SHOULD WE OBSERVE THE LORD’S SUPPER? IS THAT THE SAME AS THE EUCHARIST OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC MASS?
by Shawn Brasseaux
What should be the grace believer’s view regarding the Lord’s Supper, sometimes called “Communion?” Should we practice it? If so, how should we do it? If not, why not? Is the Lord’s Supper really the Passover? Was the Lord’s Supper only applicable to believers during the “Acts” (transitional) period? What is the Eucharist—the Lord’s Supper or a counterfeit version of it? These are excellent questions, and the only way to find sound answers is to look and see what the Holy Scriptures actually say about the matter, instead of presuming what they say.
For many years, I was like the millions upon millions of people confused about the Lord’s Supper. Thankfully, some years ago, a wise, dear brother in Christ pointed me in the right direction. Since then, I have further studied and considered the matter from various angles. This article is the culmination of nearly five years of thoughtful Bible study and research. Now complete, it is offered as our special edition 125th Bible Q&A study. Beloved, I am more convinced than ever that the information contained herein is greatly needed. In order to settle the matter in his or her mind, the reader is greatly urged to take his or her Bible and look at the verses presented.
In order to sufficiently analyze the topic, this article is rather long and it will be technical at times. Hence, the reader is strongly encouraged to read the conclusion first, and then read the article to “fill in the details” and see the reasoning behind the conclusion. Again, the reader will undoubtedly read some startling statements in this study, but how he or she is urged to look at the verses presented and, by faith, take his or her stand on the verses!
THE PROTESTANT AND ROMAN CATHOLIC DIVISION
I grew up in various Baptist churches, so I have seen the “Lord’s Supper” according to that denominational system (typical of the Protestant view of the Lord’s Supper). I have also witnessed the Roman Catholic Mass on some occasions, also known as “the Eucharist,” so I have watched the non-Protestant view of the “Lord’s Supper.” Let me reassure you that while the Protestant “Lord’s Supper” and the Roman Catholic “Lord’s Supper” are similar, they, upon further examination, are in fact two vastly different practices, and neither has any solid Scriptural support. Superficially, they appear to agree with the Bible, but upon further scrutiny, they expose themselves as nothing more than religious formalism void of truth. Remember, Satan is the master counterfeiter, attempting to “be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14). Yes, “the Devil is in the details!”
We need to define the “Lord’s Supper” as the Bible would. As with every Bible topic, there is very little understanding and overwhelming confusion, so if we are to ask, “Is the Lord’s Supper applicable to us?,” lest we add to the confusion, we need to first define what it is using the Bible. People often say this is “the Lord’s Supper” or that is “the Lord’s Supper,” and they really have no idea what they are saying or what they are endorsing. We will begin our discussion by analyzing the Protestant definition of “the Lord’s Supper” and the Roman Catholic definition of “the Lord’s Supper.” We will then analyze the Lord’s Supper as the Holy Scriptures define it.
Drawing on my knowledge as a former Baptist (and other Baptists have confirmed this to me), this is how the average Protestant “Lord’s Supper” is carried out:
The minister begins by reading a verse such as, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24). Then, the deacons walk the aisles, carrying trays of small pieces of bread, distributing this bread to adults as well as to children of a certain age. People are urged to have a right heart before God, or they are instructed not to take the bread. All the members of the congregation eat the bread together. Next, the minister reads a verse such as, “This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25). After this verse is read, the deacons walk the aisles, carrying trays of small cups of grape juice, again allowing adults and children who had reached a certain age, to take a cup. Finally, all members of the congregation drink the juice at the same time. It is thus concluded by the dismissal of the assembly. Compared to the Mass, this is a rather simple procedure.
Having witnessed the Roman Catholic Mass first-hand on some occasions, watching videos of it being executed, and consulting a Roman Catholic priest and seminarian, as well as a Roman Catholic religion textbook, I will now explain how the average Roman Catholic “Lord’s Supper”—or, in Roman Catholic terminology, “the Eucharist”—is executed:
The Mass is divided into two parts—“the Liturgy of the Word” and “the Liturgy of the Eucharist.”
First, “the Liturgy of the Word:” The priest (or perhaps another person in the church) reads various Bible verses. These verses are in a book of selected Scripture readings called the “Missal.” The priest also briefly comments on the verses (his “homily”), recites a creed (Catholic beliefs outlined) with the congregation, and offers various prayers. The congregation in unison responds at times, reciting phrases from their Missals. Songs are sung in between readings.
Now, to “the Liturgy of the Eucharist:” Like the Protestants, the bread and the cup follow the Scripture readings. The bread and wine are presented with the offerings of the faithful. Then, the offering is made in Christ’s name, of the bread and wine for and with the whole Church. Next, the consecratory prayer is said to change the bread into Christ’s body and to change the wine into Christ’s blood (“transubstantiation”). Verses similar to the ones Protestants quote from the night before Jesus died, are said. The “Lord’s Prayer” is recited and other prayers may be uttered. A “sign of peace” is offered—all the faithful in the pews shake hands with each other and/or greet each other in some other manner. The priest eats part of the wafer and drinks wine from the chalice (sometimes he drinks all the wine in the chalice). Finally, the people receive the Eucharist (sometimes bread and wine are offered to the people, other times only the priest drinks the wine; there are variations within parishes and churches). Concluding prayers are said, and the assembly is dismissed.
