BREAD AND WINE HOW OFTEN SHOULD WE OBSERVE IT? There are FEW church organizations that observe the so-called "Lord's Supper" in the same manner or at the same time. Some believe in practicing the "foot washing" as part of the overall observance, others do not. Some only use alcohol wine, while others use only grape juice. There are church groups that use "unleavened bread" but others use regular puffed up bread. There is even more variations and opinions as to how OFTEN this sacred service is to be observed. This article will only concern the last question, as to "How Often?" Paul was inspired to write in 1 Corinthians that God is NOT the author of confusion! Jesus said that God's WORD is truth (John 17:17). Let is humbly and diligently search the word of the Eternal for the truth on the Passover or Lord's Supper service and how often we should partake of it in any given year. Some churches take this ceremony once a week; some once a month; some four times a year; some twice a year, and a few only once a year in the evening. Jude, in the latter half of the first century A.D. found it needful to write that "........You should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). If the first century Christians were beginning to wander away from the original practices of Jesus and the early disciples, how much do you suppose we today have departed from those original teachings? For us to get back to the faith once delivered we must put aside our assumptions and traditions, and with open minds "search the Scriptures daily" as those at Berea did when Paul preached to them (Acts 17:10-12). The Scriptures contain the TRUTH - the true record of what was once delivered to the saints. THE FIRST OBSERVANCE It is written that Jesus set us an example that we should follow His steps (1 Peter 2:21). A person who looks to and follows the way of Jesus Christ is called a Christian - one who follows Christ. It is written that Jesus now comes and lives His life over again WITHIN the Christian (Gal.2:20) - by the faith OF Christ, not just faith IN Christ. The same practices and customs Jesus observed nearly 2,000 years ago, He will still practice and observe today as He lives in the Christian. Let us examine the passage showing the institution of the NT Passover service and symbols - commonly called by many "The Lord's Supper." Luke 22:14, 19-20. "And when the HOUR was COME, He(Jesus) sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him.....And He took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave unto them, saying: This is my body which is given for you. THIS DO in REMEMBRANCE of me.....Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you." Notice, Jesus introduced the bread and wine (fruit of the vine - cup) "when the hour was come." There was a DEFINITE TIME - when He held this supper, setting us the perfect example. He commanded them to observe it, "THIS DO....." And why? "In remembrance of me," He said. It was a MEMORIAL - in memory of His death. Jesus instituted this ordinance on the night, the eve of His death. We are to observe this ceremony of Christ's death, as He Himself said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Jesus knew that upon this day - the day He was instituting the symbols of bread and wine for His broken body and shed blood - He would die. And Jesus further said, "You are my friends IF you DO whatsoever I command you....." (John 15:13-14). In Matthew 26:26 we read: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread." It was "as they were eating" that He introduced this ordinance of the NT. But eating what? Eating the PASSOVER! See verse 17 and Luke 22:15. Notice Mat.26:2, "You know that after two days is the Feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified." Jesus knew His time to be slain had come. He knew the Passover lamb represented HIM - the true lamb of God (John 1:29). The apostle Paul understood that the real Passover lamb was Christ, when he wrote: ".....even Christ OUR PASSOVER is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor.5:7). Jesus was eating the Passover, "Now the first of the unleavens (original Greek. The Jews had by the time of Christ acquired the custom of putting leaven out of their homes on the 14th day of Nisan, and by late morning ate no more leavened bread, at least those who followed the Pharisees practiced this tradition), and the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto Him, Where will you that we prepare for you to eat the Passover?" (Mat.26:7). At EVEN Jesus sat down (when the hour was come) with His twelve disciples in an upper room (Mat.26:20; Mark 14:15). And as they were eating the Passover supper (Mat.26:26), "Jesus took bread and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said: Take, eat, this is my body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying: Drink you all of it; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for