Is The Lord's Supper For Today?

by Alexander Thomson

IT IS an easy matter to show that Paul's earlier epistles and his later ones are supplementary and essential for present truth.

They are supplementary; that is, his later ones explain his earlier ones. The earlier ones hint at and point to a fuller revelation. The later ones are obviously based and built upon the earlier ones. Remove all his epistles, both earlier and later, and the continuity of the Hebrew revelation is not interfered with. Peter appears to class and group all of Paul's epistles as one whole (2 Peter 3:16). He does not indicate that one part of Paul's writings is in harmony with Jewish national aspirations, while the other part is radically different, but he appears to think all his epistles are connected with and explanatory of the delay in the establishment of the kingdom, and the patience of the Lord, which was really salvation.

All are required today. To assert that "In the epistles written after Acts 28...we have all that is necessary for our guidance, comfort and teaching" is palpable error. We require to go to Romans for individual salvation, conciliation, and justification. And who could do without the eighth of Romans, especially verses like verse 28? And does not chapter eleven not give its own peculiar comfort where Paul shows that God will be merciful to all, and that all is out of God, through Him, and for Him?

It is most unfair to discard these chapters, after we have read them, mastered them, assimilated and digested them. This action may be likened to one who takes a look at the daily newspaper, reads all that is of interest or importance to him, memorizes the same, then complains that it contains no news. Those who desire to go only by the prison epistles forget that they have attained the truths of these epistles only by means of a previous knowledge and study of the preparatory epistles.

Who would discard 1 Cor.13 (Love), or chapter 15? Paul never reaches farther than this latter chapter in any of his writings--God becomes All in all. Does it not yield immense comfort to us to know that all will be vivified? Where else do we read one word of the time after the post-millennial kingdom has been handed over to the Father? This is not in the prison epistles.

How extraordinary and amazing that the one who would keep us from these earlier writings of Paul ends up his pamphlet on "The Dispensational Place of the Lord's Supper" by this exhortation: "Brethren, let us stand fast in the faith and stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free!" He gets all his comfort, guidance and teaching from Paul's later epistles, yet is obliged to turn to one of the earlier ones (and the very one which he dates as Paul's earliest) to obtain freedom from legalism and bondage--Galatians!

It is quite as easy to show that Paul's earlier epistles will not suit a future dispensation or era.

A celestial body is not in keeping with a terrestrial kingdom (1 Cor.15:49).

In First, Corinthians Paul hints plainly at the coming of maturity, which was to displace the spiritual endowments and gifts. Moreover, he recommends the saints to be "zealous for the greater graces" and yet "still" he is showing them the "path suited to transcendence." He defines this "more excellent way," and finishes by saying to them "Be pursuing love." That is, he practically recommends them to take up something infinitely better than the gifts. Now in the kingdom those gifts will be very much in evidence. The kingdom will not know the more excellent way, or maturity. First Corinthians is no "kingdom" epistle.

The earlier epistles being based on the lapse and failure of Israel, and written in view of the imminent setting aside of that nation, they cannot come into operation or find their own proper place in that future day.

Conciliation is quite incompatible with the millennial reign of Israel. Romans cannot be applied then.

Paul ceases to know Christ according to flesh, in 2 Cor.5: 16. Christ according to flesh is King of Israel. Therefore, Second Corinthians is no "kingdom" epistle.

We find no difficulty in believing that Paul's ministries, from the time of his separation, were transitional. Six times before Acts 28 we read of "my gospel" and once also after that point. It was still his gospel, but how vastly glorified! His ministration mounted "from glory to glory." He was in reality severed from the womb for one purpose--"to evangelize the nations" (Gal.1).

These things being so, we are prepared to axiomize that in the course of Paul's progress, nothing altered suddenly. Not only so, but it was never necessary for Paul to upset, correct, or scrap any of his extant earlier writings.