Unlike a Baptist minister, in the Eucharistic service, a Roman Catholic priest has permission to use altar wine (18 to 22 proof; or 9 to 11 percent alcohol), and, if he prefers, he may use whiskey/bourbon (196 proof; or 98 percent alcohol)! These intoxicating, alcoholic beverages contradict Saint Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:18. Also, many years ago, priests were only allowed to touch the cup and the bread with certain fingers, the three fingers on each hand that had been anointed at their ordination (these ecclesiastical laws are now relaxed, although some still observe them). A fast and a confession of sins are necessary before the consumption of the Eucharist.
It is highly important to remember that the starkest difference between the Protestant “Lord’s Supper” and the Roman Catholic “Lord’s Supper” is:
PROTESTANTS. Most Protestants believe that the juice (or wine) merely symbolizes Christ’s blood and the bread merely symbolizes Christ’s body. The bread is still seen and understood to be bread, and the juice (or wine) is still seen and understood to be juice (or wine). It is believed that Jesus Christ is not literally present and not physically present in the bread and juice (or wine).
ROMAN CATHOLICS. Roman Catholics, however, are taught to believe that, once the priest speaks “the words of consecration,” the wine literally becomes Christ’s blood and the bread literally becomes Christ’s body. The Roman Mass claims to literally and physically have Jesus Christ Himself present on the altar, just in a “veiled” form, merely appearing to be bread and wine. Jesus is believed to be fully present, soul and divinity, in the wafer. The bread is worshipped as Christ because it is thought to truly be Christ Himself. It is bowed or genuflected before. The Council of Trent decreed that anyone (that is, Protestants) who disagreed with the Roman Church regarding the Eucharist was under a curse! (They cursed the Apostle Paul and God Himself as well!)
Notice the first five of the nine decrees of the Council of Trent’s 22nd session (1562) “On the Sacrifice of the Mass:”
“CANON I.—If any one saith, that in the mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema. CANON II.—If any one saith, that by those words, Do this for the commemoration of me (Luke xxii. 19), Christ did not institute the apostles priests; or, did not ordain that they, and other priests should offer His own body and blood; let him be anathema. CANON III.—If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice; or, that it profits him only who receives; and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities; let him be anathema. CANON IV.—If any one saith, that, by the sacrifice of the mass, a blasphemy is cast upon the most holy sacrifice of Christ consummated on the cross; or, that it is thereby derogated from; let him be anathema. CANON V.—If any one saith, that it is an imposture to celebrate masses in honour of the saints, and for obtaining their intercession with God, as the Church intends; let him be anathema.” (The canons and decrees of the sacred and oecumenical Council of Trent, Ed. and trans. J. Waterworth [London: Dolman, 1848], 152-170.) (Bold emphasis mine.)
The religious textbook Introduction to Catholicism (ed. Rev. James Socias, Midwest Theological Forum, 2005) says on page 156, “Since the Eucharist is one and the same with Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, it stands as the greatest proof of God’s love. … But more than just a memorial, the actual sacrifice of Christ is presented to us in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.” Page 158 says, “Because it is Christ himself, the Eucharist is the holiest thing in the world.” And Page 159, “…[T]he Eucharist is the Lord himself, rather than just another food.” And Page 162, “The Eucharist both makes present and re-presents (presents again) this sacrifice of Jesus.” Finally, pages 163-164, “At the instant the words of consecration are spoken, he becomes truly present in flesh and blood.” (Bold emphasis mine.) As the Catechism also makes abundantly clear, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is the exact same sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on Calvary 2,000 years ago! Of course, Jesus is said to be offered in the Mass in an “unbloody manner” (contradicting Hebrews 9:22, which says there is no remission/forgiveness without the shedding of blood).
By the way, the Scriptures never teach that the Lord’s Supper is a “sacrifice;” the Mass, however, is believed to be a sacrifice. Again, it is said to be Calvary’s sacrifice re-presented, and the Mass is for the forgiveness of sins (yet no forgiveness can be given without shed blood; Hebrews 9:22). The offering of the Mass is for the living and the dead (those believed to be in purgatory). The Mass is the cornerstone of Roman Catholicism, which is why their writings are so fervent in defending it. That is why the Roman Church has such an awful attitude toward those who disagree with its “holy meal.” (By the way, a more in-depth analysis of the unscriptural Mass will be forthcoming in due time, Lord willing.)
WHAT IS THE BIBLE-BELIEVING CHRISTIAN TO DO?
