In 1 Corinthians chapter 11, we see the apostle Paul writing this letter to a church which is having disputes, divisions about doctrine, and how and what customs are acceptable, such as: shaving one’s head, covering women’s heads, men with long hair, etc.
In verse 16,
“But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.”
Meaning, there is no custom of quarreling among believers nor among the apostles, so why have you adopted quarreling as a custom?
Then Paul says in verses 17-18,
“I am angry there are divisions and heresies.”
In verses 20-22 Paul says,
“We did not institute the ‘Lord’s Supper’ to be used as a drunken orgy, gorging yourselves with food and drink.”
It was meant to share dinner for the purpose of eating together, so you could remember Jesus and give thanks for all He gives us – the food, the drink, our money, brothers, homes, etc.
In verse 22 –
“What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?”
He’s astonished at the brawling behaviour of the orgy and is saying, if you cannot contain yourselves, then eat at home!
“or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not?”
Remember, the word “church” means only “body of believers”, not a building. So he’s saying, “or do you despise the body of believers of God and by acting like this, do you think you are shaming unbelievers into being like yourselves?” Their behaviour was only befitting unbelievers, so why should an unbeliever join them – they were not different.
But in this we see that eating supper together was the mainstay, the occasion, not a ritual of breaking or eating a piece of bread in a building called a church. Jesus was establishing a replacement for the feast of passover that night. Instead of celebrating a feast to remember God once per year, Jesus was saying, “Every time you eat or drink anything – every meal you have – remember me.” This seems more to the point! Then we would be reminded three times a day (or more) of our saviour who died for us. In that case, it would be pretty difficult to forget Him and sin easily. A once-a-month or once-a-week ritual to remind us, is certainly not enough for the human race.
I am not suggesting, as Jesus never suggested, turning your meal times into a ritual. Keep it simple! Give thanks as before and simply remember the broken body and spilled blood of Jesus.
In Acts 2:42-46, we see the apostles adding thousands of Jews to the church (the body of believers).
Verse 42 –
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
Believers are coming together to learn true doctrine, sharing with one another, including meals and prayer.
Verse 45 –
“And they continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat…”
Now if breaking bread was a ritual done at church (a building), why then do they “continue with one accord (with one purpose) in the temple” and then go to a different house each day to share the “breaking of bread”? Because they are eating! And to eat, you must have a fireplace, dishes, pots, food, utensils, tables to recline at, etc., and these were only found in houses.
In John 13:1-4, the apostle John speaks of the Last Supper quite unspecifically, as if the meal itself were non-chalant in character. His thoughts rest upon Judas’ betrayal and Jesus showing them how to serve others, not upon a ritual which was just instituted as an extremely important sacrament to be religiously adhered to, in the future.
In the past when God wanted the Jews to follow specific rituals, He was quite specific in exact details. If He wanted us to do the same, there would be exact instructions. I only see a symbolic system of faith portrayed in Jesus’ doctrines such as:
- Baptism – just proclaiming your faith in Jesus publicly, in some sort of physical announcement to the congregation.
- Marriage – just sleep with the woman with whom you marry, but prior to bedding down, proclaim your intentions to the congregation.
- When eating – proclaim Jesus to the people you are eating with and remember Him.
Atonement is over! Jesus made the final atonement for all sin on the cross; why do we complicate matters and try to crucify Him over and over ritualistically?
He only said, “When you break bread, when you eat together or alone, do this in remembrance of me.”