"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread : and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you : this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood : this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come." - 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26.
LIKE all good Jews, Christ was observing the passover which they had been ordered to keep as a memorial. (Exodus 12:21-29.) The table was supplied with unleavened bread, wine, the bitter herbs, and the paschal lamb. The bread was unleavened as a symbol of their afflictions in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 16:3.) And also because it commemorated their speedy exit from the land of the Pharaohs, as it is remarked in Exodus 12:39, that "the dough was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry." For this same reason the feast was eaten standing, to typify the fact that they were in a hurry to depart, and had no time to sit.
The wine was an emblem of rejoicing, and was mingled with water, which was drunk after the following thanks: "Blessed be thou, O Lord, who hast created the fruit of the vine; blessed be thou for this good day, and this holy
convocation, which thou hast given us for joy and rejoicing. Blessed be thou, O Lord, who hast sanctified Israel." Herbs were to symbolize to the Jews the bitterness of their lives as well as to indicate that in their haste they had no time to select better seasoning; to this they afterward added a sauce of dates, raisins, and other ingredients, mixed to the consistency of mustard, to indicate the clay in which they labored. The lamb was to be a male without blemish ; it was to be roasted, to avoid eating raw or boiling, as was the manner of the heathen. This mode of cooking the lamb indicated the fires of persecution. It should be eaten without breaking a bone, in private, each family having a lamb, and all must be eaten. This was an offset to the great public feasts of the Egyptians and Syrians, who carried around the sacrificial victims with great show and pomp, and then devoured them, carrying away some portions as relics. These preparations for the feast of the passover being made from year to year, kept in the Jewish mind the great passing over of the angel, when he saw the blood on the lintels of the door
Christ observed the passover, and at the end thereof instituted " The Lord's Supper." The one ceremony was a fitting introduction to the other. The oue was the symbol of the fading shadow of Christ as foreseen in the slain lamb, while the other is the new feast of saints in a new dispensation, and Christ himself the Paschal Lamb. Hence, we read that Paul calls Christ our Passover. (1 Corinthians 5:7.) In examining the conditions, and the figures, it will be seen that there are many points of agreement between the Jewish passover, and "The Lord's Supper"; between the emblems of the one and the other;
the lessons to be taught by the former and the latter. Yes, remarkably true is it that the "Person of Christ," "the suffering and death of Christ," "the fruits of Christ's death," and the manner in which we are to be made partakers of the rich and glorious fruits of his sacrifice are boldly, vividly, and strongly typified in the Jewish passover, and the Lord's Supper. The former is of the old dispensation, the latter of the new.
Yet another thing to be impressed upon us is this, that "Blood is the price of liberty." "Born in iniquity and in sin," there is no escape from the thraldom thereof till "the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7.) " For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by the means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of a necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead : otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." (Hebrews 9:13-17.) Now Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19, 20; and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, all give accounts of the introduction of this the second ordinance of Christ, baptism being the first. John is silent on this subject. Paul alone tells us that it is to be observed "till he come," even as the passover was to be kept till Christ came the first time.
I. The elements.
We have briefly spoken of the elements used for this Supper, and desire now to speak more specifically. There are two elements, bread and wine, which were in olden times brought by the members of the church, each bringing some. What was necessary was used in the administration of the ordinance, and the balance was gathered and appropriated for the benefit of the poor. How deep an interest the members must have had when in this way they prepared these offerings! No doubt it is from this beautiful custom of individual contributions that a collection is generally taken for the poor saints at the Lord's Table. For the most part now the elements are provided by the deacons. It should be recalled here that Christ sent his disciples to prepare the passover wherein also offerings for the Supper were also prepared. There were no deacons to prepare the "Lord's Supper," but they were afterward appointed, apparently to attend to the poor in the distribution of what was left after eating. It was because of this the apostles declared: "It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables."
The reasons for using bread are perhaps as follows: 1. To harmonize with its uses in the passover. He took the loaf and broke it. So he was broken. 2. To symbolize Christ as the great food for the spiritual system. (John 6:51.) 3. Because it is easy to get, and is commonly understood as containing the results of the divine energy in nature, being produced from the earth by the rain and the sun. 4. To remind them that he had given the Jews manna in an unaccountable way; and as it came down from heaven, so did Christ himself. 5. As no one can tell how bread enters the system and produces life, strengthens bones
and muscles, etc., so there is a mystery in that Christ becomes our strength and life. Bread produces strength in the body, so does Christ in the soul.