There is a strong likelihood that early in his course he understood, in outline at least, what was to eventuate within a few years. In the same chapter which describes love, which tells of the more excellent way and the passing away of the spiritual endowments, he speaks of perceiving "all the secrets" (verse 2, 1 Cor.13, ta musteeria panta). This grammatical form only occurs when the thing spoken of is definite. Paul appears to be mentioning a distinct group of secrets, as if they consisted of a definite number. In ch.4:1 he calls himself one of the stewards of "God's secrets." Yet how many of these secrets had he by this time divulged? The likelihood is that he knew many of them, if not all, privately, although it was "not lawful to utter" most of them as yet. We may be sure that God did not teach him by jolts and jerks. Paul would be prepared beforehand for every new move.

Does it not seem extraordinary that Paul should be aware of what was to transpire at the very culmination of the ages and yet not know what would happen when the time of Acts 28 was reached? He views the glorious kingdom of the Son of God and its perfect result. Is it likely that he would not know something about the millennial reign of the Son of Mankind, and that it was for the meantime to be postponed?

His early epistles are based on the fact that Israel is apostatizing. They are rooted in the receding of the kingdom. In other words, did Paul, at one stage of his career, believe that 1 Thess.4 (the rapture) and 1 Cor.11:20-32 (the Lord's supper) were for the saints, and at a later stage find that he had been mistaken, that he must change his teachings? Did he find that he had been wrong about the coming of the Lord? Paul was not mistaken, nor did he require to cancel or correct his previous teaching. He merely brings to maturity his earlier unfoldings.

We are on fairly safe and scriptural ground in maintaining that the special revelations which Paul received from the time of his separation abide, while any relics of his earlier ministries in association with the twelve vanish. Otherwise it seems that we can have no hard and fast rule to go by. Therefore, First Thessalonians four and First Corinthians eleven must stand for today.

No amount of argument or sophistry can get over the plain fact that Paul declares that certain features were to pass away on the arrival of maturity, while the supper was to go on. He states quite clearly and plainly that it was not to pass away then.

Far from looking upon the supper as "carnal" as too many of the saints describe it, Paul calls it the "lordly" supper. He uses the adjective kuriakos (from which comes our word kirk, or church). The adjective is only found elsewhere in the N.T. in Rev.1:10, the "day of the Lord," or rather, the "lordly day." In the papyri the word bears the signification of "imperial." It brings before us the majesty of the Lord, His day, and the supper. This ought to lead to true worship.


We are informed that the body of Christ has nothing whatever to do with the parousia or presence of Christ. As the presence will continue for a considerable time, on into the day of the Lord, and may include the entire millennium, that means either that we must be raised before the parousia, or a long time after the millennium has commenced to run. The latter alternative will hardly suit us, as we are numbered amongst those who have been loving His advent (2 Tim.4:8), for which we shall receive the wreath of righteousness from the just Judge.

Are we then to be raised before the parousia? If so, we are merely falling back upon a "Prior Hope." But this is ruled out by Paul, in 1 Cor.15:23, who states that those who belong to Christ are to be vivified in His parousia. Paul never went back on this statement.

By some the term parousia is defined for us as being a "kingdom" term just because its first occurrence is said to fix its meaning. This "principle" is most erroneous and harmful. It is totally opposed to the concordant method, which demands a review of every occurrence of a word, all marshalled together under one's eye in their various contexts. In any case, the actual "first occurrence" of parousia is not in Matthew's gospel. Paul uses it first. He wrote First Thessalonians long before Matthew committed his records to writing. Had the kingdom been set up there would have been no occasion for the setting down of the records of the various gospels.

We are also told that the parousia as in 1 Thess.4 is the hope of Israel. The question then arises, Can it be proved, and that to a finality, that First Thessalonians Four is not the hope of Israel, or in any way therewith connected? Most indubitably and easily. Those who lived upon the living Manna, Christ, and had eonian life, were to be raised by Him at the last day (John 6:53,54). This was the hope of devout Jews, like Martha (John 11:24), who knew that Lazarus would rise then. The Lord does not correct her opinion. Of what last day was she thinking? Of the same day in which Daniel would rise, at the end of the days. Which days? To Daniel it was revealed that round about the unparalleled time of trouble which is to come there would be a resurrection in Israel, and that he was then to stand in his own lot, at the end of the days (Chapter 12).