the remission of sins." It was the night of the last Passover supper that Jesus kept and He introduced the NT Passover service and symbols. THE OLD TESTAMENT ORDINANCE The original Passover marked the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. You will find the events recorded in the 12th chapter of the book of Exodus. On the 10th day of the first month (Abib or Nisan chap.13:4) they were told to take a young lamb without spot or blemish. This lamb was to be kept UNTIL the 14th day of this first month, when they were to kill it "in the evening" (verse 6). As soon as it was killed, the blood was to be sprinkled over the door posts of their houses. The lamb was to be roasted and eaten in haste - with their shoes on - ready to move out quickly. At midnight that night of the 14th (no other day is yet mentioned in the context, so it is still the 14th) the death angel passed through the land, striking dead the firstborn of each family in all the land of Egypt. But those under the blood of the lamb were saved from death. And God brought - delivered - them from the Egyptian bondage that night of the 14th. Compare these passages - Ex.12:7-14; Num.33:3; Deut.16:1-3; Lev.23:6. The Israelites were delivered from bondage on the 14th - the death angel passing through the land that NIGHT of the 14th. Israel left Rameses on the 15th, the morrow AFTER the Passover had been slain, by NIGHT. This day of the 15th was to be a memorial day - the feast day - a holy day (Ex.12:14-17). And that night of the 15th was a night to be "much observed unto the Lord." The Passover lamb was slain on the 14th. The Israelites were delivered on the 15th - starting the night of the 15th from Rameses. This festival of the Passover (all eight days) - from the 14th of Nisan to the 21st, was ordained to be observed FOREVER (Ex.12:17,24), and in this case forever includes our time today. The Jews certainly observe it. It was to be a MEMORIAL of deliverance - to be kept in its season, from year to year. Hence observed ONCE a year only (Ex.13:9,10). TYPE AND ANTI-TYPE The Paschal lamb was typical. As the Matthew Henry's Bible Commentary notes: " Christ is our Passover - 1 Cor.5:7 (1) It was to be a LAMB; and Christ is the lamb of God (John 1:29). (2) It was to be a MALE of the first year (vs.5) in its prime. Christ offered up Himself in the midst of His days. (3) It was to be without BLEMISH (vs.5) denoting the purity of the Lord Jesus - a Lamb without SPOT (1 Pet.1:19). (4) It was to be set apart FOUR days before (vs.3,6).....It is very observable that, as Christ was crucified at the Passover, so He solemly entered into Jerusalem four days before - the very day the paschal lamb was set apart. (5) It was to be SLAIN, and ROASTED WITH FIRE (vs.....6-9), denoting the extreme sufferings of the Lord Jesus, even unto death. The wrath of God is as fire, and Christ was made a curse for us. (6) It was to be killed by the whole congregation between the two evenings......Christ suffered at the END of the world (Heb.9:26) by the hand of the Jews - the whole multitude of them (Luke 23:18) and for all His spiritual Israel. (7) Not a bone of it must be BROKEN (vs.46) - which is expressly said to be fulfilled in Christ (John 19:33,36)" (emphasis mine). Notice again points number 4 and 6 made by the commentary. Many Bible chronologers (i.e. the Chronological Bible by Edward Reese) have seen that a harmony of the Gospels clearly shows Jesus entering on a stay in Jerusalem and area FOUR days prior to His death, and that He died on the 14th of Nisan at around the ninth hour (3 to 4 p.m.) God had foreshadowed the events of Jesus' last days, and especially the last 24 hours, centuries earlier by means of the Passover lamb. God was able, and He did fulfil them. For those interested in the chronology of Jesus last 24 hours I have a full in-depth study on that subject that I can send e-mail to those who request it. Some teach that all the events must have taken more than 24 hours. My artcile answers their arguments. JESUS' EXAMPLE Throughout His life and ministry Jesus observed the Passover (Luke 2:41-42; John 2:13,23; 6:4; Mat.26:1-2, 17-20). He kept it ONCE a year - on the 14th of Nisan. Jesus knew it pictured His suffering and death (Mat.26:1-2). On the NIGHT of the 14th, early evening - He sat down with His disciples to observe the Passover meal. During this supper Jesus introduced the symbols of the BREAD and the FRUIT OF THE VINE. He did not abolish the Passover but merely CHANGED the symbols from the roast lamb to bread and wine. He said to His disciples, "This do, in remembrance of me." Jesus did this ON the 14th - on the SAME day the Passover lamb had been slain in that first Passover observance as recorded in Exodus 12, in the BEGINNING or EVENING of the 14th. He thereby set us an example (1 Peter 2:21). Can His disciples today do any more or any less? Surely