FOLLOWING THE PATTERN
Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the eve of His death, an emotional time with His disciples (Jno. 13-17). He instructed them to “do this in remembrance of Me” and it is evident that the early Christians did indeed continue that practice (Lk. 22:19); Acts 2:42). In fact, the disciples at Troas assembled on the first day of the week for the express purpose of observing the Supper. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7).
Paul had taught t he Corinthians concerning the observance of the Lord’s Supper and reiterated those instructions in the course of correcting their corruption of the Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-25). The Supper is intended to be a weekly proclamation of the Lord’s death and suffering “till He comes again” (1 Cor. 11:26).
Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians make it obvious that the accounts in the synoptic gospels of the institution of the Supper are intended to be a pattern for our observance. His stern correction of the Corinthian practice also emphasizes the need for us to follow that pattern.
The Details Of The Pattern: — As already noted, Jesus intended for His disciples to eat the Supper on a regular basis. Acts 20:7 reveals both the day on which the Supper is to be eaten and the regularity of its observance (weekly). The fact that the Holy Spirit saw fit to reveal the day on which the disciples met to partake of the Supper is significant in order to obey the Lord’s command to “do this in remembrance of Me,” we need information regarding when and how often to do so. The example of Acts 20:7 supplies this information.
The synoptic gospels record the institution of the Supper (Matt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:19,20). Jesus used unleavened bread to symbolize His body and fruit of the vine (Matt. 26:29) to represent His blood. We know the bread was unleavened because the Supper was instituted during the Passover Feast and there was to be no leaven in the house during that Feast (Exo. 12:8,14-20).
Jesus also identified the purpose of the Supper — it is a memorial (Lk. 22:19). There is no mention, either by Jesus or His apostles, of the Supper providing forgiveness of sins.
Jesus prayed before giving the unleavened bread to the disciples. He also prayed before commanding each of the disciples to drink of the fruit of the vine (Matt. 26:27). The accounts of these prayers, with regard to the partaking of the bread can be found in Matt. 26:26; Mk. 14:22; Lk. 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24. With regard to the partaking of the fruit of the vine can be found in Matt. 26:27; Mk. 14:23; Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25.
Every account mentions one or both of the prayers. A comparison of the accounts suggests that when Jesus “blessed” the bread, it is the same as “giving thanks” for the bread. It is also reasonable to understand that He was giving thanks for the bread and the fruit of the vine and not for things in general.
In our observance of the Supper, the one presiding at the table offers a prayer before each of the two elements of the Supper. We do that because of the example of Jesus. If a brother presiding at the table decided not to offer any prayers, would we object? We would object in both cases because he was not following the pattern provided in the Scriptures. Shouldn’t we follow the Lord’s pattern with regard to the purpose of the prayers, i.e. to give thanks for the elements themselves? Whatever else we might choose to thank the Lord for in these prayers, we should certainly at least give thanks for the elements of the Supper.
Every account of the Supper’s institution also mentions that Jesus broke the bread. In Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians he quoted the Lord, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you,” thus making a connection between the breaking of the bread and the figurative “breaking” of Jesus’ body on the cross (1 Cor. 11:24). It should be observed, however, that some manuscripts do not include the word “broken” in this passage.
Acts 20:7 provides us another detail of the pattern for the observance of the Supper. The disciples came together to observe the Supper. Did they do what they came together to do? There is no textual reason to assume that they did not.
By the time Paul met with the disciples at Troas, he had already written 1 Corinthians, the epistle in which he commanded the Christians to “wait for one another,” i.e., eat together 11:33. We have both command and example for Christians eating the Lord’s Supper as a gathered congregation, not as individuals eating here and there.
We need to follow the pattern for the Lord’s Supper, as given in several accounts of the New Testament.
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