The Lord’s Supper is one act of worship about which there is a great deal of controversy. There are almost as many different opinions on what it is and what purpose it holds as there are religious bodies who claim to utilize it. Because of this, it becomes confusing to many when they seek to understand the Biblical nature of this Deity-ordained feast. Therefore, answering the question of defining the Lord’s Supper is of the utmost importance.
It is a memorial. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night of his betrayal, he told his disciples, “this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The word “memorial” is defined as “that which preserves a memory of something; anything that serves to keep in memory” (Webster). Therefore, Jesus told us the purpose of this supper: it is to be a memorial.
But of what is it a memorial? Certainly it is understood that, in the emblems authorized by Christ, we find two distinct forms represented: the bread, representing the body of Christ, and the fruit of the vine, representing the blood he shed. Both of these aspects are important because both were prophesied long before the events ever took place (Psa. 22; Isa. 53). However, without his resurrection he would simply have been another man who claimed to be something more than he was. Therefore, having full evidence of his death, burial, and resurrection, we are not only remembering the death he suffered, but what it bought for us. It is written, “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:… So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:24, 28).
When we truly understand the purpose of the Lord’s Supper, it helps us remember, not just the cruel death he suffered, but all that we have gained because of that sacrifice. Hence, it truly is a memorial to the righteous.
It is a communion. Communion is defined as, “Fellowship; intercourse between two persons or more; a state of giving and receiving; agreement; concord” (Webster). When we enter into the worship services, we are literally entering into a communion with God. It is a time at which God comes together with his people as they worship him. Paul defines the Lord’s Supper as such in First Corinthians 10:16 when he writes, “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?” The Greek word translated “communion” is the same one on many other occasions translated “fellowship.” Hence, when we come together to partake of the Lord’s Supper we are partaking in fellowship, not just with one another, but with the Lord as well.
It is important to remember the purpose of the Lord’s Supper, both as a memorial and a time of communion. The proper appreciation for these factors will cause us to make sure we fulfill Paul’s requirement of First Corinthians 11:28-29, that we might examine ourselves and not partake unworthily.