the example of Christ Himself is teaching material enough. The Old Testament Passover was to be observed just once a year - on the 14th of Nisan. Jesus did not, either by word or example, change the day or the number of times in a year to remember His death. THE ORDINANCE OF HUMILITY In giving us the account of the institution of the NT Passover ordinance, Matthew, Mark and Luke describe the taking of the bread and cup. But John relates another part of this ordinance. It is found in the 13th chapter of John. Verse one shows the event of the last Passover observed by Christ. And "during supper" (which is a more accurate rendering of the Greek, see the Interlinear by Berry and other translations), verse 2. Jesus took a towel (verse 4) and began washing His disciples' feet (verse 5). They had already bathed (verse 10 - Fenton translation); they were already clean, including the feet. Why then, did Jesus do this foot washing? "So after He had washed their feet and had taken His garments and was set down again, He said unto them, Know you what I have done unto you? You call me master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you ALSO OUGHT TO WASH ONE ANOTHER'S FEET. For I have given you an EXAMPLE that YOU SHOULD DO AS I HAVE DONE TO YOU" (verses 12-15). This ordinance of footwashing is an ordinance of HUMILITY. It was the lowest servant of the household who, in Jesus' day, was given the job of washing the dusty feet of the guests. Some say this command of Jesus was only to the disciples of His day, and not to us today. But they will admit it was a command to them. Turn to Matthew 28:19,20. "Go you, therefore," Jesus told those disciples, "and teach all nations, baptizing them......teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded YOU." So they were to teach US to observe all things He commanded them. Washing each other's feet at the Passover time was one of those commands, and one of those examples of Jesus we are to follow. Even with what is taught by such clear verses, some will still argue up and down that we do not have to wash any feet today. I answer in detail those arguments in another article devoted to that specific topic. It can be sent e-mail to those who request it. DO AS OFTEN AS YOU WISH? Paul gives directions regarding the NT Passover service in the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians. Some have interpreted verse 26 which says, "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup" to say - "Take it as often, as many times as you like." But is that what Paul meant to say? Read the CONTEXT. In verse 23, Paul says that what he received from Christ he delivered to the Corinthians, that "......the Lord Jesus the same NIGHT in which He was betrayed (14th of Nisan) took bread." Jesus, as has been seen, introduced the symbols of bread and wine. He told His disciples "this do" in remembrance of Him. In the original Greek there is the definite article "the" so the phrase could read "this do in THE remembrance of me." Now, what was the remembrance or MEMORIAL of Christ's death? Why the PASSOVER - held on the 14th day of the first month of Abib or Nisan, the day the Passover lamb was slain. Many nations observe a "Remembrance Day" for all who died in the last two world wars. Many people observe a MEMORIAL of their wedding or someone's birthday. How often do they observe these remembrance days? Only ONCE a year! A wedding, birthday, or death, is remembered in a special way usually ON THE DAY it occurred. We show or remember the Lord's death by partaking of the bread and wine on the VERY DAY - the very NIGHT that Jesus did, when He told us "this do." We remember Christ's death through this ordinance often called the "communion service" by some as we follow His example of partaking of it on the NIGHT and the day of the 14th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar. By following His example and observing this sacred ordinance at the same time He did, we do continue to REMEMBER His death annually, on the very anniversary of His crucifixion. It is the most solemn but yet joyful occasion of the year, especially when observed at this correct hour and day. Paul is telling the people at Corinth that as OFTEN as this REMEMBRANCE NIGHT is observed - year after year - decade after decade - down through the centuries and ages - we do show, we remember by this NT ordinance - the Lord's death till He returns again (verse 26). TAKING UNWORTHILY? Many have worried about Paul's statement in 1 Cor.11:29 concerning eating and drinking UNWORTHILY and so do not partake of it. But truly we are ALL unworthy of and by ourselves of Christ's love for us in taking our sins upon Himself and dying for us. So is Paul saying here that UNTIL somehow we FEEL we are worthy, we are not to partake of this ordinance? NO! For in verse 28 Paul has just said we are to examine ourselves, "AND SO LET HIM EAT......AND