Online Bible Commentary
The Purpose of the Lord’s Supper
1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (NKJV)
In the previous passage, Paul rebuked the first century church in Corinth, Greece for not having the proper setting for the Lord’s Supper. The church was tacking the Lord’s Supper onto a dinner, which was called a “love feast”.
The love feasts were far from sacred events. To the contrary, The Lord’s supper should be a solemn. sacred event. It is a sacrament of the church.
As further explanation, in this passage, Paul explains to the first century church the purpose of the Lord’s Supper. He explains what the Lord Jesus, Himself, revealed to Paul directly (v. 23a). Some say that Paul received this revelation from Jewish tradition but the wording here seems not to support that interpretation.
The original Lord’s Supper occurred at the same time that the Lord’s betrayal was being planned (v. 23b). This circumstance adds to the solemnness of the event. This was not a celebratory event.
The original Lord’s Supper occurred after “supper”, a fact which led to the love feasts (v. 24a). However, this was a solemn and sacred supper, unlike the later love feasts.
Paul then gives the purpose of the bread and wine, as voiced by Jesus Himself. Jesus broke the bread to symbolize the breaking of His body which would occur at the crucifixion (v. 24b).
Jesus was giving His body for “you”, all who would believe in Him as their Lord and Savior (v. 24c). He was asking that we remember His sacrifice whenever we partake of the Lord’s Supper (v. 24d).
Jesus then drank the wine, which represented the shedding of His blood on the cross, creating a “new covenant” with His people (v. 25a). The “new covenant” had been described by the prophet Jeremiah over 600 years earlier: “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, ” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:21-34).
A covenant is not a contract. It is a one-sided promise by God to His people. It is a promise made through God’s grace, not by man’s works, lest no one can boast that they have earned God’s favor
As with the bread, “whenever you drink it”, the wine or juice, at the Lord’s Supper we should remember the Lord’s sacrifice for us (v. 25b). Jesus does not say how often we should partake of the Lord’s Supper, just that “whenever” we do it we should remember His sacrifice for us.
Jesus had not yet been crucified when he spoke these words. Therefore, in speaking of His body and His blood He is speaking symbolically rather than literally.
This fact does not support the practice of consubstantiation taught by some. Obviously, Jesus, in breaking the bread, was not breaking His own body and, in drinking the wine, was not drinking His own blood.
Also, Jesus did not command that this sacrament must be led by a church leader. Any Christian can lead others in the taking of the Lord’s Supper.
Paul concludes this passage by declaring that Christians, “whenever” they partake of the Lord’s Supper, should “proclaim the Lord’s death”, His sacrifice for us (v. 26a). Also, we should partake of the Lord’s Supper “until he comes”, until Jesus returns at the second coming to rule the world.
So, the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is two-fold. First of all, we should remember the sacrifice that He made for us. Secondly, we should remember that His sacrifice established for us a new covenant with God, a promise to forgive our sins so that we may have eternal life in Heaven.