The following is a tentative concordant rendering of the first three and last three verses of that chapter:--

12:1 "In that era shall stand up Michael, the great chief, standing over the sons of your people. Then comes to be an era of distress such as has not occurred since there came to be a nation on the earth, till that era. Now in that era your people shall escape--all those found written in the scroll. 2 From those sleeping in the soil of the ground many shall awake, these to eonian life and these to reproach for eonian repulsion. 3 The intelligent shall warn as the warning of the atmosphere, and those justifying many are as the stars for the eon and further.

11 "From the era when the continuous ritual is taken away, and to the setting of the abomination of desolation, is a thousand two hundred and ninety days. 12 Happy is he who will tarry and attain to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days! 13 Now you, go on to the end, and you shall rest and stand up for your lot at the end of the days."


The daily, or continual sacrifice will be restored, one thousand two hundred ninety days after the detestation is set up. Daniel is to stand up forty-five days further on, at the end of the days. The wild beast's authority is for forty-two months, or three and one-half years. The Lord's coming terminates this, by the "advent of His presence" (2 Thess.2:8). Therefore the Lord comes at the close of the three and one-half years (or the seven years).

The seventh trumpet of the Revelation concludes with the coming of Messiah in majesty, when the world Kingdom becomes His (Rev.11:15). But the dead saints of Israel do not rise until seventy-five days later. That is, the seventh trumpet brings no resurrection.

Now the "last trump" brings a great resurrection, and at a different time, for 1 Thess.4 takes place at the commencement of the parousia.

Whenever the Lord is present in His parousia:

(a) Immediately, without any delay, the saints are snatched away.
(b) We are to meet Him, at once.
(c) Those who are concerned in the event are those who survive, just unto (eis) the parousia, along with the dead saints. That is, those who live on just till the parousia begins.

The "days of Noah," before the deluge, are likened to the "days of the Son of Mankind." Sudden and severe judgment ends both eras. The "days of Noah" are also likened to the "presence of the Son of Mankind." Therefore, the days of the Son of Mankind before His awful appearing are synchronous with the commencement of His presence. (He will not yet be manifested to the world until the advent of His presence). But His Unveiling will terminate the lawless orgy of the world, so that the parousia commences before the Unveiling takes place. In other words, First Thessalonians Four takes place before the Unveiling, which itself is before the resurrection of Israel's saints.

Now it is only reasonable to infer that when Daniel rises, Abraham, David and the other great ones in Israel will rise. If First Thessalonians, an epistle written to Gentiles, is for the kingdom, and gives in chapter Four a hope in harmony with the kingdom, it is quite inconceivable that these Thessalonian Gentiles should be raised and enter the kingdom prior to Abraham, David, Daniel, Joseph, and the circumcision saints. As therefore, First Thessalonians Four refers to a prior hope, so must First Corinthians Eleven, "Till He come." The supper should be continued till the coming of the Lord to the air (First Thessalonians Four).


The commonest objections to the supper as a celebration for this dispensation are as follows:--

(1) It is Jewish, being connected with the Passover, and it has to do with a "new Covenant."

(2) It belonged to the same era as the spiritual gifts, which latter have now passed away.

(3) It is an ordinance, and to observe it would bring us into the bondage of legalism.

(4) It has to do with such carnal things as food and drink, and such elementary things as visible "Symbols." We are "beyond" these, being "complete" in Christ.

(5) It has been the fruitful cause of many a severe schism.

All of these objections can be met and refuted through the recognition and acknowledgment of a few simple facts.

All the chief doctrines which we believe today have their origin in a Jewish basis. All that we have in and through the cross comes to us through the death of an Israelite--Messiah. All our special epistles are from the pen of a Hebrew of the Hebrews. One is apt to overlook such a statement as is found in 1 Cor.10: 11, where, after detailing certain of the shortcomings of the children of Israel in the Old Testament, Paul adds, "Now all these things were befalling them typically. Yet it is written with a view to our admonition, to whom the consummations of the eons have attained."

