“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
Our hope of the forgiveness of sins, and indeed, of all our trust in the plan of salvation which our heavenly Father has provided for us; is a rational one; one which can readily and reasonably be seen, understood and discussed.
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3)
Our faith, hope and trust in God is something which we both can and should discuss and defend.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2nd Timothy 3:16)
That is why the Word of God was revealed to us.
“Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” (2nd Timothy 2:14-16)
As students of His Word, we all must remember that “strifes of words” to “no profit” are far more than counter-productive and a waste of time; they are also divisive, and soul-endangering.
“He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” (Proverbs 18:13)
Yet, it is clear that we must know what we are talking about when we are discussing matters which can or may threaten to divide the Lord’s called-out body, His church.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1st Peter 3:15)
Without a doubt, meek and fearful Bible study is encouraged by the Lord. While we are to “contend earnestly" for the faith; all-too-often the frailties of human nature intervene and, in "the heat of battle", faith is overwhelmed by contention itself.
We believe that it is possible to contend earnestly without being contentious. And, it is to such open and free Bible-based study of Bible subjects that this page of our website is devoted. It is possible to agree on truth if honest minds agree to submit to the word of God. Throughout the centuries, many creeds and catechisms have been written that divide believers rather than unify. It is our goal that this website furnish a forum for open discussion to occur so that readers can look at the best defense of each position and compare it to a “thus saith the Lord.” The inspired Word of God contained in the 66 books of the Bible will be the final authority, not human ideas and traditions.
If you would like to enter into such a discussion within these guidelines to be posted on this page, you are encouraged to do so.
You may contact the webmaster, Kevin Greer at: firstname.lastname@example.org
email us directly at: email@example.com.
Tom Roberts, evangelist
Northside church of Christ
Do "double-standards" in the application of Scriptural authority to issues of doctrine and practice in the church of our Lord exist? While these letters, by Brothers Lechner and Roberts, more-specifically address the matter of one versus multiple cups in the Lord's Supper; I ask the reader to view them as a "test-case" of sorts regarding the possibility of such "double-standards".
Are non-institutional brethren defending the permissibilty of using multiple cups, while claiming the one-cup brethren are binding where Scripture does not bind; but at the same time denying institutionals the defensive use of "where the Scripture do not bind, we have liberty"?
I am only asking that you that you take the only authority, God's Word; and judge for yourself. If you would be willing to more-directly address this (or any other) matter facing the church of our Lord, in a discussion with Bro. Roberts on this page; please do not hesitate to contact us.
Kevin L. Greer, webmaster
Letters 1 and 3 by Bro. Charles D. Lechner, El Centro church of Christ, El Centro, CA
Letters 2 and 4 by Bro. Tom M. Roberts, Northside church of Christ, Mansfield, TX
(contact information for both participants will be found following the letters)
I am sure we would all agree the scriptures consistently use the singular word "cup" when used in connection with the Lord’s Supper (commonly, and perhaps more accurately, referred to as the communion service). In fact, the word "cups" is used only twice in the New Testament both times in Mark chapter 7 verses 4 and 8. These verses refer to the washing or cleansing of "many things", including cups and they do not refer to the communion service. This makes one wonder why there are congregations of the church of Christ using more than one cup in their communion service. Is this practice a liberty or are there folks defending a man-made innovation as doctrine? In between these two verses in Mark we find Jesus asking: (in verses 6 and 7) "He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Are there brethren among us today that teach the commandments of men?
Let us look at what Jesus did and said in Matthew 26:27 "And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it". The singularity of cup seems fairly straightforward in this example. You will find the same in Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, and 1 Corinthians 11:25.
We know Paul was not happy with the congregation in Corinth that he had established approximately 5 years earlier. He wrote to them admonishing them for their attitudes and behavior regarding many spiritual matters, one of which was the Lord’s Supper. Now, let us see how Paul corrected them. First, Paul clarifies where the instructions are coming from. He wrote; 1 Corinthians 11:23 "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you..." Here Paul is explaining where his authority came from. He continues and says in 1 Corinthians 11:25" After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me". Notice that singularity of the cup is used. Would Paul correct this congregation by giving them false instructions? I think not.
Let us now skip forward in time a few hundred years and see how the early church managed the communion service well after apostolic times. Historians, Ignatius of Antioch (c.110) wrote "one cup", Justin the Martyr (c. 100-165) wrote " he took the cup" and "likewise of the cup", Irenaeus (c. 140-202) wrote "the cup", Ephraim (c.306-373) wrote "the cup" and "a cup" and Cyril of Jerusalem (c.350) wrote "the cup." It is clear, all of these men wrote of only one cup being used in the worship service.
