While there is some mystery as to how the Last Supper—which was a Passover meal—transitioned into a weekly (or possibly daily) Lord’s Supper observance as part of a fellowship meal among believers, there is no mystery whatsoever around the fact that the Lord’s Supper was full supper.
The Lord’s Supper was actually a meal. The most surprising thing about this idea is that it is actually surprising to many Christians.
For over a thousand years, Communion, the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper has usually entailed little more than a bit of bread and a tiny taste of wine or grape juice. The Lord’s Supper is no longer a supper; it has become the Savior’s Snacklet or the Nazarene’s Nibble.
But if there is one thing that is clear from the accounts in Acts, and the description in 1 Corinthians 11, the Lord’s Supper was a full meal. In Corinth, the problem with the Lord’s Supper was that some people were eating and drinking everything before everyone had arrived (1 Cor 11:21-22, 33-34). Some people were even getting drunk (1 Cor 11:21).
Paul instructs them to wait for one another, so that everyone can share in the food and drink, and if there are some who are too hungry to wait, then they should eat a little bit at home before they come to the Lord’s Supper so that it can be observed and enjoyed with everyone present (1 Cor 11:34).
From this description in 1 Corinthians 11, it appears that the Lord’s Supper was a time for Christians to gather with one another, over an actual meal, where they would enjoy conversation and fellowship with one another. Part of the meal would probably include reminding people of the symbolism in the bread and wine that they were drinking, that through the broken body of Jesus and His blood shed for us, we have unity with one another as the Body of Christ and forgiveness of sins through His shed blood. There may also have been a time of more formal teaching and discussion about the Scriptures and what they taught about Jesus (cf. Acts 20:7).
So from Scripture, it appears that a different picture emerges about the Lord’s Supper than what is typically practiced in the average church today. It appears that this was a weekly (or possibly more frequent) gathering of believers to enjoy a meal with each other. This would be a celebratory meal, where they would laugh, tell stories, and build relationships. There would probably be a formal time where someone reminded the people who had gathered the basis and reason for their gathering, namely, Jesus. It was also likely that there was a time of formal teaching or discussion as part of the meal (cf. 1 Corinthians 12–14).
This was the Lord’s Supper, and it is also likely that this was the primary weekly gathering of the local church.
John Fisher says
I think the biggest disconnect I have with you Jeremy, is that often your experience seems to be entirely different than mine; so that what seems to you to be ‘typical’ to ‘most churches’ doesn’t seem to be the case to me, and probably anything that I would guess is ‘typical’ could be just as foreign to you.
For example, when you say that “it appears that a different picture emerges about the Lord’s Supper than what is typically practiced in the average church today” it comes across as baffling to me. I could have written “So from Scripture, we can see how at it’s essence our of Lord’s Supper that is typically practiced in the average church today is the same as the church has celebrated it since it’s very beginning” and then used the rest of that paragraph word for word the same. So which of our “typical”s is truly so?
Jeremy Myers says
You are right that I am only speaking from my experience. But I have attended over 60 churches in six states and four countries.
All but one practiced the Lord’s Supper as a little bit of bread and juice (or wine) during 10-15 minutes at the tail end of a Sunday service. I think this the most common method in most churches and most denominations worldwide.
What denomination/group are you part of? What is your typical experience? Does your church do something more than a bit of bread and juice? If so, what? I would love to hear.
David H says
Hey there Jeremy!
I think this is great. So much so that I re-blogged it on mine soon after you wrote it and just had a response today. Thought you might like to weigh in on the discussion. Here is a shortlink to the post. http://wp.me/p1MFKJ-eM
Keep up the good work!
Jeremy Myers says
Thanks, David! Headed over right now.
Christopher Bowen says
Excellent truthful post about the real deal meal at the Lord’s Supper or communion.
Al Streett says
Just a reminder to your readers about SUBSERVIVE MEALS, which cover the Lords Supper as a full meal from a historical and practical standpoint.
John Foll says
Hi, I agree with you. I am trying to find out when it happened that the Lord’s Supper turned into a highly ritualized service using a tiny quantity of wine or grape juice and unleavened bread. I don’t know if you have found this or not. I think that Jesus original intention that this would be a highly religious Spiritual meal together, where they remembered Jesus death on the cross for their sins. A place where Christians meet together in sweet Christian fellowship. I don’t think this should merely be reserved for the Lord’s Supper, but the Lord’s Supper is a good place to start. The only hint of why this would have happened that I have been able to find in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. But I don’t think that Paul was actually saying that Christians should stop eating as a meal. He was trying to guard against gluttony at the Lord’s Supper I think.
