1 Corinthians 11:23-26
This Is the Lord’s Supper
Having reprimanded the wealthier Corinthians for their uncharitable, unbrotherly, arrogant, insolent, disrespectful, thoughtless, and totally un-, if not downright anti-, Christian behavior, Paul now reminds them of what he had told them before but which some of them had apparently forgotten. This is actually a very special passage of Scripture because it is the earliest account of how the New Testament Church celebrated and understood the Supper. And it is in complete opposition to what was happening in Corinth.
Paul begins by telling them that he had “received from the Lord what I also delivered to you.” I agree with those who think that Paul means not that he received his understanding of the Supper by special revelation from the Lord but by the other apostles who themselves were there “on the night when he was betrayed,” which again speaks to the antiquity of what Paul writes regarding the Supper’s observance in the early churches (compare 15:3-7).
First, Paul speaks of the bread which the Lord broke that night saying, “This is my body which is for you,” some ancient manuscripts adding, “broken.” How meaningful these words must have been to Jesus knowing what lay just ahead of him in a few hours, which the disciples could not grasp. He knew his body was about to be broken, but not for nothing, but as a sacrifice for those around that table—and us—a reminder of Isaiah 53.
Second, in the same way he took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” the gospels adding, “poured out for you.” In the Old Testament, covenants (whereby God bound Himself to His people through promise while demanding obedience) were ratified by the shedding of blood. There is no difference here, only it is not the blood of an animal but of the living Lord, which speaks volumes to the immeasurable cost of our salvation and God’s inestimable love for us.
And finally, we are commanded to do this in remembrance of the One who did this for us. In doing so, we look backward to that loving sacrifice. But we also look forward. I love the way Paul ends this passage, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Did you hear that: Until he comes! The Supper reminds us of that ultimate victory that awaits the saints—the return of our Lord—which the Supper preaches; after all, we worship a risen Savior, not a dead one. May we partake of the Supper knowing we dine with our risen Lord.