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:26, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” Clearly, the Corinthians were to observe something called “the Lord’s Supper” in order to proclaim and demonstrate the Lord’s death at Calvary. We need to determine what the “Lord’s Supper” is in the Bible and not confuse it with the religionized version of the “Lord’s Supper” (delineated above). We will thus be able to observe “the Lord’s Supper” as the Bible instructs (1 Corinthians 11:20, or, more correctly, “the Lord’s Table;” 1 Corinthians 10:21).
Remember, in Corinth, there was something called “the table of devils” (1 Corinthians 10:21). The Corinthians were dabbling in such a practice, and Paul wrote all of chapter 10 to warn them that they had fallen into the same Satanic trap in which Israel had centuries prior. Verse 22 of 1 Corinthians chapter 10 says: “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” Even today, in various religions and denominations, there are special “holy meals,” various meals involving “sacrifices,” counterfeit versions of the Passover and the Lord’s Supper (refer to the earlier Protestant and Roman Catholic comments with which we began this study, which actually have roots in religious meals the pagans held centuries before Christianity). Beloved, if it is not the Lord’s Table as described in the New Testament Scriptures, it is in fact “the table of devils!”
Furthermore, the context of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 is the conclusion of a four-chapter-long section—chapters 8-11—dealing with the issue of eating foods offered to pagan idols. The first verse of chapter 8 and the first verse of chapter 12 mark the beginning and ending of this thought-flow of pagan idol worship and associated food offerings:
1 Corinthians 8:1: “Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.”
1 Corinthians 12:1: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.”
The Bible believer is here cautioned to be aware of the existence of “the table of devils” and avoid it! The Bible believer mature in the Scriptures will be able to recognize the true Lord’s Supper when he or she sees it.
We first read about “bread and wine” in the Bible in Genesis 14:18, when Melchizedek brought these elements to Abraham after the latter defeated the kings. In Scripture, “breaking bread” is indicative of a meal, not a snack, not eating just a small piece of bread or tiny wafer or drinking one sip of wine or juice (as in the Roman Catholic Mass or Protestant “Lord’s Supper”). We read about “the breaking of bread” in Luke 24:27-35, Acts 2:42-46, and Acts 20:7, all of which are connected to believers communing with one another around a meal, discussing God’s Word with each other. Surely, these believers did not take just take one sip of wine (specifically, juice)—who drinks just a single sip of a liquid and expects to have thirst quenched? Surely, they were not grabbing one piece of bread and eating that alone—surely their stomachs were not filled with one fragment of bread! Again, it was a full-fledged meal, not a snack. It is not called, “the Lord’s Snack,” but rather, “the Lord’s Supper” (would you call a piece of bread and a small cup of juice, a “supper?”).
We now proceed to answer six questions about (often objections to) grace believers observing the Lord’s Supper today in this the Dispensation of Grace. This section of the article will better explain the Lord’s Supper as the Bible teaches it:
QUESTION 1: IS THE LORD’S SUPPER “RELIGIOUS TRADITION?”
As demonstrated earlier, the simple issue of the Lord’s Supper has been greatly complicated and confused by both Roman Catholic and Protestant church tradition. Understandably, here within the grace community, some well-meaning believers have totally repudiated the Lord’s Supper. They disagree with the Protestant “Lord’s Supper” and they starkly disagree with the Roman Catholic Mass, so they completely reject the idea of us needing to observe any type of “fellowship meal” in church. In their minds, any and every observance of the Lord’s Supper is totally unacceptable. It is all vain, worthless tradition and mindless ceremony to them. We will now briefly address this objection.
Years ago, while dispensational Bible study was still a new concept to me, a grace believer of the above persuasion told me that the Lord’s Supper was nothing more than vain tradition and that we should have nothing to do with it. Remember, I had grown up with Protestant church tradition. I had given up Baptist theology in order to better appreciate and enjoy the grace life that God had given me many years earlier in Christ. In my mind, “tradition” was now something to be avoided; it was anti-grace and anti-Christian, destructive, satanic, something that God did not want for me. If what this person said about the Lord’s Supper being “tradition” was true, then I wanted to repudiate the Lord’s Supper too! I had had enough of religious confusion in Baptist churches and I could not stand to hear and embrace any more tradition. Once I heard his comments, however, I became even more confused. Why? Other grace believers had previously told me that they observed the Lord’s Supper, assuring me that it was not tradition-oriented but grace-motivated. I was now thoroughly confused! (This is not an isolated occurrence. Over the years, countless grace believers, just as confused as I once was, have asked me what to believe about the Lord’s Supper. Some grace believers had also discouraged them from observing it; other grace believers had told them the Lord’s Supper was applicable to us. This article is meant to answer all of those questions and correct all those misconceptions in one concise study.)