So now we ask the question; when did congregations start using multiple cups? J.G. Thomas, a denominational minister and physician invented the first individual communion set and their first use occurred in the Vaughnsville Congregational Church located in Putnam Co., Ohio sometime during the year of 1893. But as for the churches connected to the Restoration movement (i.e., church of Christ, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ), brother C. E. Holt of Florence, AL. may well have been the first gospel preacher to come out in favor of individual cups. He wrote an article in their support on June 11, 1911 that was published in the “Gospel Advocate.”
We need to know, is there a symbolic meaning to the cup that has been overlooked? In these four passages: Luke22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, Matthew 26:27-28 and Mark 14:23-24 our Lord mentions two elements represented by two symbols. The cup represents the New Testament and the fruit of the vine represents the blood of Jesus. Some may say the covenant is insignificant, but Jesus could have omitted mentioning the new covenant from each of these passages but didn’t. I believe that Jesus gave significance to the cup and called it the “New Testament” making it a covenant between God and His people. Other biblical examples of God's covenants are: the rainbow representing a covenant with Noah, circumcision representing a covenant with Abraham, and likewise the cup represents the New Covenant. It seems clear that in our communion, the cup represents the New Testament, and the fruit of the vine represents the blood. Knowing there is only one New Covenant it stands to reason there is only one cup.
Very briefly let us look at a few reasons I have been given as to why more than one cup should be permitted in the worship service.
Almost all discussions I have had regarding the "cup," metonymy is always brought into the conversation. Metonymy means; "A figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated" (merriam-webster.com). The argument is the word cup maybe said but it is the fruit of the vine that is meant. Now, I have also been told; "when metonymy is employed, it can have only one symbol." In the booklet "The Lord's Supper" written by Brett Hickey, E.W. Bullinger stated in his book "Figures of Speech Used in the Bible," there are several rules associated with metaphors. One of these rules he writes (regarding Matt 26:26, Matt 26:28 & Luke 22:20/1 Cor. 11:25), "All this establishes our statement that in a metaphor, the two nouns (or pronoun and noun) are always literal, and that the figure lies only in the verb" (Bullinger, 1968. 740). A biblical example of this can be found in Galatians 4:21-31where we learn that Hagar is the Old Covenant and Sarah is the New Covenant. One literal woman represents the old covenant and another literal woman represents the new covenant. Therefore when Luke and Paul wrote, 'This cup is a new covenant ...,' a literal cup represents a literal new covenant" (George Battey "The Lord's Supper" Pg 24).
Looking back to the letter to Corinth, we see in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 two little words that settle this issue once and for all; "THIS DO." This is a command given by Jesus to each and every person that holds the word of God near and dear to their hearts. Now the question before us is, do what? So, let us look at the verses involved; Luke 22:19 (says He "gave unto them"), V20 (says "likewise" so he gave the cup unto them), Matt 26:27 ("gave it to them," "drink ye all of it"), Mark 14:23 ("gave it to them"). It is easy to see he gave the one cup to them and not individual cups. In 1 Cor. 11:25 we learn this is the same cup he had just drank from. Continuing on in 1 Cor. 11:25 we read, "This do." Clearly we are to do what Jesus demonstrated. I cannot help but wonder why there is an issue at all over this very clear step by step example of how to honor our Lord?
Let me address another point that is always brought up: large congregations. I am often asked; what if the congregation is 500 members? This question is a very common explanation of why we can NOT follow scripture. I know many congregations well over 100 members that have one cup. I also know of many multiple cup congregations under 100 that still use that excuse to break the command of "this do." Acts 2:46 tells us what they did in Jerusalem, "breaking bread from house to house" which many say is a reference to the Lord's Supper. I ask you in Acts 8:1 when Christians were scattered, how did they worship? I take this to mean they must have worshipped on their own or in small groups. This would make "house to house" from Acts 2:46 seem clearer as to the fact they worshipped in their houses. As with any problem though there is an answer that can conform to scripture if we desire. A large congregation could have more meeting times, or start additional congregations, etc. All of these solutions would still meet with the pattern established in scripture for the cup; pick it up - pray - sip - give. The fact is if we find ourselves in a situation that makes obedience to God impossible we then must change the situation not God's command.
So what do we absolutely know about using more than one cup?
1) The use of multiple cups is entirely unknown to the New Testament (not even a hint of their use).
