(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the American King James Version).
The Lord’s supper is the sacred communion meal of the church. It’s during this holy feast that believers truly partake at the Lord’s table, uniting with Christ in a special way. The elements of the holy communion—the bread and the wine—are given various interpretations by different Christian denominations. Some believe the elements are actually the real body and blood of Christ, and partaking of them means literally eating Christ’s flesh and literally drinking his blood. Other groups of Christians believe the elements only represent the body and blood of Christ, and eating and drinking them is only symbolic, serving to remind us of the death of Christ as the ransom for our soul, and our faith in his death as the basis of our salvation and eternal life. What’s the position of Scripture on this matter? How are we to regard the elements of the holy communion? We shall turn to Scripture to answer these question.
The position of those who insist the elements of the holy communion are literally the flesh and blood of Christ derives from a literal understanding of Jesus’ teaching about himself being the bread of life. In that great discourse in John’s Gospel, the Lord taught that, as the bread of life which came down from heaven, except people ate of his flesh and drank of his blood, there would be no life in them. He taught that his flesh was meat indeed and his blood was drink indeed.
John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
John 6:52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
John 6:53 Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
John 6:54 Whoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
John 6:55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
Taking the above verses of Scripture literally, one would come to the conclusion that, except we cannibalise the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we cannot have eternal life! We would have to believe that Christ was actually inviting people to kill and eat him in order to have eternal life! That would mean that, since nobody literally ate of Christ’s flesh and literally drank his blood when he died (at least his corpse was laid in a tomb and resurrected later, after his blood was poured out on Calvary), none of the disciples who followed Christ had eternal life, and none of us living now can ever have eternal life, simply because we don’t have access to the flesh and blood of Christ, to eat and to drink from!
However, we know from the testimony of Scripture that the disciples of Christ who believed in him to the end had eternal life. Also, people who did not live during Christ’s ministry, and so didn’t have access to his flesh and blood, have experienced and are still experiencing eternal life through him. Thus, Christ could not have meant the literal cannibalisation of his flesh and blood as the means of securing eternal life.
The reason why Christ couldn’t have offered his literal blood to people to drink is because Scripture forbids the eating of blood! God warns people against eating blood because life is in the blood, and anyone who drinks blood is to be cut off from among God’s people. Therefore, Jesus, who never broke any word of God, nor ever encouraged people to do so, couldn’t have been inviting people to violate such a clear-cut scriptural injunction!
Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
Genesis 9:2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, and on every fowl of the air, on all that moves on the earth, and on all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.
Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that lives shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
Genesis 9:4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall you not eat.
Genesis 9:5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.
Genesis 9:6 Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
Leviticus 17:10 And whatever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eats any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people.
Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you on the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul.
Leviticus 17:12 Therefore I said to the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojournes among you eat blood.
Leviticus 17:13 And whatever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunts and catches any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust.
Leviticus 17:14 For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said to the children of Israel, You shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whoever eats it shall be cut off.
The Acts 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay on you no greater burden than these necessary things;
The Acts 15:29 That you abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if you keep yourselves, you shall do well. Fare you well.
The Lord must have spoken figuratively then, since his speech on that occasion cannot be applied literally. If a Scripture cannot be applied literally, then it must be taken figuratively. The key to understanding the true meaning of eating the Lord’s flesh and drinking his blood may be found in the 56th and 57th verses of the passage quoted above:
John 6:56 He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him.
John 6:57 As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, even he shall live by me.
From these verses of Scripture, we come to understand that eating the flesh of Christ and drinking his blood simply means dwelling in him and he in us. And how do we dwell in Christ and how does Christ dwell in us? We do that by believing in him as Lord and Saviour and by living by his words. It is by getting connected to Christ by faith and abiding thus in him that we have eternal life. When we believe and place our faith in Christ’s sacrificial and substitutionary death at Calvary, repent accordingly and get baptised in his name, our sins are remitted, and we are then qualified to receive of his Spirit which connects us to him and enables us to abide in him. By that Spirit, we are baptised into Christ’s body. And it is by his Spirit dwelling in us that we know we are his, for if any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he doesn’t belong to Christ. That’s what the apostles taught.
John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me.
John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.
John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you.
John 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples.
John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you: continue you in my love.
John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
1 John 5:11 And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
1 John 5:12 He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life.
1 John 5:13 These things have I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.
1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
1 John 3:24 And he that keeps his commandments dwells in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he stays in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.
Romans 8:9 But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
Let’s now examine the elements of the Lord’s supper, and how the Lord intended for us to view them. We shall revisit the occasion of the inaugural Lord’s Supper to see the Lord’s presentation of the elements.
