WHY WE BELIEVE AND PRACTICE THESE THINGS # 9

Tommy Thornhill

A correction. I read over what I write several times, but sometimes miss something. In last week’s bulletin (Vol.9, no.04) I left out a phrase in the middle or the middle paragraph on pg.2. If you have a copy of that issue, this is the correction I have made concerning the quote of Matt.26:27-28. “…The first “it” refers to the container of which all were told to drink. But the latter “it,” referencing the statement, “this is My blood” refers to the contents, not the container. Logically 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.”

End of correction————–

While I believe most of us would agree that the elements used in the Lord’s Supper are specific in nature, i.e., ONLY unleavened bread and fruit of the vine (grape juice), can be scripturally used. But the utensils (plate(s) and cups used to serve the elements are general in nature, i.e., choices can be made as to the number and kind of plates and cups utilized. If a congregation of God’s people choose to use only one plate for the bread and one container (a material cup) containing the fruit of the vine from which all can drink, it is scriptural to do so. I see no violation of scripture if they so choose. But I DO NOT believe they can bind their practice of using only one material plate and one material container to serve the Lord’s Supper. on all other congregations of God’s people. It becomes a matter of judgment or choice whether to use one or more plates and one or several containers (cups). As a matter of expediency either way does no violence to God’s word. I have heard little controversy on the number of plates used to serve the bread, but I know of several brethren who seek to bind the use of only one container to serve the fruit of the vine on all other congregations. With this in mind I think it wise to study the issue further as to what the “cup” in the Lord’s Supper means. Was Jesus sanctifying the container holding the fruit or the vine, or the contents when He told His disciples to use the cup to remember His death and declare His return?

Jesus said, when He took the cup in Matt.26:27 “… Drink from it, all of you,” and Lk.22:20 “…He also took the cup after supper saying, ‘This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.’” Some people define “the cup” in these passages as referring to both the container and the contents. They place great significance in the statement that Jesus took “the cup” and told them to “drink from it, all of you” By insisting that Jesus was telling them to all drink from the same solitary vessel the place a spiritual value on something material, and miss the spiritual meaning behind the act; that when people drink of “the cup” they are figurately partaking of Jesus’ blood which was shed to establish the New Covenant which promised actual forgiveness of sins. By stressing the literal container, rather the contents, they are denying “the cup” can still be one cup if it is dispensed from multiple containers or cups.

Ronnie Wade, a proponent of “one cup” i.e., using ONLY ONE CONTAINER writes, “Now the fruit of the vine in the cup was not the cup, as some falsely reason. The cup Jesus took was a drinking vessel, a solid. In the cup (solid) there was fruit of the vine (liquid). What, then, is the cup of the Lord? The cup of the Lord is a drinking vessel containing fruit of the vine. (both container and contents -t.t.). which is sanctified by prayer with thanksgiving.”  “THIS DO IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME” pg.32.

Another proponent of the ONE CUP ONLY idea writes, “… You can no separate the cup from the fruit of the vine than you can separate the covenant from the blood that ratifies it! – the strongest one-cup argument I know.” (Dickerson, “OLD PATHS ADVOCATE” 1/18/91, PG.3).

Men, such as Wade and Dickerson, believe that the vessel is just as sacred as the contents of the container. With this I disagree. “The cup of the Lord” is not the container. It is the contents that are to be “blessed, divided and drank.” It is something that can be “poured out,” a liquid, not a solid. In 1.Cor.11:26-29, the benefits or the judgments received, are associated with the manner of eating and drinking, not the vessel. 

Jesus gave thanks for “the cup” and told them to drink it, the fruit of the vine. Was He giving thanks for the container or the contents? Were they to drink the container or the contents? He also said “the cup” is the “blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” Matt.26:28. Which represented the blood of Christ, the container or the contents (fruit of the vine)? The meaning of remission of sins under the New Covenant was established by the death of Jesus Christ and is remembered by drinking the fruit of the vine. The literal cup (the container) establishes nothing and commemorates nothing. Certainly, the fruit of the vine, to be drunk, must be placed in some kind of container. But the Lord assigns no meaning to the vessel itself – to the size, color, number or shape. He assigned meaning to the contents, the fruit of the vine, not the literal container, in addition to the wine (fruit of the vine).  (to be continued).

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