An ordinance can be defined as a rite or ritual or practice prescribed by the Messiah to be performed by the Church as an outward sign of the saving truth of the believer’s faith. Rather than seeing the ordinances as conveying grace, as with the sacraments, it is better to see them as visible signs of saving truth.
There are two ordinances of the Church: the Lord’s Supper and baptism. This post will consider the meaning, the Scriptures, the names, the qualifications, the purposes, the practice, the prerequisites, and the dangers of partaking unworthily, of the Lord’s Supper.
1. THE MEANING
There have been four major views of the meaning of the Lord’s Supper in the history of Christianity.
A. Transubstantiation (Roman Catholicism)
Transubstantiation is the view of Roman Catholicism. This view teaches that the elements—the bread and the wine—are actually changed into the body and the blood of the Messiah by priestly consecration. Thus, whenever the Lord’s Supper is served it is a new offering of the Messiah’s sacrifice by means of Transubstantiation. The bread was made available to all, but until recently, the wine was limited to the priesthood only because of the danger of spilling the real blood of the Messiah. This belief is based on the statement made by Yeshua in Luke 22:19‑20, “This is My body; this is My blood.” Therefore, it is claimed that the bread and the wine become the real body and the real blood of Yeshua (see also John 6:53‑56).
However, this is not the biblical teaching or the meaning of the Lord’s Supper for the following reasons:
- Yeshua used the present tense when He made the statement, “This is My body; this is My blood,” so He could not have meant that these elements became His real body and His real blood.
- While He did say, “This is My body” in verse 19, He did not say, “This is My blood” in verse 20. Verse 20 states: This cup is the new covenant in my blood. If Transubstantiation is true, then this statement becomes totally senseless.
- Jesus did not speak of eating His body and drinking His blood in John 6 in the context of the Communion service. In fact, Yeshua never spoke of the Lord’s Supper nor did He even mention it until the last Passover of His earthly life.
- Transubstantiation denies the completeness of the Messiah’s sacrifice. The point of the Book of Hebrews is that the Messiah died once and for all, and no sacrifice needs to be repeated.
B. Consubstantiation (Luther)
Consubstantiation is the Lutheran view. This position admits that the elements themselves, the bread and the wine, do not change as taught by Transubstantiation, however, the body and the blood are physically present in the elements. That is why it is not “trans‑substance” in that the substances change; rather, it is “con‑substance” in that the body and the blood are actually within the substances themselves.
The basis for this view is the same as Transubstantiation. The arguments used by Catholics to teach Transubstantiation are the same as the arguments used by Lutherans to teach Consubstantiation; therefore, the response and refutation would also be the same.
C. Spiritual Presence (Calvin)
Spiritual Presence was the view of John Calvin and it is the view of the Reformed Church. This view teaches that the body and blood are spiritually present in the elements, but not physically present.
The basis for this teaching is the concept of the Lord’s Supper as a sacrament. A sacrament always conveys a means of grace. So, while those who teach Spiritual Presence say that the elements do not change, nor are the real body and real blood present with the elements, they do teach that the body and blood are spiritually present in the elements. Again, the basis of this view is the concept of a sacrament as a means of grace; because it is a sacrament, it therefore must have the Spiritual Presence.
The refutation of this view is that the Lord’s words do not imply a spiritual presence any more than they imply a physical presence.
D. A Memorial (Zwingli)
The most obvious biblical view is that the Lord’s Supper is to be observed as a memorial, a remembrance of Jesus. Among the Reformers, this view was held by Zwingli. This is seen in Luke 22:19 and 1 Cor 11:24-26.
…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 He took the cup also 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. 1 Cor 11:24-26 NASB
Believers show forth the Lord’s death by means of the Lord’s Supper. And by showing forth the Lord’s death till He comes, they are fulfilling the commandment to do this in remembrance of Him. The correct view is that the Lord’s Supper is a memorial to His death.
2. THE SCRIPTURES
Five main passages from which the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is derived are: Matthew 26:26‑29; Mark 14:22‑25; Luke 22:19‑20; 1 Corinthians 10:16‑17; and 11:23‑26.
3. THE NAMES
All together, there are seven different names for this ordinance, but only the first six are biblical:
- the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:20)
- the Table of the Lord (1 Cor 10:21)
- the Breaking of Bread (Acts 2:42)
- the Eucharist (Matthew 26:27, Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17, 19; I Cor 11:24)
- the Eulogia (1 Cor 10:16)
- Communion (1 Cor 10:16)
- Mass. This is the only name that has no biblical support whatsoever. As mentioned earlier, the Mass itself implies a re‑sacrifice.
4. THE QUALIFICATIONS
Normally, three qualifications must be met to qualify as an ordinance. First, it had to be commanded by Jesus. Secondly, it was observed in the Book of Acts. And thirdly, it was expounded upon in the Epistles as to its theological significance. All three of these qualifications were met in the Lord’s Supper. First, it was commanded by Yeshua in Luke 22:19‑20. Secondly, it was practiced in the Book of Acts in Acts 2:42, 46; and 20:7. Thirdly, its theological significance was expounded upon in the Epistles in 1 Corinthians 10:16‑17 and 11:23‑31.
5. THE PURPOSES
Four purposes can be deduced from the passages that deal with this ordinance.
