Discover What Scripture Says About the Lord’s Supper
Last week we looked at the context of the Lord’s Supper, noting that Jesus based it on Passover, which is an annual event celebrated with family around a shared meal. Although Communion is a New Testament practice, only four books in the Bible have verses about it. These passages are in three of the four biographies of Jesus, as well as Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth.
Matthew and Mark Give an Account of the Lord’s Supper
The verses about Communion in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark are similar (Matthew 26:17-30 and Mark 14:12-26). Though some of the details that preceded Jesus’s instituting Communion differ, the instructions are the same. These provide the guide that most churches follow (more or less) when they celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
Luke Gives an Expanded Practice
Luke’s account of Communion includes the same information provided by Matthew and Mark, along with one interesting additional detail. In his verses about Communion, Luke notes that Jesus’s reference to the cup occurs both before and after the meal. The first time is to give God thanks for it and to distribute it to the disciples. The second time is to remind them—and us—of the new covenant that Jesus began with his sacrificial death and resurrection (Luke 22:7-23).
Paul Gives Additional Teaching
Although Paul wrote many letters to various churches, only to the church in Corinth did he address the Lord’s Supper. This is because that church struggled with its practice of Communion. Paul wrote to them, seeking to reorient their procedure to focus on Jesus and not themselves.
The first of two relevant passages in Corinthians provides general instructions relating to food and drink, as well as idol worship and freedom through Jesus. We can connect these passages to the practice of Communion (1 Corinthians 10:14-33).
An Unworthy Manner
The second passage in Corinthians with verses about Communion is in the next chapter. It is specifically about how the Corinthian church abused this sacrament (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
In this passage Paul reminds the Corinthian believers what Jesus taught his disciples about this practice. It’s a good reminder to get them—and us—back on track.
Tucked in the middle of this passage is a convicting verse warning about taking Communion in an “unworthy manner.” This gives any believer pause, for no one wants to be guilty of this sin.
To understand what Paul means by an unworthy manner, we must consider the context by looking at the abuses that Paul details. Specifically, the Corinthian church’s practice of Communion so diverged from Jesus’s intent, that Paul deemed it unworthy.
To correct this, they should examine themselves to make sure they are not part of the problem that Paul details.
Though our churches today often encourage us to examine ourselves before we partake in the Lord’s Supper, this is an overreach of what Paul taught to the Corinthian church.
He wanted them to examine themselves to make sure they were not getting drunk during their celebration of the Lord’s Supper. He also wanted them to make sure that everyone could equally participate and have something to eat, not leaving hungry.
These are the things that Paul tells them to examine. If this applies to us, we, too, should embark on some self-examination.
May we consider these verses about Communion when we practice the Lord’s Supper. Let us apply what Scripture says, and not our own traditions, to guide our remembrance of what Jesus did for us when he died for our sins and rose from the dead to make us right with Papa, the greatest gift ever given.