- Every home needed it (Exodus 12:3-4)
- It was to be a male (Exodus 12:5)
- It was to be unblemished (Exodus 12:5)
- It was to be killed (Exodus 12:6)
- Its blood was to be applied (Exodus 12:7)
- Its blood was the difference in life and death (Exodus 12:13,23)
- Its sacrifice was to be commemorated (Exodus 12:14-22,24-27)
- Its sacrifice drew reverence and worship from the obedient (Exodus 12:27)
Interestingly, Paul says, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus, as a faithful Jew, had observed the passover throughout His public ministry (John 2:13; 6:4; 11:55), but He knew that the one recorded in Matthew 26 would be different. He told His disciples, “You know that after two days, the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion” (2). On that Passover, He would be sacrificed for us. Jesus of Nazareth, an unblemished (1 Peter 1:18) male (Mark 8:31; 9:31), was killed (Acts 2:23). His blood is applied (Romans 3:25; 5:9; Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 9:22; 10:19; 12:24; 13:20; Revelation 1:5; 5:9) to the obedient (Hebrews 5:8-9) and is the difference in spiritual life and death (John 6:53-54). As we do every Sunday, this Sunday, which the world recognizes as Easter, we will commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus as part of our weekly worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Jesus was arrested on Thursday, crucified on Friday, lay buried all day Saturday, and arose on Sunday. Today, New Testament Christians commemorate this sacrifice every Sunday. The unleavened bread represents His body, and the fruit of the vine represents His blood. The God of perfect foreknowledge made these “emblems” part of the Passover feast which Israel celebrated the night they left Egypt, and it predated the first covenant (Exodus 20). The physical passover lamb sacrificed by Israel had significance to them in their generation and it was to be handed down to their descendants. But, God was drawing a picture that night that would be completed the moment His Son said “It is finished,” bowed His head, and gave up His spirit (John 19:30). We celebrate and rejoice because He died, was buried, and rose again! May we never let this sacrifice lose its significance to our past, present, and future.
“Three babies are crying across the auditorium… Somebody dropped a songbook… Everybody has a cough today… Oh, good… brother So ‘N So sure prayers nice prayers… My big toe sure is bother me… I think I forgot to write out the check for the giving again… Better do… Wow! Are we done already?”
That scenario probably happens in many a mind more frequently than we care to admit. The greatest memorial of all time can also provide one of the greatest mountains to climb– concentration and distraction. The Lord’s Supper is a congregational activity, but it is participated in by individuals. What does it take to maintain concentration on the significance of this feast?
Examination. See 1 Corinthians 11:28. We should examine our state of mind, taking care to dwell on Christ’s suffering sacrifice, His triumphant resurrection, our debt to Him, the depth of heaven’s love shown in this sacrifice, and the joyful hope we have through His act. We should examine our lives and see where we can live better and eliminate sin–checking our motives, morals, and mindset. Self-examination should mark this time.
Forgetting. We should forget the daily, mundane affairs of life. We are focusing on something of much greater and eternal significance. Other things should be shut out of the mind. This is the Lord’s time.
Fellowship. We take the Supper with every other saint present. This is a special moment of fellowship (Acts 2:42). In a sense, we are also taking it with all our brothers and sisters throughout the world. The communion provides a bond of fellowship that has special meaning and ties together all baptized believers in fellowship with Christ.
One. We commemorate the Lord in the one body according to the instructions of the one Spirit with the one hope that Christ’s atonement saves us and gives us access to the Father. We honor that one Lord and follow the one faith in obedience to the will of the one God. the Supper unites us with God as well as each other (Eph. 4:4-6).
Remembrance. The Lord’s Supper is a time to reflect on the cross with its manifold significance. Until He comes again, the Lord’s Supper is an appointed, weekly, and mental trip back to His death (1 Cor. 11:26). One remembers, with the help of the gospel writers, the body wounded on the tree and the saving blood flowing from the body of God in the flesh.
Thanksgiving. The Lord’s Supper is a time for deep appreciation and gratitude. Because He suffered, we can have peace. Because He died, we can have eternal life. Because He arose, we can rise from sin to newness of life.
Paul had to remind Corinth that the Lord’s Supper was not just another meal (1 Cor. 11:20-34). Modern Christians, too, need always to keep that fact in mind when we lose focus and concentration or forget why we’re partaking. What we need, despite the distractions, is EFFORT! May the Lord’s Supper never grow old for any of us!
I am not sure what the connection is, but some people tie a string around their finger to remember an important date or appointment. Some people just write on their hand. Others preserve it electronically.
What do we do to keep from forgetting what is important to us spiritually? Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:12-13 that he was stirring them up by reminding them. Studying God’s Word awakens our memory to things we may have forgotten, things we have not looked deeply into in the past, or brings something to our attention in a way it has not previously. It is noteworthy that he was reminding them of something they already knew. False teachers were trying to distract and deceive them from what they knew.
Bible study is good for us to keep from falling into the traps of false teaching. Many of us come to the Lord from religious groups that teach something different from the Bible about salvation, worship, the end of time, leadership, or the like. Keep your Bible and your heart open to what you study, and you will keep reminding yourself of the joy and blessings of New Testament Christianity.
Later in the letter, Peter writes, “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (3:1-2). That covers everything–the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is also a reminder that if you live another 50 or 75 years, you will always need to study and remind yourself of what the Bible says on every subject.
If you have ever lost or forgotten something important that cost you in some way, you learned the value of remembering. If you have ever been to a memorial or monument, you have benefited from that reflection. If you want to grow in your faith and knowledge, be stirred up by being reminded of the important, spiritual things revealed in Scripture.