This proves (1) that First Corinthians is no "kingdom" epistle, as Israel's kingdom does not reach to the consummations of the eons, and (2) that Old Testament types are for us of the Gentiles.

Therefore, it is perfectly legitimate for us to find in the Jewish "Passover" a type of something vastly greater. The Passover celebrated the wonderful deliverance of the nation from Egypt and the Red Sea and from Pharaoh. We have been delivered from the world, from death and destruction, and from Satan. How delivered? By the death of Christ. Is there then for us no celebration of that great Deliverance? When it is found that the Lord died, not only for Jews, but for the Nations as well, the door is opened wide so that all believers among the nations may delight in remembering His death.

There is no sound ground for making the Lord's Supper a "dispensational" feature, for the Lord's death cannot be confined to any single dispensation.

The section 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 deals with "The Lord's Body--Judgment" (in C.V. Structure). The corresponding section is found in chapters five and six, "Our Physical Bodies--Judgment." This latter section includes chapter 5:7,8:--"For even Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for our sakes." Passover is Greek pascha, really a Hebrew word, as it comes from pasach, which means "to skip." The adjective is applied to the "lame." When Jehovah saw the blood, He would skip over them (Ex.12:13).

Now Christ is just as much a Passover for us as for anyone else. Many of the Old Testament types are applicable to all ages, so long as sin requires deliverance.

The Lord said, "This is My body, which is broken for your sakes." For whose sakes, we might ask? Not for the disciples alone, but for the Corinthian saints too. Not for them only, but for the Ephesians and for ourselves. Not only the saints, but in due time all mankind will derive benefit from that breaking.

Certain writers, in their eagerness to make the supper as Jewish in character as possible, do not hesitate to say that Paul got the account thereof from some of the other Apostles, or from one of the gospels. But Paul says:--

"For I [emphatic] receive from the Lord what I also deliver over to you...." (1 Cor.11:23). Upon this says Alford: "If the apostle had referred only to the evangelic tradition or writings he would not have used the first person singular, but parelabomen (we receive). I may remark, that the similarity between this account of the institution and that in Luke's gospel, is only what might be expected on the supposition of a special revelation made to Paul, of which that evangelist, being Paul's companion, in certain parts of his history availed himself." (Luke's account of the supper is much more similar to that of Paul than to that found elsewhere).

If the Passover of old was a type, and itself commemorated a mighty deliverance, why should not its great Antitype, the spotless Lamb, whose death brings in a transcendently vaster deliverance, including the nations, also have its commemoration?

But we are reminded here about the "new Covenant." We are told that covenants are not for us. What is a covenant? It is a compact, or treaty, or obligation. It may be mutual, or it may be one-sided. We are undoubtedly under one purely one-sided covenant, that of the Rainbow. It applies today just as much as at any time since the flood. It covers Jew and Gentile, saved and lost. We cannot help being under the rainbow covenant. This covenant is absolutely unconditional and one-sided. All the difference in the world lies between a conditional covenant and an unconditional one. As members of Christ's body we are under no conditional covenant. Under the rainbow covenant the whole world is protected from the possibility of a future flood.

The unconditional covenant or agreement in Genesis 9 yields a few points of interest. It is made by God, (Elohim, not Jehovah) and embraces all mankind and every animal and fowl. It was to be for "eonian generations." Moreover, a sign or token was given along with it. For what purposes?

"And there shall come to be the bow in the cloud, and I look upon it, to remember the eonian covenant between God and every living soul in all flesh that is upon the earth. And God is saying unto Noah, `This is the sign of the covenant which I establish between Myself and all flesh which is upon the earth"' (vv.16,17).