2) Multiple cups are modern innovations, additions, that didn't come into use in the churches of Christ until the early 1900's.
3) The congregations of the church of our Lord which adopted the practice of multiple cups “borrowed” their use from the denominational world.
4) The use of multiple cups violates the example given to us in scripture.
5) Multiple cups violates the spirit of Christ's law by making the act of communion personal instead of communal.
6) The use of multiple cups prevents the user from having unity with the early church.
7) The use of multiple cups makes worship in vain by replacing the doctrine of the New Testament with the commandments of men.
8) If we do anything other than; pick the cup up, pray for the cup, sip from the cup and then pass the cup we are in violation of the command given to us by Jesus, "this do."
9) Multiple cups violates the last words of our Lord in Revelation 22:18-19.
10) We know individual cups were invented in the late 1800's. When was the individual cup introduced?
In addition, let us not forget why Jesus and His disciples were together in that upper room: To celebrate the Passover feast. At the feast, everyone had their own cup for their meal. We read when Jesus instituted the communion He picked up His cup, blessed it, sipped of it and gave it or passed it to the next person and "they all drank of it." Have you ever asked, why didn't He have them pick up and drink of their own cups? Jesus could have authorized individual cups at this moment but he didn't. He had them all drink from one cup demonstrating for us today how to commune together. Friends this alone shows the importance of the one cup.
Lastly, Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:3 "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue". Jude says it this way; "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints". These inspired men tell us today God has already delivered or given us everything we need for salvation. We don't need to add anything else. We wouldn't add a musical instrument because we say there is no authority. Where is the authority to add multiple cups? I was once told “the communion isn't that important,” and believe it or not, this was from a preacher from a congregation of the church of Christ. However, this writer believes it to be the upmost of importance. Jesus told us to "do this in remembrance of me", Paul said: "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body". Unworthily means without reverence. With these ideas in mind when we observe the communion known as the Lord’s Supper, how can it be important that we observe it and not important in how we observe it? Brethren, let us not pervert the simple New Testament pattern of the communion that Jesus himself demonstrated for us. Let us all resolve to follow the command given to us by Jesus, "this do."
Is the use of multiple cups really a non-issue, or is it actually a double standard, as our title asks? It is certainly the latter, and makes it a step down a slippery slope. If we willingly bend the doctrine for this issue what will be the next addition to the worship service? Worse still, what other additions (and subtractions) are already in place in our called-out-body that has become long-accepted as “non-issues”?
Dear Brother Lechner:
I have received your first affirmative and have read it carefully. I will answer it honestly and brotherly, striving to achieve harmony with you and with the scriptures. I believe the scriptures to be inspired by the Holy Spirit and will rely exclusively on them (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). I appreciate brother Kevin Greer inviting this discussion. My goal will be to answer any error that I find and to propose a scriptural position concerning “one cup vs. many.” I speak only for myself and not any particular congregation or segment of the “brotherhood.”
I am in agreement with you that “cups” as used in Mark 7:4, 8 has no reference to the Lord’s supper, but alludes to the traditions of the Jews. And, yes, it is possible to have traditions of men in practice in our time, but who they are is yet to be determined. I am opposed to the doctrines and commandments of men. If it is not an apostolic practice, we must avoid it. The scriptures to which we will appeal will be Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:17-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 and others as relevant.
Brother Lechner, have you ever drunk “the cup?” The common error that many make about “the cup” is to switch terms between the cup and its contents. Yes, we can drink the fruit of the vine, but we cannot drink the cup (container). Which is it?
You indicate some reservation about the use of metonymy. But the Bible is rich in the use of figures and we cannot ignore that. Jesus referred to Herod as “that fox” Luke 13:32). In Philippians 3:2, we are told to “beware of dogs,” but it plain that this too is a figure of speech. The use of metonymy is both biblical and scriptural. If we fail to understand figures of speech in the Bible, we fail in our understanding. Nicodemus had that problem with the “new birth” in John 3:5. We will never come to the proper understanding of truth if we fail to include such figures. I honestly believe this is your mistake. We could come to an instant agreement if you would accept Bible figures of speech.
I have no disagreement with the basic definition of metonymy: “a figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or which it is associated.” We see this used in 1 Cor. 10:21 as the “table” which refers to the Lord’s supper. (Of which spiritual significance is the table in connection with the Supper? You make “the cup” – literal – an integral part of the Supper when you refer it as “the New Covenant.” But in 1 Corinthians 11:25, the Lord’s supper itself is found in the New Covenant (not the Old Covenant) and the “cup” is to be drunk. You make this mistake of using a literal approach to the literal cup, switching terms, when the ‘cup” refers to its contents, which are to be drunk.) It is obvious that you are switching terms regarding the “cup” and not allowing metonymy to explain the context.
