The Lord's Supper - The One Cup Issue

Introduction:

This is written as an appeal for unity. This is prepared at a time in history of the Churches of Christ when many congregations have been torn by strife and contention due to this “one cup issue.” Prosperity and materialism are major factors in making us lose sight of what this is all about.

Jesus prayed for unity on the eve of His betrayal. (John 17.17-21.) The Church therefore must be united with one another. (John 13.35.)

Use of Metonymy in the Scriptures:

METONYMY is a combination of two Greek words: “META” - Change, and “ONOMA” - name; Hence a change of name; the employment of one name or word for another. (Hermeneutics by D.R. Dungan)

Examples:

  1. They have "Moses and the Prophets" - which means the books or writings of Moses and the prophets. (Luke 16.29.)
  2. "The earth was corrupt" means the people living in the earth were corrupt. (Genesis 6.11.)
  3. "God so loved the World" (John 3.16,17.) He loved the people in the world.
  4. Noah "prepared an ark to the saving of his house..." (Hebrews 11.7.) "HOUSE" is the metonymy which stands for his family and not a physical structure.
  5. "House of God" for the family of God. (1 Timothy 3.15.)

The Meaning of the Cup

Jesus was not speaking about the physical container or vessel but the contents and what it represented. The "Cup" is a metonymy. Jesus shows what He meant by the "CUP." Notice...
  1. "This (cup) is my blood of the New Testament..." (Matthew 26.26-29.) "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the Vine until ..."
  2. "This (cup) is my blood of the New Testament..." (Mark 14.22-25.) "1 will drink no more of the fruit of the Vine until..."
  3. "This cup is the New Testament in my blood." (Luke. 22.17-20.)
  4. "The cup... is it not the Communion of the blood of Christ." (1 Corinthians 10.16.)
  5. "This cup is the New Testament in my blood." (1 Corinthians 11.25.) Jesus said, "Take this, (cup) and divide it among yourselves “(Luke 22.17, 18.)
Did Christ mean to divide the container or the content? The content could be divided by pouring it into separate vessels. In a party, tea is brought in a jug and the guest says, "Divide it among yourselves." Can't we divide it however we see fit?. Of course we can. This same metonymy applies to the "CUP." PLATES are not mentioned in the New Testament but the advocates of one cup use them for distributing the bread – Why? Christ took one cup - Christ did not take a plate. Will we be lost if we use a plate, because we do not get the authority from the Bible? What about the Hymn book? Will we be lost for using it?

Where Instituted?

Christ and His disciples observed the Lord's Supper in an "Upper Room." (Mark 14.14-16, 22-25.) Could we bind the Upper Room? Years after Christ's death, the disciples observed the Lord's Supper in an Upper Chamber and even on the third story. (Acts 20.7-9.) Is it necessary for us to follow suit?

How Many Elements in the Supper?

Those who advocate one cup say there are three elements in the Supper:

  1. That the bread represents the Body.
  2. The fruit of the Vine represents the Blood.
  3. The Cup (container) represents the New Testament. Paul said, "For as often as ye eat this bread (bread first) and drink this cup (cup second)..." (1 Corinthians 11.26.)
There is no physical way one can drink a container but the contents. Paul says further, "Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread (bread first) and drink this cup of the Lord (cup second) unworthily, shall be guilty of the body (bread or body first) and blood of the Lord (blood second) (vs. 27.) Paul does not say one would be guilty of the container of the Lord (3rd thing). We have therefore ONLY two elements in the Supper, i.e.; The BREAD which represents the body and the Fruit of the Vine which represents the BLOOD.

Other References to Note

In Matthew 26.27, Jesus "took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying Drink ye all of it." Did Jesus mean they should drink the container or contents? In verse 28, He says, "For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Was His blood the container or contents? In verse 29 He says, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's Kingdom." Was the fruit of the vine the container or contents?

Jesus told His disciples, "For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name ... he shall not lose his reward." (Mark 9.41.) If someone gave one of them two cups of water, would he lose his reward?