Honestly, what concerns us is that these alleged “grace believers” telling us not to observe the Lord’s Supper, although sincere, are just as ignorant of the Bible’s view of it as the denominationalists. Not only are the denominationalists confused about the Lord’s Supper; many grace believers are just as mystified about it! All of these individuals suffer from the confusion I once had. They only know the Lord’s Supper as church tradition defines and teaches it, so they never get it resolved in their minds (actually, the Protestant version is just a carryover from the Roman Catholic practice—one of the church traditions Protestants retained when they broke from Rome centuries ago).
Some grace believers say one activity is the Lord’s Supper and then observe it. Roman Catholics say something else is the Lord’s Supper and they observe that. Protestants say another ceremony is the Lord’s Supper and they observe that. Some grace believers say they do not observe the Lord’s Supper at all. The grace community is here divided as Christendom. Oh, what a pity that we have such confusion when there is such simplicity in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3)! Oh, what a pity that the Bible already made it clear what we are to do and very few bother to read, hear, and believe what it says!
Dear friends, we need to resolve in our minds to believe whatever Paul the Apostle believed about the Lord’s Supper. We need to see how he viewed it, and adopt that view. After all, what the Apostle Paul believed is what the Holy Spirit believed. We know that that would be what God would have us to believe. What would the Holy Spirit have us believe?
To say that we, the Church the Body of Christ, have no Lord’s Supper to observe today is in stark contrast to Paul’s words to the Corinthians. As members of the Church the Body of Christ, he instructed them to participate something called “The Lord’s Supper,” or more correctly, “The Lord’s Table,” in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. How could the Apostle Paul encourage Christians to do something unacceptable? How could God through Paul instruct us to embrace “religious tradition?” The answer to both question is, “He could not and did not!” Dear friends, it bears repeating. It is important that we learn the Bible’s definition of the Lord’s Supper, before we reject it. How religion defines it and how the Bible defines it are two separate matters.
Religious tradition can take on many forms, even in grace circles, and we should most certainly be careful not to embrace tradition, especially the tradition of letting church tradition define Bible terms for us, thereby corrupting our minds and making us opposed to true, pure Bible terms and doctrines. Religion has definitely hijacked the definition of the Lord’s Supper and, consequently, counterfeited the Lord’s Supper, but we should not let that keep us from remembering what the ascended, risen, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ instructed us to do in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.
QUESTION 2: IS THE LORD’S SUPPER “ACTS-ONLY?”
Some grace people have told me that while the Lord’s Supper was encouraged in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, that was not an exhortation to us. They say that it was only for Christians to observe during the book of Acts (Paul wrote 1 Corinthians during the latter half of the book of Acts). In other words, they told me that the Lord’s Supper was not meant for us to observe today. We will now look at this question (often posed as an objection).
Simply put, this objection originates from a group of “grace believers” known as the “Acts 28ers.” Blatantly contradicting 1 Corinthians 12:2, Acts chapter 14, Acts chapter 17, Galatians 1:16, 1 Thessalonians 1:9, and other verses, they believe that Paul did not minister to pagan Gentiles such as ourselves during the book of Acts. They believe that Jesus Christ sent Paul twice—once to Jews and Greeks (Acts chapter 9), and once to pagan Gentiles (later, near the end of the book of Acts). Hence, they believe that there is one Body of Christ during Acts (composed only of Jews and Greeks who worshipped in synagogues, who were saved according to the Old Testament covenants), and another Body of Christ after Acts (mostly composed of idol-worshipping Gentiles, those apart from the covenants). They believe that God later joined these two Bodies of Christ to form one Body of Christ (their outlandish interpretation of Ephesians 2:13-18 and Ephesians 3:1-9).
In short, the “Acts 28” position is a very dangerous approach (I almost fell into that trap years ago but have since become aware of it). Its greatest error is the conclusion that Paul’s Acts epistles (Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, and Thessalonians) do not apply to us, and that only Paul’s prison (post-Acts) epistles have any relevance to us (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). Years ago, I heard one such “Acts 28” preacher tell a whole assembly of grace preachers and believers, “Even if we just had Paul’s prison epistles, we would be okay!” (What heresy, something not even heard in most denominational churches!)
“Acts 28” is a very absurd position to take, a very confusing system to embrace, and it is no wonder that denominationalists are so anti-dispensational-Bible-study when we have people calling such nonsense “Bible understanding” and “God’s method of Bible study.” These individuals (as well as those “Acts 9” people who adopt parts of the “Acts 28” position) then argue that the Lord’s Supper only applies to those believers in Acts, for Paul only mentions the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 (he never wrote about the Lord’s Supper in his post-Acts, or prison, epistles, which alone are said to apply to us, so it is assumed the Lord’s Supper is not applicable to us).