Jeremy Myers says
I have done a bit of research on this. There is more here: https://redeeminggod.com/give-up-your-rites/
Cecilio Gonzalez says
They gathered in homes in the apostolic church. There were thousands of member in the Jerusalem church but they had no church building. “The Son of Man came eating and drinking”. That is very telling. It was a sign or mark of his messiaship in fullfiment of the fellowship meals the Jews ate for centuries under the instruction of Moses. Those where the fellowship meals they ate in the presence of Jehovah. It was and expression of the most intimate fellowship a Jew could have with God. Then came Jesus, God in the flesh, expressing the most intimate fellowship, even with sinners. So what did the disciples do after his resurrection and ascension? They ate in the joy of their Lord
John Howard says
I have believed for years that the Lords Supper was a full meal. Much like a church picnic or luncheon. However I know of no one in my area practices it as such. We still settle for a dried out cracker and a thimble full of grape juice.
Awesome! So glad to see someone else who sees what is so plain in 1 Corinthians 11!
Julian Coogan says
I agree completely with this article on communion, it is very clear just from the problems the young community of believers at Corinth were having that the communion was in the context of a meal and Yeshua said “do this as often as you meet!”
Those who want truth and to live according to truth will get back to these biblical practices and this is what He wants and this will bring closeness of fellowhip to His family of believers. Yeshua loved to eat with his disciples and followers. Even after His resurrection Yeshua prepared a meal for the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. We are instructed to feed people and to be hospitable as we could be entertaining angels! Hospitality is also listed as one of the gifts of the Spirit and a gift that Yeshua loved to practice! I find it hard to see anything of what goes on in “churches” today in scripture. These places are more akin to the world and venues for entertainment or man made religious traditions and practices!
Hi, I agree with your assessment on the Lord’s Supper being a full meal, but I’m wondering does it matter to God whether someone eats it as a full meal or as a ritual with a small piece of bread and cup? If it matters, where in scripture can you point to that proves that we need to celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a meal?
richard j white says
I agree with everything you said, but I have a question. When did it stop being a meal and just be the bread and the juice?
Perhaps when people stopped reading it or having access to it in their language, which the printing press helped resolve. Clearly the Catholic church instituted a system at some point that gave off this vibe of transubstantiation. Lutherans made it consubstantiation, and Reformed a special blessing in participation. Some, like Baptists, made the ordinance an act of memorial with no alteration to the bread, wine, or partaker. Still, and I’m Baptist traditionally, the reading is not of a cracker and joice memorial ordinance. As someone mentioned earlier, even in Acts they were meeting together and breaking bread as a group of Christians in houses. You have to read external conclusions into this passage to draw out what most churches do today. Nobody read that passage and came up with what we have. I really do think that we are running with traditional teachings rather than Bible study as to how we have arrived at this almost across the boards. It’s silly that it even feels like it’s heretical to say that this Sacramento ordinance that churches do often after a service is not the picture at all. Not to mention that the real heart of it seems to be fellowship and celebration of unity in Christ, not the necessity of partaking of a ritual. Yet at this point it, it feels like pulling teeth out of a wild mountain lion with a pair of spoons to actually teach something different that is being more true to the text. I am a pastor and not just an attendant and this is something that I’ve struggled with because most churches I’ve pastored are ingrained in making sure that we do at least once a month communions. I have to wonder how long my job gets to last the second I start pushing for the proper handling of the text in lieu of the ordinance as it stands.
Roger & Elizabeth Johnson says
I would go a little further. Jesus said to remember every time they did “this.” What was “This”? They were having a meal. They were eating and drinking, just like we do at every meal. I believe that Jesus wants us to remember His sacrifice every meal – solid food represents His body and drink represents His blood.
The early Jews set this pattern with the repetition of the story of the Exodus. We Christians need that repetition – the daily reminder of who we are and why we are that new creation in Christ.
I therefore remember who Jesus is and what He accomplished at the cross. He took away the sin of the world.
Jeremy – thank you for your post. I think that you’re really hitting on the heart of it in that passage. I’m preaching on that passage this coming Sunday and can’t but help see all the ways that in context it does not fit what we tend to do in formal church settings. So thanks again.