In Hebrews 11:7, it is stated that Noah prepared an ark “to the saving of his house.” His “house” does not refer to a dwelling place, but his family. Another instance: John 3:16. Here “the world” is used but what is meant is the people in the world. Metonymy is likewise used in the Lord’s Supper. If not, you have a severe problem on your hands. Again, have you ever drunk the cup? Which is it?
I have noticed that you have not referenced Luke 22:17, “Then he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves.’ For I say to you, ‘I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’” Brother Lechner, Jesus told his disciples to “divide it among yourselves.” (see Matthew 27:35 – “divide up”, or “separate into parts”). No one can divide a literal cup, so, of necessity, it must have been the fruit of the vine that was divided into multiple cups. Please address Luke 22:17 in your response.
So far as your use of ancient writers and what they had to say about “the cup,” they are not inspired men and I doubt if you would agree with them about their understanding of the Lord’s church. By this time, the apostasy spoken of by Paul (1 Timothy 4) was already underway. Also, how do you prove that they were not using metonymy since the verses we are discussing used it. You assume that they were literalists like you in their quotes. It is not reasonable to deny the use of metonymy in these passages. The fruit of the vine was the cup and it was drunk. It was also divided among the disciples.
Brother, you assume that multiple cups were introduced only recently (c. 1893). This begs the question of what happened at the Passover supper. By the way, separate cups (containers) were used at the Passover (as you admit) so what is strange about multiple cups at the Supper? Luke 22:17 predates 1893 by centuries – even to the time of Jesus. With the multiple containers at the Passover, it is reasonable that they would use the same containers when they “divided it among yourselves."
Your emphasis on 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 is fine until you switch terms again. Yes, it is commanded, “This do.” They were to “drink the cup,” (not the container), but Luke 17 tells us to “divide it among yourselves.” “All of them” were to drink the cup (not the container). Do you see why it is obvious you switch terms as it suits your position.
Without ridiculing anyone (I don’t believe in that), I refer to myself as the “one cupper.” Our cup is the fruit of the vine and that alone is what we use – one cup. It is no problem if a church has 50 members or 500, even 3000 as in Jerusalem. Early Christians divided the cup (fruit of the vine) among themselves (Luke 22:17) and there was no problem until our era when brethren began to bind one container.
As to what we “absolutely know” about using more than one cup:
1) The answer is Luke 22:17. Multiple cups were used in New Testament times in the presence of Jesus and by His command.
2) Multiple cups were of New Testament origin, not something introduced in the early 1900’s.
3) Multiple cups were not “borrowed” from denominations, but arose under the instruction of Jesus Himself.
4) The use of multiple cups agrees with the New Testament order.
5) Multiple cups do not violate the spirit of Christ’s Law because the Lord’s supper is both personal and communal. The Supper is observed in the assembly (communal) but each person is to examine himself and “do this” in memory of Jesus (personal). The supper is communal as a congregation observes the supper together.
6) Nothing about multiple cups ignores the unity of the early church. Disciples “divided it” among themselves and we do the same as they did.
7) There is nothing about “dividing it” yourselves that makes it vain worship. Those using multiple cups exhibit the same dedication and love as those who use one container.
8) Those who use multiple cups (containers) also “pick up the cup (the container), pray for the cup (the fruit of the vine), sip (of the cup, the fruit of the vine), then pass the cup (both the container and the cup). We are obeying Jesus: “this do.”
9) You are assuming, without proof, that using multiple cups (containers) is either adding to or subtracting from the word of God. Actually, those who use multiple cups are obeying Luke 22:17. But you are guilty of binding where God has not bound. Was Noah guilty of adding when he used a saw or hammer to build the boat? They were not specifically authorized but essential to the building of the ark. Multiple containers are not specifically authorized, but essential when we “divide it among ourselves.”
10) The individual container was introduced in Luke 22:17, regardless of what was introduced in the late 1800’s.
One final point I would like to bring up is the cost of this issue to our fellowship. I accept your honesty and integrity without question. The issue or cup/cups has divided brother against brother; congregation against. congregation. On this we surely agree. However, if there is merit to our understanding of Luke 22:17 and the proper use of metonymy in scripture, our discussion could have a healing effect. I am convinced that it is scriptural to “divide it among yourselves.” I accept that the cup/container is a proper use of metonymy. If there is any way in which we could agree on this, it would bring us together as united brethren. This hope defines my agreement to enter into this discussion. I will await your response and will give it prayerful study. May God bless us and use us to bring brethren together.