To say that the Corinthians had been strictly Jew and Greek synagogue-attending worshippers is to ignore that Paul himself wrote that the Corinthians had been idol-worshipping Gentiles, heathens, ignorant of the one true God (see 1 Corinthians 12:1-2). They were saved under Paul’s Acts ministry, and yet, they were completely ignorant of covenants and promises made to Israel. Like us, the Corinthians were Gentiles, on their way to hell before Paul visited them and preached to them the Gospel of the Grace of God. They were saved just like we are today, in the same Body of Christ we are in as believers today. There has been, still is, and always will be one Body of Christ—there has never, ever been a split body and Paul’s epistles are not meant to be divided in such a silly manner. Contrary to what some “grace people” may tell us, we should not throw away Paul’s “Acts” epistles (Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Thessalonians). They apply to us, and “rightly dividing Paul’s epistles” is completely foreign to the Apostles’ minds (both Paul and the 12). We study and believe all of Paul’s epistles, and all books of Paul concern us and apply to us, not just the epistles of Paul that a “grace” traditionalist believes to be applicable to us.
QUESTION 3: IS THE LORD’S SUPPER REALLY “PASSOVER?”
Some grace people use the following argument: “The Lord’s Supper is actually Passover. Since Passover is a Jewish feast, and Colossians 2:16 says Israel’s holydays do not apply to us, we have no reason to observe the Lord’s Supper.” Dear friends, whenever someone says that the Lord’s Supper is really Passover, they may mean well, but they are demonstrating their Bible ignorance. Seven Scriptural reasons will be cited now to prove that the Passover and the Lord’s Supper are not the same meal.
DIFFERENCE #1: THE PASSOVER AND THE LORD’S SUPPER ARE SEPARATE AND DISTINCT. The Lord Jesus Himself considered the Passover and the bread and wine to be two distinct meals (He would have had the correct view, would He not?). The Lord Jesus and His disciples had a meal on the night before He died at Calvary. Not many people ever realize it, but Jesus Christ and His disciples had two distinct meals on the night before He was crucified. The first meal that Jesus had with His apostles on the night before He died, was the Passover feast. The Passover consisted of the main course, roasted lamb or goat, and it was eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread (as per Moses’ instructions in Exodus 12:3-10). Jesus Himself considered that they ate the Passover that night: “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:16). Now, after they had already begun eating the Passover (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22), the Lord Jesus singled out bread and wine, and blessed them (prayed over them, giving Father God thanks; Matthew 26:26-27; Mark 14:22-23; Luke 22:17,19). Jesus prayed because it was the beginning of another meal, not a continuation of the eating they had done earlier with the lamb and unleavened bread. This bread and this wine were not the Passover meal, but another special meal. We know it was not the Passover meal since the Passover had lamb or goat as its main course (Exodus chapter 12). It is here that He held bread and said it was His body and held a cup of wine and said it was His blood (Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:17-20). In this meal, bread—not a lamb as in the Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7)—symbolized Jesus Christ’s body. In this meal, wine—not lamb’s blood as in the Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7)—symbolized His blood. By the way, the “fruit of the vine” (Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18) would not be an intoxicating beverage as some teach (or promote at the altar during Communion today!); the language indicates unfermented grape juice, straight from the vine.
The Apostle Paul made reference to this second meal in 1 Corinthians 11:23-34, particularly quoting Jesus’ words in Luke chapter 22. Paul himself said, “I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread…” (1 Corinthians 11:23). Take special care to observe that Paul did not grab something from Israel’s program (that is, the Passover) and then make it apply to us. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself told Paul to write this passage to us Gentiles, that the Corinthians (and we as other members of the Body of Christ) would follow its pattern in holding and partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
DIFFERENCE #2: THE PASSOVER AND THE LORD’S SUPPER ARE SEPARATE AND DISTINCT. It would be completely absurd for the Lord to impose the Passover meal on us and then tell us in Colossians 2:16 that we are not bound to observe Israel’s religious calendar in this the Dispensation of Grace (cf. Galatians 4:9-11, written during Acts). Remember, the Passover commemorated Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Why would we Christians need to observe it? Were we ever in Egyptian slavery? Did we put lamb’s blood on our doorposts and lintels to keep out the Death Angel? Did Moses lead us out of Egypt? The Lord’s Supper and Passover are certainly not the same meal. (NOTE: To say that the Lord’s Supper is Passover would actually agree with the Acts 28er’s view, since that view teaches there was a “Jewish Body of Christ” during Acts, and that Paul was writing to Moses-observing Jews in 1 Corinthians chapter 11, telling them to keep the Passover. This would be an erroneous claim, since Galatians, the most anti-Mosaic-Law book written in Scripture, was penned to members of the Body of Christ during Acts, and Galatians forbids Law-keeping of any and every kind [again, see Galatians 4:9-11 about us not being bound to Israel’s religious calendar].)
DIFFERENCE #3: THE PASSOVER AND THE LORD’S SUPPER ARE SEPARATE AND DISTINCT. As JEHOVAH God told Moses, the Passover was only to be observed in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:2,6), the city where He would put His name (1 Kings 14:21; 2 Kings 21:4,7; 2 Kings 23:27; 2 Chronicles 33:4; et cetera). Clearly, Paul told the Corinthians to observe the Lord’s Supper in Corinth, hundreds of miles from Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 11:26). Would the Holy Spirit break His Word, speaking through Paul words that contradicted what He had told Israel centuries earlier regarding the Passover? Passover is strictly a Jewish feast day, it is to always be observed in Jerusalem in the Bible, and it has nothing to do with us Gentiles because Exodus chapter 12 has nothing to do with us. Again, Passover and the Lord’s Supper are different issues.
