The Christian’s Memorial – the Lord’s Supper
by Heath Rogers
We have memorials in our country. Statues are erected, historical sites are dedicated and maintained, certain days are set aside (such as Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day). These memorials are important. They help us remember an important person or event. If we don’t take the time to remember and reflect, we will forget the great things that have been done for us and the people who made these sacrifices.
God had memorials for Israel. As they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, God instructed Joshua to erect a memorial of stones taken from the river. This memorial was given for the purpose of teaching their children of the great things God had done in delivering them from Egypt and giving them the land (Josh. 4:21-24).
The Passover Feast, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles were established early in Israel’s history. They helped the tribes remain connected to one another and helped them remember the covenant promises they had made to God.
The Lord has given an important memorial to His church – the Lord’s Supper. This memorial was instituted by Jesus Himself on the night that He was betrayed.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;
24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
This memorial consists of two simple elements: unleavened bread and fruit of the vine (grape juice). Observing this memorial does not require us to make a pilgrimage to a specific location or use an ancient artifact. It requires two common things that can be found in most places in the world.
We know the Supper is observed with unleavened bread because this was the bread Jesus used when He instituted the Supper (Matt. 26:17). The accounts of the Lord’s Supper do not use the word “wine.” The term “fruit of the vine” is used to describe the contents of the cup (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18). It is the contents of the cup that are important, not the cup itself.
Because it is a memorial, the elements serve as reminders. The bread is a reminder of the Lord’s body that was broken for us. The fruit of the vine is a reminder of the Lord’s blood.
As we partake of the bread, we are to think on and remember the pain the Lord experienced in His body as He suffered and died in our place. As we partake of the fruit of the vine, we are to remember the blood that was shed. Jesus shed His blood to inaugurate His covenant and to forgive the sins of mankind (Matt. 26:28). The sacrifice remembered in this memorial gives us our greatest blessing. Without His suffering and death, we would be outside of fellowship with God and without any hope for eternity.
When are we to observe this memorial? The pattern set forth in the New Testament is that disciples met together on the first day of the week to observe this memorial in their worship. “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).
Because every week has a first day, we understand the church in the New Testament observed the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week. This is the authorized pattern we must follow today. Some reject this conclusion, reasoning that a weekly observance makes the Lord’s Supper routine and strips it of its meaning and importance. The same wording is used regarding the taking up of a collection. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Cor. 16:1-2). I have never heard of a church that does not take up a collection every Sunday.
The Children of Israel were commanded to observe the Sabbath Day and to keep it holy (Ex. 20:8-11). None of them asked, “Which Sabbath Day?” None of them argued that frequency would lessen the meaning of the observance. They understood from the language that God meant every Sabbath Day. The same is true regarding the frequency of the Lord’s Supper – every first day of the week.
The Lord’s Supper is not a church tradition invented by men. It is a command of Christ. It is a memorial of the greatest sacrifice ever made on our behalf. It is an activity that connects us with our Savior on the night He was betrayed. It is a means of professing our faith and communing with our Lord and our brethren. Let us commit ourselves to observing this memorial in the proper manner.
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