THE LORD'S SUPPER
The Lord's Supper is the second church ordinance. It was instituted by Christ on the eve of His betrayal and crucifixion. And Christ indicated that it was to be observed until His return.
1. IT IS NOT A SACRAMENT
The Roman Catholics make the Lord's Supper, which they call the Eucharist, one of their seven sacraments. And in their compendium of theology known as the Catechism, a sacrament is defined as follows: "A sacrament is a visible sign or action instituted by Christ to give grace." But there is no ground in the Scripture for such a view of the Lord's Supper. It contradicts the real nature of grace, for grace is unmerited favor. If grace is received through an outward act of obedience it is not wholly unmerited. It contradicts the teaching that eternal life is a gift (Rom. 6:23), and that we are justified freely, which means gratuitously, for naught (Rom. 3:24). It also contradicts the teaching of the Scripture that we are not saved through works (Eph. 2:8; Titus 3:5).
2. IT IS A SYMBOLIC ORDINANCE
This denies the following two things:
(1) That the body and blood of Christ are actually present in the bread and wine.
"The Catholic Church has always taught her children that at the moment the priest, at Mass, pronounces the words of consecration over the bread and wine they are changed into the sacred Body and Blood of Christ" (The Seven Sacraments, Vincent Hornyold, S. J.).
In an effort to substantiate this teaching as to the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine, Catholics appeal to the words of Jesus in John 6:48-58, and they make two groundless assumptions. First, they assume, in direct antagonism to Christ's own words, that He spoke literally when He said: "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, ye have not life in yourselves" (John 6-53). In verse sixty-three He plainly indicated that He had spoken figuratively in the foregoing verses. He said- "It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life." Second, they assume, contrary to the context, that He alluded to our partaking of Him in the so-called Eucharist. Verse forty-seven shows that we partake of Him through faith. It is plain to anyone not blinded by prejudice that verses forty-seven and fifty-three are parallel in meaning.
Catholics then carry their unwarranted literal interpretation into every other passage that speaks of the body and blood of Christ in connection with the Lord's Supper. This literalism issues from the paganistic mysticism imbibed by Roman Catholicism. The fundamental principle of salvation by works also makes its contributions to this perversion of scriptural simplicity.
To the celebration of the Eucharist the Catholics have applied the name "Mass." And we read:
"Now, in the Mass a real sacrifice is offered to God, for Our Blessed Lord's humanity, by being placed under the forms of bread and wine, is reduced to the equivalently lifeless state of a victim offered to the Eternal Father by the Priest" (The Seven Sacraments, Hornyold, P. 10).
"It involves the denial of the completeness of Christ's past sacrifice and the assumption that a human priest can repeat or add to the atonement made by Christ once for all (Heb. 9:28--apax prosenekueis). The Lord's Supper is never called a sacrifice, nor are altars, priests, or consecrations ever spoken of in the New Testament. The priests of the old dispensation are expressly contrasted with the ministers of the new. The former 'ministered about sacred things' i. e., performed sacred rites and waited at the altar; but the latter 'preach the gospel' (1 Cor. 9:13,14)."
II. THE SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LORD'S SUPPER
1. It is a commemoration of the Lord's death.
2. It is a proclamation of His death.
Jesus also said: "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye proclaim the Lord's death till he come" (1 Cor. 11:26). So the supper is a preaching ordinance, as well as a commemorative one. This fact is in favor of observing the ordinance in the presence of the entire congregation instead of dismissing the congregation and having the church observe it privately. Since it is a preaching ordinance, let all witness it who care to.
3. It is a reminder of Christ' second coming.
We notice in the passage just quoted the words, "Ye proclaim the Lord's death till he come." Thus every time the ordinance is observed we are reminded that we are observing it because of the absence of Christ's bodily presence, and that someday the symbolic will give place to the literal.
4. It symbolizes the fact that we are saved by feeding on Christ.
We have already pointed out that our feeding on Christ is not literal. We partake of Him by faith. And thus we are saved. This is symbolized in the Lord's Supper.