DIFFERENCE #4: THE PASSOVER AND THE LORD’S SUPPER ARE SEPARATE AND DISTINCT. In 1 Corinthians 11:26-28, the Lord’s Supper in Corinth is not said to have lamb or goat, but merely a cup and bread (and, remember, Exodus chapter 12 specified that lamb or goat be the main course of the Passover). Again, these blatant distinctions show that the Passover and the Lord’s Supper are not to be confused.
DIFFERENCE #5: THE PASSOVER AND THE LORD’S SUPPER ARE SEPARATE AND DISTINCT. Exodus 12:48 says that no strangers of Israel or uncircumcised males were to eat the Passover meal. God commanded that Gentiles be physically circumcised before eating the Passover with the Jews. Paul affirmed there were physically uncircumcised Gentiles in Corinth (1 Corinthians 7:18-20), Christians, but he never told them to be physically circumcised before they could eat of the Lord’s Supper. There is absolutely nothing about physical circumcision being a requirement in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In fact, there were no commandments in that chapter about any Gentile Christian anywhere (in or outside Corinth) needing to be physically circumcised in order to eat the Lord’s Supper. We conclude yet again that the Lord’s Supper and Passover are two distinct meals.
DIFFERENCE #6: THE PASSOVER AND THE LORD’S SUPPER ARE SEPARATE AND DISTINCT. According to Exodus 12:1-14 and Leviticus 23:5, Passover was only once a year: it was held on the fourteenth day of the first month of Israel’s religious calendar, Abib (March-April on our Gregorian calendar). When discussing the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians chapter 11, there is absolutely nothing about having it once a year and nothing about having it in the month Abib. That Judaism calendar did not apply to heathen or to the Body of Christ. All we read is, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26). How often should the Lord’s Supper be observed? The Bible never stipulates! The absence of such a schedule is yet another indication that the Lord’s Supper and the Passover are separate practices.
DIFFERENCE #7: THE PASSOVER AND THE LORD’S SUPPER ARE SEPARATE AND DISTINCT. Finally, the most obvious of all differences. When the Passover is mentioned by name in Scripture (Exodus, and the Four Gospels, for example), the terms “Lord’s Supper” do not appear in the context. When the term “the Lord’s Supper” appears in the Bible—only in 1 Corinthians chapter 11—there is not so much as one usage of the term “Passover” in the context.
Beloved, these seven differences evident from the Bible indicate that the Holy Spirit made every effort to show us that the Lord’s Supper and Passover are two entirely different meals. Yet, amazingly, some Bible believers go around claiming that they are one and the same meal!
QUESTION 4: WHAT DOES “EATING AND DRINKING DAMNATION [TO YOURSELF]” MEAN?
Verses 27-29 of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 have been very misconstrued to teach some bizarre, and actually quite ridiculous, dogmas. Ministers and denominations use these verses to scare church members into doing what they want them to do to further the denominational system. The Roman Catholic Church especially capitalizes on the ignorance associated with these verses, in order to advance the doctrine of “transubstantiation.” (“It must be the Lord’s literal body and blood or God would not attach such punishment as damnation!”) Dear readers, we could not have a study about the Lord’s Supper and neglect addressing the misunderstanding of “eating and drinking damnation [to yourself].” (I personally believe this issue is one of the main reasons why so many are sacred of the Lord’s Supper, and why they fear getting involved with it.)
“ Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” How can a Christian partake of the Lord’s Supper “unworthily?” Is not the Christian “worthy” of everything God offers, seeing as to the Christian is “in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6)? The best way to look at the word “unworthily” is to notice its context.
Returning to 1 Corinthians chapter 11, we read: “ Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.  For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.  What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? what shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.  For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”
God designed the Lord’s Supper to be a time of fellowshipping. During it, Christians should enjoy the company of other believers, communing with them, eating a meal with them and getting to know them better (just as our flesh and blood family members hold large gatherings around food, that they may bond with one another). The Lord’s Table should be a joyous time, a time of being in the presence of others who also value and esteem God’s Word rightly divided (pardon the pun, but the Lord’s Supper is a small “taste” of heaven!). After all, all those who have trusted Jesus Christ alone as Saviour are God’s children, and thus are brothers and sisters in Christ (Galatians 3:26). This is why the Bible calls the Lord’s Table “communion” (as in fellowship, unity). We read in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17: “ The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” The Lord’s Supper not only symbolizes our oneness with Jesus Christ our Saviour (through His death on Calvary), but it also pictures our oneness with other Christians (see 1 Corinthians 12:1-31).
