The Master's Supper
The Messianic Evangelical View
The Master's (Lord's) Supper has, interestingly (and perhaps ironically too), been one of the major sources of disunity and contention in Christendom, since this is one of the most important ordinances of our faith. All Christians are at least agreed that the Master's (Lord's) Supper is a memorial ordinance by which we remember who our Master Yahshua (Jesus) was, what He said, and what He did. Few would disagree also that by partaking of this ordinance that there is a deepening of the fellowship and communion of believers. It somehow, when entered into with the right spirit, has the effect of binding Christians/Messianics more closely together. Moreover, all Christians recognise that the breaking of the bread and the pouring out of the wine are the central symbols of the death of the Messiah on the cross. So no matter what your Christian/Messianic beliefs are, all would probably agree that the Master's (Lord's) Supper is highly symbolic. Where the differences occur is whether this sacred meal is more than symbolism.
The Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants and New Covenant Christians all basically agree that, as Augustine put it, the sacraments (of which the FONT SIZE="2" FACE="Verdana"> Master's (Lord's) Supper was understood to be one of seven) are a 'visible word', communicating the same Besorah (Gospel) that comes through written and spoken forms of revelation. Most Christian traditions teach that Messiah is present in the Master's (Lord's) Supper (often called the 'Eucharist') in some special way - where they disagree is in the mode, the locus, and the time of that presence.
A. The Roman Catholic Tradition
According to the eucharistic doctrine of the Roman Catholics, the elements of the bread and wine are 'transubstantiated' into the body and blood of Christ; that is, their whole substance is converted into the whole substance of the body and blood, although the outward appearances of the elements, their 'accidents', remain. This eucharistic doctrine gives support to certain eucharistic practices and is supported by them in turn. For example, the adoration and reservation of the Host (bread/wafer) follow from the belief that the whole Christ is truly present in His body and blood under ther forms of bread and wine. Similarly, they argue, the presence of the whole of Christ is either of the consecrated species justifies the practice of distributing only the Host, not the chalice (wine), to the laity. From the affirmation of the real presence comes substantiation for the sacrifice of the Mass: Christ sacrificed Himself on Calvary once, but the Mass re-presents that sacrifice. By both asserting the doctrine of transubstantiation and redefining the meaning of the eucharistic sacrifice, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) continued the theological work of Thomas Aquinas and laid down the lines for further theological development. During the 19th and 20th centuries the Roman Catholic liturgical movement put new emphasis on the frequency of communion, the participation of the entire congregation in the priestly service, and the real presence of Christ in the church as the fundamental presupposition for the real presence of the Eucharist.
Needless to say all of this goes far beyond what the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) and the sub-apostolic assemblies (churches) believed and practiced though as might be expected in any tradition stemming from an original core belief, there are elements of emet (truth) to be found in the Catholic proposition. The Roman Catholic concept that Christ is resacrificed again and again in the Mass is utterly unbiblical and blasphemous, the Davar (Word) clearly saying that our Master was sacrificed once and for all men (Heb.10:10). The Catholic practice is therefore highly occultic in its concept and practice and for this reason alone is rejected by us. Further, we reject the clergy-laity divide, the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) clearly teaching that all believers who are truly born-again are a part of the Royal Priesthood of Yahweh, though in different degrees (1 Pet.2:9). Finally, it cannot be disputed that at the Last Supper the talmidim (disciples) partook of both the bread and the wine, thus invalidating the Catholic practice of only administering the bread (Host) to their laity. To this must be added that the Catholic adoration of the Host is pure idolatry, for we are to worship Elohim (God only) "in spirit and emet (truth)" (Jn.4:24)) and not in any supposed physical
manifestation. When Yah'shua (Jesus) taught His talmidim (disciples) to "do this (partake of the Lord's Supper) in remembrance of Me" (Lk.22:19) He most certainly did not mean them to worship the elements but, as they partook of those elements, to hold Him (and in particular His death) in remembrace until His second coming.
B. The Eastern Orthodox Tradition
The Eastern Orthodox Church has beliefs very similar to the Roman system of thought and practice though one of the main differences is that they use leavened rather than unleavened bread, a practice which arose as a result of a dispute as to whether the Last Supper took place on the last day of leavened bread or the first day of leavened bread in the Jewish calendar. Eastern Orthodoxy also practices intinction, the dipping of the consecrated bread in the wine. Also, whereas the Roman Catholics maintain that the recitation of the words of institution constitutes the Eucharist as a sacrament, the Eastern Church teaches that the invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the elements (Gk. epiklêsis) is the essential form of the Eucharist. In the area of eucharistic doctrine, Eastern Orthodoxy has not achieved the elaboration and precision of Western doctrine. There is a Greek term corresponding to transubstantiation, metousiôsis, but is is evident that the term was adopted by Eastern Orthodoxy in the course of theological discussions with the Western Church. The principle differences between Eastern and Western ideas on the Eucharist are in the areas of piety and liturgy rather than in doctrine and therefore we would reject the Eastern Orthodox model on the same bases as we do the Western Catholic.