Baptists believe the matter of little moment whether the bread be leavened or unleavened, and hence both are used. Now as regards wine. It is well to notice that the word "wine" is not used by the Master, but the "fruit of the vine." When this idea is of itself brought in contact with the word itself in the original, it is evidence that no violence is done by using the word wine. Much controversy has obtained as to fermented and unfermented wine, but no one disputes that the "fruit of the vine" is wine; and indeed scholars tell us that the word generally used is the one for unfermented wine. (Matthew 9:17; John 2:3-10; Romans 14:21; 1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 2:3.) Wine is used: 1. To call to mind the fact that the Lamb was slain. That he gave his life for us. "The life is the blood." (Genesis 9:4.) That his blood caused God to pass over us as the blood of the lamb did on the Jewish doorposts. 2. It is a reminder of Jesus' pains and sufferings, and that he was wounded for our transgressions; yet it is an emblem of joy. 3. As the fruit of the grape is crushed to secure wine, so was he bruised to secure grace for transgressors. Other analogies might be suggested, but these will suffice.
II. The name.
The most common and most acceptable term for this ordinance known to intelligent Baptists is the Lord's Supper. Other terms are applied to it, as "the Sacrament," "the Communion," "the "Eucharist"; but the term " Lord's Supper " seems the most appropriate, and as in every way meeting the demands of the case. It is the term which the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:20
uses to designate the ordinance. It is the term, moreover, which most fully recognizes our Lord's relation to that which is pre-eminently his in its institution and symbolism. It is the term which most generally, if not always, should be used. It was on Thursday night that the Lord's Supper was instituted, but to emphasize the relation of the Christian Sabbath to the resurrection of our Lord, the early Christians celebrated the ordinance on that day. (Acts 20:7.)
Says Rev. J. Newton Brown, in his "Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge," "Much has been said respecting the time of administering the Lord's Supper. Some plead for the morning, others for the afternoon, and some for the evening; which latter indeed was the time of the first celebration of it, and is most suitable to a supper. How often it is to be observed has been a matter of different opinion. Some have been for keeping it every day in the week, others four times a week, some every Lord's Day, which many think nearest the apostolic practice, a practice which was long kept up, and only deviated from when the love of Christians began to wax cold. Others have kept it three times a year, and some once a year; but the most common custom for its observance is once a month. It appears, however, both from Scripture and from the nature of the ordinance, that its observance ought to be frequent."
One word more as to the posture in taking the Supper. The passover was first taken standing, but after the Israelites had entered Canaan they took it in the position which Christ and his disciples assumed in the upper room. This custom of reclining showed signs of equality and strict union. For is not Christ "our Elder Brother"?
His Father our Father? We see many Pedobaptists kneeling at the Lord's Supper. This method was introduced by the Roman Catholic Church. It was intended to be an act of worship. The Roman Catholics believe the elements to be the body and blood of Christ; hence in kneeling they are worshiping him, as recognized in the bread and wine.
III. The significance of the ordinance.
Let us somewhat in detail, though briefly, notice the significance of the Lord's Supper:
1. It is commemorative of the blessed Saviour. He commands his disciples thus: "This do ye, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me." What glorious memories! How grand!
2. It is emblematic, teaching his will and an acknowledgment thereof. A sign of acceptance of his doctrines. "This cup is the new testament in my blood." The old testament replaced by a new one.
3. It is a type of that which is to come. Recalling the past and suggesting the great future. "But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
4. It is demonstrative, showing that his disciples are to meet to vindicate their belief in the Lord aud the Lord's death, and to testify to his second coming, as well as to exhibit faith in his having come. The Jews reject Christ.
5. It exhibits the love of his disciples, not only for the Master but for each other; establishing the fact that all can unite in Christ and form one family. Remember, the Jewish passover was a family institution, and was confined to one family or two small families united. In
the time of Josephus not less than ten nor more than twenty persons were allowed. Here we see Christ and his twelve disciples, though it is commonly believed that Judas ate the passover, but not the Lord's Supper. This was Christ's family. Is not he the Bridegroom of the church? He had no other family. His was a household of faith. This gives splendid evidence of the social character of his church. With one accord around his table they met, and lovingly they meet to-day. Accepting the rendering of Dr. A. N. Arnold: "Because there is one loaf, we the many are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf." Is not this a union of blessed import, Christ's body food for all?
