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Keralabrethren.net: General Forum: The Lord's Supper - Can one refrain from the cup but take part of the bread?

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# 08376 :  The Lord's Supper - Can one refrain from the cup but take part of the bread?

THE LORD’S SUPPER SERVICE

I received a request to write on a unique situation in one of the gatherings that has Kerala Brethren involvement and presence, although it is existing outside of India. The request came from brother ‘paizonjoe’  who has been contributing on the KB site for a while. He wrote, “Should we turn a blind eye to brethren (and sisters) who partake in the Lord's table where they eat the bread but not the wine because: GERMS?”  I received his permission to post my comments here on this public forum since this was an unprecedented scenario to me personally and perhaps few other readers as well. What I am about to write cannot be taken as an absolute, dogmatic, scriptural answer since the scriptures do not address this issue. This is unique for the 21st century, and I am not aware of any precedence. 

WHAT IS THE LORD’S SUPPER?

Let me quote some related passages.

Luke 22:14-20

14 When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him.15 And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.

What we see here is the transformation from the Passover to the Lord’s Supper [hereafter LS.] The Church has left with two symbolic ordinances. Both speaking of death. One [the LS] is of the death of Jesus Christ and the other is baptism which symbolizes of the believer’s death to the old way of life. When we further analyze, we can see five levels of symbolism connected with the LS.

1.       Take, eat; this is My body ----- proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 1Cor. 11:24-26. The primary level of symbolism is seen in the bread and the cup. It conveys ONE message; the death of Jesus Christ. He was made sin for us. This symbolism cannot be fragmented and still achieve its intended purpose or communicate the primary message.

2.       1Cor.10:16-17. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Jesus Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Then it speaks of the one bread and one body [one bread is Jesus Christ and not the physical bread- the emphasize is on the unity of all believers. When I drink wine or juice in the USA or another sister participates in India, we commune together because we are remembering the One who died for both of us. The ‘one cup’ is speaking about the source of our salvation and not a physical cup. So, drinking from cluster cups {tray with few individual cups} is thoroughly biblical.] Hence, the second symbolism is the unity among all believers, irrespective of denominations, demography or geographical restraints. Let me encourage the Assembly elders [local congregations with like-minded believers] to understand the meaning of ‘one bread & one cup’ to address some of these issues. There is no special symbolism in pouring into one cup and then people sharing from the same cup. Here, we frequently violate such rigid stand by pouring into two cups and then give one to the sisters and another to the brothers, where male and female sit separately. Or, at the general conventions, we use more than 10 cups for expediency and we have no qualms about it as long as ‘some are sharing the same cup.’ Let us start giving emphasize to where it should be given. Matt. 5:23-24 is asking us to ‘leave the sacrifice at the alter and reconciliation made,’ so that there may be genuine collective worship. This is where we display the effect of ‘one bread and one cup,’ and not insisting on pouring from one original container into two or ten. The mechanics have no spiritual value, but the message it carries is of paramount importance.

3.       The third level of symbolism is found in John 6, in the Bread of Life discourse. Jesus is using the same symbolic language as we see at the institution of the LS. But the primary emphasize is on Jesus Christ, [who will be crucified soon] as the source of eternal relationship to God and Jesus Christ.

4.       The fourth level of symbolism is found from the practice of Acts 2:42-46. This is to be done as often as we come together so the freshness of these reminders will not be faded away.

5.       The fifth level of symbolism is found in various places of the OT and NT as the ‘new covenant,’ especially speaking about the blood. I am not going into detail here. You may read, Jer. 31, Eze. 36,  2Cor. 3:6, Heb 8:10, Matt. 26:28-29 & Heb 12:22-24. There may be more passages relating to this, and this is not an exhaustive list.

WHAT DO WE GLEAN FROM THESE SYMBOLISMS?

The LS is instituted as one symbol – the symbol of the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus and the Apostle Paul addressed the bread and the cup as ‘one reminder of One Savior. Fragmenting this by just participating from the bread is a foreign concept to the scriptures, Jesus Christ, the Apostles and to the Church throughout the history. Ignoring the participation from the cup as part of your lifestyle cannot be justified, yet I empathize with those who are afraid to participate from the common cup.

SOME PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS. [TO THE ELDERS & THE CONGREGATION]

1.       Be considerate to those are genuinely afraid of being affected by germs. There are many with such genuine fear. Treat them with respect and dignity. Do not consider them less spiritual than others.

2.       Be considerate to those who had medical treatments and are now prone to catching infections rather easily.

3.       If anyone living in an area where there are infectious diseases are rather rampant or those in the medical professions that need to protect themselves and their patients who they are in charge, should be extremely careful not to be exposed and have such close contacts, thereby risking their lives and their patients.

4.       Some people do have lower tolerance to viruses and they more prone to easily catch communicable diseases. We see many people with masks in public places and it seems to be a norm in many parts of the world.

5.       The elders are encouraged to study what the Bible speaks about the ‘one bread and the one cup,’ and start using cluster cups. I explained this in detail under the second primary symbolism. Do not exasperate your congregation with your closed mind and improper understanding of the scriptures. [I hope I am not offending anyone; I have no other way to communicate this. My apologies.]

