Summary: From a Biblical perspective, The Lord’s Supper is a simple memorial ritual, despite how others have tried to complicate and confuse it.
Communion Through the Years
1. I love Italian food. Since Marylu went to work, I have taken over as the cook for our family.
2. I have cooked so much Italian food that Marylu had to ask me to curtail this tendency! She really put the breaks on lasagna and manicotti.
3. I find Italian food delicious. It is also remarkably simple, and often quick. Simplicity can be a beautiful thing.
4. The Lord’s Supper is a very simple ritual. It is merely a small portion of the Passover Seder. It’s practice is simple. It’s meaning is simple but profound.
5. But, just like people mess with Italian food and make the simple complex, so theologians and church leaders had tinkered with Communion to sometimes turn it into a monstrosity.
MAIN IDEA: From a Biblical perspective, The Lord’s Supper is a simple memorial ritual, despite how others have tried to complicate and confuse it.
I. SIMPLICITY: How the Lord’s Supper Was Originally Celebrated (I Cor. 11:17-22, 33-34)
A. Sometimes with a Love FEAST
"…in…the earliest celebration… the bread was broken with a blessing at the start of the meal and cup with its blessing was post-poned till the end…The accompanying meal was dropped at an early date." (International Bible Encyclopedia, "Lord’s Supper").
B. Testimony from secular SOURCES
From Pliny the Younger (62-113AD):
[Christians] "…were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food -- but food of an ordinary and innocent kind. Even this practice, however, they had abandoned after the publication of my edict, by which, according to your orders, I had forbidden political associations. I judged it so much the more necessary to extract the real truth, with the assistance of torture, from two female slaves, who were styled deaconesses: but I could discover nothing more than depraved and excessive superstition."
C. Explanation of a SERVICE from Justin Martyr (about 135 AD)
And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.
D. Elements: MATZO and Wine
II. CORRUPTION: Complicating and Confusing the Lord’s Supper
A. Changes in government around 100 AD
B. Well before 325, leaders move from SHEPHERDS to Priests
C. Around 400 AD, AUGUSTINE slows move to Transubstantiation
"Augustine admitted that the sacrament was in a sense the body of Christ, and in the language of Scripture often spoke of bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. At the same time he clearly distinguished between the sign and the thing signified, and asserted that the substance of bread and wine remains unchanged. He stressed the commemorative aspect of the rite….the views of Augustine retarded the full development of the realistic theory for a long time.
"During the Middle Ages the doctrine as taught by Augustine gradually gave way for the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. In AD 818 Paschasius Radbert formally propounded the doctrine that the material elements in the sacraments are by divine power literally changed into the very body that was born of Mary, the outward appearance of bread and wine being, after consecration, a mere veil that deceives the senses…