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Can We Talk About The Lord’s Supper?
I ask us to reexamine our traditions concerning the Lord’s Supper.


When we, as the Church, celebrate the Lord’s Supper we, as the Church, proclaim the mystery of the faith. This is the historic proclamation of the Church down through all the ages. The King James Bible words it this way:

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

That picturesque King James phrasing ye do shew is a translation of the Greek word, kataggellete, which is a variation of the word, kataggello. Kataggello is pronounced, kat–ang–gel–lo. Thayer’s lexicon gives it a range of possible definitions: announce, declare, promulgate, proclaim, and publish. Note the construction of kataggello, it has a prefix kata, and a root aggello. The root word, aggello means message. That is the same root found in euaggelistos, which is evangelist. The root word is also transliterated into English as angel, meaning messenger, whether Heavenly or earthly depending upon context.

Paul is telling us in 1 Corinthians that by eating the bread, and drinking of the cup we give a message about the Lord’s death until he comes again. We become earthly messengers of the Gospel message.

One old time commentator, Gill, said that kataggellete may be rendered in the imperative mood as an exhortation or command. This comports with Barnes’ comment that it is not a passive action at all. He explained it this way,

… you set forth, or exhibit in an impressive manner, that fact that he was put to death; you exhibit the emblems of his broken body and shed blood, and your belief of the fact that he died.

Matthew Henry said that it,

is not barely in remembrance of Christ “but rather to declare and publish it; to commemorate, to celebrate, His glorious grace in our redemption.” … (and) … “We own before the world … that we are the disciples of Christ, who trust in him alone for salvation and acceptance with God.”

Another commentator said, “We publicly profess, each of us, the Lord has died for me!”.

This proclamation has teaching value because all may see what and why the thing is done. At the Passover meal the story of Israel’s redemption from bondage in Egypt was to be told and explained. So also at the Lord’s Supper the good news of our redemption by Christ and Him crucified is told and explained.

Jesus instituted this feast of the Lord’s Supper, which we also call the Breaking of Bread, at a Passover celebration at which He was the master of the feast. The Passover is a prophetic type of Christ and the salvation He has purchased for us with His blood. In Egypt, the children of Israel were instructed to kill a lamb, to roast it, and eat it all, leaving nothing. It’s blood was to be a life saving covering which must be sprinkled on their door posts. We read,

For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. (Exodus 12:12-14)

They were to make a perpetual memorial of that day, and at that memorial they were to teach the meaning of it. The master of the feast, usually the father of the family, was to explain the meaning of the Passover to the family in response to the question that was to be asked by the young son, on behalf of the rest of the family: “What mean ye by this service?” Here is the command from Exodus,

And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD’S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped. (Exodus 12:24-27)

The Passover is the prophetic type. Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecy and type. The Lord’s Supper is our memorial celebration at which we declare, announce, proclaim that fulfillment, we shew by eating of the bread, and drinking of the cup, that Jesus is the Lamb of God, slain before the foundation of the world. This is referred to as the Paschal Mystery of Christ. He is God who took on human flesh, come into the world to be the one true sacrifice for sin portrayed in the Passover killing of the lamb and by the sprinkling of its blood. At the Lord’s Supper we confess Him as Lord and Savior before the whole world; here we tell the meaning of these things; here we gather to worship and give the preeminence to the Lord Jesus Christ. It has this heuristic value.

We are asked, “What mean ye by this thing?” We answer, “In Egypt the Lord passed over the houses of the children of Israel whose door posts were sprinkled with the blood of a lamb. That was a prophecy of Jesus Christ. We declare that the Lord shall pass over our sins because we are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, the true Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

We take bread and and the cup, eat and drink of it, and by this proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified, died, buried, risen, and returning. We proclaim that as we eat of that bread picturing His flesh (John 6) that we are one with Him. We proclaim that as we drink of that cup picturing His blood, that we are one with Him. The Passover was a prophetic type, the Lord’s Supper the celebration of the fulfillment. Jesus was the hidden subject and object of the Passover celebration. He is the revealed subject and object of the Lord’s Supper celebration. It is He and He alone whom we celebrate and worship.

Remember that the root of kataggello is the same root found in euaggelisteos, which is translated as, evangelist. An evangelist is a messenger with good news. This is interesting because another name for the Lord’s Supper is Eucharist. This means good gift. It is a compound of two words, good and gift. The eu prefix means good. That is the same prefix used in evangelist, which literally means one who brings the good message of the good gift. The ancient English word gospel means good news, or good message.

