And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:26-29)
The One Cup Or The Cup?
Passover was one of the most important feasts for the people of Israel. The deliverance from Egypt was the memorial of the grace of God to free the Hebrews and a reminder of the penalty of sin against the nation of Egypt. Jesus spent His final Passover with the twelve in an upper room in Jerusalem. Using the Passover as a backdrop, the Lord institutes the memorial feast that would symbolize the grace of God to free men from sin and remind the world of the judgment of God when the Son returns. The feast included the sacrificed lamb, unleavened bread, and the cups of the fruit of the vine. Each element symbolized the memorial feast of when God saw the blood on the doorpost and lintel of the Hebrew homes and passed over, inflicting no harm but salvation.
Peter and John were instructed to ensure everything was ready for the Passover feast. They found a man carrying a water pitcher on his head and followed him to the upper room where all had been made ready. It was a large room furnished with the lamb, bread, and pitchers of the fruit of the vine. The necessary elements were also prepared such as tools to eat the Passover and drinking vessels for each man. After identifying Judas as a man who would betray Jesus, the Lord took the unleavened bread, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples. They were unaware of any significance of this act as Jesus told them the bread was His body given for them. He then took the cup and gave thanks and gave it to them. This symbolism of the cup was the blood of the new covenant, which is shed for the remission of sins. Again, the disciples knew little of its significance until after Pentecost.
Judas betrayed Jesus that night, and the Son of God was crucified the next day. On the first day of the week, Jesus rose from the dead. For the next forty days, He appeared to certain disciples explaining the kingdom of God. Jesus ascended to the Father, and ten days later, the twelve apostles were in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Through the preaching of the gospel, three thousand people were baptized for the remission of sins. Luke describes the early days of the church as a unified body of saints learning the apostle’s doctrine, including the breaking of bread or the Lord’s Supper. Jesus had told the disciples what they must do in organizing the early church. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the first disciples understood the significance of the memorial instituted by Jesus at Passover. One of the first things the infant church practiced was a weekly remembrance of the death, burial, resurrection, and return of God’s Son. The Lord’s Supper has continued for two thousand years.
Luke is the historian who details much of the beginning and growth of the early church. Through the writings of men like Paul and Peter, the application of the teaching of Jesus and the practice of the early church has been explained. The book of Acts shows how the early church met on the first day of the week to remember the memorial of Jesus in the Supper. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul recounts the institution of the supper showing the saints at Corinth the proper manner of taking the supper. What is not discussed is the manner of the partaking in the utensils or pattern of the supper. The early Christians knew they must keep the supper on the first day of the week. They understood the supper consisted of the fruit of the vine (never referred to as wine) and unleavened bread. Christ ordained the supper as a feast of memorial to honor His sacrifice. It was never the intent of the Holy Spirit to divide the church over whether one cup or multiple cups were used and whether the bread must be on one or multiple plates. Nothing in scripture signifies the kind of grapes to be used; whether purple, red or white. How many prayers are offered during the supper is not discussed. There are many things God has left to the inherent authority of carrying out the command to take the supper.
The Lord took “the cup” because it was symbolic. Using “the cup” to teach “one cup” would suggest the supper must be done in an upper room and only by men. If one element of the supper is emphasized over another, all must join the argument for authority. When division happens because of the number of cups used to carry out the Lord’s will, the meaning of the supper is destroyed, and men fail to honor God. Refusing to take the supper is where the harm comes in denying the pattern of the early church. Is the significance in one cup, or is the significance in the memorial? Jesus shed His blood to save men from sin. That is the honor of taking the supper as a memorial of the feast of salvation.