6. It is a bond that holds us together. While it was not probably the Master's intention to hold the church together by this ceremony, yet it is a bond that tightens around his disciples. Indeed, to the soul that loves Christ, this is a precious season. It crystallizes our sentiment and openly publishes the fact that this rallying time is a season for cementing us together. One has only to recall his feelings when he has changed his relations from one church to another. How gladly yon can sit down with entire strangers and feel that indeed you are drawn by invisible yet irresistible bonds to " love the brethren."
7. It advertises to the world that we are keeping intact, faithfully and surely, the very simple, plain ordinance he gave us through his disciples. It portrays truly that the ministry are faithful and that through all these ages there have been those who have delivered it just as he gave it; and that there are myriads who are willing to still do so. Aye, more; when we consider as Baptists what opposition we encounter to be able to deliver it as we received it, we
grow proud of our position. But none of these things move us. Not a single heresy is traceable to Baptists. It is our pleasure to keep from the table all whom we believe are not disciples, or who, if they are, do not live free from following after " strange doctrines." Yes, Lord, we will, aided by thee, deliver this glorious Supper, just as thou gavest it to us! It never grows old.
IV. The prerequisites.
This leads us naturally to consider the prerequisites to this table of the Lord. Mind our language: not our table, but the Lord's table. Not our supper, but the Lord's Supper. We must surely find the conditions in his teaching or that of the teachings and practices of the apostles.
The three requisites admitted by the creeds and most of the members of all denominations are repentance, baptism, and church membership. Christ ate with disciples. Do not forget this; for "Jesus took bread, and brake it, and gave it to his disciples." Christ drank with disciples. Do not forget this: "And he took the cup and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it." They had repented, been baptized and united with Christ. Yet we see a host of people, who profess to repent and will not be baptized. How can they justly claim that we thrust them from the table when we believe that baptism is immersion. This is the Lord's Supper, not ours. Does any man work for another and act according to his own will? If the master of the house bids his servant invite certain guests who fulfill certain conditions, how dare he invite others, who not only fall short of these conditions, but who, on the contrary, have violated these very conditions? Nor does it make a difference how much
one may claim to have fulfilled these conditions; it is my duty and yours to satisfy ourselves, as the Master's servants, that the person bidden has observed the conditions. No one doubts the fact that "repentance, baptism and church membership" are prerequisites to the Lord's Supper. The Lord Jesus, when he gave the great commission, plainly showed this: "Go ye, therefore, and disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Sou, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Here we have:
1. Discipling. 2. Baptism. 3. Observing commands. Now read in connection with the great commission, Acts 2:38-41; 8:12, 35-38; 9:17, 18; 22:16; 10:47-48; 16:14, 15; 16:29-33; 18:8. From the above, baptism is seen to be a grand essential.
Some one congratulates himself that John and the apostles were not baptized. "While the Scripture is silent on that point, it is a more just inference that they were baptized than that they were not. Even if they were not, to them was given the charge to baptize; and it came from high authority and was of the nature of those things to which Paul refers in the text, when he says: "For I have received of the Lord that which also I have delivered unto you."
But lest some one may accuse me of teaching Baptist doctrine, forgetting in the charge that all Bible doctrine is Baptist doctrine, or that I may be charged with wresting the Scriptures, I will put here the convictions of a few Pedobaptists. My aim will, I trust, be seen in the quotations themselves. But I will state it plainly. Baptists reject from the Lord's Supper such as have not been baptized.
They do not believe any one baptized except he is immersed. Should one be immersed and unite with a Pedobaptist church,(?) then we reject him, as by his course teaching error, and thereby failing to practice and teach the truth.
We are not keepers of the consciences of such, but our own. The coming to the table depends on repentance, baptism, and union with a church. If we do not acknowledge a man's baptism, he cannot get to our Lord's table. Pedobaptists are consistent in inviting us, for they believe we are baptized, while we do not believe they are.
We have a baptism accepted throughout the world, by even those who practice sprinkling and pouring, while these last-named are rejected by millions. This is all there is to what is called " close communion." It is a question of baptism and holy life. I pass over the question of " church," as to whether these great Pedobaptist organizations are a " church," etc., as it is not material to this present argument. Suffice it to say, that Baptists and Pedobaptists disagree as to what is a church, but do not disagree on the fact that a man must be baptized aud join a church, no matter how widely they may differ as to what that baptism is.
