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The Lord's Supper - Essential Or Expedience? (Part 2)

By bro Alvin Lin


Timing of the Lord’s Supper – essential or expedience?

Another interesting thought that I had when I was younger was regarding the timing of the partaking of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. Since it’s called the Lord’s “Supper” [deipnon: supper, especially a formal meal usually held at the evening] (1Co 11:20), is it then binding upon Christians to partake of it at supper time? In light of historical records where Christians worshipped before dawn, since Sunday was a working day in the Roman world and there were slaves in the Roman empire e.g. Onesimus (Phm 16) who could only meet before their masters awoke, and the fact that the Bible only specifies the day of the week and not the time for worship, we can thus conclude that the term “supper” denotes the time that Jesus instituted the communion and not the binding of the time for the partaking of the communion. In fact, to be precise, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper “after supper” [NKJV] (1Co 11:25), thereby signifying that it was His last meal, not that it was taken at supper.

 

Cups for the Lord’s Supper – essential or expedience?

While there are some who are lax with the frequency of the partaking the Lord’s Supper, there are others who swing to the other extreme and are strongly insistent on the manner of its partaking, that the whole congregation must drink from one cup. Their resolve would have been severely tested since the time of the Covid-19 pandemic and I wonder how many would still stick to their conviction of drinking from the same cup that others drank from. That aside, we shall consider why using multiple cups for the Lord’s Supper is an expedient, just like using hymn books for singing and collection bags for giving. Firstly, the word “cup” is a figure of speech called metonymy, where a word is used in place of another related word, and it refers to the “fruit of the vine” that symbolizes Christ’s “blood of the new testament” (Mat 26:27-29).


This is even more obvious when we see that “the cup of blessing” is paralleled with “the bread which we break” (1Co 10:16). The “cup of the Lord” represents the fruit of the vine in the cup, just as how the “Lord’s table” represents the unleavened bread on the table (1Co 10:21). Secondly, we see that our Lord told His disciples to “divide it among yourselves” (Luk 22:17). Surely Jesus did not mean for His disciples to divide the cup literally, but rather to divide the fruit of the vine in the cup. Likely (and logically), this was achieved by pouring the fruit of the vine into multiple cups (remembering that the Lord’s Supper was instituted after supper and the disciples would have drinking cups with them), refuting the “one cup” doctrine. Thirdly, consider the time it would take for the approximately 3,000 souls that were baptized on the day of Pentecost to drink from one cup during worship (Act 2:41). If it takes a brief 3 seconds for one to drink from the cup and pass on to another, it would take 9,000 seconds or 2.5 hours just to partake of the Lord’s Supper alone, not including the time for the other acts of worship. Subsequently, the Christians grew by another 5,000 (Act 4:4), and “multiplied” (Act 6:1,7), so the time needed for everyone to drink the fruit of the vine from one cup would increase tremendously. However, as we noted earlier, the use of multiple cups (and trays) for the fruit of the vine is an expediency and would help to reduce the time needed.

 

In worship, all things need to be done “decently and in order” (1Co 14:40), and this is only possible if we “speak the same thing” and “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1Co 1:10). This means that we need to forgo any “private interpretation” (2Pe 1:20), “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2Ti 2:15). We must “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3:17), and appeal to Bible authority for our beliefs and practices through direct command, approved examples, and necessary inference. Not just in the area of the Lord’s Supper, but in all doctrinal matters, so that we can “be ready always to give an answer to every man” (1Pe 3:15).

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