The Samaritan woman asked Jesus, "Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well. and drank thereof himself and his children, and his cattle?" (John 4.12.) Does that mean that all put their lips to the well? In searching through these references and asking yourself whether it is the container or contents being spoken of, what answer do you get? Clearly the reference is to the contents and not the container.

The Bread (One bread)

"And as they were eating Jesus took bread. and blessed it. and brake it..." (Matthew 26.26.) Break is "KLAO" in Greek and means to break, to break off pieces, used in breaking bread (a) of the Lord's act in providing for people (Matthew 14.19,15.36; Mark 6.6,19.) (b) of the breaking of bread in the Lord's Supper. (Matthew 26.26; Mark 14.22; Luke 22.19; Acts 20.7; 1 Corinthians 10.16, 11.24.) (Vine's Expository Dictionary)

In English the word break can be seen in two ways:

  1. One can break to eat.
  2. One can break to divide.
Here one can take bread and break off to eat - No Sin. Another can take the bread and break to divide - No Sin. We can therefore choose any method from the two. It is “one bread" because it is one in kind (unleavened) and “one” in emblem (the body of Christ) and not in a literal cake (loaf) of bread He is talking of in the statement. "The bread which WE break..." (1 Corinthians 10.16.) The WE included Paul and company at Ephesus and the Saints at Corinth and every place. Though separated by many miles, yet they could all take the one bread, and so one cake (loaf) of bread was not intended. Christians all over the world partake of one bread. In a tea party, a jug containing the tea is brought and a loaf of bread is added. There are thirty people at the party and so the loaf of bread is cut into 30 slices. Does the number of pieces change the nature of what it is? I know that a loaf of bread with 30 slices is still “one bread." Drinking the tea from that one jug with different cups is still drinking from the jug, likewise if all share the fruit of the vine from one container with different cups, it is still drinking from that one Cup.

Questions:

Let me ask these three questions again which were asked by a Christian brother in a debate:
  1. If, while serving the congregation the Communion, the loaf should be accidentally broken into pieces besides that which each Communicant breaks for himself, could the unserved portion of the congregation scripturally partake of it? If they can't scripturally partake of it, will they bring another loaf to serve the rest?
  2. While passing the fruit of the vine to the assembly, if the Cup should be accidentally dropped and broken and its contents spilled, how would you scripturally serve the remainder of the assembly?
  3. If the cup represents the New Testament and there was only one cup, how many New Testaments should be in the assembly? Can there be more than one New Testament in the assembly?

Conclusion

Matthew says, "For this is my blood of the New Testament..." (Matthew 26.28.) Paul and Luke say, "This cup is the New Testament in my blood (1 Corinthians 11.25; Luke 22.20. )The word “testament” here is correctly rendered by A.S.V. as "covenant" which means agreement or contract between two parties or more. The Old Covenant was sealed with blood of animals followed by a promise from the people, "all that the Lord hath said we do, and be obedient." (Exodus 24.3-8) The New Covenant was also sealed with Christ's blood (Hebrews 9.13-22.) Isaiah said, ".. by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities because he hath poured out his soul unto death...and bare the sins of many..." (53.11-12.) The statement of the prophet is the same as the statement of Christ. "This is my blood of the New Testament..." (Covenant.) This means the plan of agreement or contract established between Himself and mankind for the great plan of redemption of sin. The blood was poured for as many as will accept the Sacrificial blood to cleanse them. Because "without shedding of blood is no remission." (Hebrews 9.22.)

This statement therefore is not a literal Cup representing a literal Testament (as the third element in the Lord's Supper) but an agreement for the plan of Salvation the blood was to give and is now giving.

In our examination we have seen that the contention of One Cup ONLY is not valid. If we will always approach subjects of the Bible with the attitude of earnestly desiring to please God, then we will achieve the Unity Christ prayed for. (John 17.17-21.) Also see the following:

  1. The Lord's Supper
  2. Do This in Remembrance of Me
  3. This Do in Remembrance of Me