Question:

The texts in the gospels concerning the Lord's Supper all say "and when he took the the cup ... " denoting one cup. Does this bind one cup? Why or why not? Thank you for your help. I met a one cup brother and sister at a gospel meeting and we plan to study it soon.


Answer:

"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."" (Matthew 26:26-29).

"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, "This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."" (Mark 14:22-25).

"When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you."" (Luke 22:14-20).

When dealing with examples, such as the establishment of the Lord's Supper, it is important to determine which parts of the example are meant to be followed and which are merely incidental to the situation in which the example occurred. In this particular example, we find the Lord and his disciples sitting down to eat the Passover meal in a rented upper room. After the Passover meal, Jesus established the memorial meal that we commanded to follow.

Some have looked at this example and have argued that the Lord's Supper should be taken around tables and in connection to a common meal. Some argue that the Lord's Supper should only be taken once a year at the time of the Passover. Some could argue that it should only be taken in the evening. And then there are those, as you have noted that argue that only one container should be used for fruit of the vine. I would argue that each of these items are incidental to the command to partake of the Lord's Supper.

To connect it with a meal is clearly argued against by Paul. "What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you. ... But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come" (I Corinthians 11:22, 34). To partake only once a year is contradicted by the example of the disciples in Troas who partook every first day of the week. "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight" (Acts 20:7). Given that first day of the week is emphasized and no mention of the time of day is given, we realize that it doesn't matter if the Lord's Supper is taken in the early morning, at midday, or in the late evening, so long as it is partaken of on the first day of the week.

Yet, let us look at whether the number of containers is important or not. In Luke's account, we note "Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves..."" (Luke 22:17). A single cup was blessed, but it distributed by dividing it among the disciples. Some argue that this was done prior to the Lord's Supper and is not how the actual Lord's Supper was done. The flaw in this reasoning is that the later part of verse 17 says, "... I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." This is reference to the Lord's Supper, as Matthew and Mark's account clearly show. It could not be a reference to the Passover as that memorial meal ended with the Old Law and is not a part of the kingdom and the New Covenant. Hence, Luke's account gives us an additional detail that Matthew and Mark's account skims over. Jesus first divided the contents of the cup, and then instituted the Lord's Supper.

Even if some refuses to accept this clear point, if you continue in Luke's account you will realize that the bread was blessed, broken, and divided among the disciples. Verse 20 of Luke 22 begins, "Likewise He also took the cup after supper ..." The word "likewise" indicates that the same method was used for the cup as was done for the bread. Even if you argue that verse 17 was separate from the Lord's Supper, it still establishes the method in which the contents of the cup was distributed; it was divided and given to the disciples. Therefore, Luke's account demonstrates that multiple cups were used in the partaking of the fruit of the vine.

What Luke's account shows us is that the fruit of the vine was divided among the disciples, each into his individual cup. The Lord then blessed the bread, divided it among the disciples and had them eat it. He then took the cup from which the disciples had taken a portion for each of them and blessed the contents and told the disciples to drink. One cup was not in use. Each disciple had their own cup to hold the fruit of the vine while they were partaking of the bread.

By focusing on the container, those who advocate the use of just one cup have added a third element to the Lord's Supper. The Scriptures tell us that the bread represents the Lord's body and that the fruit of the vine represents His blood, but those arguing that one cup must be used are saying that the container has some significance. I always wondered why the same emphasis is not placed on the container for the bread. It is not the container that is important, but the contents of the container.

The use of the word "cup" is a figure of speech known as a metonymy. A metonymy is where one noun is used in place of another to which the two nouns are in close association. Hence, when we put the kettle on to boil, we are not boiling the kettle, but the water within the kettle. When we give the baby a bottle to drink, the baby is consuming the milk in the bottle and not the bottle itself. Matthew and Mark's account tell us that the fruit of the vine represents Christ's shed blood for the new covenant. Hence, we realize that in Luke's account that Jesus' statement, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood" (Luke 22:20), is a metonymy. The container is not representing Christ's blood, but the contents of the cup.

A more subtle argument is made by noting that in Acts 2:41, three thousand souls were baptized and added to the church. These three thousand participated in the partaking of the Lord's Supper (Acts 2:42), and it is emphasized that they did all things together (Acts 2:44). This leads to the question, if they used but one cup, how big would it have to be for three thousand worshiping together to drink from one cup? The practical implication is that multiple containers were most likely used.

April 23, 2011April 23, 2011