Matthew 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
Matthew 26:27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it;
Matthew 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Matthew 26:29 But I say to you, I will not drink from now on of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
In the passage above is found the origin of the Lord’s supper. It was instituted the night the Lord was betrayed, while he was having the Passover meal with his disciples. Referring to the cup of wine, he said ‘this is my blood’, and regarding the bread, he said ‘this is my body’. If we take those expressions literally, then his blood was shed during the Lord’s supper and his body was broken before he was killed on Calvary! But, we know his blood was not shed, neither was his body broken, until the next day when he was crucified! And, his body and blood were still intact when his disciples ate the bread and drank the cup of wine of the communion! So, by common sense, it’s obvious the Lord wasn’t speaking literally when he spoke of the bread and wine of the communion being his body and his blood. It’s obvious the Lord was speaking metaphorically, using the broken bread and wine to represent his own body and blood which would be sacrificed the next day at Calvary for the remission of the sins of fallen humanity. That then is how the Lord intended for the elements of the communion to be viewed—as symbols representing his body and blood, and not as his literal body and blood. The Lord wants us to remember his death on the cross each time we partake of the communion. It doesn’t mean Christ is killed every time we break the bread of the communion and drink the wine, for that is what it would mean if the bread and wine are to be taken literally as his body and blood. As we behold the bread and wine, we’re to cast out minds back to Calvary and behold the Passover Lamb crucified for us, and his blood shed for the remission of our sins. And as we eat of the bread and drink of the wine, we are to be reminded that it’s only in our union with Christ that we have life eternal, and therefore reminded to abide in him eternally, if we are to continue to have his life in us. The communion is to remind us of the cross of Christ where his body was broken for us and his blood was shed for our sins. We must keep the cross of Christ always before us, and be reminded daily of its redeeming power. That’s what the communion is to help us remember.
1 Corinthians 11:23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
1 Corinthians 11:24 And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
1 Corinthians 11:25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do you, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me.
1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come.
1 Corinthians 11:27 Why whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 11:28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
1 Corinthians 11:29 For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
1 Corinthians 11:30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
1 Corinthians 11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
1 Corinthians 11:32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.
1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 10:16 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?
1 Corinthians 10:17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
1 Corinthians 10:18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
The error of the papists—that they eat the literal body of Christ and drink his literal blood each time they participate in the communion—is gross then, for not only do they confess to killing Christ afresh each time they sit at the Lord’s table, they also admit to unending cannibalism! Therefore, the doctrine of transubstantiation—whereby the priest claims power to transform the elements of the communion into the literal body and blood of Christ—is nothing but heretical delusion on their part, and incredible folly on the part of those who accept such balderdash. How can people be so gullible as to believe anyone has the power to command Christ to descend from heaven and enter into the bread and wine each time the communion is offered? If this is not blasphemous heresy, then what is?
In conclusion, the elements of the Lord’s supper—the bread and the wine—represent the body and blood of Christ, broken and shed respectively, for the remission of sin. They represent what happened on the cross of Calvary, as the Lord willingly gave his life as a ransom for the redemption of sinful humanity. The literal body of Christ is in heaven right now, seated at the right hand of God in glory, where he continues to intercede for us with his blood. When therefore we partake of the Lord’s supper, we are simply reminding ourselves of the Lord’s death (and subsequent resurrection) as the basis of our salvation and eternal life. As we eat the bread and drink the wine, we acknowledge the great exchange that took place at Calvary. The bread is not the literal body of Christ, neither is the wine his literal blood, for they cannot be, as Christ died only once to redeem us, and cannot therefore suffer death each time we partake of the Lord’s supper, as the heretical doctrine of transubstantiation would have us believe. Those blasphemous magicians who think they can turn bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ, so that they can literally eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life, are not only greatly deluded, but are also inherently cannibalistic! Those who wish to crucify the Son of God afresh, as many times as they eat bread and drink wine, are enemies of the cross of Christ! The work of Christ on the cross of Calvary 2000 years ago was sufficient ransom for men’s sins, and nothing can be added to it. The communion simply looks back to that completed and finished work as the basis of the believer’s salvation and eternal life. It’s just a symbol and a reminder of that all-sufficient sacrifice and nothing more! The Lord’s supper is a memorial of Calvary, and not a daily literal reenactment of Calvary!
Hebrews 9:24 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:
Hebrews 9:25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest enters into the holy place every year with blood of others;
Hebrews 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment:
Hebrews 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin to salvation.
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