DISTINCTIVES

Our vision is to glorify God through our love for Jesus as we make disciples of all nations and as we multiply new congregations that hold to the practice of the early church.

• Early Church Practice
• Family-Integrated Worship
• Smaller by Design
• Focused on Making Disciples
• The Doctrines of Grace
• Historic Christian Orthodoxy
• New Covenant Theology
• Relationships over Programs
• Complementarian Gender Roles
• Relaxed Atmosphere
• The Lord’s Supper as a Holy Meal
• In-depth Bible Teaching
• Elder Led Consensus
• Biblical Inerrancy

The Lord’s Supper—A Fellowship Feast

Lord'sSupperPic 

The Lord’s Supper—A Fellowship Feast

        Jesus empowered the ancient church with a strategy for communion designed to create supernatural unity, loving community, and holiness in view of His return. One part of this strategy was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week. The other was to partake of the elements in the context of an actual meal—a sacred, covenant meal. Since most believers are unaware of this strategy, the last supper has, in a sense, become the lost supper.

 

Professors

The opinion of theologians is clearly weighted toward the conclusion that the Lord’s Supper was originally eaten as a full meal. For example, Donald Guthrie stated that the apostle Paul: “sets the Lord’s supper in the context of the fellowship meal.”[1] Yale scholar J.J. Pelikan concluded: “often, if not always, it was celebrated in the setting of a common meal.”[2]

(The unabridged version cites more scholarly consensus.)

 

Proof

The setting of the first Lord’s Supper was the Passover Feast. Jesus and His disciples reclined around a table abounding with food (Ex 12, De 16). It was “while they were eating” (Mt 26:26, italics mine) that Jesus took bread and compared it to his body. Then, “after the supper” (Lk 22:20, italics mine), He compared the wine to his blood. Timing is everything. The bread and cup of the Lord’s Supper were introduced in the context of an actual meal. As with Passover, the Twelve would have understood the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper to also be part of a meal.

Twenty years later, and in a different country, the church in Corinth was celebrating Communion as a true supper. One of the problems Paul wrote to correct was that the poor went home hungry (1Co 11:21-22). Paul’s solution to Corinthian abuse was not to do away with the meal. Instead, Paul wrote: “when you come together to eat, wait for each other” (11:33).

 

Purpose # 1— Jesus’ Return

The Lord’s Supper celebrated as a meal is a prophetic type of the wedding banquet of the Lamb. Jesus first mentioned it at the very beginning of the Passover: “I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Lk 22:16). He mentioned it again when passing the cup: “from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk 22:18). After passing the elements, Jesus referred to it yet again: “I confer on you a kingdom … so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom” (Lk 22:29-30). When Jesus turned the Passover Feast into the Lord’s Supper, He gave it both a backward and a forward look. The Baptist Faith and Message of 2000 agrees: “The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming” (italics mine).[3] This weekly reminder of the imminence of His return can also be an impetus to holy living: “we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1Jn 3:2-3).

(Other future aspects can be found in the long version.)

 

Purpose # 2—Community & Fellowship

F.F. Bruce held that the phrase “breaking of bread” in Acts denotes “something more than the ordinary partaking of food together: the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper is no doubt indicated … this observance appears to have formed part of an ordinary meal.”[4] The early church enjoyed the Lord’s Supper as a time of fellowship and gladness, just like one would enjoy at a wedding banquet. Luke testified: “breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:46-47).

 (There’s a lot more in the plenary presentation on Communion community.)

 

Purpose #3—Supernatural Unity

The one loaf not only pictures our unity in Christ but, according to 1 Corinthians 10:17, partaking of it actually creates unity: “because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (italics mine). One scholar wrote that the Lord’s Supper was: “intended as means of fostering the unity of the church.”[5] In their commentary on Corinthians, Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer concluded: “The single loaf is a symbol and an instrument of unity.”[6] Gordon Fee wrote of the: “solidarity of the fellowship of believers created by their all sharing ‘the one loaf.’”[7] In the Lord’s Supper, we practically express our oneness in Christ. The particulars of Jesus’ strategy for the Supper were to celebrate it weekly, as a meal, using one cup and one loaf.

 

Prescription

Scripture indicates that the practices of the early church were intended to be more than an academic record. 1 Corinthians 11-14 begins with praise for the Corinthian church because they followed Paul’s traditions specifically regarding church practice: “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions (paradosis)” (11:2). This same word in verb form (paradidomi) was used in 11:23 with regard to the practice of the Lord’s Supper (it was “traditioned” from Jesus to Paul to the Corinthians). Do we really want to disregard a tradition for the Lord’s Supper that was handed down by Jesus Himself?

Early Southern Baptist theologian J. L. Dagg believed that the apostles: “have taught us by example how to organize and govern churches. We have no right to reject their instruction and captiously insist that nothing but positive command shall bind us.  Instead of choosing to walk in a way of our own devising, we should take pleasure to walk in the footsteps of those holy men from whom we have received the word of life … respect for the Spirit by which they were led should induce us to prefer their modes of organization and government to such as our inferior wisdom might suggest.”[8]

 (This is an abridged version of this article.)

[1] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity, 1981), 758.

[2] Jaroslav Pelikan, “Eucharist,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, ed. Warren Preece, Vol. 8 (Chicago: William Benton, Publisher, 1973), 808.

[3] “The Baptist Faith and Message”, sbc.net, accessed September 6, 2016.

[4] F. F. Bruce, Acts of The Apostles (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1981), 79.

[5] Pelikan, “Eucharist,” 807.

[6] Archibald Robertson & Robert Plummer, “1 Corinthians,” International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911), 213.

[7] Gordon Fee, “The First Epistle to the Corinthians,” New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 515.

[8] J.L. Dagg, Manual of Theology:  A Treatise on Church Order (Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1990), 84-86.