- It is a memorial and a remembrance of the life and death of Jesus in Luke 22:19.
- It announces the basic facts of the gospel in that it proclaims the Lord’s death in 1 Cor 11:26.
- Because believers are to observe this ordinance until He returns, it quickens an anticipation of the Messiah’s return (1 Cor 11:26).
- It has the purpose of reminding believers of their oneness with all other believers (1 Cor 10:17).
6. THE PRACTICE
A. The Frequency
It is obvious that the practice among members of the early church differed. For example, in Acts 2:46 they seemed to practice it on a daily basis, while in Acts 20:7 they observed it only weekly. There is no specific command that states whether it should be done daily, weekly, or on the first Sunday of the month as many churches practice. Compare 1 Cor 11:26 and Jesus’ words in Luke 22:19b (this do in remembrance of me). The point is: “As often as you do this, do it in remembrance of Yeshua.” In other words, the frequency should be decided by each local congregation.
B. The Mode
Concerning the mode in which the Lord’s Supper should be practiced, four things should be noted.
- The Setting – The Lord’s Supper should be practiced when the local body of the church is assembled (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 11:18, 20, 33 and 34). When Yeshua instituted the Lord’s Supper, it was part of a group participation of the Jewish Passover. Consequently, it should be done with the assembled congregation, not privately between a few individuals.
- The Elements – There are two elements used in the Lord’s Supper. The first element is bread, which represents the body of the Messiah, and the second element should be a red liquid, because it symbolizes the Messiah’s blood.
- The Order – The elements should be served in the following order: first, the bread, followed by the wine. This is the order that Yeshua used when He instituted the Lord’s Supper.
- The Participants – The biblical practice is that the believer should partake of both elements, the bread and the wine.
7. THE PREREQUISITES
All together, three major prerequisites must be fulfilled before one partakes of the Lord’s Supper, salvation, water baptism, and self-examination.
As noted above, only believers should partake in the Lord’s supper. The second prerequisite, that one should be water‑baptized, is somewhat questionable. In the days of the early church, a person was baptized on the day he believed. But in those days, people knew what baptism meant. Today, with so much confusion concerning baptism, it might be wise to refrain from participation in the Communion service until the new believer has had a chance to be taught what baptism means and what it does not mean. The third prerequisite is self‑examination. While the first restriction is that the Lord’s Supper is served to believers only, another restriction is that it should be served to believers who have examined themselves (1 Cor 11:27-28).
8. THE DANGERS IN PARTAKING UNWORTHILY
In 1 Cor 11:29-31 there are four dangers of partaking in the Lord’s Supper unworthily. God will discipline those who treat the Lord’s Supper lightly. The dangers in this passage are: (1) chastisement, which is a judgment of discipline in verse 29; (2) physical weakness in verse 30a; (3) illness or sickness also in verse 30a; and (4) physical death in verse 30b.
This post is a modified version of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s original Messianic Bible Study. The full version may be obtained here
 And because of this belief, it was often used as a basis for anti‑Semitic campaigns throughout Jewish history. Jews were accused of sneaking into a church and stealing the bread after it had been consecrated, and nailing it to a tree; and by so doing were re‑crucifying the Messiah. Priests often used this to enrage the mobs to attack the Jewish parts of the town. Many Jews throughout history were killed because of the doctrine of Transubstantiation.
 Greek kuriakos (κυριακός), so 1 Cor 11:20. This name is probably a reference to the agape feast that used to precede the Communion service. In the early church period, they first had a supper, and the supper would end with a Communion service, known as the Lord’s Supper. Obviously, when only a small piece of bread and a thimbleful of juice are served, it could hardly be classified as a supper in most churches today.
 Greek “of a table of the Lord,” and as such, this may not be a definite reference to Communion.
 See Acts 2:42: the breaking of the bread; also Acts 20:7 to break bread.
 Greek eucharisteo (εὐχαριστέω) “to give thanks.” This is based on what Yeshua did at His last Passover.
 Greek eulogeo (εὐλογέω) “to ask God’s blessing.” See 1 Cor 10:16: The cup of blessing which we bless. There was a cup of wine during the Passover, known as “the cup of blessing.”
 Greek koinonia (κοινωνία) “participation in.” It is used of both elements: the body and the blood, the bread and the cup. This is perhaps this author’s favorite name for this service.
 It should be unleavened bread, because unleavened bread is a symbol of sinlessness, and the body of Yeshua was a sinless body. Whenever leaven is used symbolically in Scripture, it is always a symbol of sin. God would not permit even the symbol of sin to be in the Jewish home for the Passover.
 Most churches in America traditionally use grape juice, but it should be real wine, because that is also what Jesus used at the Passover. A substitute, such as grape juice, should be provided for those who do not feel free to partake of the wine, but the weaker brethren must not be allowed to decide the rules for the body as a whole.
 Before a believer allows himself to partake of Communion, he should undergo self‑examination. He should himself ask the question, “Am I walking an orderly spiritual life?” He should ask himself, “Do I discern and appreciate that the bread and the wine represent God’s atonement accomplished for me on the cross?” He should confess all of his known sins. There should be a real sense of honor, a real sense of awe, when participating in the ordinance of Communion.