1 Corinthians 11:23-26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: on the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, 24 gave thanks, broke it, and said, "This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same way He also took the cup, after supper, and said, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. — 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Jesus Establishes the New Covenant
by Steve Smith
Do you remember the first time you received the Lord’s Supper? I do. It was Easter Sunday, 1978. The previous Sunday night I had stepped forward from the front pew of our church in Savannah, Georgia, as an 8-year-old who was convicted of my sin and my need for Jesus to forgive me and save me. The pastor asked me to come to his office following the service. Using the Scriptures, he walked me through the plan of salvation, followed by a prayer in which I asked Jesus to come into my heart.
The next Sunday was Easter, and I was baptized early in the service. Communion was observed later in the service, and I remember holding the tiny wafer in my palm for the first time. You may remember them. They were solid white and about half the size of a postage stamp—thin on the outside and hollow on the inside. My eagerness, combined with my intent focus on this small but monumental symbol of my newfound faith in Christ, resulted in my inadvertently crushing the little square into a dozen smaller pieces! My first Communion—and I had to virtually lick the shattered pieces of bread off my child-size palm in order to fully consume this symbol of Christ’s body.
While I remember feeling some level of guilt for my treatment of the bread in this first Communion experience, I don’t believe this is what Paul had in mind when he spoke in I Corinthians 11:29 of taking the Lord’s Supper “in an unworthy manner.”
In the context of the Corinthian church, Paul was condemning them for abuses which revolved around divisions in the church, specifically between the privileged and the poor. It seems the church was applying to the Lord’s Supper the cultural norm of providing a lesser quantity and quality of food and drink to the poor. Paul’s response to this situation was to instruct the Corinthians not to “humiliate” (v. 22) the poor by marginalizing them in this way.
In sharing his instructions for the proper observance of the Lord’s Supper, Paul is reminding the Corinthians that he had already passed on to them what he had “received from the Lord.” It’s debatable whether this meant he had received a direct word from the Lord or whether he was referring to accounts given by others who had actually been present at the Last Supper. Either way, he apparently had already instructed the Corinthians.
We see in the following verses the representative nature of the bread and the cup, identifying with the body and the blood of Christ.
- “This is My body.” We don’t hold to the doctrine of transubstantiation, in which the bread and the wine literally become the body and blood of Christ. Rather, we believe Christ is somehow mysteriously present with us in the taking of the bread.
- “Which is for you.” The atoning power of Christ’s death on the cross is available to anyone who turns to faith in Christ.
- “Do this in remembrance of Me.” This event is ordained as a time when God’s people, until Christ returns, are to remember His death and resurrection.
It’s in the instructions for taking the cup in verse 25 that we see the reference to the new covenant. The main point is that the wine represents the new covenant “in Jesus’ blood.” The idea of a blood covenant recalls the importance of blood rituals in covenant-making. But Christ’s blood, shed on the cross, was to be the ultimate and final blood covenant, paying the debt of sin and making it possible for people to enjoy forgiveness and a new life in Him.
Then in verse 26, we see that our observance of the Lord’s Supper is to be a “proclamation” of the Lord’s death until He comes. Ultimately, the Lord’s Supper is a witness and a testimony of the gospel to those who have yet to believe.
- What do you remember about the first time you took the Lord’s Supper? How can sharing this experience be a testimony to a child who is coming to faith in Christ, or to an adult who’s considering giving his life to Christ?
- The next time you take Communion, in what ways can you make it more meaningful? How might we all prevent this expression of our faith from becoming an obligatory habit rather than a transformative aspect of our faith journey?
- How can you make the Lord’s Supper a testimony to a friend or neighbor who has yet to believe? How might you use this event to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes?”
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.