THE LORD’S SUPPER – DIVISION IN THE CAMP?

THE LORD’S SUPPER – DIVISION IN THE CAMP? BY DOUG KRIEGER


Why is it that what was divinely instituted – the Lord’s Supper (aka, the “Holy Communion” – Lord’s Table - Eucharist) – has become one of the most divisive issues within the Body of Christ, among believers in Yeshua/Jesus? You’d think that “discerning the Lord’s Body” would be the keynote in bringing and expressing our oneness we have in Christ—but it has become a lightning rod for Christians to divide from one another—more so than baptism! Even the phrase: “Let’s break bread” – gives us a sense of peace; of gathering together as one without contention and separation . . . ALAS! We’re so factious to the point we have no idea how separated we really are! This segment on EKKLESIA is not easy to transcribe—for swirling around in my cranium are a myriad of ways to approach this theological imbroglio. Unraveling the meaning and practice of this expression of Christian Oneness and its myriad practices and those divisions which ensue from the how, when, why, where and what it all means to believers today is no small fete. This brevity would be preposterous to advance the notion we can summarize the manifold issues which surround this topic in one setting—so, consider this a 40,000-ft. high overview of the Grand Canyon, AZ on the left side of the plane (hardly an in-depth look at this immense site). Let’s try to approach it from an “Ekklesia” point of view, as well as touch on some major theological issues surrounding this most sacred, yet divisive (sad to say), experience. Alas! It turns out that this may be one of the longest chapters of what has become a book on the topic of Ekklesia. Unfortunately, some have “tabled” the Table because of its tendency to “ceremony” and sundry methodologies and acute theological contentions. So sad this has happened when such a celebration of our Lord can be a joyous experience for all believers! We’ll consider the following: (1) Major traditional theological issues relative to the Lord’s Table. (2) New Testament occurrences, descriptions of the Lord’s Supper. (3) New Covenant and New Commandment implications (4) The “Ekklesia” implications regarding “Breaking of Bread” MAJOR TRADITIONAL THEOLOGICAL ISSUES REGARDING “HOLY COMMUNION” Again, this practice and/or experience of the “Communion Table” is one of the most “separating” issues within the Body of Christ—What is its essence? What really takes place when it occurs? Who can participate? What so-called qualifications are necessary to “partake”? How is the “Lord’s Table” administered (and who can serve it)? When should it occur? Why should we do it in the first place? All these considerations afflict the Body of Christ and cause enumerable division and separation from one another—tragic as it is. Keeping a blind eye to the myriad of division abounding in the Body of Christ over this issue could readily be observed as someone in unintended denial! Virtually all of Christendom (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestants, non-affiliated Christians) consider the Lord’s Table to be a “sacrament” or “ordinance” – with all agreeing that baptism is the other “main sacrament” or ordinance (at least these two sacraments are accepted by virtually all of Christendom—other so-called sacraments like “marriage” would be considered on an equal par with these two main ones—but, again, all of Christianity embraces these two practices as sacraments (i.e., “sacred” to the Christian experience and practice—and directly ordained by the Lord). Duly noted, however, are our Quaker/Friends and Salvation Army brethren who consider both such “sacraments” unnecessary for “holy living” (shocking—but “live with it”—their conviction: Such practices do not assure anyone of “holy living”).(1) The “Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci “Holy Communion” (again, I waft back and forth on these expressions which all mean “the same object of our discussion” but are spoken of by sundry segments of Christianity in different ways—Lord’s Table, Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, Blessed Sacrament, the Breaking of Bread, the Bread and the Cup, the Love Feast, Memorial, Remembrance, “The Lord’s Evening Meal’ (Jehovah Witnesses), even “the Mass” in the Catholic Church, etc.) yet, even from these expressions, one can tell we are obviously deeply embedded in the Christian practice of the “Table.” Incidentally, the term “Eucharist” is derived from the following (original links in quotes kept for viewing): The Greek noun εὐχαριστία (eucharistia [from whence Eucharist]), meaning "thanksgiving", appears fifteen times in the New Testament[10] but is not used as an official name for the rite;[11] however, the related verb is found in New Testament accounts of the Last Supper,[12][13][14] including the earliest such account:[11] For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks (εὐχαριστήσας), he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me". (1 Corinthians 11:23–24) The Lord's Supper, in Greek Κυριακὸν δεῖπνον (Kyriakon deipnon), was in use in the early 50s of the 1st century,[11][12] as witnessed by the First Epistle to the Corinthians (11:20–21): When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.