What is the Lord’s Supper?

Two weeks ago we began a study of the local church. If you missed the first two posts, you can check them out here and here. Today we turn our attention to the second of the two ordinances given to the church by Jesus—the Lord’s Supper.

In his book Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, John Hammett compares the Christian life and the ordinances of the church to a marriage. In this analogy, baptism is likened to the wedding ceremony, a public, one-time declaration of love and commitment. The Lord’s Supper is then likened to a wedding anniversary, an event celebrated regularly as a reminder and renewal of that love.

So what is the Lord’s Supper? In my last doctoral seminar I was asked to explain the Lord’s Supper on a single page (double-spaced). Here is what I submitted:

The second ordinance of the church is the Lord’s Supper, which is patterned after the Last Supper—a Passover meal Jesus shared with His twelve disciples before His crucifixion. During that Supper Jesus gave the meal, and especially the bread and wine, a new significance: the bread symbolized His body which would be broken and the wine symbolized His blood that would be shed. Today these elements, the bread and the wine/juice, maintain this significance.

Some have stated that during the Supper the bread and the wine are transformed into the literal flesh and blood of the Lord. We should confirm that Christ is truly present with us during the Supper, but not in any special or literal way. Christ is always present with His church, whether they are observing the Supper or not. Furthermore, the bread and wine do not change substance. Instead, they serve as visual symbols to remind us of the sacrifice made by our Savior. 

In this way the Supper helps us look to the past and to consider what has been done for us in His death. The Supper also helps us keep a proper perspective on the present, reminding us of the communion we have with Christ and with our fellow believers. Finally, the Supper propels us to look forward to the day when believers will see Jesus face to face and share a meal with Him in the kingdom.

Because of what it represents and foreshadows, only believers should partake of the Lord’s Supper. The Scripture does not explicitly state that one must be baptized to partake of the Supper; nevertheless, salvation and baptism go hand in hand and it is expected that all believers and church members will be baptized. The Lord’s Supper is a rite of continuation and should therefore be observed by the church often, always under the guidance and leadership of a pastor/elder/overseer. The Supper may be served by deacons, though this is not a biblical requirement. A time of repentance and reflection should precede the distribution of the Supper.

What would you add to or take away from this explanation of the Lord’s Supper? How would explain this ordinance in one page or less? Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts!




Published by Travis Flanagan

I am a believer, husband, and father who loves serving the Lord and the local church. I am currently an associate pastor of youth/discipleship and a pastoral research assistant for two pastors. Educationally, I have a BA and an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies from Criswell College. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Theology from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. My research interests include the early church and Greco-Roman voluntary associations (and especially the relationship between the two!).

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