I take these extracts from a pamphlet by Rev. Henry F. Colby; Dr. Pendleton's "Doctrines," and Hiscox's "Baptist Short Method."
Dr. Wall, in his "History of Intant Baptism," p. 2, chap. IX., says: "No church ever gave the communion to any persons before they were baptized. Among all the absurdities that ever were held, none ever maintain that any person should partake of the communion before he was baptized."
Dr. Dick, in his "Theology," says: "None have the right to the holy table but those who have been previously purified by the washing of water and the word."
Justin Martyr says: "This food is called by us the Eucharist, of which it is not lawful for any to partake but such as believe the things taught by us to be true, and have been baptized."
Dr. Cave says: "The communicants in the primitive church were those who had embraced the doctrines of the gospel, and had been baptized into the faith of Christ. For, looking upon the Lord's Supper as the highest and most solemn act of religion, they thought they could not take care enough in (he dispensing of it."
Baxter says: "What man dare go in a way which hath neither precept nor example to warrant it, from a way that hath a full current of both? Yet they that will admit members into the visible church without baptism do this."
Doddridge says: "It is certain that as far as our knowledge of antiquity reaches, no unbaptized person received the Lord's Supper. How excellent soever a man's character is, he must be baptized before he can be looked upon as completely a member of the Church of Christ."
Dr. Dvvight, a Congregatioualist, says: "It is an indispensible qualification for the ordinance that the candidate for communion be a member of the visible Church of Christ in full standing. By this I intend that he should be a person of piety; that he should have made a public profession of religion; and that he should have been baptized."
Dr. Hibbard, a Methodist, says: "Both Baptist and Pedobaptist churches agree in rejecting from communion at the table of the Lord, and denying the rights of church
membership to all who have not been baptized. Valid baptism they consider essential to visible church membership. This also we hold. The only question then that divides us is, What is essential to valid baptism ? "
Dr. Hodge, the Presbyterian, says: "The Christian Church requires of those whom it receives to membership in visible communion nothing more than a credible profession of faith, the promise of obedience, to Christ and submission to baptism as the initiatory ordinance."
V. The benefit of the ordinance.
I wish to ask now what benefit is bestowed by the observance of this ordinance upon the individual himself, and what really is the character of the elements when partaken of? There are four views held touching this matter.
1. Transubstantiation. This is a big word that explains the Roman Catholic belief, and means that the substances, bread and wine, are changed to the actual body and blood of Christ.
2. Consubstantiation, a word to represent the views of the Lutherans, and means that the actual body and blood is really mingled with the bread and wine.
3. The Calvinists believe that through the bread and wine, by some mysterious spiritual power Christ's life is made common to us, and that we feed upon him as spiritual food.
4. Baptists believe with Zwingli, that these elements are only emblems, and this view is sufficient to call to remembrance the word and works of the Lord Jesus. Let us consider a few practical lessons:
In eating the Lord's Supper, we are commanded to examine ourselves, for many become worthless, benumbed, useless, sleepy Christians from eating unworthily, and are
not approved of God. (1 Corinthians 5:1-8; 1 Corinthians 2:27-32.) "Ye are my disciples if ye do whatsoever I command you." He has commanded us to love one another; also, to do this in remembrance of him. As often, therefore, as we do so, we show our love for our brethren, and obey the Lord's command.
We owe to our Master to make this constant protest against the evils of sprinkling, pouring, and the like, for God needs us to preserve that which has been committed to us. It makes us stronger and stronger as often as we please Christ by a ready compliance with his will. It tests our title to discipleship.
Again this is a church ordinance, given to a church, for a church, and should be kept in the church. So long as the church stands, just so long will we lovingly remember Jesus around the table. The scenes of the cross will grow brighter and brighter, and our duty to preach our distinctive views grows none the less obligatory. As we practice so shall we preach; and the great God who made us prosper the word! In the language of Dr. Thomas Armitage, in his "History of the Baptists":
"When men are willing to return to the gospel order of regeneration and baptism, their obedience to Christ will remove all controversy on these subjects by restoring things to the gospel status, and then there must of necessity be again one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one table. Until then there never can be, and what is more, there never ought to be, except on this apostolic church principle."
[From Edward M. Brawley, editor, The Negro Baptist Pulpit: A Collection of Sermons and Papers . . ., 1890, pp. 143-156. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More on Baptists: Various Subjects
Baptist History Homepage