(2) You can see from all these descriptions of this Passover Preparation Feast (Nisan 13) which took place in the Upper Room (prior to Passover Day on Nisan 14 when He was buried) by our Lord and His disciples, just how many “divisions” have resulted from what was clearly the Lord’s effort in gathering together His disciples/friends, coupled with His “Upper Room Discourse” and prayer for the ONENESS of His followers (John chapters 12-17). For such a brief moment in time and space—can you imagine how many practices and intense divisions within Christendom have resulted! Dare you read the entire article in Wikipedia on this, you will be exhausted—as in: How could something so simple become so incredibly complicated and ultimately, so divisive? (See Endnote #10) The THREE traditional views on of the essence of the practice of the Lord’s Supper (i.e., “What’s IN the bread and cup?”) include: (1) Transubstantiation - (Latin: transsubstantiatio; Greek: μετουσίωσις metousiosis) is, according to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, the change of substance or essence by which the bread and wine offered in the sacrifice of the sacrament of the Eucharist during the Mass, become, in reality, the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In this teaching, the notions of substance and transubstantiation are not linked with any particular theory of metaphysics.(3) (2) Consubstantiation or “Sacramental Union” (Note: There is a difference.) This is much more elaborate than meets the less astute theological eye; to wit: In the sacramental union the consecrated bread is united with the body of Christ and the consecrated wine is united with the blood of Christ by virtue of Christ's original institution with the result that anyone eating and drinking these "elements"—the consecrated bread and wine—really eats and drinks the physical body and blood of Christ as well. Lutherans maintain that what they believe to be the biblical doctrine of the manducatio indignorum ("eating of the unworthy") supports this doctrine as well as any other doctrine affirming the Real Presence. The manducatio indignorum is the contention that even unbelievers eating and drinking in the Eucharist really eat and drink the body and blood of Christ.[3] This view was put forward by Martin Luther in his 1528 Confession Concerning Christ's Supper. AND For the reason why, in addition to the expressions of Christ and St. Paul (the bread in the Supper is the body of Christ or the communion of the body of Christ), also the forms: under the bread, with the bread, in the bread [the body of Christ is present and offered], are employed, is that by means of them the papistical transubstantiation may be rejected and the sacramental union of the unchanged essence of the bread and of the body of Christ indicated.[5](4) (3) Memorialism/Remembrance Only: These three categories (Transubstantiation, Sacramental Union, and Memorialism) are exceedingly broadly based and have scores of theological derivations. However, this so stated, the “Remembrance/Memorial” view is as follows (and it’s a mouthful): Memorialism: Is the belief held by some Christian denominations that the elements of bread and wine (or juice) in the Eucharist (more often referred to as The Lord's Supper by memorialists) are purely symbolic representations of the body and blood of Jesus, the feast being established only or primarily as a commemorative ceremony. The term comes from Luke 22:19: "This do in memory of me" and the attendant interpretation that the Lord's Supper's chief purpose is to help the participant remember Jesus and his sacrifice on the Cross. AND, to demonstrate the sundry divisions within the Body of Christ on this issue: This viewpoint is commonly held by Baptists,[1][2] Anabaptists,[3] the Plymouth Brethren,[3] Jehovah's Witnesses,[4][5][6][7] segments of the Restoration Movement[3] and some non-denominational Churches,[8] as well as those identifying with liberal Christianity, but it is rejected by most branches of Christianity, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, Independent Catholic Churches, the Church of the East, Lutherans, Presbyterians and other traditional Calvinists, as well as the vast majority of Anglicans and Methodists, who variously affirm the doctrine of the real presence.(5) I know, it’s exhausting…but moving on here… NEW TESTAMENT OCCURRENCES AND DESCRIPTIONS It is of keen interest to this writer that the “Last Supper” is described with the “bread and the cup” in the so-called synoptic gospels (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:14-20). Prominent in these accounts; however, the Gospel of John has no mention (at best “veiled allusions”) to the “bread and the cup” (John 13:1-30); but instead, elaborates upon “foot washing”—absolutely, NOTHING is given concerning the New Covenant nor anything about the sequence and administration of the “bread of His Body” and the “cup of redemption in His blood” nor the inauguration of the New Covenant . . . but the New Commandment is most definitely mentioned (John 13:31-35; 14:15, 21, 23; 15:12-15). Likewise, in John’s gospel Jesus goes into great detail regarding the Promise of the Spirit in His Upper Room discourse—more so than in any of the synoptic gospels (i.e., by His “going, He is coming to us” – John 14)—He speaks of His Indwelling us; of the Father and the Son through the Spirit of Promise (John 14:19-31) abiding in us. Furthermore, John speaks of the “abiding life” wherein Jesus is the vine and we are the branches (John 15); and then of the “interior work of the Holy Spirit” in the lives of the believers in John 16, culminating in His High Priestly prayer found in John 17 and offered at the conclusion of the Last Supper before His disciples/friends in that same