Tommy Thornhill

 We are now considering if it is scriptural to use multiple cups (containers) to serve the Lord’s Supper. Here at Etna we believe it to be scriptural to use multiple cups and we want to make sure we do it with God’s approval.

First, notice the scriptures that deal with the Lord’s Supper Matt.26:26-29; Mk.14:22-25;

Lk.22:15-20; 1.Cor.11:23-29. These will be the scriptures referred to in studying the question of whether multiple containers (cups) are scriptural to be used in serving the Lord’s Supper.

From these scriptures we can logically deduct that the elements to be used in serving and partaking of the Lord’s Supper are one loaf of unleavened bread, and one cup of grape juice, the fruit of the vine. These two elements are deducted from the time the Lord’s Supper was established, which was the time of the Jewish Passover meal. During that meal only unleavened bread and grape juice (fruit of the vine) were used.  I believe most people will agree with this. So, the question I must deal with is centered around the cup that is mentioned. What did Jesus mean when He said to His disciples as He offered the cup, “take this and divide it among yourselves … this cup in the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you” Lk.22:17, 20. Matt.26:27 records, “drink from it, all of you.” Was He referring to the contents in the container, or was He referring to the container itself that held the juice? This is what must be determined before authority for multiple cups is allowed or authorized. My belief if that Jesus was referring to the contents of the cup, not the physical container. Why do I believe this?

Recall that I closed the last issue making the point that I believe the use of multiple cups in serving the Lord’s Supper falls under the scope of a general command or rule. My understanding of general or generic authority is that any method used in obeying what God commanded is allowable or included IF it of the same class, kind or order of the precept, example or thing commanded. What this means is that people have the freedom to choose which method will be used in fulfilling the command AS LONG AS it falls within the same class, kind or order. With this said, let’s see how this applies to the use of multiple containers (cups) in serving the fruit of the vine in the Lord’s Supper.

In Matt.26:27-28 we read “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘drink from it all, all of you. For this is My blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’” The first “it” refers to the container of which all were told to drink. But the latter statement, “this is My blood” is referring to the contents, not the container. Logic tells me that the container is not representative of the blood, but the contents would be. This is confirmed in v.29 when Jesus says, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine … until that day when I drink it anew with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Luke 22:17 referring to the same event states, “take this and divide it among yourselves.” Is the “this” in the statement referring to the container or the contents? How would you divide the container? I believe Jesus is referring to the contents to be drunk by all. Why? Luke continues in v.20“This cup is the New Testament in My blood which is shed for you.” Was the container the New Testament? Was the container representative of the blood shed for you? Notice what Paul writes about it in 1.Cor.11:25“This do. As often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” Does the “it” refer to the container or the contents? Paul continues, v.26“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup…”  Do you eat the whole loaf? Do you drink the container or the contents? In v.28 “eat of the bread and drink of the cup” refers to the contents, according to the context of the preceding verses. All of you partake of the bread and the fruit of the vine.

This is my reasoning as to why I understand that multiple containers or cups are allowable as expedients in partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus was not sanctifying a container but the contents to be drunk when remembering His death and declaring His return. My understand is that all Christians the world over, on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), are to partake of the same loaf (unleavened bread) and drink from the same cup (the fruit of the vine, grape juice) using multiple containers.  But since some seek to bind the use of only one cup in serving and partaking of the Lord’s Supper, I will pursue the issue further in the next issue dealing with some arguments used in defense of only one cup. 

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