HOPE INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY
GRADUATE MINISTRY PROGRAM
SUBMITTED TO DR. WILLIAM R. BAKER
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF
THE5213 – CHURCH HISTORY
April 15, 2018
A SHORT BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
On the night before he was crucified, Jesus gathered his disciples and broke bread with them. While Matthew and Mark give a somewhat abbreviated version of the festivities of the evening, Luke goes into much more detail in regards to how the meal progressed, in particular to how Jesus conveyed his thoughts on that night, along with the instructions for the purpose of the bread and the cup. Luke’s account in particular (Luke 22:7-23) is closely mirrored to that of Paul in 1 Cor 11:17-34. This is not surprising given Luke’s close association to the Apostle Paul.
Jesus understood his crucifixion was drawing close, and therefore he was eager to share this meal with his disciples (Luke 22:15). The fact that he was eager to bring them all together for this meal shows that the Lord’s Supper is a symbol of unity. This is reinforced by the way Paul begins his pericope on the Lord’s Supper in 1 Cor 11. Verses 17-22 discuss the primary reason for the writing – the division and disunity currently on display by the meeting and the taking of the Lord’s Supper in Corinth. Paul highlights, in particular, how many are using the Lord’s Supper as a meal or as a chance to over-consume the wine (1 Cor 11:20-21). In so doing, he suggests, people are using the time of communion for personal gratification rather than as a way of communally worshipping God.
If one of Jesus’ reasons for instituting the Lord’s Supper was a sign of unity, then doing so in a divided manner would be direct indication of what Paul calls taking the Supper in an “unworthy manner” (1 Cor 11:27). Snyder states, “The primary purpose of the unity of the church is that God may be glorified” (Snyder 2004, 200). If God is glorified by the unity of the church, then division dishonors him. Baker equates the “unworthy manner” of verse 27 as a means of insulting the host of the meal, which in this case is Jesus (Baker 2018, n.p.). Unity in the Lord’s Supper means that everyone who follows Jesus, regardless of social class/status, race, age, or gender are all together celebrating and worshipping God.
But unity is only part of the reason behind the Lord’s Supper. There is also the element of Jesus’ statement of “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19, 1 Cor 11:24, 25). This is key because of what is Jesus is instructing his disciples to remember – namely that his body and blood are the keys to the New Covenant, and are now sufficient to render salvation to all who eat, or consume, them. In John 6, Jesus declares himself “the Bread of Life” (John 6:25, 48). Whoever eats him, he states, will never die. Under the new covenant, which is being announced that night in the upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus states that he is more than enough.
In today’s context, taking the Lord’s Supper in a manner honoring Christ means that the one taking “remembers” the sacrifice of Jesus. It is not a means of being saved, or of reaffirming that salvation, but rather as a means of remembering in order to appreciate and honor it. As the Jews took the various aspects and elements of the Passover meal to remember how God had delivered them from Egypt, so Christians take the Lord’s Supper to remember how Jesus has provided deliverance from the strongholds of sin.
A SHORT BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF BAPTISM
In Acts 2, the church is launched by the Holy Spirit during the festival of Pentecost. Peter delivers the first sermon in the history of the church. Shortly thereafter, he, along with some of the other Apostles, is approached and asked what is required to be saved. He replies with a simple, two-step process – “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38, NIV).
Baptism has been practiced throughout the history of the church, beginning on that very day (Acts 2:41). Baptism has been conducted in various ways, primarily through sprinkling (as done in many liturgical churches) and by immersion. Churches practicing immersion baptism claim that given the original Greek word used by Luke in Acts, baptizo, which means a form of full immersion, baptism by fully immersing someone under the water is the proper way of doing. Immersion is also apparently indicated by Paul when he tells the Colossians, “having been buried with (Christ) in baptism and raise with him through your faith in the power of God” (Col 2:12). In this, Paul states, baptism is a means of dying to a life of sin and being buried, then being raised up. In this, the baptized shares in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
The bigger issue in regards to baptism, however, falls on its role in salvation. Is baptism required for salvation? According to Peter’s answer, it would appear so. Jesus tells the disciples to make disciples, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19, ESV). By these commands, it would appear baptism is salvational.
However, the New Testament is also very clear that the only means of salvation is Jesus himself. Acts 4:12 makes it clear salvation is found in Jesus alone. Rom 10:13 states that anyone who calls upon Jesus’ name will be saved. And Eph 2:8-9 states clearly that salvation is by grace alone, not by any works.
Given these comparisons, it begs the question again; is baptism salvational? Or is it a mark of sanctification? As indicated earlier in Col 2, it is a way of sharing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and as such, is a public demonstration of one’s decision to accept Christ’s death on the cross as the means of God’s gift of salvation. Regardless of whether it is ultimately a mark of salvation or sanctification, baptism is a pivotal moment in the life of all followers of Christ.
Snyder, Howard A. 2004. The Community of the King. Downers Grove, IL. Intervarsity Press.
Baker, William R. 2018. “Lecture 15: The Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11, Part 2.” THE5213 Forum. Cited 15 April 2018. https://hiu.instructure.com/courses/4998/pages/video-resources-week-4?module_item_id=116500