5. It pictures our need of constantly partaking of Christ for spiritual sustenance.
The repetition of this ordinance manifests that faith, by which we partake of Christ, is not merely a momentary thing, but a continuous thing, by which the soul is constantly sustained.
In 1I Cor. 10:16,17 we read:
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of (or participation in) the blood of Christ? The bread (or loaf) which we break, is it not a communion of (or participation in) the body of Christ? seeing that we, who are many, are one bread (or loaf), one body: for we all partake of the one bread (or loaf)."
These verses bring out the fact that the unity of the church is manifested by the members in partaking of one loaf. For that reason, the bread should be brought to the table in one loaf or piece. Otherwise the type is not so impressive.
III. THE ELEMENTS OF THE LORD'S SUPPER
1. UNLEAVENED BREAD
Strong says: "Although the bread which Jesus broke at the institution of the ordinance was doubtless the unleavened bread of the Passover, there is nothing in the symbolism of the Lord's Supper which necessitates the Romanist use of the wafer" (Systematic Theology, p. 539). As to the exact words of this statement, we agree with Strong. And we go farther and say that the Romanist use of the wafer (a small flat disc of bread) tends to obscure a part of the symbolism of the supper. But we take it that Strong's statement connotes that the symbolism of the supper does not necessitate the use of unleavened bread. It does and for three reasons, viz.,
(1) Only unleavened bread can fitly represent the sinless body of Christ.
"Let us keep the feast, not ... with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor. 5:8).
(3) Unleavened bread, moreover, emphasizes the need of purging the church. "Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened. For our passover also hath been sacrificed, even Christ: wherefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, etc." (1 Cor. 5:7,8). This passage, following Paul's injunction to exclude the incestuous man, shows that he connected unleavened bread with the purity of the church. For the above reasons, crackers and lightbread should never be used in the celebration of the Lord's Supper. It is better not to celebrate it than to celebrate it improperly.
We offer three reasons why fermented wine should be used:
(1) Christ used wine in the institution of the supper.
Upon this point we offer the following quotations.
"Every Jew in the night of the Passover must have four cups of red wine" (The Jewish Passover and the Lord's Supper, by Harry Singer, erstwhile superintendent of the Hebrew-Christian Mission of Detroit, Mich.). Reference to Prov. 23:31 will show what kind of wine "red" wine is.
"Every Jew knows that the Passover Supper must be celebrated by the drinking of real wine and not unfermented grape juice ... You will find all of this fully corroborated if you will consult the Jewish Encyclopedia, which is most dependable and authoritative on all matters Jewish" (From a personal letter to the author by J. Hoffman Cohn, General Secretary of the American Board of Missions to the Jews, of Brooklyn, N. Y.).
Leopold Cohn, editor of "The Chosen People" in reply to the question: "Was the wine of the Passover fermented or not," said: "Yes, according to the Jewish ritual no wine can be so called and used in the ceremonies unless it is intoxicating. Furthermore, the wine used at the Passover was so strong that it had to be mixed with water."
"A great attempt has been made to prove the wine drunk at the Lord's Supper was unfermented, by and for the sake of temperance workers of our day and nation. Such attempts are apt to do more harm than good among those familiar with eastern customs today, or the history of those nations. But the Apostle Paul has stated the case for total abstinence in Rom. 14 in such a way that it does not need the treacherous aid of doubtful exegesis for is support" (Peloubet's Bible Dictionary).
Some assume that Christ abstained from all use of wine. But this is assumed in the face of the fact that Christ, just before His death, drank "vinegar" (Mark 15:36; Matt. 27:48; John 19:28-30), which, according to Thayer, Broadus, Hovey, and W. N. Clarke (the latter three being writers in "An American Commentary on the New Testament) was the sour wine that the soldiers drank.
We know the church at Corinth used wine because, through the abuse of the supper, some became drunk (1 Cor. 11:21). A Greek lexicon will show that the Greek word here means exactly what we commonly understand from the English term "drunken." other cases of the use of the same Greek word (methuo) will be found in Matt. 24:49; Acts 2:15; 1 Thess. 5:7. Concerning this word, we read in "An American Commentary on the New Testament".