I would like to begin my response by letting the reader know I have spoken to Brother Roberts a couple of times on the phone and I found him to be the most polite gentleman and I want to thank him publicly for his kind response and demeanor. I will tell you this has not always been the case. There have been those that were angry and sarcastic from the outset and unable to express their thoughts so they turned to name calling and sarcasm. I pray we both continue to put the doctrine of Christ ahead of our own emotions and "prove all things" with scripture.
I have also read some of Brother Roberts articles and there is no doubt he is an experienced writer who is knowledgeable in scripture. However, on the issue of the cup, Brother Roberts sadly has it wrong. Brother Roberts would like for me to believe the inspired writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke and 1 Corinthians were unable to write "cups." Wouldn't that have been an easy thing for them to do? Of course, but that is not what was written. As Christians searching for truth, we must rely on scripture and our understanding of scripture must be in harmony with other related verses. In other words, the account of the Lords Supper found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and 1 Corinthians must all be in harmony with each other. We simply cannot understand one of the four to mean something different than the other three. I am sure Brother Roberts would agree. To Brother Roberts question regarding Luke, the scriptural account found in Luke 22 simply cannot override the other scriptural accounts; they MUST be in harmony with each other.
Please, let me address a few comments from Brother Roberts response.
The Issue Of Metonymy
To be clear, I am well aware metonymy is used throughout the scriptures. In fact, I provided an example in my original article. The examples Brother Roberts provided are also proof of their use within scripture. I think it safe to say we agree on this fact. I am not sure how my statement on metonymy could have been taken in a different manner, but I want the reader to know it was not my intention to suggest there was not any use of metonymy within the scriptures. However, the issue we have before us is: did Jesus use a literal cup or was the cup that they drank from a figure of speech in that they didn't use a container? Does the metonymy we see in Luke 22:20 contradict the use of a literal cup in Luke 22:17? My question to Brother Roberts is can a congregation drink a liquid without a container? If not, then I ask how many containers did Jesus use when he instituted the Lord's supper? Of course, the answer is one. In 1 Corinthians 11:25 the inspired Paul tells us today what Jesus said then. Jesus said, "This cup." Then Jesus goes on to say "this do ye." Now we see a command to do what Jesus had just done. What did Jesus do? In Luke 22:19 the bible says He "gave unto them," V20 says "likewise" so he gave the cup unto them, Matt 26:27 we read "gave it to them," "drink ye all of it," Mark 14:23 tells us Jesus "gave it to them." It is easy to see Jesus gave the one cup to His disciples and not individual cups. In 1 Cor. 11:25 we learn this is the same cup he had just drank from. In 1 Cor. 11:25 we read, "this do." Clearly today we are to do what Jesus had done while establishing his memorial.
Now that we know there was only one cup used when Jesus established His memorial, let us see if there is any significance placed on the cup by our Lord.
The Cup Is The New Testament
Brother Roberts would like for me to believe the bible states: "'this cup is my blood', and because we know the container is not his blood but the fruit of the vine is; so that is what Jesus called a cup." I admit this would change things if it was true but that is the problem. Christ did not say "this cup is my blood." What Jesus did say can be found in Luke 22:20 "This cup is the new testament in my blood" (1 Cor 11:25). I am sure you would agree the New Testament is not Christ's blood so the only conclusion that can be drawn is Christ's blood is not the cup because: "cup is the new testament in my blood." But what does "cup" really mean? Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon pg 533 states, "a cup, a drinking vessel." Now I ask you, what was this wine in? Maybe a bottle or bucket? No, it was in a cup as we all can read, and the cup represents the New Testament.
Can One Drink A Cup?
Let us turn our attention to Matt 26:27 "And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it." Many would probably say to me about this verse, "you can't drink a container. Therefore, 'cup' cannot mean a container. Scripture says; 'drink this cup' and 'drink of that cup' and we couldn't follow this command if cup means a container." Brother Roberts, does this pretty much sum up your position? Let me show you a biblical example of where a "cup" is mentioned and meant.
(Excerpts taken from E.H.Miller's Proof: Cups Are Not Scriptural) Please, turn with me to Ezek 23:32 "Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou shalt drink of thy sister's cup deep and large: ... it containeth much" (ASV). This "cup" mentioned here was "deep and Large" and that it "containeth much." This verse certainly refers to the container. Remember now that "it containeth" and that it was "deep and large."