DRINK......." Jesus said, as we have seen, "this do." He commanded His followers to partake of the symbols of His broken body and shed blood. This verse is not speaking about a Christian being in some technical way worthy or unworthy (actually all repentant Christians are sinless because the blood of Christ has blotted them out, so they are righteous and worthy), to take this ordinance. It IS speaking about EXAMINING oneself - getting in the right attitude and frame of mind for this special time and day of the year. It is also speaking of the MANNER in which we do it. To take it unworthily is to take it in a wrong manner. Notice what the Corinthians had done on this special night - verses 20 to 22. They had a big "bash" as we would say today. They had much food, some of them; while others were left out of the party, and had none or very little. Some got DRUNK on the wine. Paul is correcting them for the WRONG MANNER in which they were observing this sacred ordinance. In connection with the wrong manner, it is worth noting that had the ancient Israelites in Egypt observed the first Passover at any other time or day other than when appointed by God they would have done it unworthily and suffered the plague along with the Egyptians. This is not to say that people today who do not know any better or have not had this truth of the word of God revealed to them, will be smitten down in some way if they do observe this NT service at some other time than on the night of the 14th of Nisan. God is very merciful during this age of the Gospel. But when truth and light is revealed the Eternal expects that person to walk in it, and to refuse or ignore it could place that individual on spiritually dangerous ground. Once truth has come to us on this matter, it could be unworthy for us to partake of this ceremony at any other time than set down by God in His Holy Word, we could be partaking of it in a wrong manner. The Greek here is a VERB - an action word - a doing word. Certainly the Corinthians were doing things in actions that were wrong on this remembrance night as they thought they were remembering the Lord's death. Being in a wrong attitude of mind could also come under an action of wrong manner, so that is why Jesus inspired Paul to say, "But let a man(person) EXAMINE himself and SO LET HIM EAT....." I also have an article on examining ourselves before we come to partake of this service, it also can be e-mailed to anyone requesting it. "BREAK BREAD" - WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Some turn to Acts 20:7, "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread....." and say this shows the "communion" - "Lord's Supper" - was observed every Sunday. But notice, nothing is said about taking "the cup" or fruit of the vine. Surely if this was intended to be written to show that the NT symbols of bread and wine were to be observed every week, it would be more explicit; especially when one considers the fact that it would have been a NEW custom for both the Jewish and Gentile Christians. If the question of circumcision gave rise to a conference on the matter at Jerusalem (Acts 15), the question of WHEN and HOW OFTEN the death of Jesus should be commemorated and remembered in a specific way would not have been a less issue. But we find no such issue arising in the early Church of God. Let's examine the context of Acts 20:7. Notice verse 6. This was just AFTER the Days of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover would have already taken place. Paul was holding a farewell meeting at Troad, ready to depart at sunrise the next day. When was Paul preaching? It was NOT Sunday morning but what we would call Saturday night. It was between sunset of the first day of the week and midnight (verse 7) and many LIGHTS were burning (verse 8). They were all getting hungry. And after they had "broken bread and EATEN" Paul went on his journey (verse 11). THIS BREAD BREAKING WAS EATING A COMMON MEAL. The words "break bread" are used in many places to refer to a plain meal. Notice Acts 27:34,35, "Wherefore I pray you to take some meat(food). He took bread......and when he had BROKEN IT he began to EAT......" notice also Acts 2:46, ".....And breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat(food) with gladness." Here they were breaking bread DAILY, eating food or meals; and Paul says we are not to eat the Lord's Supper to satisfy hunger (1 Cor.11:34). Then notice Matthew 26:29. Jesus said He would not again take the NT Passover until after His coming in His Kingdom. Yet later, as He sat "at meat," eating a meal, He BROKE bread and blessed it (Luke 24:30). They did not have sliced packaged bread in the first century A.D. The bread was often BROKEN apart with the hands. "Break bread" was a term for having a meal. THE EARLY CHURCH KEPT THE PASSOVER Christianity has a Jewish background. Jesus Christ was a Jew, of the house of