Must We Use Only One Container In The Communion?

There are many in the church who believe that we must use only one loaf of bread and one container in the observance of the Lord s supper. It is maintained that the use of individual containers and breaking of the bread in more than one piece is a violation of the will of God. Is this view correct? Is the Lord interested in the number of bread pieces and containers present at the communion service? To explore the answer to these questions, a better understanding of the above view is needed.

The belief in only one container and one loaf of bread is based on certain definitions of the words "bread" and "cup" in the communion accounts found in scripture. In Luke 22:19 the Bible says, And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you." To those who believe in using only one piece of bread in communion, this passage indicates Jesus took one loaf of bread, blessed it, pinched off a piece and ate it, then gave it to his disciples. They urge that to follow the example of Jesus, we must use only one piece of bread.

In similar fashion, the word "cup" is understood to mean only one container. In Mark 14:23 the Bible says, "And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them. and they all drank of it. "Those who believe in using only one container in the communion believe Jesus took one container, blessed it, gave it to his disciples, and they all drank from the same container. Again, they insist following the example of Jesus demands that each congregation must all drink of the same container.

Obviously, this belief depends totally on the above definitions of "bread" and "cup". But are these definitions correct? What is the cup of the Lord? Is it a literal container? What is the bread? Is it only one piece of bread?

In I Corinthians 10:16 Paul says "...The bread which we break, is it not the COMMUNION OF THE BODY of Christ?" In Mark 14:22 Jesus said of the bread, "Take, eat: THIS IS MY BODY". The Bible defines the bread of the Lord s supper as the body of Christ! Therefore the oneness of the bread is in the fact that it is the one body that Jesus gave for our sins.

This is further proven by I Corinthians 10:17 where Paul says, "For we being many are ONE BREAD, and one body. For we are all partakers of THAT ONE BREAD. " If the one bread is one piece of bread, how could Paul and the church at Corinth partake of the same bread?! Obviously "the bread" is the body of Christ. No matter how many pieces are used by congregations of the Church of Christ, the church universal partakes of the same bread when we observe the Lord s supper.

The same can be said of the cup of the Lord. Whereas those who believe in using only one container define it as a container, Jesus defined it as the blood of Christ. In Matthew 26:27-28 the Bible says, "And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for THIS IS MY BLOOD of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." And in Luke 22:20 the Bible says, "Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, WHICH IS SHED FOR YOU. "Jesus said "the cup" is HIS BLOOD which is shed. Therefore, the oneness of the cup is in the fact that it is the one blood that Christ shed for our sins.

This definition corresponds with I Corinthians 10:16 where Paul says, "The cup of blessing which WE bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?..." Who is "we" referring to in this passage? In I Corinthians 1:2 the letter is addressed to "the church of God which is at Corinth ... with all that in EVERY PLACE call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord..." Obviously, "we" refers to 1) Paul (who was at Ephesus, over 300 miles away), 2) the church at Corinth and 3) Christians everywhere. And Paul said they bless the SAME CUP. Were they all drinking from the same container? Get this point! According to what Paul says, the church universal drinks of the SAME CUP! This can only be possible if we understand the cup to be the blood of Christ, not a literal drinking vessel.

Obviously the only way to truly believe in one bread and one cup is to understand them in the spiritual sense as defined by Christ. By realizing the bread is the body of Christ that was sacrificed and the cup is his blood, which he shed, we can understand that no matter how many PIECES and CONTAINERS are used, we all partake of only ONE BREAD and ONE CUP.

Sadly, the church remains split over this issue. Such division should trouble the heart of every Christian. Jesus prayed for the unity of his followers in John 17:21 when he said, "That they all may be ONE, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." It is tragic for God s people to be divided over this issue.

It is each Christian s responsibility to search out God s word and learn the truth on this issue, that old wounds in the body of Christ might be healed. Give your attention to these questions and consider what the scriptures say. Study to insure that you are not perpetuating a division in the body of Christ over an issue the Lord has not bound. May we all come to unity under the guidance of God s word.