Brother Roberts, how can this be only the liquid? I do not believe anyone can deny that a container is what is under consideration yet in verse 34 we read they were to "drink it and drain it out." God said they were to "drink it and drain it out." How could they obey God? Did God ask them to do something impossible? No, they could do what God said and so can we today. How can we drink a cup? We drink what is in the cup. Now, let's get back to Matt 26. Let me provide a few different translations. "Drink ye all of it" (KJV), "Drink ye all of it" (ASV), "Drink from it, all of you" (ISV). Weymouth New Testament reads; "Drink from it, all of you." These different translations all lead us to the conclusion that they all drank from the same cup. Now after reading this verse, we know what Jesus told them to do but what actually happened? Mark tells us; 14:23 "And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it." As I stated earlier the scriptures must be in harmony with themselves, so how can Matt 26:27 be in agreement with Luke 22:17? Clearly Matt 26:27 shows us they all drank from the same cup but Luke 22:17 tells us to divide it. This is not hard to understand if one wants to. When each one sipped from the same cup, they took some out therefore dividing the contents among themselves. If anything other than this happened, then they did not "Drink ye all of it" nor did they "all drank of it."
Earlier I provided scripture (Ezek 23:32) showing where the word cup is mentioned and meant. God said to drink the cup but it was the contents of the cup that was meant. These are two separate items. We have the same situation before us. The cup or container is one item and the fruit of the vine is another. However, even if one wants to call the Fruit of the vine a cup it will have to be the contents in a single cup (as the example we read in scripture) not multiple cups.
Brother Roberts you said; "It is no problem if the church has 50 members or 500, even 3000 as in Jerusalem." This is a common statement by those that use multiple cups. However, the suggestion that Jerusalem had only one congregation and that they all assembled together is nothing more than speculation. There is not one shred of evidence to support this suggestion. Let us stay to scripture and what it does tells us please. For additional information on this subject I refer you to page 3 of my original letter.
Rightly Dividing The Truth
Brother Roberts, I believe that to understand God's will we must take all scriptures into account as we strive to rightly divide the truth. All verses that speak to the communion must support the narrative together. One verse cannot be used against another; they must all be in harmony with themselves. We also have to reach the same conclusion as the earliest Christians did. We today cannot be united with those that went before us if we do something different than what they did. We wouldn't dream of suggesting baptism can be done with a wash cloth. We can clearly read the scriptural examples of baptism and understand the Greek meanings of the words involved. To be united with the early Christians in the Lord's church, we must perform total submersion. However when it comes to the communion, we have a different story. For different reasons, folks are willing to change what is so obviously clear in scripture, what we know the earliest Christians did, and overlook the call for unity. In this writers opinion there is certainly a double standard in regards to the Lord's supper within the church as our original title suggested.
Historically the Church used One Cup
My final point is directed to a statement by Brother Roberts; "Early Christians divided the cup (fruit of the vine) among themselves (Luke 22:17) and there was no problem until our era when brethren began to bind one container." The early church historical writers never wrote of using multiple cups. Of course, these men were NOT inspired, but that doesn't change the fact that their writings tell us today how the early church performed the communion. None of them use the word "cups." Lastly, an interesting quote comes from G. C. Brewer (1948) in his autobiography, Forty Years on the Firing Line: "I think I was the first preacher to advocate the use of the individual communion cup and the first church in the State of Tennessee that adopted it was the church for which I was preaching, the Central Church of Christ at Chattanooga, Tennessee, then meeting in the Masonic Temple. My next work was with the church at Columbia, Tennessee, and, after a long struggle, I got the individual communion service into that congregation. About this time, Brother G. Dallas Smith began to advocate the individual communion service and he introduced it at Fayetteville, Tennessee; then later at Murfreesboro. Of course, I was fought both privately and publicly and several brethren took me to task in the religious papers and called me digressive." The introduction of multiple cups by man into the communion service is well documented. Men like G. C. Brewer would not have fought to introduce the individual communion cup, splitting the Lord's church over this issue, if Jesus and the apostles had already initiated it.
Brother Roberts wishes to have the last word in this discussion. I am fine with that because no matter what he says the facts do not change. Jesus, according to scripture on the night he established His memorial, picked up a cup, blessed that cup, sipped of that cup, and handed that same cup to the next person to do the same giving the command, "this do." Additionally, I believe this example was bound on all of us by Christ, not by man, and later confirmed by the Apostle Paul and it must be adhered to by all. Philippians 4:9 "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."