Judah (Heb.7:14). Paul, Peter, James, John and others were all of the house of Judah, though maybe not of the tribe of Judah. Christianity began with Jewish people. As the Gentiles entered the Church they became part of spiritual Israel - spiritual Jews. There is NO DIFFERENCE between Jew and Gentile - all become ONE in Christ (Rom.2:28-29; Eph.2:12-22). All are to worship God in the SAME MANNER - in SPIRIT and in TRUTH (John 4:24). What about the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread festival? Are Gentiles to observe as some call them, "those Jewish festivals"? Did the Jewish Christians continue to keep them? Did the Gentile converts in the apostolic Church observe the festivals of Israel, as given by God in Leviticus chapter 23? Paul, writing to the predominately Gentile congregation at Corinth, admonishes them to, "Purge out therefore the old leaven that you may be a new lump, AS YOU ARE UNLEAVENED. For even Christ our PASSOVER is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us KEEP (Greek in the present continuous tense) the FEAST" (1 Cor.5:7,8). Paul is admonishing the NT Christians to CONTINUE keeping the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread - but with the spirit of true Christianity - in sincerity and truth. He wanted them to observe the festival not only in a literal way but in the way the festival portrays SPIRITUALLY, remembering Christ's DEATH for our sins and PUTTING AWAY sin (leaven is a type of) from our lives (hence to unleaven us) as we physically unleaven our homes in a physical type teaching and lesson for our spiritual lives. The authors of "The Life and Epistles of St. Paul" - Conybeare and Howson, have this to say on these verses: " In spite of the opinion of some, we must adhere to the interpretation which considers these words as written at the Paschal season, and suggested by it. The words LEAVEN, LUMP, PASCHAL LAMB and FEAST all agree most naturally with this view......It has been object that St. Paul would not address the Corinthians as engaged in a feast which he, at Ephesus, was celebrating, because it would be over before his letter could reach them. Anyone who has ever written a birthday letter to a friend in India will see the weakness of this objection. If we take 'as you are unleavened' in a metaphorical sense, it is scarcely consistent with the previous 'cast out the old leaven'; for the passage would then amount to saying, 'Be you free from leaven (metaphorically) as you are free from leaven (metaphorically)'; whereas, on the other hand, St.Paul says, 'Be free from leaven (metaphorically) as you are free from leaven (literally).' There seems to be no difficulty in supposing that the Gentile Christians joined with the Jewish Christians in celebrating the Paschal feast after the Jewishmanner, at least to the extent of abstaining from leaven in the love feast. And we see St. Paul still observing the 'days of unleavened bread' at this period of his life, from Acts 20:6......" (pages 389, 390, emphasis mine). The Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread were still being observed by Paul and the Jew-Gentile Christians of the first century A.D. The Holy Spirit inspired those words in Acts 12:3, "Then were the days of unleavened bread." Notice also verse 4. The word "Easter" is a mistranslation. The Greek word is "Pascha" (which means Passover). See any Greek lexicon. Contrary to many views the passage in Col.2:16 is one of the STRONGEST proofs in the entire NT that Christians of the first century A.D. continued to observe the annual, monthly, and weekly festivals as given by the Eternal in the law and books of Moses. A study of Col.2:16 can be e-mailed to those who request it. THE TESTIMONY OF CHURCH HISTORY That the early Church continued to remember the DEATH of Christ on the 14th of Nisan is confirmed by the writers of the second century. Polycarp (of Asia Minor) - a disciple of John the apostle, travelled to Rome to try to persuade the bishop of Rome to observe the 14th of Nisan as opposed to "Easter." Polycrates later in the 2nd century also contended with the Roman church in favor of the 14th of the first month, Jewish calendar. This 14th of Nisan/Easter controversy became known in Church History as the "QUARTODECIMAN controversy." You can read all about it in the Catholic Encyclopedia at your public library, under the articles, "Quartodeciman" - "Easter" - "Polycarp" - "Polycrates." The TRUTH on this subject as to HOW often to observe the bread and fruit of the vine symbols of the death of Christ can be found and understood as this article explains, if you are willing to search the Scriptures daily, and really do hunger and thirst for righteousness and have a love of the truth. May the Eternal grant you such an attitude as to want to understand His will on this matter. ................................
re-written and revised in March 1998