C. The Protestant Traditions
Of the various theological tendencies in non-Roman Catholic Western Christendom, the two that adhere most closely to the traditions of Catholic eucharistic doctrine and practice, eastern and western, are the Anglican and Lutheran. Early Anglican theology vigorously opposed Roman Catholic teaching on the sacraments, sometimes even identifying the Anglican with Reformed theology. But for the beginning, and especially since Newman and the Oxford Movement of the 19th century, Anglican liturgical practice and eucharistic doctrine have kept, or recovered, more of the Catholic tradition than have Reformed practice and doctrine. The theology of Lutheranism in the 16th century unequivocally affirmed the real presence of the body and blood of Christ 'in, with, and under' the bread and wine in the Eucharist. The term 'consubstantiation', although not officially approved by Lutheran theologians, did summarise the Lutheran alternative to the idea of transubstantiation. In their liturgies, both Anglicanism and Lutheranism worked within the framework of the Western liturgy of the Mass, adopting certain elements and rejecting others; the liturgical movements in both communions during the 19th and 20th centuries restored the eucharistic prayer and other elements of the tradition, even though the theological interpretation of the Master's (Lord's) Supper continued to display great variety.
More radical in its rejection of traditional interpretations of the euchatistic presence and in its suspicion of traditional liturgical practices, Reformed Christianity replaced the altar with the communion table and subordinated the sacraments to the preached and written Davar (Word). In the theory and practice of Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) the memorial aspect of the eucharistic celebration received new emphasis, overshadowing if not excluding other aspects. But the more characteristically Reformed doctrine was that of John Calvin (1509-1564), who taught a 'real but spiritual presence' of the living Christ in the sacramental action rather than in the elements as such. The liturgical observance introduced by Calvin were intended to eliminate from the Master's (Lord's) Supper what Calvin regarded as the superstitious practices of the Mass and to restore the simplicity of the Gospels. The doctrine of the Master's (Lord's) Supper became the occasion for the most serious of the confessional debates between Reformed and Lutheran churches.
Other Free Church traditions have drawn upon Reformed thought and practice but have been even more thoroughgoing in their attempts to reform eucharistic doctrine and practice. The sacraments have become 'ordinances', not channels of grace but expressions of the emunah (faith) and obedience of the Christian community. Among Baptists the practice of 'close communion' has restricted the ordinance to those who are baptised as adults upon a personal profession of emunah (faith). And the Society of Friends (Quakers) dropped the use of the Eucharist altogether, as well as the practice of baptism, in its reaction against formalism.
D. Other 'Non-Conformist' Traditions
Most of the other extant traditions fall within the categories above. The Latter Day Saints (both Mormon and RLDS), though not espousing either the transubstantiation or the consubstantiation of the Catholics and Lutherans, respectively, nevertheless view the Master's (Lord's) Supper as a sacrament (by which name they also call it, viz. 'The Sacrament') which only their priesthoods, of all other traditions, have the authority to administer. In this respect they are not unlike the Catholics. In more recent times, the RLDS have adopted a more liberal 'open communion' in their attempts to be accepted within the wider ecumenical movement.
E. The Messianic Evangelical Doctrine and Practice
Of all the systems described above NCAY has always most closely identified with the Baptist position. We have, however,
gone much further that the Baptist model, having evolved our theology as more revelation on the subject has been received.
One of the earliest revelations to Messianic Evangelicals, an open vision (1986), confirmed the Baptist position that the Master's (Lord's) Supper was closed and only for adults born-again of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). A very simple lituturgy was given almost identical to that found in the New Testament. The ceremony was non-public and required reconcilliation between estranged parties before participation was permitted. The regularity of communion services was left to the discretion of the local Pastor (Olive Branch, NC&C 6:12-38). As early as November 1988 a custom had begun to creep into the simple liturgy involving the laying on of hands on the element which was quickly corrected by a new revelation (Ibid. 47:18-19). In this revelation Yahweh said: "This...is the fruit of a carnal mind which supposeth that the symbol is the substance" (v.19), thus correcting the Catholic/Eastern Orthodox/Lutheran notion of any kind of substantial presence in the eucharist. From this point onwards it became clear that the Master's (Lord's) Supper was primarily symbolic.
A preliminary liturgy was compiled (NC&C 73) which was to be gradually changed as more revelation was received. In December 1988 women were authorised to administer the master's (Lord's) Supper in the absence of any male Elders. Further, a certain degree of spiritual purity was required of those administering the ordinance (NC&C 81). Shortly afterwards, further liturgical elements were introduced including the requirement for hygiene (NC&C 83). In March 1989 revelation was received describing the responsibility of the Deaconate (male and female) in distributing the elements to the communicants (NC&C 113:30-38).
In July 1989 further theological elaboration in an important revelation on the Master's (Lord's) Supper, preparing the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) for important understandings that would not come until a decade later:
"Did I not tell you that it was necessary to eat my flesh and drink My blood in order that ye might be saved? The ignorant and unspiritual have never understood this saying, perceiving it through carnal eyes, supposing all manner of obscenity and inventing ridiculous doctrines" (Olive Branch, NC&C 163:25-26).
No further clarification was given, as is typical of many revelations where Yahweh expects His people to search the scriptures out before giving further light and emet (truth). But together with the hints in earlier revelations, it is now clear (with hindsight) that Yahweh was preparing His people for a major change in thinking. But what could that be? The clue comes in the word 'salvation'.
Subsequent revelations mostly address administrative and liturgical needs - the rôle of Eldresses (NC&C 238:15-18), preparation of the elements, public confession, the communion room, the communion table, and the participants (NC&C 275), and the Framstillingen or challenge to purity (NC&C 275B), all of which were received in 1990. No further revelation was received for another ten years.
The emphasis throughout the 1988-1999 period was always on the memorial aspect of the Master's (Lord's) Supper and the need for inner purity. It was administered at least once a month, and very often once a week.
This is the Messianic Evangelical view of the Master's (Lord's) Supper.
This page was created on 6 April 2000
Last updated on 5 September 2017
Copyright © 1987-2017 NCAY - All Rights Reserved