I appreciate very much the sentiment that has been expressed by brother Lechner regarding the attitude displayed in this open discussion. We hope to display “more light than heat.” Readers will have an opportunity to look at both sides of this discussion and draw their own conclusions. Neither of us speaks for a group or congregation, but simply express our understanding of the scriptures. Please note that both of us view the Bible as the final court of spiritual matters.
As brother Lechner had the first “affirmative” or opening statement, I will have the last “negative” or response. If the situation were reversed, (or if we ever decide to re-open the discussion), I would open the discussion and brother Lechner would have the final response. Thus, a fair arrangement is made in discussions. However, I admit that the last response has an advantage over the first affirmative, so if it is desired, I will be willing to have another discussion with brother Lechner with myself taking the first affirmative and he will have the last word.
Brother Lechner believes I am wrong in my belief and I believe he is wrong. This is obvious. His flaw of thinking, in my judgment, is that he confuses “cup” and “container.” He switches between terms, evidently unwittingly. In scripture, the “cup” is what one drinks. But also, in scripture, the “cup” is also the container. Yes, I believe the authors of the gospel were able to speak of “cups,” but not of the fruit of the vine. Again, he switches terms. One can speak of cups (plural) if one is speaking of the containers. Try this logic on the plate containing the bread. Must we use only one plate? The plate containing the bread is not the bread and the bread is not the plate. There is no emphasis placed on the plates, containing the bread, and no emphasis on the cup with the content, the fruit of the vine. So, the plate for the bread is not the important thing; but rather, the bread. The container (cup) is not the important thing, but, rather, what is in the container. Lest our readers question this discussion, we should define a metonymy. “It is a figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated” (Webster). Figures of speech are found throughout the Bible and we will never understand some passages without being familiar with Bible uses.
Part of brother Lechner’s problem is that he says he accepts metonymy in the scriptures, but he will not apply it to the “cup” or “cups” in the Lord’s Supper. This is the crux of our dispute. Let me demonstrate:
If I asked you if you like chicken dishes, how would you understand that? Are we talking of dishes or what they contain? What are your favorite “dishes?” Are we talking about a pattern of china, or the food served on the dishes? This is metonymy, a figure of speech. Here is the same problem in discussing the Lord’s Supper. When I ask, “Did you drink the cup, are we talking about the contents or the container. Of course, we know it is the fruit of the vine. Luke’s account of the Lord’s Supper/Passover states that He “took the cup” and then said “take this and divide it among yourselves” (Luke 22:17). Again, this is metonymy. When Jesus “took the cup, it had to be in a container. When he said “divide it among yourselves,” it referred to the fruit of the vine and required separate cups. (Please note that every disciple had separate cups at the Passover.) You and your brethren have made “cups” (containers) an issue: “one cup is required.” But don’t you think it strange that none of your brethren (nor you) mention the plate on which the unleavened bread was served??? You attempt to give undue importance to the container for the fruit of the vine while ignoring another essential part: the plate.
There is another difficulty with your position. We understand that 12 disciples could drink from one container. But the book of Acts tells us that the disciples numbered 3000 at Jerusalem and, later, grew to 5000. I understand that some reply that we don’t know how many congregations in Jerusalem there were. However, the Lord tells us in Acts 2:44: “Now all who believed were together and had all things in common.” In Acts 8:1: “At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem…” In Acts 9:26-30, the apostle Paul joined himself to the church in Jerusalem. In Acts 11:22: “and the report concerning them came to the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem.” Later, the disciples were a multitude, but Acts 15:22 refers to the “whole church with the apostles and elders.” Now, I want to know how big the container was that allowed 3000, then 5000, later a “multitude” to drink from the one container! This destroys the one container argument once and for all. If nothing else is valid, this is! I plead for honest hearts to yield to the scripture and give up the one container position as impossible as presented in the apostolic age.
The Drinking Vessel Does Not Identify As The New Testament.
(Here is the exact place the “container” is magnified to an erroneous position, which causes division.)