Alas, the wonderful atmosphere delineated in the above paragraph was absent from Corinth! Since the Corinthians were carnal, fleshly, unable to understand how their Christian lives were meant to function, they fought with each other and destroyed each other. Whenever the Corinthian saints met, many argued. They came as drunkards and/or gluttons (drunkenness a main factor in their disorderliness). Gathering with the saints in Corinth was not beneficial (as God intended) but very harmful to all in attendance (as Satan intended). Pride, envy, and bitterness abounded. They were not walking charitably, thinking of other Christians, as Romans chapter 14 instructed. These carnal saints did not see any value in fellowshipping with other believers. They did not recognize the importance of gathering with other believers. They did not see any use in seeking the edification (building up) of other Christians. These Corinthians did not see any value in the Lord’s Supper. They were eating and drinking “unworthily” in the sense of not seeing any worth in what God had ordained! They were abusing the meal that represented the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary. If they were mocking that which symbolized Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary, what would they do if Jesus Christ were literally hanging on a cross there in Corinth? This is what “being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” and “not discerning [judging, concluding, finding value in] the Lord’s body” (1 Corinthians 11:27,29). If you have a poor attitude toward the representation of something, how much worse you think of the actual thing!
With regards to eating and drinking to ourselves “damnation” in the Lord’s Supper, it is not (as someone told me) a reference to Judas Iscariot (how absurd!). It is actually a description of what happens when we make a mockery of Calvary in the local assembly. The “damnation” of 1 Corinthians 11:29 is actually the “condemnation” (same Greek word, krima) as of verse 34: “ Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.  And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation.” Please take special care to note that this “damnation” is not that Christians die and go to hell for abusing the Lord’s Supper, but rather God not approving (“condemning,” “damning”) behavior that would not be in the life of Jesus Christ Himself. It is a lifestyle that the godly conscience would also condemn!
Here are some examples of abusing the Lord’s Supper: (1) using intoxicating beverages and then becoming drunken (Ephesians 5:18), (2) overeating, making the food the issue instead of God’s Word and Christ’s finished crosswork (Romans 14:15-23), (3) making it out to be a “social club” where we go to discuss nonsense, worldly affairs, and other topics which disagree with sound Bible doctrine (Colossians 3:5-17), and (4) coming to the Lord’s Supper fussing and fighting with other believers in the assembly (Galatians 5:15-26; Ephesians 4:31-32). God would condemn such behavior: again, this “damnation” is not that Christians die and go to hell for abusing the Lord’s Supper, but rather God not approving (“condemning,” “damning”) behavior that is contrary to grace doctrine (Christian living; see Romans 14:22-23). Satan used these various fleshly activities to pollute the Lord’s Supper in Corinth, to cripple their testimony and render them useless for God’s work. Every local church today needs to be especially careful that it not allow the Devil to use these carnal behaviors to ruin its godly testimony. It is the responsibility of the church leadership to maintain order in the assembly (1 Timothy 3:1-16).
It is necessary to point out why there were sick and dying Christians in Corinth. It is said that God was judging them for their sins, chastising them, killing them, and that God will “get us” (either with sickness or death) if we abuse the Lord’s Supper. Not at all. When 1 Corinthians 11:30 says, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep,” you must remember the context.
As we mentioned earlier, some of the Corinthians had become intoxicated gluttons when participating in the Lord’s Supper (see verses 21-22). Overeating and drunkenness surely cause illness and even death. God was not punishing the Corinthians for their bad behavior; they simply reaped the results of their sowing to the flesh instead of sowing to the Spirit. God was not causing the Corinthians to get sick and/or to die; He simply let them reap the consequences of their actions. “ Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7-8). The Corinthians preferred drunkenness and gluttony, so God let them exercise free will to pursue it. Although Jesus Christ has taken away the eternal penalty of our sins (hell and the lake of fire), please understand that God will not remove the consequences of our poor judgment. If we choose a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol, God will not shield us from the ill effects and poor health such a lifestyle brings. God will not keep us out of prison if we murder someone, commit theft, and so on. Again, the Corinthians were experiencing the natural results of their behavior. It was not God directing sickness and death to trouble them.
Here is where dispensational Bible study is so important. This is why “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) is the key to understanding how God deals with us today. Today, God does not bless us on the basis of our works, our performance; moreover, God does not curse on the basis of our works, our performance. This is made abundantly clear in Paul’s epistle to the Romans and in his epistle to the Galatians. Romans 6:14-15: “ For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.  What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” We are blessed with every spiritual blessing only because of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork, not because we confessed our sins, lived a good life, prayed often, gave money to the church, got water baptized, et cetera. Our works are not the issue because God’s Word has already made it abundantly clear that our “good” works are as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
QUESTION 5: WHAT DOES “THIS IS NOT TO EAT THE LORD’S SUPPER” MEAN?
