It is not uncommon to find ourselves doing things ďjust because.Ē Last week I started a series of bulletins articles to address this in our own worship; more specifically with the Lordís Supper. For many Christians, everything we do with the Lordís Supper is merely a habit. We partake of it on Sundays. We use unleavened bread and grape juice. We have a little talk, we have a brief prayer, and depending who is the song leader we might even have a song or two to help prepare our minds. We then remain quiet as a mouse for the duration of the meal. But why? Why do we do these things? Last week I discussed the frequency of the Lord Supper and why we partake of it every first day of the week. This week I want us to take a closer look at the elements of the Lordís Supper.
Why do we use unleavened bread? In the New Testament there are two words used for bread. One is the general term for bread. It is used in a variety of different ways. There are times where it clearly means a loaf of bread as in the case of Jesusí miracles of feeding both the groups of four thousand and five thousand. There are times when the term is used synonymously with a meal. This is especially seen in the phrase ďbreaking bread.Ē In Acts 2:46 we find early Christians were breaking bread from house to house. This is generally agreed to be a common meal. Sometime the bread refers to the bread used during the Lordís Supper. Paul uses this Greek word when he discusses the instructions Jesus gave concerning the Lordís Supper in I Cor. 11:23-34). The only real way of knowing what type of ďbreadĒ is being referenced in each instance is to look at the context of the passage. And even then, we canít always tell. For instance, the bread Jesus divided when he fed the thousands could have been unleavened. The text doesnít prove either leavened or unleavened. We just cannot tell.
The other Greek word translated as bread in the New Testament specifically refers to unleavened bread. It is only used 9 times in our bibles. Seven of the uses specifically refer to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The other two instances it is used metaphorically by Paul in I Cor. 5:7-8. The Lordís Supper was instituted during this feast. This means that when Jesus took the bread (the generic term) they bread he took was unleavened. Being that every instance of leaven mentioned in the NT is seen in a negative connotation it is safe to presume that Christís church uses unleavened bread. (Leaven is almost always used to describe the influence of sin). Since Christ was sinless and the bread is his body, it make perfect since that leaven (sin) is not found in it.
Why do we use grape juice? We just established the fact that the Lordís Supper was instituted during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Leaven was to be removed from the home according to Ex. 12:15. Not some of it. Not most of it. All of it was to be removed from the house. Any form that leaven might take was to be purged (again think of that sin analogy and this makes perfect sense). Alcoholic wine contains leaven. Yeast is needed to make wine. There is no way that alcoholic wine would have been found in a Jews home during the Feast of Unleavened bread.
The Greek term for wine is never found associated with the Lordís Supper in the original Greek. Certain religious groups can try to argue that wine is an acceptable alternative to grape juice. These groups have no leg to stand on. There is nothing that justifies such a practice in the NT,
Finally, the phrase used by Christ concerning the ďcupĒ signifies something other than wine. He calls it ďthe fruit of the vine.Ē The fruit of the vine is grapes. (Grapes were the second most important crop in Palestine (olives being the most important). You cannot actually drink a grape. Not literally. However, this phrase was used to describe the freshest of grape juices. To say something was the fruit of the vine was to imply that it was freshly squeezed. (Think of how we like freshly squeezed lemonade on a hot day).
If I want to speak where the bible speaks and remain silent where it is silent, then I have to accept the fact that the Lordís Supper contained unleavened bread and grape juice. To add, change, or take away any one of these elements is to go beyond what is written and while we might fill our bellies, we are not having communion with God!
Grinnell church of Christ
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Understanding the Lord's Supper part 2
Volume 7 Issue 10