Marcus Dods says:
"Although the wine of Holy Communion had been so badly abused, Paul does not prohibit its use in the ordinance. His moderation and wisdom have not in this respect been universally followed. On infinitely less occasions alterations have been introduced into the administration of the ordinance with a view to preventing its abuse by reclaimed drunkards, and on still lighter pretext a more sweeping alteration was introduced many centuries ago by the Church of Rome."
(3) The symbolism of the supper demands fermented wine.
Fermented wine alone corresponds to unleavened bread, and is required for the same reasons that unleavened bread is required.
In reply to our inquiry, Frederick J. Haskin, Director of Information Bureau at Washington, D. C., gave the following significant reply: "The Bureau of Plant Industry of the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture says that grapes naturally contain a leavening agent and that this is present in the juice." We then asked what happened to this leaven in the process of fermentation. To this Mr. Haskin replied: "The leaven is used up in the process of fermentation so that the finished product or wine does not contain any."
But some one asks what is to be done about the pledge that some have made never to touch any intoxicants. We reply that scriptural consistency and a proper commemoration of the Lord's death should come before a pledge or anything else. It is better to break a pledge than to fail to properly keep this memorial. God does not hold one responsible for the keeping of a pledge that hinders him in properly honoring Christ. Let those who have made the pledges stick to them in general; but let the pledge not come between them and the proper commemoration of Christ's death.
IV. CLOSE COMMUNION VINDICATED
Close communion is a historic Baptist practice. Many pedobaptists have recognized Baptist consistency in close communion, having recognized that the Scriptures do not sanction the coming of the unbaptized to the Lord's table. No practice of Baptists is better grounded in the Word of God than close communion; yet, perhaps, no other practice is more misunderstood and more opposed. Let it be understood that Baptists do not deny that members of other denominations are saved. It is simply that they do not believe they have been scripturally baptized.
Baptists practice close communion-
When Christ instituted the supper only the eleven apostles were present with Him, Judas having already gone out. He did not have His mother there. Neither did He have others of His followers in Jerusalem there. He did not, so far as we have any record, invite the man in whose house the supper was instituted.
Why? Because the supper was for none but His church. Hence, since Baptists do not regard others as members of Christ's church, they do not invite them to the supper.
The order on Pentecost and thereafter was (1) faith; (2) baptism; (3) church membership; and (4) the Lord's Supper. See Acts 2:41,42. This is exactly the order insisted on by Baptists. They do not deny that others may have faith, but they do deny that they have received valid baptism and that they are members of a church of Christ.
In Rom. 16.17 and 1 Tim. 6:3-5 we have implied ground for excisive discipline in the case of persistent teachers of doctrinal error. The need of unity in the church also makes excisive discipline necessary in the case just mentioned.
Now suppose a church finds it necessary to exclude a false teacher. If the church practices open communion, this false teacher can still commune with the church, notwithstanding the fact that partaking of the Lord's Supper is one of the most intimate and sacred privileges of church membership. Allowing such would go a long way toward nullifying church discipline. It would involve the church in glaring inconsistency. If one is not fit to be in the church, he is not fit to partake of the Lord's Supper.
4. Because it is impossible to observe the Lord's Supper by open communion.
A church may eat unleavened bread and sip wine with a group in which divisions are present, but Paul plainly says that, "it is not possible to eat the Lords Supper" under such circumstances. See 1 Cor. 11: 19, 20 in R. V.
The meaning of this statement is that it is to be observed by the members of one local church. Not all Baptists recognize this. But it is recognized by most of the stricter Baptists. And where it is recognized, it becomes the most conclusive proof of close communion.
In proof of this proposition two proofs are offered:
(1) The one loaf in the supper symbolizes the unity of the one body.
For a discussion of this, see division two of this chapter. Now, for others, than the members of the church observing the supper, to partake is incongruous with this symbolism.
See 1 Cor. 5:11. When a church invites those outside its membership to partake of the supper, it is boldly disregarding this injunction; for it cannot know that some of those invited are not of the classes mentioned in 1 Cor. 5:11.