Christian History Project. This site contains the text of 12 volumes on the history of mankind over the last 2,000 years written from a 'collectively-denominational' Christian perspective.

Lord

Lord’s Supper is drawn from Chapter Five, beginning on page 147, of Volume One, The Veil is Torn of the twelve-volume historical series The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years. If you would like to order this book please visit Books.TheChristians.com.

Lord’s Supper - Paul lays down rules for the Lord’s Supper

Lord’s Supper – Paul lays down rules for the Lord’s Supper
Not as well known as the city’s synagogue, the remains of a building in Capernaum called Peter’s House or the domus ecclesiae (church house) tell an ancient story. The house appears to have been converted for use as a church by first-century Christians. In addition to graffiti referring to Jesus as Lord, Christ, Most High and God, there are inscriptions clearly relating to celebrations of the Lord’s Supper in the building.

Christians at Corinth were often dismayingly greedy–even drunk–in their early Communion observances

The conduct of Paul’s converts at Corinth left a great deal to be desired, and he did not hesitate to tell them so by letter, after reports of their wanton conduct reached him over at Ephesus. Drunkenness, brawling, whoring, homosexuality, even incest–there seemed no end to the list. But what was particularly disgusting was their behavior at the Lord’s Supper, the observance that Jesus had enjoined upon his disciples at his last dinner with them before he went to trial and the cross.

“When you meet together,” Paul wrote in his first letter to Corinthians (11:20 ff. RSV), “is it not the Lord’s supper that you eat?”

He had heard dismaying accounts. “For in eating each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk. Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Should I commend you in this?

“No I will not! For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night that he was betrayed took bread, 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.’

“In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying: ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’”

Paul then urges them to consider what they’re doing. “Whoever therefore eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.

“Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

This matter of self-examination is important, says Paul. “If we were closely to examine ourselves beforehand, we should avoid the judgment of God. But when God does judge us, he disciplines us as his own sons, that we may not be involved in the general condemnation of the world.

“So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait your proper turn. If a man is really hungry let him satisfy his appetite at home. Don’t let your communion be God’s judgment upon you” (1 Cor. 11:33—34 JBP).

First-century Christians appear to have regarded this “breaking of bread” as more than merely a memorial to Jesus. It was something Jesus had specifically commanded them to do (Matt. 26:26—28; Mark 14:22—24; Luke 22:19—21), and which Paul directly identifies with “the body and blood of the Lord.” They spoke of this special observance as a “commemoration,” and “offering,” a “thanksgiving.” It was “the body and blood of Christ,” a “proclamation,” a “communion” (with Christ and his people), a “participation,” an invocation of the Holy Spirit, an acceptance of forgiveness, an act of dedication.

Thus, Clement of Rome, writing to Christians again quarreling in Corinth about 95, draws parallels between the Christian “offerings” of bread and wine and the sacrifices made by the priests in the temple at Jerusalem. Ignatius of Antioch, writing to the Ephesians some fifteen years later, describes the breaking of bread as “a remedy bestowing immortality, an antidote preventing death and giving life in Jesus Christ forever.” The Didache, a manual for Christian living and church practice that most historians believe was composed about 125, though it has parts that were written in the first century, describes the breaking of bread as “that which is holy,” and speaks of the bread and wine as “spiritual food and drink.”

The question of what actually happens in the elements or in the believer by doing this did not arise until much later. Cyprian of Carthage, in the mid-third century, was concerned about sacraments performed by schismatics. Ambrose of Milan, in the late fourth century, talked generally about a “change” in the bread and wine. Augustine of Hippo, North Africa, formally analyzed the notion of “sacrament” some years later. Theological arguments over “the real presence of Christ” arose in the ninth and eleventh centuries. In the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas gave the scientific (for his time) explanation for change in the elements.

But ordinary Christians, whether in the first century or the twenty-first, were more interested in taking part in it than explaining it. They thereby shared the attitude of one Christian in the sixteenth:

’Twas God the Word that spake it,

He took the bread and brake it;

And what the Word did make it

That I believe, and take it.

That Christian was Elizabeth I, Queen of England.

This is the end of the Lord’s Supper category article drawn from Chapter Five, beginning on page 147, of Volume One, The Veil is Torn. To continue reading more about Lord’s Supper from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years we suggest experiencing the rest of the book, complete with hundreds of magnificent illustrations, by ordering it at Books.TheChristians.com