough to carry out God’s commands through the ways that man has devised. We must carry out God’s commands through the ways that He has authorized.

Regarding the Lord’s Supper, we must do more than partake of it through man’s ways. We must partake in the way that God has instructed us in His word. So how must we practice the Lord’s Supper in order to do so acceptably to God?

  • Proper Elements – We know that the elements used in the Lord’s Supper in the first century were unleavened bread and fruit of the vine. When Jesus instituted this memorial, the elements He used were “bread” (Matthew 26:26) and “fruit of the vine” (Matthew 26:29). We know the bread used was unleavened bread because this was during the time of the days of Unleavened Bread, or the Passover (Matthew 26:17). Because of the time of its institution, we know that Jesus and His disciples would not have even had any leaven in the house (Exodus 12:18); therefore, the bread used for the Lord’s Supper had to have been unleavened.
  • Proper Time – We have the example of the disciples in Troas meeting “on the first day of the week” in order to “break bread” (Acts 20:7). There is no other day other than Sunday in which we are authorized to observe the Lord’s Supper. But must we partake every first day of the week? Yes. The passage indicates this was a regular occurrence. We know the disciples observed the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. If we choose to not take the Lord’s Supper on a particular Sunday, we are not following the example of the early disciples.
  • Proper Place – Every time the early church partook of the Lord’s Supper, they did so as a church (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:33). We have no indication that anyone observed the Lord’s Supper outside of the assembly of the local church. Therefore, we have no authority to take the Lord’s Supper out of the assembly and observe it in our homes, hospitals, or nursing homes regardless of what good intentions we may have.
  • Proper Participants – Those who partook of the Lord’s Supper in Troas were disciples (Acts 20:7). Those who observed the Lord’s Supper in Corinth were brethren (1 Corinthians 11:33). Christians are the ones who are to participate in the Lord’s Supper.
  • Proper Focus – The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of Christ’s death on the cross. In partaking, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Some, in making remarks before serving the Lord’s Supper to try and prepare the minds of the brethren to partake, draw their attention to the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Christ is certainly important. It is part of the foundation of the gospel message (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). His resurrection gives us hope for our future resurrection (Romans 6:5; 1 Corinthians 15:16-20). But the death of Christ, the sacrifice He made to atone for our sins, needs to be our focus as we observe the Lord’s Supper.
  • Proper Mindset – We need to be careful that we have the proper mindset when we partake. Paul wrote, “A man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28). Although this is done in the assembly, it is a very personal act. We need to be sure we partake in a worthy manner.
  • Proper Event – The Lord’s Supper is a memorial. It is not a meal. The brethren in Corinth had perverted the Lord’s Supper by turning it into a common meal (1 Corinthians 11:20-22). Paul wrote to them to correct this practice. The Lord’s Supper is to be done in the assembly (1 Corinthians 11:33). Common meals are to be eaten out of it (1 Corinthians 11:22).

These are the things we find in the New Testament that are necessary in order to partake of the Lord’s Supper acceptably. Yet some try and add other requirements. Some will say that a congregation can only use one cup for the fruit of the vine. The problem with this requirement is that they cannot show from the word of God that the disciples only used one cup for the Lord’s Supper. All the requirements we have considered have been found in the New Testament. Therefore, they are divine requirements. But the disciples using just one cup cannot be found. Some may point to Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper and say He only used one cup. But He told the disciples to “divide it among yourselves” (Luke 22:17, KJV). This dividing or sharing can be done with either one cup or multiple containers. Therefore, we have no right to say it must be done one way and not the other.

Another requirement that some make is that the Lord’s Supper may only be served once on the first day of the week. We know that the Lord’s Supper must be observed in the assembly on the first day of the week. Provided the Lord’s people are assembled on Sunday, the Lord’s Supper may be offered. No passage can be found that would restrict a congregation from serving the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week, regardless of what assembly it is (first, second, third, etc.).

The Lord’s Supper is a memorial in which we as Christians are privileged to be able to participate. In addition to it being a privilege, we must also remember that we have been commanded to observe the Lord’s Supper. However, we cannot simply observe the Lord’s Supper any way we want to observe it. We must do so in the way God has instructed without loosing any of His requirements or binding any of our own. Let us partake of the Lord’s Supper in the manner He has authorized as we look forward to Christ’s return.

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