The Lord’s Supper

In 1 Cor 11.2 we find out that Paul taught the Corinthians to “hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.” The word for “traditions” is “paradosis” in Greek (Strongs #3862) and it means a precept, especially the Jewish traditionary law or ordinance, and this gives us an idea of what he used as a basis for his teaching. This word was used again in 2 Thes 2.15 where he say that believers were to “hold to the “paradosis” which you were taught.” In 2 Thes 3.6 he tells them keep aloof from any brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the “paradosis” which they received from Paul, so we know the basis of Paul’s teachings. In 1 Cor 11.18-34 he gives the Corinthian congregation instructions on a variety of subjects. We are going to deal with one of those subjects called the Lord’s Supper. In pagan festive meals, which the people in Corinth were familiar with, they would eat, eat and eat and then regurgitate and go again. The Rabbis warned against this practice and it was not to be done and we see that Paul reinforced it in his instruction to the Corinthians. The Lord’s Supper was a meal dedicated to God, a meal separated  to him and a ceremony (p. 569, Hertz Siddur). We will see that this meal was tied into the Temple services and then later into synagogues. The purpose of these meals was to feel “full” and “satisfied” and not the pagan concept of overindulgence. Now, when I was in Bible School I was taught that Yeshua “instituted” two ordinances, immersions and the Lord’s Supper. In actuality, he did neither. These were in use before the first century. He defined the terms but they were not instituted by him (see the articles “Tevilah” this site). The Lord’s Supper was also known as “meals consecrated to God” and the Jewish Encyclopedia has an article under “Banquets” which is very informative. You could have these suppers on the Sabbath, festivals, after a guest arrives or leaves, certain events in your life like weddings, marriages and after almost anything. A modern day “Lord’s Supper” in America is Thanksgiving. This will give you an idea of what the Lord’s Supper was, and should be today. The greatest Lord’s Supper in the Bible will be held at Sukkot after the Lord returns (Matt 8.11; Rev 19.7-9). All meals pointed to this one (Luke 22.29-30) and God’s desire is for us to be in a glorified body at this meal. These meals have no righteousness in themselves but they do teach us about the Messiah. Anything added onto that and you start entering into legalism. Each meal had different themes, foods and goals. They had idioms that the people knew and understood. There were certain songs that you sung and so on. The main emphasis always comes back to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. The weekly meals pointed to the Sabbath, the Sabbath to Sukkot and Sukkot to the Marriage Supper. The Temple is like a stage where the services and ceremonies illustrated what the Lord was trying to teach us. For instance, the goal of any priest was to be picked by lot to minister in the Holy Place (Luke 1..9). He could only do that one time in his life and no more. This was like being in a glorified body at Sukkot and eating in the presence of the Lord. Many would go to the services and watch how things were done and let the Lord instruct them. It was quite a place. When Herod’s Temple was destroyed, the priests not only mourned the loss for themselves, but also for the Gentiles for whom they prayed during the services. Eating at home, you could be the priest for your family and teach them many concepts associated with the Kingdom of God. In the first century, fellowships were instituted and they centered on communal meals or banquets. It is where the term “communion” comes from. These fellowships among the Pharisees made sure that the food was kosher and that they had been tithed (Matt 23.23), for instance. First century congregations are based on these fellowships and to keep the services and meals together, not in homes. Now, when you read 1 Cor 11.20-22, this idea is brought out. They met together but were not to overindulge. They had their own homes for that. These meals were dedicated to God and they involved appropriate scripture, songs and concepts. You could invite guests (Matt 22.1-14). You had a Lord’s Supper at various times. When covenants are made (Gen 26.26-30;31.53-54) and the Feast of Purim had a meal (Est 9.20-28).  You had to have the right attitude when eating. Aaron refused to eat of the offering that was for him because his heart was not right after the death of his two sons (Lev 10.18-20).  You could send portions of the meal to the poor (Est 9.22) and the main message of a Lord’s Supper was the wedding feast. Tithing was tied into these meals. The second tithe was brought to the Temple in the first, second, fourth and fifth year for a massive banquet before the Lord. Truth be told, the Lord’s Supper was an eschatological meal with each one teaching a different aspect of the redemption. We see the concept of the Lord’s Supper in Passover and how the Lord uses the symbolism (John 6.10); Solomon has a dream and after that he has a Lord’s Supper (1 Kings 3.15). This imagery is seen in Psa 23.5 where David says that the Lord prepares a table in the presence of his enemies. Leviticus 11 and Deut 14 gives us a list of foods permitted at such a meal. Rev 3.20 says that the Lord wants come and “sup” or have fellowship with us, which gives us an idea of what we want a Lord’s Supper. Seating at a meal to the Lord was done by the host, and done by age. Joseph has a meal and seats his brothers according to age, with the oldest on his left and the youngest on his right. At the Last Supper, we see this order with John on the right, probably the youngest, and close enough to lean on Yeshua and Judas on the left, and probably the oldest, and close enough for Yeshua to speak to him without anyone hearing exactly what was said. All the various arrangements and serving was done by the host, called the “shammash” or servant. Again, we see Yeshua doing this at the Last Supper. Hospitality was to be at its highest level observed at all times. We see Abraham “running” to his three guests in Gen 18.2. The host would lead the people in seeing the spiritual aspects of the meal and the mood was to be festive and joyful. He would explain the scriptures associated with it, the songs sung and why are certain prayers done. You would ask why certain things were done and what is the meaning. The host was to be able to teach the intricacies and subtleties involved in the meal. He could not just sit there and eat. He had to teach it! We see Yeshua doing this very thing at the Last Supper. That was a meal dedicated to God. So, what is a Lord’s Supper? It is an eschatological meal to teach us about the redemption. God gave each meal (Sabbath, each festival, lifecycles, weddings, mourning, etc) as a part of the whole. If you did all the meals during a year correctly, they will give a good eschatological view of God’s plan that you can build on from year to year. Each one will be different each time you do it. All of these were seen as rehearsals for the coming kingdom and the meal was a joyful “ritual” that anticipated the Messianic Kingdom and the banquet we will partake of there. The “customs” of “communion” or “the Lord’s Supper” that we have today developed after the time of Yeshua. The concepts are vague and they vary from denomination to denomination because the “church” moved away from the “paradosis” taught by Paul and incorporated many pagan or just made up concepts about it. This article is meant to give us a picture of what we have been missing. I remember one time I didn’t want to participate in a “Lord’s Supper” in a church one time. The pastor noticed I didn’t do it and asked why. I told him if he had a Lord’s Supper I would do it, but a thimble full of juice and a cracker was not my understanding of a meal dedicated to God. What if you invited a bunch of people over to your house for Thanksgiving and gave them a thimble full of juice and a cracker. You would have a few comments sent your way I would suspect. Now, if we wouldn’t do that for a man-made feast, why do we do it for God’s? How do you begin? Find out what a Lord’s Supper was and what is missing now. Have a good idea what you should be having. Start where you are and put in what you know little by little. The next one, put in more. Find out the reason and themes for each festival or event you are celebrating and dedicate it to the Lord. There are blessings over the food and there is a blessing after you eat (Deut 8.10). You don’t bless the food, you bless God for the food. There are plenty of resources out there to help. There are certain songs that can be sung and the food list can be found in Lev 11; 1 Tim 4.1-5. Conduct at such a meal can be found in 1 Cor 11.17-34, which brings us back to what Paul was trying to instruct the Corinthian believers. As you can see, this is a far cry from what is done today but it is not too late for you to start over and to begin to restore these things back into your life. Let the Lord lead you and do your homework. There is a lot of help out there.

Posted in Understanding the New Testament

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