The question naturally arises, could God not have sworn by His own word not again to deluge the earth, without appointing a visible token of His promise? Undoubtedly, yet the rainbow brings home to us the continued present day applicability and protection of the covenant in a way that nothing else could. The rainbow makes any reasoning person think, and causes him to recollect that the earth was once deluged, and that the race of mankind was saved through it.

When we read of God "repenting" it means that He "changes His attitude." When He is said to "forget" it means that He "becomes oblivious of." When He is said to "remember" it means that He "brings before the mind," "bears in mind," or "keeps in mind." (Hebrew verbs nacham, shakach, and zakar, respectively).

The sign, then, of the rainbow, brings God's promise into His mind. It pleases Him that He should employ it to keep Him dwelling upon His promise. If we entered into a compact which was to be beneficial to another party, it would give us pleasure to dwell upon it and bear it in mind. Moreover, the solemnity and sense of responsibility of the obligation gradually slips out of the human mind, if not kept alive through continued recollection.

I have seen actual eases where a surety has become guarantor to a bank for the indebtedness of a friend, and yet in course of time has completely let slip from the mind that he ever signed an obligation binding him. Much unpleasantness would have been saved in the long run had he had some reminder, say once a year, of his obligation.

If God, then, finds it profitable to bring before His mind specially on occasion His eonian covenant, how much more should it be necessary and profitable for us to make recollection of Christ.

The rainbow covenant is therefore still in force today, and relates to us. Does any other unconditional covenant relate to us? The Lord said, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood" (Luke 22:20); that is, the blood is actually the covenant. Now if the blood of Christ has brought in a new covenant, whereof Paul asserts (2 Cor.3:6) that he is a "competent dispenser," this cannot be identical with the future new Covenant of Jeremiah 31. The new Covenant is "specifically connected with the future gathering of Israel back to their land." Rom.11:26,27 shows when the Hebrew New Covenant will come into effect:--

The Rescuer shall be arriving out of Zion;
He will be turning irreverence from Jacob.
And this is the Covenant from Me with them
Whenever I may be eliminating their sins.

Paul was not dispensing a covenant which is only to be ratified in a yet future day. The word diathˆkˆ does not supply any help, from its etymology. Its standards are THRU-PLACE. Any kind of disposition might be meant.

[The nations are specifically said to have been "guests of the covenants of promise" in the era in which both Corinthian letters were written. Now they have not less, but more than that.--Ed]

The supper is frequently termed an "ordinance," especially by those whose ideas of what is meant by such a term are hazy or erroneous.

The supper is no ordinance, in any sense. It is intended for voluntary celebration. We are told to keep praying without intermission, yet we do not call prayer an ordinance. But we are not even enjoined to observe the supper. Paul's instructions simply say: "For whensoever you should be eating this bread and drinking this cup, you are announcing the Lord's death till He come" (1 Cor.11: 26). That is, Should you partake of these things, at any time, you will be showing forth, publishing, making known, the Lord's death, till He come. There is no regulation as to any set time or occasion. There is no liability for non-observance.

It needs no proof that the supper and the gifts are quite distinct. The supper has none of the marks of immaturity or of the miraculous about it. Some of the gifts were quite out of harmony with the more excellent way. The supper is absolutely in line therewith. The supper is a practical expression of the three graces of the more excellent way. It cannot be partaken of, in the proper spirit, without pure faith, a living hope, and real love. It exhibits no visible demonstration of God's love for us; it contains no prop to aid faith; it brings about no realization of our earnest expectation.

Partaken of apart from any connection with the miraculous spiritual endowments, it is a practical proof that we are on the path suited to transcendence. The Corinthians, who all had spiritual endowments, were incapable of partaking of the supper in a proper manner, and they did not discriminate the body of the Lord.

The gifts pointed forward.
The gifts occupied one with their display.
The gifts tended to inflate.
The gifts were distinctly to cease.

The supper carries us back.
The supper occupies only with the Lord.
The supper humbles and breaks.
The supper has not yet been abrogated.

We are identified with the Lord's Death.
We seek to be conformed thereto (Phil.3:10).
Contemplation of that death brings it home in practice.