6.       The elders need to accommodate this unique need by somehow making provision for those abstaining from the cup due to genuine concerns. An exhortation that the “Lord will keep you from getting sick” may be too presumptuous. Be very careful not to make anyone feel guilty but treat them with utmost respect. Teach your congregation the true meaning of ‘one bread and one cup’ and God will honor you making such bold steps. OR, make provisions by passing one common cup and one cluster tray and let the congregation have the freedom to participate as they please. Based on the revealed word of God, neither there are any greater blessings to the one participating from the common cup nor the cluster tray individual cup. But providing provision to the entire congregation to participate from the bread and the cup is the only Biblical precedence that I can see, or I can advocate. Let me encourage the elders to truly understand what is more important rather than trying to decipher according to the ‘letter of the law’ as the Pharisees did by which they killed the spirit of the law. Jesus Christ would honor you [and me] when we consider a ‘weaker brother or sister’ and offer our right hand of fellowship. I sincerely hope and pray that this would be the outcome.

Tom Johns

Tomj3162000@gmail.com

Post by : tomj  View Profile    since : 7 Aug 2018


Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 8 Aug 2018 3:55:06 AM Close

I noticed that I made few spelling errors – Please read wherever I used ‘emphasize’ as ‘emphasis.’

Also, the sentence “Some people do have lower tolerance to viruses and they more prone to easily ----” as “Some people do have lower tolerance to viruses and they are more prone to easily ----”

Thank you. 

Tom Johns

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Reply by : moses2006   View Profile   Since : 10 Aug 2018 4:52:40 PM Close

Dear Tom,

Is there a clear scriptural prohibition that prevents us from bringing our own bread and grape juice for the observation of the Lord's Table? I know of a case where (due to allergies) a person actually does this. Just want to know your opinion on whether this is acceptable from the scriptures or not.

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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 13 Aug 2018 4:47:20 PM Close

Dear Moses,

Since I haven’t seen any feedback from anyone until yours came in, I wasn’t sure if I confused everyone beyond salvage.  So, I am particularly glad to hear from you and trust that you are doing well. Regarding to your question – “Is there a clear scriptural prohibition that prevents us from bringing our own bread and grape juice for the observation of the Lord's Table?” – The short answer would be ‘no, I do not see any definitive scriptural prohibition.’

Now, let me give a long answer since this subject as such, is a moot point as being not addressed directly in the scriptures. These are my personal inferences based on the whole scriptures as I see may fit to a question like this. We are given scriptural mandate to observe the LS ‘as often as we come together.’ This gives a broad spectrum of freedom to local gatherings and to some level to the individual, regarding the timing, frequency, stipulation of how to convene etc., if the primary expressed purposes of this ordinance are uncompromisingly met. I have detailed the purposes of the LS in the original post.

There shouldn’t be any insistence on how to conduct this service since the Bible doesn’t insist any. We are reminded to do all our services for the glory of God and do it orderly particularly when we do it publicly. So, some level of structure becomes an integral part of such gatherings and that should not be considered ‘bad.’ About 35 plus years ago I attended a KB offshoot assembly in the USA and after the 2 songs and the 2 prayers, I got up and shared a few versus without realizing that I violated one of their unwritten norms of the ‘responsive reading (one leads one verse and then the congregation reads the next) of the Psalms.’ One brother came to me after the LS and reminded me of my disruptive intervention as gently as he could without being offensive. I attended the LS at the same place at few other times since then, and I do not even see such practice there any longer. It is better not to insist on any such rigid patterns yet keep things ‘orderly.’

I explained earlier that the ‘one bread’ and ‘one cup’ primarily is speaking about our unity that we have with the Lord and those others who have embraced the same gospel. So, when we partake from one physical bread it may further symbolize our unity among everyone in the same congregation. This appears to be an added benefit of this service. So, under normal circumstances, one physical bread could be the most ideal.

But lately we see this gluten allergy [to any wheat product] and few people are very severely sensitive to it even if they consume only small portions. If someone is having such medical issues or suffering from ‘fear of germs’ to the level of extreme paranoia, we should be considerate to it and treat it as a non-issue. Do not look down on them or treat them as an ‘inferior class’ of believers. After all the Corinthians brought their own LS [1Cor 11] and it speaks about some had abundance to the level of being sinful and others with hardly any. This disparity should not have happened there and it was against their norms because they were to be considering everything ‘common.’ So, bringing someone’s own LS is not totally a strange concept in the early church set up. But most of us think that one bread is more symbolically effective in communicating the message of unity. Perhaps, right, perhaps not so right! There is nothing too explicit in the scriptures to create ‘disunity’ based on our insistence on the exact symbolism on ‘unity.’

I found Matthew 12 and related passages showing how the spirit of the law is more important than our own interpretations of the laws as a suitable study to further explain this subject. That one, although relevant in this context, can be dealt later or as a focused personal study.  

Tom Johns

Tomj3162000@gmail.com

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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 13 Aug 2018 9:56:16 PM Close

Those who are interested to know more of the medical reasons why one may stay away from bread, please research on ‘celiac disease.’ I know someone in our family who cannot eat anything from a Restaurant even for weddings or other occasions, because her allergy is so severe that her food should not encounter any product that has gluten. She cannot use the same cooking surface as the same grill.

Tom J

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Reply by : paizanjoe   View Profile   Since : 14 Aug 2018 7:10:50 AM Close

Hello Tom,

Thank you for your reasoning. I agree with what you have you said and I do not see any 'command' written on how the table should be governed. (Sorry for not commenting earlier, I happened to visit the site today and I had already received your answer earlier by email) 

Another practice you may have come to observance is that only elders are allowed to break bread and pour wine and distribute. Thankfully in my assembly, such rigid practices are not entertained. I am sure there are some great stalwarts here who command the brethren these rituals like Moses commanding the people of Israel.

Regards, 

Joe

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