DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE
The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25: “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, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” In this text, Paul is providing the church at Corinth the rubric for the Christian sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, sometimes referred to as Communion. Here he also provides the primary motivation for Jesus’ command, namely that anyone who calls himself a disciple of Christ would do this in remembrance of him.
The Lord’s Supper was formally instituted in the synoptic gospels (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23), when Jesus, while sharing the Passover meal with his disciples, served them bread and the fruit of the vine. This was done in obedience of Exodus 12, which institutes Passover as a celebration of God’s redeeming the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. The Passover event occurred when during the final plague God passed over those who had obeyed him by eating this meal and putting the blood of a spotless lamb on their doorposts and lintels. Likewise, Christ is the final Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), a lamb without blemish (1 Peter 1:19), the very Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)—his sacrifice secures the redemption of all God’s people from sin and its penalty, which the original exodus vividly foreshadowed.
UNTIL HE COMES
In the Lord’s Supper, the believer’s partaking of bread and the fruit of the vine proclaims Christ’s death until he returns (1 Corinthians 11:26). Since these elements spiritually represent the body and blood of Jesus, they are to be taken only by those who have placed their faith in Christ, as a participation with the body and blood of Jesus Christ for those who are his (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). When sharing this meal with his disciples, Jesus told them: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16) and “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:24-25). The reason for these future anticipations—both in Christ’s passover and our subsequent participation in the Lord’s Supper—is that they ultimately point to the marriage supper of the Lamb, between Christ and his ransomed bride (Revelation 19:6-9).
In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Paul warned the church regarding a mishandling of the Lord’s Supper, as it had become an opportunity to create division in the body. Since the Lord’s Supper was part of the church’s normal fellowship meal, some were participating in excess (getting drunk), and others were unable to participate at all (going hungry). To address this, Paul first provides a comprehensive understanding of the sacrament as instituted by Christ himself, showing its main purpose: to remember and proclaim Christ’s death. And then Paul commands the Corinthians to examine themselves before participating, in order to ensure they are regarding the elements in a serious and sober manner, lest they be “guilty of the body and blood of Jesus.” Carelessly partaking of the Lord’s Supper was cause for severe punishment in this same church (both illness and death), which underlines the profound importance of this sacred practice. Because of what it represents historically and the realities it points to in the future, we should carefully evaluate our hearts before participating.BACK TO BELIEFS