This is a question that occasionally comes up and is an important matter to consider since for some this is a test of a teacher’s soundness and a matter of fellowship. As the church is global in nature, it is a matter to consider beyond the borders of our nation. Various biblical arguments are made to defend and condemn its usage.
No doubt, the practice of “social drinking”—which is a different discussion altogether—has created such sensitivity to this matter of what kind of fruit of the vine is permissible for communion. Achieving a biblical answer is vital, though, especially if the matter is framed as something that might be “scriptural” or, by implication, “unscriptural.” If Guy N. Woods is right on this very matter, “To urge the use of one, to the exclusion of the other, on alleged scriptural grounds, is to make a law where God made none. It is a grave sin so to do (1 Tim. 4:3)” (Questions And Answers: Open Forum, 1976, p. 361). Were his statement to be found true, those who malign the character of those whose position differs from their own should refrain and retract. This is not a matter of what is preferred or deemed most expedient, but is a matter of what Scripture permits.
Arguments Against Its Use:
- The Passover Meal. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during the Passover before His death (Mat. 26:26-29). Drawing from the idea that during the Passover no leaven was to be in one’s house for seven days (Exo. 12:19), it is assumed that wine would be prohibited. Even if such were to be proven true (and it cannot be), we should remember that what proves too much proves nothing at all. During the Passover, they also ate roasted meat (Exo. 12:8) and bitter herbs (Exo. 12:9). In addition, the “leaven” forbidden in the Passover was dough used in baking bread (Koehler, et al; The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament, 1999, n.pag.) and the prohibition is specifically “eating” that which contained leaven (cf. Exo. 12:15; Deu. 16:4). Wayne Jackson shows that “wine was ordinarily used at the Passover and is called ‘fruit of the vine’ in Berakoth 6:1” (https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/224-was-the-fruit-of-the-vine-fermented, citing Jack Lewis and John Lightfoot). The Passover Meal cannot be used as grounds for prohibiting the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper.
- 1 Timothy 5:23. It is argued that since Paul had to tell Timothy to drink wine for medicinal purposes, Timothy could not have, as a Christian who faithfully worshipped, consumed fermented fruit of the vine in partaking of the Lord’s Supper. This assumes what the text of Scripture nowhere supports. That Paul is condoning the medicinal use of alcohol, given the medical conditions of the day, is clear. But, this text is neither in the context of the Lord’s Supper nor a judgment in any way on what should be used in it. One flirts dangerously close to “twisting” the Scriptures who applies this passage to the communion (cf. 2 Pet. 3:16).
- Causing A Brother To Stumble. This is a legitimate concern and should factor into our judgment regarding the Lord’s Supper. The church has recovering alcoholics and others who struggle with a sin problem regarding alcohol. A newer convert or one whose conscience is sensitive in this matter should be respected. Romans 14 is devoted to discussing such a matter as this. However, having scruples about a matter does not give one the authority to make his or her scruples law. Choosing to impose fermented wine just because one can, ignoring the impact this has on a brother’s conscience, falls into the category of causing a brother’s stumbling. However, difficulty in obtaining grape juice in many parts of the world at times makes necessary using alcoholic fruit of the vine. In this case, the Lord’s command takes precedence over a brother’s conscience. The church is commanded to observe the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-29), with the approved example of Acts 20:7 teaching us that such is to be done every first day of the week.
This article is not intended as advocacy to implement the use of alcoholic fruit of the vine in our communion services here in the states or developed nations where there is ready access to non-alcoholic fruit of the vine. The bigger question is permissibility in situations where such is unavoidable or even where the autonomous judgment of the local church allows its usage. By extension, is it right to label a congregation liberal or sinful who chooses to use it in the Lord’s Supper? At its heart, this is not a matter of what we might think is wiser, more expedient, or more comfortable. The question is whether a congregation has the biblical right to do so. In many of the world’s more remote and rural areas, the ability to get non-alcoholic fruit of the vine is a real problem. For them, this is a real, practical concern. Short of compelling information which I have, as yet, not seen, it seems clear that it is scriptural to use alcoholic wine in the Lord’s Supper.
I recently read a fascinating article by John H. Armstrong in the September, 2014, issue of “Christianity Today.” Armstrong starts out reminiscing on early childhood worship experiences in the denomination he attended. He writes that his church celebrated the Lord’s Supper “four times a year. I remember asking why we celebrated it so infrequently. The answer I got never satisfied, and it still doesn’t: ‘If we do this very often, it will lose its meaning'” (51). He goes on to say, “As I grew older, I discovered some churches took the meal weekly. I was then even more dissatisfied with the answer I had received” (ibid.). He goes on to write a mostly historical examination of the Lord’s Supper, looking at the debates and developments of church history. At the end, he summarizes by saying, “…[younger Christians] desire to receive the meal more often. And some of them—as I did when I was younger—have started attending congregations that take Communion ever week” (53). The reasons given are that each observance gives us the opportunity to focus on Jesus’ crucifixion, expresses the unity of the body, and reflects our personal identity in Christ (ibid.). In other words, it offers commemoration, examination, and expectation. We need that on an ongoing basis, and the Lord knew we would. That is why He pointed ahead to a certain frequency when He established it, saying He would do it again when He established His Kingdom (Mark 14:25). Paul says it was to be done with a certain frequency (1 Cor. 11:25—”as often as”). Thankfully, Luke shows us how frequently it was taken (Acts 20:7—”on the first day of the week”). It is good to understand that the Bible establishes the frequency of our observation of the Lord’s Supper, but it is also important to know why we take it each week. We look up, look back, look within, look around, and look ahead. Our all-wise God knew we would need this every time we assembled with our spiritual family. Though so many have lost sight of its frequency, may we never lose sight of its significance!