Barry Newman's Blog

September 14, 2009

Christ Centred Communion (part I)

Here is the third in my series of three papers.  See introduction here.

Certain aspects of the first and second papers would have been controversial.  The third will also engender controversy.  However it is not my intention to do that.  I am merely trying to ascertain the truth  about these matters and to place what I believe to be true before the Christian public for serious debate.  I have consulted with a number of people over the last few years but I alone bear the responsibility for what I have written and spoken about. 

Christ Centred Communion

Some years ago when speaking at a camp to a group of people who did not come from an Anglican background I was asked if I would administer the Lord’s Supper on the Sunday morning.  I readily agreed.  I was conscious of not wishing to distract people from contemplating on the death of Jesus, by doing anything that for them was unusual, so I enquired beforehand if there were any particular customs that I should follow.  After being told there were no real customs of any note, I conducted the service.  At its conclusion I was kindly informed by one of the leaders that contrary to normal practice I had broken pieces off the end of the bread instead of beginning by breaking the bread into two pieces.  Though I had been informed otherwise they did indeed have customs that they considered important.

What is the Lord’s Supper really? How did it originate? What did the Lord Jesus actually command that we should observe?  What should we do in our church? This paper attempts to answer these and other questions.  Consideration is first given to the nature of the Last Passover Meal and then the early Christian[1]meals mentioned in the New Testament. The idea that various passages of the New Testament allude to a ceremony (what some may call a rite) reflective of the Last Passover Meal is then considered together with what some of the Early Fathers termed the “Eucharist”.  There is then a discussion on what Jesus meant by his statements regarding his body and his blood.  Some general comments are made on the occurrence of Corinthian Christians meals and also on the nature of formal meals in the Graeco-Roman world.  Sections of chapters 8, 9 and 10 and the latter half of chapter 11 of 1 Corinthians are then examined in some detail.  Some final comments are made as to what we can learn from the latter half of 1 Corinthians 11 and how we should regard our celebration of “The Lord’s Supper” or “Holy Communion” today.  The overriding concern of this paper is to discern whether or not there was a ceremony observed by Christians of the New Testament reflective of the Last Passover Meal and whether or not Jesus commanded that the ceremony be observed.  Of course if there was not a ceremony then there was not a rite.

 


[1]The term, “Christian”, mentioned only once in the New Testament (Acts 11: 26) is used in this paper for convenience.  Those who gladly responded to Christ were commonly referred to as “disciples” in Acts while Paul preferred to address them in terms of some relationship they had either with himself or with God or Christ. They are also referred to corporately by the term “ekklesia” (church) both in Acts and by Paul.

 

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