If so, should it be celebrated now with a meal?

In most Protestant churches, celebration of the Lord’s Supper means consuming a tiny, tasteless slab of bread and a tongue-tickling trickle of grape juice. Though the New Testament has no chapter on “How to Observe the Lord’s Supper,” Jesus’ institution of the ordinance together with Paul’s comments suggest that current forms for it are far removed from those of the New Testament.

Controversies over Communion have raged for centuries, but the church has largely ignored the question of its proper setting. The predominant Protestant answer—that the written and spoken word must interpret the “visible word”—has led Protestants almost exclusively to celebrate the Lord’s Supper at the end of a preaching service.

The Old Testament Passover, forerunner of the Lord’s Supper, was a meal. Jesus instituted this ordinance during a Passover meal: it was embedded in the Passover meal, not sharply distinguished from it. Jesus did not say, “Excuse me! Now we are going to stop eating and have a ceremony called the Lord’s Supper.”

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians twice addressed the problem they had in observing it. Each passage assumes the Corinthians were eating a meal when they gathered for the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10:16–22; 11:17–34).

Every name given to the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament suggests that the church was eating a meal. The Greek term for table commonly means the table on which a meal is spread (1 Cor. 10:21), and the Greek term for supper means evening meal, main meal, or banquet (1 Cor. 11:20). In light of all this, one must admit that there is far more scriptural warrant for placing the Lord’s Supper in the context of a meal than a teaching or preaching session.

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