At the Lord’s Supper we are telling the good news about the good gift of God. We are proclaiming the Paschal Mystery of Jesus (Jesus is the “Lamb of God, slain before the foundation of the world” John 1:29; & Revelations 13:8); we are truly preaching the Gospel, doing the work of an evangelist. Compare what Paul wrote about the Lord’s Supper with the gospel he preached:

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. (I Corinthians 11:26)

The Gospel as Paul preached it is this:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures … (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

So at the Lord’s Supper, in a very literal sense, we are making a public declaration of the Gospel, preaching it in public as it were. At the Lord’s Supper we declare Jesus’ death until He returns. In the Gospel we declare how He died on the cross for our sins, was buried and rose again. The Lord’s Supper is a cognate declaration of the Gospel. There is another cognate as well, Baptism. Elsewhere we called them “three companions”.

Christians have a three fold cord of testimony in Scriptures: the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Each speaks in its own way, in its own season, for its own reason, to the Lord’s death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and imminent return. We are given the Great Commission as a command to preach the Gospel, and baptize, and teach believers Bible truth. The Lord’s Supper is one of the things He has commanded us to observe. Unless we would think that Jesus made things up as He went along in response to various situations we must understand that the Lord’s Supper was part of His plan for the Church for its corporate worship, as testimony to Himself. It must be understood to be founded in the “determinate counsel and foreknowledgeof God ( Acts 2:23). And because of that, it cannot be an afterthought, or a minor, relatively unimportant part of Church practice. Read Matthew 28, the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

This is the Great Commission to the Church. Our proclamation at the Lord’s Supper in part fulfills that commission.

When He came to earth in the flesh, born as a baby, He surrendered His eternal glory as the Word, creator of all things, and humbled Himself to be in the likeness of that which He had created. We read,

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

He has been raised to life again, in the form of a man, and has been glorified as Lord. He has all power and authority over all things, and now He gives a command to His followers because He is Lord. He is no longer of “no reputation”, He is Lord of Glory.

Jesus, after His resurrection and just before His ascension, spoke to the disciples. He said that all power had been given to Him, both in heaven and in earth. By this we understand that He has re-assumed His rightful place as Lord of Heaven and earth. And therefore now gives His Church this commission.

I have called the Lord’s Supper a cognate of the Gospel and Baptism, calling them three companions, and have a chapter called, “Three Companions” which discusses it. But it is worthwhile to take another brief look at this.

The Gospel, the good news, tells of how He died, was buried, and raised again. Jesus said, “Go ye …”, Go everywhere and preach the gospel, and baptize believers, and teach them to observe everything He has commanded. This teaching is the “Apostles’ Doctrine” mentioned in Acts Chapter Two. The first thing we teach is the Gospel, that is first. The Gospel as Paul says is,

… the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

We see that the preaching of the Gospel is the exercise of God’s power to bring others to salvation. Paul expressed this teaching again in a very practical way, after a chain of reasoning in Romans 10, Paul concludes:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

Something we have to grasp is that Faith has its source in God’s Word, not human reasoning, not human wisdom, not human power of speaking. Faith’s source is God’s Word. In another place, Romans 1:16, the Gospel “… is the power of God …”.

What does Paul mean by “hearing”? Hearing involves doing what is heard. James makes the point that faith without works is dead, so it isn’t merely hearing the words with the ears, it is a response on our part to what we hear. And when that is so, when we truly hear, faith expresses itself in our lives producing Christ-likeness. That is to say,

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

Paul says in another passage that the preaching of the cross is God’s sovereign choice for displaying His power,

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

The world says it’s foolish to preach the Gospel. On the other hand, to us who believe it, the Gospel is the power of God for salvation,

But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:24-25)

And what was it Paul preached , He wrote:

… we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (1 Corinthians 1:23)

Paul preaches Christ crucified, elsewhere He says that,

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: (1 Corinthians 2:1-4)

Notice that this preaching of Christ is “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”. The preaching of Christ and Him crucified is the power of God for salvation to all who believe. This is the Gospel. Paul gives us the outline of the Gospel, which I repeat because it is well to memorize this passage:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

Here Paul has said, “this is the gospel which I preached”. And this is the gospel which we have “received” and in which we “stand” and by which we are “saved”. And what is it but that Jesus was crucified, buried and raised again, all “according to the scriptures”. And this was done “for our sins”. There it is, salvation in a few words.

What we take away from this is: The Gospel is God’s power for our salvation. Faith comes from hearing His Word which tells us that Christ was crucified for our sins according to God’s Word. And it is this which Jesus gives command to preach it.

Then He commanded us to baptize those who respond,

… baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost … (Matthew 28:19b)

Baptism tells how we died with Him and are raised again with Him, here the believer makes public profession of faith, here the Church receives the new believer as reborn into the family of God. In Baptism we identify with Christ’s death, and with His resurrection,

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (Romans 6:3-5)

Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12)

Baptism speaks of Christ who died, Christ who rose again, Christ who is returning: the great mystery of the faith which is stated directly in the preaching of the Gospel is stated indirectly in Baptism.