A proper understanding of the Lord's supper hinges around the word "remembrance" or "recollection." (CV) in Greek anamneesis. It denotes a continued effort of the memory.

A peculiar point arises. How is it that the Corinthians, who had so many spiritual endowments, and possessed such miraculous powers, including the gift of direct knowledge, and who lived comparatively near to the time of the Lord's death, required to make a practice of recollecting that event? Plainly, the gifts did not prevent them from having weak, human, frail memories.

Nor are the saints of the present day gifted with perfect memories, judging from what Paul has had to write for our benefit. Paul is obliged to remind us, the Nations, that we were once without God (Eph.2:11). Not that we are likely ever to forget that completely, but it is good for us to be reminded of it. Paul had to remind the Colossians of his own bonds (4:18). Were they likely to forget the very one to whom they owed the truth? Do we not think often too lightly of Paul's sufferings and bonds? Paul reminds Timothy to rekindle the gracious gift of God within him (2 Tim.1:6). Paul says we require to be reminded that if we die together we shall live together also; if we are enduring, we shall also be reigning together; if we are disowning Him, HE too will be disowning us; if we are unfaithful, HE is remaining faithful--He cannot disown Himself (2 Tim.2:11-14). These things have all to do with daily conduct, and require to be continually kept in mind. Paul reminds us to be subject to sovereignties, to be yielding, ready for every good work, not calumniating, to be pacific, lenient, displaying all meekness toward all mankind (Titus 3: 1,2).

In plain words, our memory requires constant stimulation and refreshing, not that we may forget any of these things altogether, but in case we let them slip into the background or fade into the distance.

No one who passed through the time of the great European war is ever likely to forget its awful horrors, tragedies and sufferings. Yet the belligerent countries are full of war memorials. For what purpose? Not to remind one that the world war was an actual fact of history, but to bring home the solemnity of the awful fact, the lessons, the sacrifices. Human nature is so constituted that it ever tends to drift away from benefits accruing from the sacrifice of another. Mankind is incapable of appreciating genuine altruism. The saints can never sufficiently appreciate the philanthropy of God (Titus 3:4).

"Till He come" our memories will go on being defective, and we shall require continual reminders of the grace that has saved us, and the sufferings endured by Christ for our sakes. Daily duties and routine must be methodically remembered, through effort, and not through supernatural endowment. We must remember to keep up the practice of prayer and the study of the Scriptures. If we do not make some kind of practice of these, we shall let them slip.

The entire passage of First Corinthians Eleven dealing with the supper has to do with conduct, not with our doctrinal position or standing. This is proved by the repeated use of the word "Lord," instead of Christ. It is not Christ's supper, but the Lord's dinner, verse 20; the origin of which Paul got "from the Lord, verse 23; "the Lord's death," verse 26; "the bread" and "cup of the Lord," verse 27; "the body and blood of the Lord," verse 27. Non-discrimination of the body "of the Lord" (verse 29) led to discipline "by the Lord" (verse 32). It is therefore no argument here to say that we are "complete in Christ." We are far from perfect "in the Lord."

Why is it necessary that the Lord's death should be thus announced? Because it stands in danger always of being overlooked or neglected. That it is largely forgotten is evidenced by the prevailing sectarian spirit, and the great lack of brotherly love. A constant realization of the fact that Christ Jesus was broken for us will keep us ever conscious of the grace of God. It will bring about genuine humility and create real brotherly love.

The Corinthian saints probably became puffed up because of the gifts they possessed. Many of the saints today are undoubtedly puffed up because they think or feel that they are "advanced." The Corinthian saints needed the Lord's supper to preserve a proper balance, and bring them down to humility. All the saints today stand sorely in need of a proper observance of the supper.

The supper is the divine antidote or corrective to pride and lovelessness. No one can deny that such a thing is needed. The great advance in the knowledge of God's Word which has come about in recent years has certainly not been accompanied by a corresponding advance in love and meekness. Those who have thrown aside the Lord's supper have not become better saints.

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