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The Lord's Supper and/or Passover?

(Quotes from NKJV unless otherwise stated)

Is the Lord's Supper the same thing as Passover? Was Jesus the last Passover sacrifice? Were the symbols of eating bread and drinking wine added through a new feast or holy assembly called the “Lord's Supper” or were they added to the Passover observance?

Does scripture support the idea of a Lord's Supper?

There is no command in scripture to keep an observance, a feast, holy day or any kind of assembly called “the Lord's Supper”. There is only one reference to the phrase “Lord's Supper”, it's in 1 Cor. 11:20.

Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.
1 Cor 11:20

Does this scripture give a name for the last meal of Jesus? Is it the name of the wine and bread? It's capitalized in English, so it looks like a proper noun, but is it? And if it is, is this sentence saying that when these people meet together they were failing to eat the Lord's Supper, is it declaring that they aren't supposed to or is it a statement of fact that they just aren't?

There is no other scripture that refers to the name or any idea, description or reference to anything called a “Lord's Supper”. So if we are to keep the “Lord's Supper”, this one scripture is the only one to base this teaching on. But since this one sentence is oddly worded, perhaps even vague, we should study carefully the context of this statement. Especially since it is used as the basis for creating a new religious service that is considered to be one of the most holy times of the year.

What is the context of 1 Corinthians 11

It's always wise to look at all scripture in context of the surrounding scripture. Sometimes it doesn't alter the meaning or intent, but often it does. In the beginning of 1 Corinthians 11, Paul begins by praising the congregation:

Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.
1 Cor 11:2

Then from verses 3-16 he explains resolving a issues around long hair. But then verses 17 and 18 are interesting. Note the continuation of the thought with the words “but if” at the beginning of the sentence indicating it is referring to the previous statements.

But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.
1 Cor 11:16

Contentious about what? The context is to the previous statement about long hair. It seems Paul is saying that there is no need to argue about this, because no one even has a custom or practice of men having long hair or women having short hair. As we will see in 11:17, this praise is in contrast to something he does not praise them for.

Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse.
1 Cor 11:17

Remember, Paul is framing this entire section as something critical of the congregation in Corinth, as something he is not praising them for (contrasting the previous praise) and as you will see, the instructions on how to keep a religious service is not the focus Paul is intending, but instead a criticism of their behavior during the time they are together.

The conclusion of 1 Corinthians 11: 17-34

Sometimes conversations and writings can get long, and the point of a section of verses is not obvious until the conclusion. And sometimes the conclusion is paragraphs away. All to often we view scriptures in small snippets and lose site of the whole meaning. So let's find Paul's conclusion of the matter that he began to address in 1 Corinthians 11:17.

Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.
1 Cor 11:33, 34

Whatever the Corithians were doing was bad enough to cause them to be condemned (ie, they were sinning), and that the solution to this sin was to “wait” for everyone to be together before eating food together. And if they were too hungry to wait, (ie, too hungry to keep from sinning) then he said they “should eat at home before coming together.”

This solution to avoiding condemnation is similar to Jesus' instruction in Matt 5:30, that if something causes you to sin (a foot or a hand) you get rid of the problem. Paul's instructions were if your hunger (caused by a part of your body) causes you to be condemned, then get rid of this problem by eat before coming together.

So what was Paul not praising them for? And remember, the solution he offered to their sin was simply “waiting”, and possibly eating at home.

Is chapter 11 really about how to keep a service?

1 Corinthians is a letter meant to be read as a whole to understand it's meaning. Read chapters 1-10, then read 11 in context of the previous chapters. Is chapter 11 really about clarifying a new religious service called the “Lord's Supper”? Or is a continuation of the previous 10 chapters of Paul's chastisement of the Corinthians?

In chapter 5, Paul used the Feast of Unleavened Bread as a metaphor to getting rid of sinners from the congregation. In chapter 10 Paul uses the bread and the wine as a metaphor to differentiate between eating meat with a good conscience.

Is chapter 11's reference to Christ's eating dinner a literal description on how to keep this new service called the “Lord's Supper”? Or is it a metaphor to teach the Corinthians about another one of their problems?

What problem is addressed in chapter 11?

If 1 Corinthians 11:16-34 is a metaphor for instruction using Jesus' eating of bread and drinking wine, what is the problem it is addressing? Remember, Paul's solution to the problem was to “wait for one another” before eating. The implication being that they simply weren't waiting. Does the scripture confirm this?

For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others...
1 Cor 11:21

The first half of verse 21 clearly states that people were eating before other people. (We will address the second half of verse 21 later.) Why is this so bad?

What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?
1 Cor 11:22

Note the reason that eating before others was so bad was that it shamed those who have nothing. (ie, no food, and this could apply to any meal, not just one during religious service)

As an aside, if this is literally speaking of the Lord's Supper or the Passover service this scripture clearly states that it's referring to a real meal with food, and not just a simple eating of a cracker and a sip of wine. As we can logically conclude that you can't shame someone for not having a single bite of bread, that would be a silly conclusion to make. Nor is it logical to say someone has “nothing” if they miss out of just a single bite of bread.

The solution Paul gave them was to “wait for each other” which implies that any food the first group of people would have, would then also be available to those coming later. Therefore, it's logical to conclude verse 22 is referring to a full meal that people are eating, and others (with nothing) are genuinely not getting enough, and it strongly implies that at least some of these people were so poor that they had little food at home.