You brethren believe that there are three elements of significance, one of which is false. (1) The bread represents Jesus' body. (2) The fruit of the vine represents His blood. On these we agree. But, (3) the "'cup" (container) representing the New Testament, is where you misapply scripture. This is an erroneous emphasis that you insist upon that is not valid and adds to the confusion. Once this error is recognized, our division will be ended. This contention that the "cup" represents the New Testament is based on the structure of Luke 22:20, and 1 Corinthians 11:25, which states, "this cup is the New Covenant in my blood,” whereas Matthew 26:28 and Mark 14:24, render it "my blood of the New Covenant." There is no conflict in these passages, but unity. The blood of bulls and goats ratified/dedicated the Old Covenant, while the blood of Christ ratified/dedicated the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13; 9:9-24; 10:4-10; Jer. 31). While the vital elements are the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine, the container is unimportant, no more so than the table used for the Supper (Luke 22:21) nor the upper room. You have bound where God has not bound! The container of the fruit of the vine is no more important than the plate for the bread, or the table on which they ate the Supper. All four passages declare that the cup (contents) is a fair representation of Jesus' blood that ratified the New Covenant. In 1 Corinthians 10:16 the inspired writer identified two elements of importance, i.e. "The cup of blessing which we bless. . . The bread which we break." You add a third element that is not a legitimate part of the Lord’s Supper. No, my friend, the container holds no significance whatever.
1. His Body was sacrificed
2. His Blood was shed
3. The New Covenant was ratified by the blood of Christ. (not the container!)
How much of this event must we bind? It is emphasized that Jesus commanded “this do” (Luke 22:19). But they reclined as they ate. Should we recline at the Lord’s supper? They were in an upper room. Should we do the same? If the container of the fruit of the vine is so important, why is not the plate on which the bread was served equally important? We find in John’s account of the Supper that prior to the Supper, He washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:5). Though the disciples did not fully understand what He was doing, he said, in v. 14, “If I, then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Should we wash each other’s feet before we partake? Surely you can see how it is possible to make majors out of minors and make a non-essential element into a partisan, sectarian demand. Is a single container so important that we divide the body of Christ over that non-important issue? But you have elevated the container to a holy position which is wrong. The “blood of the New Covenant” is vastly superior than the blood of bulls and goats (the Old Covenant) and should be considered in this context, not elevating the actual container to the Word itself. Jeremiah 31 prophesied that there would be a “new covenant” which would not be like the first. This is fulfilled in the body and blood of Christ as represented in the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine.
Another thought on the “container” upon which you put so much emphasis. If you believe the container to be such an integral part of the Lord’s supper, must you locate the actual container that Jesus used? “This do” is commanded. You believe he took the single container (representing the New Testament) and said, “all drink of this.” According to the emphasis you put on the container, it must remain the same container Jesus used…the Holy Grail! If not, why not? Novelists have theorized about the Holy Grail for generations, as well as The Robe, the True Cross, etc. It is evident that those of your belief have elevated the container to an unauthorized position.
If you understand this point and yield to this truth, we will be much closer to agreement. The container is unimportant except that the fruit of the vine required a container. If the container is not commanded, which it is not, then it is immaterial how many cups were used. We have already noted that multiple cups were used in the Passover feast. Multiple cups were not an innovation nor strange to the disciples. But those containers were not holy either, and this leads the way to understanding what Jesus said in Luke 22:17: “Take this and divide it among yourselves.” Yes, this suggests multiple cups. What historians and noted brethren have to say is not equal to scripture. Consider that multiple cups were used originally by brethren for centuries and the Catholics and others digressed and began using single cups. Now, brethren are re-reading the New Testament order and getting back to the original truth of multiple cups. Would that not be the right path to follow? This relates to the question of who introduced multiple containers. You suggest this to be an innovation, but we have proven that multiple cups were used originally in the Last Supper. So, when did the theory of a single cup originate?
So now we come to the right knowledge that multiple cups were used from the beginning of the church. Single cups are not bound nor are multiple cups. The number of cups is a matter of liberty. We see that
Romans 14:1-15:4 teaches how to work with one another in matters that are indifferent to God. If the number of cups is a matter of indifference to God (and I believe that I have proved that), we may hold different views on the cups and not divide even as the Jews and Gentiles in the church at Rome differed on meats and days and did not divide. In the Roman church, Jewish and Gentile brethren held strong convictions on their issues, but both were wrong when they tried to bind it on others. Romans 14:4: “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own Master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” V. 13 continues: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”
To brother Lechner and our readers, it is our prayer that due consideration will be given to what both of us have written. Personally, I would love to see this issue resolved so that we may “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). While I have pursued what I believe to be the truth of the Gospel, I hold no animosity toward my brother and those who associate with him. May the day come to pass when our differences are finished and we glorify God by the unity that Jesus want us to portray (John 20:30, 31).
El Centro Church Of Christ
695 Brighton Ave
El Centro, Ca. 92243
Northside church of Christ
P. O. Box 165
Mansfield, Texas 76063