Since leaving the institutional church system in favor of freedom in Christ, I have often wondered exactly how I should celebrate the Lord's Supper. I finally decided to thoroughly research the subject from the one and only source of truth, the Book of God.
The very first Lord's Supper is usually referred to as the "Last Supper." It is recorded in Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; and I Cor. 11:23-26. This "supper" was the annual Passover meal instituted in Ex 12:1-28. The following day, Jesus willingly became the perfect and final Passover sacrifice (See I Cor. 5:7).
In referring to this "supper," when Jesus said, "This do in remembrance of me," what exactly did He mean? Is it possible Jesus was saying we should use our regular mealtimes as a "remembrance" of the sacrifice He made for us?
The culture in which this "remembrance" began was quite different from ours. The Greek word, translated "bread," actually means a loaf of bread or a thin cake. This naturally had to be broken into individual-sized portions. In that period of history, bread was a staple of most meals, so this "breaking of the bread" was a natural part of eating the meal. Knowing this, Jesus may have simply been telling them to use this normal act of "breaking the bread" as a reminder of His body, which was "broken" to cover our sins.
This mealtime concept might also apply to drinking the "fruit of the vine." Considering the time in history and the vineyards in Palestine, grape juice and wine were probably the most common drinks served at mealtime. Either of these would easily serve as a "reminder" of the blood of Jesus, which was shed for our redemption.
Several passages of Scripture seem to show that the Lord's Supper was observed at mealtimes by the early Christians. In Acts 2:41-46, it's fairly clear the early believers "broke bread" together on a daily basis. This suggests the passage is referring to daily meals. Verse 42 lists the "breaking of bread" along with learning the apostles doctrine, sharing fellowship, and prayers. This daily "breaking of bread" probably refers to the act of "remembering" the broken body of the Lord, as they broke the mealtime bread into individual pieces.
In I Cor. 11:17-34, Paul is talking about the Lord's Supper being observed at a regular meal, by a group of people gathered together for this purpose. Some of the people were evidently coming only to gorge themselves on the food and get drunk on the wine, which was the reason for Paulís rebuke in this passage.
Acts 20:7 says the believers "broke bread" on the first day of the week. However, please note the fact that it was evening, not morning. The "breaking of bread" was very likely observed during the regular evening meal.
The answer to the original question becomes more difficult in the 20th century. Most of us do not live in communal fashion, as the earliest saints did (Acts 2:44-46.) Many of us do not have bread or wine with our meals as was customary in those days. Many of us eat "on the run" much of the time, because of our busy schedules. And many of us may not have a group of Christians with whom we regularly meet. In searching for a way to obey what our Lord asked us to do, we may have to seek new alternatives.
I can't find any evidence in Scripture that indicates this "remembrance" has to be observed with other people. I find no Scriptural reason why the Lordís Supper shouldnít be observed as a private personal "remembrance." When Jesus said, "do this...," He didn't say, "do this in a group setting." He simply said, "do this, in remembrance of me."
Since our blessed Passover Lamb asked us to do this, I suspect many believers have wondered how to be obedient in this matter. I don't know about you, but I think Iíll stock up on grape juice and bread so I can observe the Lord's Supper in private. However, I probably won't do it every day, and maybe not at mealtime.
The point of the "remembrance" is not in following perfect formality, properly scheduled frequency and time of day, being in a certain location, or even in using precisely correct elements. Rules concerning the Lord's Supper are man-made and without Scriptural authority from our Lord. The point of the "remembrance" is simply to remember and give thanks with a sincere and reverent attitude (See I Cor. 11:27-29).
Another thought to consider is the possibility that Jesus intended this "Supper" to be observed only at Passover time, as a "remembrance" that He is our Passover Lamb (1Cor. 5:7-8). Did the early believers get "carried away" by observing the Lord's Supper more often than Jesus intended? I wonder.
Most of us are trying to do our best, by following information that was written 2000 years ago in a language and a cultural setting foreign to us. It's not always easy. Sometimes, there seems to be more questions than answers. However, the joyful message of the New Covenant is the fact that we are free in Christ! Free from the penalty of sin. Free from the old law. And free from the bondage of ritual.
For many of us, the Lord's Supper has always been nothing but a meaningless ritual. Our Lord did not intend it to be so. If we can become comfortable observing the Lord's Supper in a private, unritual heartfelt manner, weíll be able to experience true joy in "remembering" the broken body and shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Without needing to expect ritual from ourselves, we can be free to "remember" and "give thanks" and simply "worship in spirit and truth," whenever we choose to do so.
"We have freedom now. Christ made us free. So stand firm. Don't turn and go back into slavery" (Gal. 5.1-SEB).