The last part of verse 21 says “...and one is hungry and another is drunk.” Consider again, a full meal with some who have eaten plenty and some have drank in excess, while others are there that have little or no food. This attitude of selfishness is apparent throughout the letter, and is a shameful thing. But it also clarifies why Paul's solution is “to wait for each other”, and that it is indeed a discussion about a complete meal.

Lead up to Paul's conclusion and instructions

Let's look at the rest of the verses leading up to Paul's final instructions, to “wait for each other”.

Verses 23-25 layout the actions Jesus took that night.

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
1 Cor 11:23-25

Note that Paul is reminding them that he has already taught them the basis for eating bread and wine, so this is not a new teaching for them. It's a reminder of the importance of these symbols they are eating as food.

For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
1 Cor 11:26

Paul clarifies that the bread and wine are symbols of Christ's death as the Passover sacrifice. This is also referred to earlier in his letter when he said “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor 5:7) This indicates that the bread and wine are about Passover sacrifice itself, not some brand new service he is creating in this letter.

Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
1 Cor 11:27-29

Paul clarifies that it's the “manner” in which they are acting that is the problem, it's their behavior. 1 Corinthians up to this point has been about their many sins, and how to face them. It's not a description on how to keep Passover or how to keep a new service, it's a charge against their sins.

For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
1 Cor 11:30-32

This is a theme with the Corinthians, they were weak and needed to strengthen themselves spiritually. Is there other meaning in these verses? Is Paul teaching them how to keep the “Lord's Supper” or Passover services? Or is he saying the Corinthians have a sin?

Let's read Paul's conclusion to this matter again. Is Paul creating a brand new ceremony called the “Lord's Supper”? Or is he telling them how to deal with their poor behavior?


Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.
1 Cor 11:33,-34

The real issues of 1 Corinthians

In chapter 5 Paul uses the Feast of Unleavened Bread as an example on how to deal with the man who took his father's wife. It wasn't instructions on “how” to keep the feast, but on how to avoid sin.

In chapter 8 Paul says this about food and eating, “But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.”. He also says “But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.”

And his conclusion is similar to chapter 11. “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” Paul makes it our personal responsibility (ie, he judges himself, not others) to help save his weaker brothers. It's not a lesson on food, but on sin.

Chapter 10 he says “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say.” The continued appeal for us to “judge” rightly.

Chapter 10:16-17 he discusses the blood and body of Christ as an example to conclude in 10:21 that “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.”

Then we get to chapter 11, did Paul in the middle of all these lessons, and corrections institute a new service? Or is it also a correction to another one of their bad behaviors?

1 Corinthians 11 and Passover

Did Paul change any of the commands of God regarding Passover or did he create a new holy assembly of God's people called the “Lord's Supper”, or are they the same thing?

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;”
1 Cor. 11:23


There is no wording there that can be construed as a change in God's commands, either as a change to Passover or a new holy day or sacred assembly on a new date. Paul is simply pointing out that he has told them this information before, and it's regarding something the Jesus did, not Paul.

In 1 Corinthians 5:7 Paul states that Jesus was our Passover.

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
1 Corinthians 5:7

He is the lamb of God, our Passover sacrifice for the remission of our sins. When we were commanded to “do this in remembrance of me”, he was not referring to the supper he we eating that night, he was referring to the next day when he was to die for us.

Wine and bread, or supper?

One of the basic premises with the idea of a “Lord's Supper”, is that it is simply wine and bread. But the word “supper” is actually a meal, not a sip of wine and single bite of bread. Are there any examples in the bible that demonstrate that we are only to have one sip, and one bite?

In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
1 Cor 11:25

This may not seem obvious until you re-read these scriptures in full, but Paul was referencing Jesus eating an actual supper in 1 Corinthians 11:25. In light of this, it is almost difficult to conclude that the phrase “Lord's Supper” is not referring to his supper, since that is what Paul said he ate. How did we ever think the word “supper” isn't referring to “supper”?

The Catholic Eucharist service is a simple sip of wine and single piece of bread. Have we unwittingly copied the Catholic communion service? As with other beliefs, we often refer to the example of Jesus to explain how and why we do things, but even Jesus ate a full meat at the “Lord's Supper”.

“Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.””
Luke 22:20

In light of this obvious reference to supper, let's reconsider 1 Corinthians 11:20

Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.
1 Cor 11:20

In context this seems to be stating that we are not supposed to eat the Lord's Supper, but instead something else. What else are told to eat besides “supper”?

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”
John 6:53

That other thing we are supposed to eat, is his body and his blood, not his actual literal supper. To ask this another way; Are we supposed to eat the bread and drink the wine to remember his “supper” or his death?

The answer to this question leads us to critically consider the meaning of the phrase the “Lord's Supper”, and that it does not seem to refer at all to the blood and the wine, but to an actual supper. It could be easily rephrased as “you aren't supposed to eat the Lord's supper, you are supposed to eat the Lord's body and drink his blood”.

For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
1 Cor 11:26

1 Corinthians 11:26 says the symbols of bread and wine are about his death, as the Passover sacrifice, not about his supper the night before Passover.