In the Great Commission Jesus said to preach the Gospel, Baptize, and then, to teach them, “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”. Jesus commanded concerning the Lord’s Supper, “This do”. What am I getting at? This: the threefold cord, the three companions, in the New Testament that gives testimony to Jesus. First, the Gospel, which leads us to saving faith in Him. Second, baptism which is an individual’s public profession of that faith. The third cord is the public proclamation and celebration of the Lord made in the congregation of the Church: The Lord’s Supper.

Just as the Gospel tells of how He died, was buried, and raised again, and just as baptism tells how we died with Him and are raised again with Him, so also the Lord’s Supper proclaims Him: died, buried, and raised to return again! We preach the Gospel to the world. The individual believes and is baptized, then together, assembled as the Church we make a public proclamation of what we have believed, are saved by, and wherein we stand, as Paul said,

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

To shew is, as we know, to make a public proclamation, to celebrate the Gospel. Celebrate means to joyfully make a thing or person widely known, to make it, or them, famous in a good way. We proclaim in the Lord’s Supper that we,

… commemorate the Lord’s death and resurrection … and profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await his coming in glory. (CCC Paragraph 1400)

Remember in the Great Commission Jesus commanded saying, “… teaching them to observe all thing whatsoever I have commanded you …” There is a double emphasis here: all things and whatsoever. If all things misses any thing, whatsoever claims it!

In 1 Corinthians Paul follows that command, saying this:

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, … (1 Corinthians 11:23a)

Paul taught us to “observe all things whatsoever” the Lord had commanded; Paul taught us to observe the Lord’s Supper. He received this from the Lord Himself. The other Apostles were in the room with Jesus when He instituted that feast, Paul wasn’t, He received it by revelation later. Jesus taught it to the Apostles, the Apostles taught it to the first in-gathering of the Church, Paul taught it to the gentiles in-gathered later, thus obeying the Lord’s commission to teach them to “… observe all thing whatsoever I have commanded you …”.

Note carefully here what Paul goes on to say. This is what he received from the Lord, and now he is delivering it to us:

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. (1 Corinthians 11:23b-25)

Paul delivers to us what Jesus said, “Take!” “Take, eat …” of the bread. And “drink!” “This do ye …” of the cup. Take, eat! This drink! Of both he said “This do!” This is what Jesus told the disciples in the upper room, this is what Jesus revealed to Paul later, this is what Jesus has given to us, through their words (John 17:20), to do when we are gathered together. This is what we should teach according to His command in Matthew: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”. What we teach is that at the Lord’s Supper we proclaim His death, His resurrection, His awaited return.

When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we are imitating Jesus who said of Himself,

I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation. (Psalms 40:10)

We, as the congregation of God’s redeemed also do not hide God’s righteousness, but declare His faithfulness and His salvation and His lovingkindness and His truth when we celebrate the breaking of bread.

This proclamation of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus declares Him to be the one true sacrifice for sin portrayed in the Passover killing of a lamb and the sprinkling of its blood. If we proclaim the Lord’s death, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins. For when His blood was poured out it was poured out for the forgiveness of sins. We are the celebrants, performing an act of royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) in this. It is the sum and summary of our faith. St. Ambrose said this,

We should always proclaim it, eating this bread and drinking this cup. I should always remember it so that I remember my sins are forgiven. Because I always sin and am a sinner I have always a remedy. And I should also always proclaim this forgiveness of sin to the world as well.

The Lord’s Supper is the historical and traditional proclamation, qua act of celebration, that the Church has been making for two millenia. Jesus in the Great Commission commanded us to preach the Gospel to the whole world. In the Lord’s Supper that Gospel is preached. Each and every time it is celebrated that proclamation goes out. It is the constant testimony of the Church to the world. That is the mission of the Church, to proclaim Christ and Him crucified, to proclaim His shed blood for the forgiveness of sins. This is the summa without which all else is vanity in a world whirling towards judgment day. In that day without the covering of the blood, condemnation to the Lake of Fire is certain, the Lord will not pass over them that have rejected Christ. All cares and pleasures, all helps and comforts, all health and wealth, all hopes fulfilled and dreams lived will perish in eternal torment. The proclamation of the Gospel is God’s proffer of the free gift of salvation, and it is the salvation that without which, ultimately we have nothing except fiery condemnation sure to come. We may do good works, feed, clothe, heal, help, all of which are good and necessary things, but secondary to the great proclamation. Many do good works without the preaching of the cross, and therefore those good works speak only of themselves, the message is not Christ. Our preaching ought to be accompanied by the good works for which we have been created. But our message must be clear: Christ and Him crucified.

We see then, the plan of the Lord that the Church celebrate Himself in the Lord’s Supper, giving Him the preeminence in all things, proclaiming His love, proclaiming the perfections of Christ, and Him crucified. proclaiming the very Gospel itself, declaring the Christian Kergyma:

Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching (kerugma) of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, (Romans 16:25)

We, the gathered Church, celebrate a feast of proclamation, planned by the Lord for us. This is one reason we call it the work of God, and say that we should prefer nothing to it.

©FH 2012

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