The Lord's Supper
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.
The Lord’s Supper, or communion as it is sometimes called, has been delivered to the churches to keep and observe by our Lord in His Word, and has immense value both in doctrine and in practice. As in every instance where the things of the flesh are concerned, the activity itself conveys no special merit or righteousness, being done in the flesh, but is a shadow of the true and heavenly things of which we are made partakers in Christ. We will seek to shew here in a few words some of the various aspects of this ordinance given by Christ and the corresponding truth of each in the things of Heaven.
The first time this event was observed was by Christ and His twelve apostles when He was eating with them observing the Passover on the night of His betrayal. He gathered His apostles in “the upper room” and spent the night teaching them and preparing them for what was immediately to follow through His betrayal, trial, death, burial, and glorious resurrection. What a night of teaching these men were treated to as He expounded these things unto them!
In the midst of all of this was the teaching concerning the Lord’s supper, where our Lord took unleavened bread and unfermented wine and taught through the uncorrupted elements these pictures of the gift he was giving to men through the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:26; Ephesians 5:2)!
Interestingly, Christ gathered with His gospel assembly rather than the traditional Jewish way of gathering with families of the natural order in this first example of the New Covenant ordinance. The teaching of the wine and its representation of the blood of Christ in the New Covenant which cleanses us from sin and the unleavened bread which represents His body which was to be broken for all who would believe, correlates to a picture of the redemption of which we become partakers through faith. Just as the body “receives” meat and drink through a natural process of examining the elements and choosing to partake through eating, so too the soul of man “receives” life-giving meat and drink to strengthen him through a process of examination and partaking. This latter process is what is to be taught by the natural, fleshly process which is but a figure of the true. When we examine Christ, His deity, His humanity, His promise, His works, His testimony concerning things to come, we must each deliberate upon these matters and we either become “partakers” by receiving His Word and promises through faith (Ephesians 3:6), or we push away the bread of life and blood of remission in unbelief.
There is also a parallel between the ordinances of the congregation in the old covenant and the ordinances of the congregation in the New Covenant. Under the law of Moses, any person must first be joined to the congregation through profession of faith in Jehovah, the One true living God, then could be circumcised according to the ordinance of the Old Covenant, and they could then be a partaker of the Passover. Now we know that Circumcision was given as a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, which is why the ordinance ceased after the sending of the Spirit. The shadow only was meant to serve until the good thing had come (Hebrews 10:1). The correlation for congregations today is clear. Upon profession of faith in Christ according to the gospel and the word of promise by the Savior, an individual is then baptized as a seal of the faith they possess. That individual is then a member of that local congregation and is allowed to participate in the Lord’s supper. So we see the type very clearly in Old and New. Faith in Jehovah, Circumcision as a sign of the covenant, Passover as a member of the congregation in the old. Faith in Christ, baptism as a sign of the covenant, the Lord’s supper as a member of the congregation in the new.
This understanding of the ordinances being observed as a "shadow" of good things to come by the local, new testament congregation helps us understand the importance of this pattern. If the church practices "open" or "close" communion, the picture of truth is corrupted. In other words, the true things of Christ are that if you haven't come to faith in Christ, you aren't baptized into Him, aren't a member of His congregation, and won't be at His table in His Kingdom, thus the patterns of these in the church are observed by the same pattern to teach us the truth about the heavenly things.
Paul teaches us through the Spirit that by observing this ordinance, we “do shew the Lord's death till he come.” This is the aim of the ordinance. To serve as a teacher of true doctrine concerning the sacrifice of Christ that is past while we fervently and steadfastly wait for His return for us and the inauguration of His Kingdom in the future. If you study the accounts in the gospels of the New Testament, you will observe the teaching of these things puts in view the return of Christ in the glory of His father with his angels and the perfect fulfillment of the shadow we observe of “eating at His table” which is to follow!