In light of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:20, some grace believers say that we do not need to observe the Lord’s Supper: “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.” They say that we do not come together to eat the Lord’s Supper, that the purpose of “church service” is not to have the Lord’s Supper. Dear friends, to say that is the result of grabbing a verse from its context and twisting it all out of shape. There are three verses that precede verse 20, and we need to look at them in order to understand what verse 20 really says: “ Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.  For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.  For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”
The reason why Paul wrote, “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper,” is not because he was forbidding the observance of the Lord’s Supper (he told them to observe it in verse 26!). He was forbidding the Corinthians from meeting with one another because they were so carnal, so reproachful to the Christian name. As we discussed earlier, they came together in fellowship not for the better but for the worse. Paul concluded under the moving of the Holy Spirit that the Corinthians were better off staying at home than meeting in a local and public assembly: they were tearing down one another, giving Satan opportunity to work in their midst, and lost people were watching it! In fact, verse 21 continues: “For in drinking every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.” Verse 21 explains verse 20—the Corinthians were not coming to observe the Lord’s Supper (to give God glory by eating a meal with other believers) but coming together as drunkards and gluttons (giving Satan praise and glory instead)!
QUESTION 6: WHAT DOES “TILL HE COME” MEAN?
In 1 Corinthians 11:26, we read about the observance of the Lord’s Supper: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” Once, a grace believer told me that this coming was Christ’s Second Coming, and because it is the Second Coming, we do not have to observe the Lord’s Supper. This logic is unsound, since the Corinthians would not be looking for the Second Coming either—if they were members of the Body of Christ, and they were, then they would be looking for the Rapture just as we are. Like us, they would not be heading into the seven-year Tribulation. Again, dear friends, it helps to use basic Bible understanding before we attempt to defend a preconceived idea or church tradition (even if it parades as “grace teaching!”). The Bible says that, until the Rapture, the Church the Body of Christ is to hold the Lord’s Supper. This would thus further negate the idea that the Lord’s Supper is “Acts-only”—did the Rapture happen in Acts 28? If not, then the Bible says that Christians should observe the Lord’s Supper until the Rapture does happen! Furthermore, if the Second Coming occurred in Acts 28, then indeed the Lord’s Supper was “Acts only.” Did the Second Coming occur in Acts 28? Then the Lord’s Supper is not “Acts only.”
While grace people have told me that the Lord’s Supper is “tradition” and that it should not be observed at all, while they have told me they are “turned-off” to the religionized version of the Lord’s Supper (a sip from a cup, a wafer, et cetera), I would rather research the matter using the Bible, and then throw away the error, than blindly follow what others have said about the Lord’s Supper (whether in grace circles or denominational circles). Dear friends, before we allow religion to surreptitiously rob us of something God has given us, we had better get into the Bible and see what God has given us. We can and should toss out everything else, but we must understand what God has already said to us. Rather than rejoicing in the simplicity of God’s Word, we often let the confused religionists dictate to us what God wants us to do, and then we equate God’s Word with their word, and, in our own confusion, we throw away the good with the bad. The whole problem is to get our definitions straight, and then we can differentiate between religion and Bible. It takes a mature saint, yes, but it can be done!
Just as we would not throw away the Bible simply because there are counterfeit Bibles, we will not throw away the Lord’s Supper just because there are counterfeit versions of it. We do not discard the doctrine of God’s grace; we just throw away religion’s definition of “grace.” The same with other words such as, “dispensation,” “baptism,” “repentance,” “good works,” “apostle,” “immaculate conception,” et cetera. We do not throw away the doctrines of baptism, repentance, good works, apostles, immaculate conception, and so on, we just disregard the views that denominations attach to them, and define them as the Bible defines them.
Regarding the Lord’s Supper, when we gather with fellow Christians and have meals with them, we do so around Christ’s finished crosswork. We discuss the Holy Scriptures and enjoy each other’s company. We celebrate the shared life we have in Jesus Christ. The Bible says that we should do this “till [Christ] come” (1 Corinthians 11:26). There is no set schedule as to daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly: we meet and eat with fellow Christians around God’s Word whenever it is convenient for us (if that is twice a month, or twice a year). It is not some mindless ritual. It is not some strict ceremony. It is the assembly of people who value God’s Word, believe Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork, and embrace the grace life.
Yes, we should take special care regarding how we go about in observing the Lord’s Supper. We should learn from the Corinthians’ actions and not abuse the Lord’s Supper with selfishness and other forms of carnality. We should not become gluttons or drunkards; we should not come to the assembly with bitterness or strife (that should all be left at Calvary’s cross by faith). Still, it is not something that should strike fear in our hearts, scared that we will die and go to hell if we do not follow rules and regulations. It is a joyous time because of the Holy Spirit uniting all true Christians. Now we can see why people are so confused about it—the Devil does not want God’s people to be united around truth!
Paul “received of the Lord” the information regarding the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23)—it is not the Passover, it is not “Acts-only,” and it is not a vain religious ceremony, as people commonly assume. Beloved, let us eat together with Christian brethren, rejoicing in the unity (and clarity!) we have in our precious Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ!