Paul's Account of the Lord's Supper
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Will you open your Bibles, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 11. We have begun a discussion of the observance of the Lord's Supper. After examining the various terms by which it is presented in the Word of God, we centered our thinking upon the Gospel accounts. In addition to the Gospel accounts, we have the revelation given to Paul. That revelation is recorded in this chapter, and we will read the portion which deals with the actual institution of the Lord's Supper:

I Corinthians 11

23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

Theses few verses record the revelation that was given to the Apostle Paul; no study of the Lord's Supper is complete without consideration of what the Apostle Paul had to say about it. I think the best way to consider this passage of Scripture is to give you three words as mental pegs upon which you may hang some of the thoughts that we want to leave with you. The first word is revelation , which refers to how the Apostle Paul got his information. The next word is explanation , which refers to how the Lord Jesus Christ explained to the Apostle Paul what the Lord's Supper should represent. The third word is proclamation , which presents the individual privilege which is given to each one of us, the individual responsibility which rests upon each one of us, who is a Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. This ordinance of the Lord's Supper should never be taken lightly. It should be recognized for what it is—a very important part of our Christian faith and our Christian experience.

The Apostle Paul was not one of the original twelve Apostles. Consequently, he was not present at the Passover when the Lord's Supper was instituted. The physician Luke was not present at the Lord's Supper as it was instituted at the Passover feast. If you compare the Gospel accounts, you will recognize that Luke's account differs somewhat from the others, though not in any vital detail; it compares very favorable with the account that was given to the Apostle Paul by revelation. We believe that since the physician Luke was the constant companion of the Apostle Paul, the Apostle had probably explained to Luke exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ had personally revealed to him. Notice again verse 23:

I Corinthians 11

23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you…

I do not think it would be amiss to ask you to turn to chapter 15, where the Apostle Paul tells us that he received his understanding of the Gospel in just the same way that he received his understanding of the Lord's Supper:

I Corinthians 15

1Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

Permit me to digress from our immediate subject to remind you that in these verses we have the simplest definition of the Gospel found anywhere in the Word of God or out. If you wonder what is essential to salvation, turn back to I Corinthians, chapter 15, and read that Christ and Christ alone is necessary for our salvation. Recognize that it is not only the Christ who died according to the Scriptures who is the one of whom the Gospels speak, but it is the Christ who was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures of whom the Gospels speak. Any Gospel which leaves the Lord Jesus Christ in the tomb is not a complete Gospel.

You have heard the Gospel today. If you hear nothing else except this, that Christ died for your sins according to the Scriptures and that we know that his sacrifice was accepted by virtue of the fact that God raised him from the dead according to the Scriptures, if you believe this and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour on the basis of this, you need no other Gospel proclamation. This is it. If you are without the Saviour and you continue without Him, then you are without excuse. You have been told in terms certain and sure that Jesus Christ will be your Saviour if you will ask Him to be; that is all that is essential.

Back to the subject of discussion, the Apostle Paul said, “I received the revelation of the Gospel, and after I received it, I delivered it unto you.” He had used the same language in verse 23 of chapter 11:

I Corinthians 11

23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you…

Think with me: Is anything more important than the Gospel? I am sure you would say, “Absolutely not.” The Lord Jesus Christ thought the Gospel so important that He was not content for men alone to instruct Paul about the Gospel. He Himself personally appeared to Paul and instructed him about the Gospel.

Think with me: What the Lord Jesus Christ did about the Gospel, He did about the Lord's Supper. He did not do it about Baptism, but He did do it about the Lord's Supper. He personally appeared to the Apostle Paul and revealed to him about the Lord's Supper what he should deliver to those to whom he brought his message.

Notice the word which the Apostle used. He said, “I received of the Lord.” The word received is a translation of the Greek word which means literally received from , including the idea of a personal manifestation. The Apostle Paul received directly from the Lord Jesus Christ the story of what happened on the night of the betrayal when the Lord's Supper was instituted. The reason I am asking you to think so carefully is that I could be misquoted. If there is any question as to how the Lord's Supper should be observed, any question arising because of the differences in the accounts given in the Gospels and the account given in the Epistles, then the account given in the Epistles must be observed, because Paul received his account directly from the Lord. Those present at the Lord's Table wrote only what they saw.

This does not mean that there is any contradiction between the Gospel accounts and the Epistles, for the Holy Spirit of God directed what Matthew and Mark wrote; but in using human instruments the Holy Spirit uses their varying styles. That is why there is a slight difference in the accounts as they are reported. But the Lord Jesus Christ personally appeared to the Apostle Paul and delivered to him what we have read. So Paul said, “I received it from the Lord.”

He said, “What I received from the Lord, I delivered.” The word delivered is a translation of the Greek word which means to give from : “What I received from the Lord I have given from myself to you.” May I offer an exhortation? Beloved, this ought to be the process in relation to all truth; whether we are talking about the Lord's Supper or about something else, in our day we should receive it from the Lord—that is, from the Bible—as the Spirit of God teaches us the Bible. We should immediately give it from ourselves to others. This is what Paul had in mind when he said to Timothy, “Commit these things to faithful men who are able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2).

What I give you from this pulp[it is the result of hours of study of the Word of God. I would not dream of stepping into this or any other pulpit without intense preparation. It is shameful if the energy I expend to prepare the message that I give to you dies with you. What you have received from me you should give from yourself to multitudes of others with whom I will never come in contact.

Immediately upon receiving this revelation from the Lord, the Apostle Paul felt it was needful for him to give it to somebody else. This he did in chapter 11 of the Corinthian letter:

I Corinthians 11

2Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

The word ordinance is a translation of the Greek word which means simply something handed down . There are a number of ordinances that are written with a small letter; there are a number of things which were handed down by the Apostles to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and have been handed down through the years to other believers. But there are only two ordinances that are spelled with a capital letter. One is Baptism and the other is the Lord's Supper.

You are probably saying, “This business of Paul's receiving these things personally from the Lord; just how could he do that? How do you know that, really? You say he received them from the Lord, and we read the words there, but how do you know that he did not receive them at the hand of some man whom God was pleased to use?”

I ask you to turn to the Galatians letter and notice in chapter 1 the paragraph which begins with verse 15:

Galatians 1

15But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,
16To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately [notice] I conferred not with flesh and blood:

Paul said, “I want you to get something straight. As soon as I was saved, I did not go to any human being for advice and instruction.” In verse 17: “I did not even do the logical things. I did not even go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me. That would have been the logical thing to do. But I did not do that. Instead, I went into Arabia.” How long he stayed in Arabia is open to question. But there in the Arabian desert, I believe, this revelation of the Lord's Supper was given to him, along with the revelation of the Gospel and the revelation of the mystery of which he was the particular Apostle.

In verse 18 he said:

Galatians 1

18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

After that 3-year period he went to Jerusalem and shared with the men there what had been revealed to him in the Arabia desert. I say to you that the Lord's Supper has special significance in that the Lord thought it important enough to give a personal discussion of the subject to the Apostle Paul; or, keeping in mind the words we gave you as mental pegs upon which to hang your thoughts, the Lord Jesus Christ thought that what occurred in the upper room that night was important enough to give a personal explanation of the event to the Apostle Paul.

The explanation which the Lord Jesus Christ gave is analyzed for us in a very interesting way. First of all there are phrases in the paragraph which offer an explanation of the time when the Lord's Supper was instituted. Notice verse 23:

I Corinthians 11

23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed…

That pinpoints the exact time of the institution of the Lord's Supper.

Again, may I offer an explanation? Is it not interesting that He would institute for us an everlasting memorial on the night He was betrayed? I suppose if there is one sin, I suppose if there is one failing, into which we fall more often than others, it is the sin of betrayal. How often we betray our Lord Jesus Christ—and we know deep in our hearts we have betrayed Him, but no one else knows. How often have we returned from some public gathering with deep down in our hearts a feeling of shame because we have betrayed the Savior. On the night on which He was betrayed, He instituted an everlasting memorial that we might be reminded that we are on the brink of betrayal almost every time we turn around, almost everywhere we go.

There is another phrase in this paragraph which indicates something about the time:

I Corinthians 11

23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25After the same manner also he took the cup, [notice] when he had supped…

That phrase should settle in anybody's mind the time when the Lord's Supper was instituted. “When he had supped” refers to the conclusion of the Passover feast. “When he had supped” refers to the fact that there was nobody in that upper room but believers alone. What sheer mockery it is to have the Lord's Supper on special occasions around Easter time and to encourage people to come and partake as if it had some sacerdotal value for people who have not darkened the door of the Church during the entire year. This is not for public observance in the sense that anybody and everybody should partake; it is for only those who know Jesus Christ as Saviour.

As the Lord Jesus Christ continued His account of the Lord's Supper, He gave an explanation of the significance of each thing that He did. First, there was a word about the symbolism. Notice verse 24:

I Corinthians 11

24And when he had given thanks, he brake it [the bread which He had taken] , and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you…

He took the bread, He brake the bread, He gave thanks for the bread, and He said, “This is My body.” Observe carefully: All of this He said while He was still in His body.

I have in my billfold some pictures of my family, and a group picture in which I happen to be included. If I were to hold that group picture up before you and say, as I pointed to myself in the picture, “This is I,” you would not say, “You know, that picture has suddenly become the living Joe Temple,” would you? You would not say, “That is Joe Temple, literally, physically.” You would know, if while I was yet in my body I said, “This is I,” that I was talking about a symbol.

Just so, the explanation which the Lord Jesus gave to the Apostle ought to settle once and for all the theories which I have suggested to you: transubstantiation, consubstantiation, spiritual presence; it should settle once and for all that the bread that is used in the Lord's Supper is but a symbol of the body of Christ.

Look carefully, please, at verse 24:

I Corinthians 11

24…this is my body, which is broken for you:…

That statement is important because as it is written, it is a seeming contradiction of the Scripture; we are told in chapter 19 of the Gospel of John that not a bone of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ was broken. Folk who read their Bibles superficially see in this a contradiction. In the interest of accuracy, let me suggest that the word broken is not in the oldest manuscripts available. What the Lord Jesus Christ said was, “This is my body which is for you.” Everything that was done to His body during the time of torturous trial and crucifixion was done for us. If we speak only of the broken body of the Lord, then we would not include all the physical suffering which the Lord Jesus Christ endured in behalf of you and me. In the body of the Lord Jesus Christ were borne all the stripes that were due you and me, all the weight of iniquity, all the weight of sin. “My body is for you,” He said. And as He broke the bread to indicate the suffering through which His body would go, He said, “When you partake of this broken bread, remember that My body was for you.”

In verse 25 He explained the significance of the cup:

I Corinthians 11

25…This cup is the new testament in my blood…

This needs a bit of explanation, I think, because when you speak of the “new testament” most people think of the twenty-seven books that follow the thirty-nine books of the “Old Testament.” When we speak of the new testament in the manner of our text, we are thinking of the literal meaning of a Greek word which is translated both testament , and covenant , an agreement. The word new is translated from the Greek word which means new in nature . Here is something that is new and something that is different.

“This cup is the new testament in my blood;” what in the world is He talking about? Let us look for a moment at the phrase “in My blood” and recognize that in the original text it refers grammatically to the fact that the New Covenant was made within the sphere of the blood of Christ; it was made possible by the blood of Christ. What are we talking about? Turn, please, to the book of Hebrews and notice in chapter 10 a New Testament description of the New Covenant.

There was an old covenant, made at the hands of Moses and angels. It included what we commonly call the Ten Commandments. That covenant said that if you live by these Ten Commandments and do not break any of them, then you will live. If you break one of them, you will die. Because it is thus impossible to break one without breaking all, the Old Testament sacrificial system was set up, and men once a year brought an animal sacrifice to atone for the sins of which they were guilty. They were never certain of anything for longer than a year. But in chapter 10 of the book of Hebrews there is recorded the New Covenant of which the Lord's Supper is symbolic:

Hebrews 10

12But this man [that is, the Lord Jesus Christ, in contrast to the earthly priesthood] , after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
13From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
14For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are [have been] sanctified [or set apart] .
15Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,
16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
17And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
18Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin [or more accurately, no more offering for sin is needed] .
19Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
21And having an high priest over the house of God;
22Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

This is the Old Testament phraseology to describe the fact that we stand clean in the sight of God today because of the New Covenant which was made within the sphere of the blood of Christ. Will you notice what I am saying? Not the New Covenant that was made within the sphere of our righteousness. Not the New Covenant that was made within the sphere of our self-effort. Not the New Covenant that was made within the sphere of our efforts to do good. It is the New Covenant that was made within the sphere of the blood of Christ.

Beloved, every time you partake of the cup at the Lord's Table, you should keep in mind that you are saved by the blood of Christ alone, and by no other thing. If you feel that your efforts make possible your salvation, if you feel that you efforts make you more acceptable to God, then you are making a mockery of the cup when you partake of it.

I gave you one other word, the word proclamation , because of what is recorded in verse 26:

I Corinthians 11

26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

Notice the word show which is a translation of the Greek word which elsewhere is translated proclaim , or preach . Every time you sit down to the Lord's Table you are proclaiming, you are preaching. If someone should ask whether you are a preacher, I suppose on the spur of the moment you would say, “No, I am not.” But in a sense you are, for you preach every time you sit down to the Lord's Table. You preach a twofold truth, if you please. One of them is related to the past, and concerns the death—the sacrifice for sin—of the Lord Jesus Christ. When you partake of the broken bread and the fruit of the vine, you are saying to men, “Christ died for your sins, as He died for mine.” You are also proclaiming the Second Coming of Christ, because you will notice that the injunction is that this should be observed until He comes. This is a proclamation related to the future; every time you gather around the Lord's Table, you are preaching, “I believe Jesus is coming.” Every time we sit down at the Lord's Table we are saying to our own hearts and to those about us, “I believe Jesus died for me, and I believe that Jesus is coming again for me.”

I want to make some observations that I believe are of real importance in regard to questions that arise in the hearts of men. First, notice that the phrase “till he come” indicates that this is an ordinance for this Age. There are individuals who do not believe that the Lord's Supper is an ordinance for the Age in which we live, and yet the Lord Jesus Christ, explaining personally to the Apostle Paul the significance of the Lord's Supper, said, “I want you to do this until I come again.” The Lord may take all of us in this room by death before He comes. But if He does, then others who will be worshiping in this sanctuary will still be observing this ordinance, because it is to be observed until He comes. It is for this Age.

Notice the words “as oft” and “as often” in verses 25 and 26. Those words speak of the schedule upon which the Lord's Supper should be observed. There is nothing in those two words that tells you how often you should observe the Lord's Supper. But I would suggest that those two words should be interpreted in the light of two passages of Scripture which we will paraphrase for you, Acts 2:46 and Acts 20:7. Acts 2:46 tells us that after the Day of Pentecost the early Christians gathered together in their homes every day of the week and had the Lord's Supper. So if anybody tells you that you must have the Lord's Supper according to a certain schedule because of example, you may say, “Then let's have church every day and have the Lord's Supper, because the example has been set.” Or, “Let's get together in somebody's house and have the Lord's Supper.” If you wish to gather together every day and have the Lord's Supper, it would not displease the Lord. It did not displease Him then and it would not displease Him now.

Acts 20:7 indicates that it was the custom—Acts 2:46 does not say it was a custom; it was just something they did for several days—Acts 20:7 tells us that it was the custom for the early Church to have the Lord's Supper every Lord's Day. If we endeavor to do that which is pleasing to the Lord, and the Church nearest to the revelation given to the Apostle observed the Lord's Supper every Sunday, I am of the opinion that it is well pleasing to the Lord for us to remember Him each Lord's Day, although we do so not by commandment, but because of example.

There is another reason suggested in the text. The Lord said, “As oft as ye do this, do it in remembrance of me.” That phrase in remembrance of me in the Greek literally means my remembrance . This gives a very personal note to the situation. The Lord Jesus Christ was saying to the Apostle Paul when He revealed to Him these explanations concerning the Lord's Table, “Paul, I want to tell you and I want you to tell all others that when they do this, this is a very special remembrance of Me. It is My remembrance.”

With that thought in mind, we would suggest that the Lord's Supper should not become an ordeal through which we must go because it is commanded and we have no choice. It should not be an empty form which we follow simply because it happens to be the custom of the place where we worship. It should be an expression of love. If a loved one were to leave home and leave a picture or some remembrance, and say to those loved, “I will be gone a long time. But I would like to know that I am in your thoughts. Would you mind too much getting this picture out of the bureau drawer once a week and looking at it?”, we would not think it an unusual request, would we? As a matter of fact, we would probably respond, “Why, I don't need to look at that picture to remind myself of how much I love you. But certainly, if you want me to do it, I will.” When you gather around the Lord's Table as an expression of love, and not in obedience to a commandment, then it becomes exceedingly precious to you.


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