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Home The Light Articles from 1999 Legalism and One Cup

Legalism and One Cup

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Legalism and One Cup

We have many brethren who understand (as do we) the institution of the Lord's Supper as a Divine pattern. It is an example. The Lord was apparently unwilling to leave such an important part of our worship without the clearest of guidance.

Although there are some who deny that Jesus used one cup in the institution of the Supper, a great number very openly and honestly concede he did. The latter reason that it was simply an insignificant incidental however, and makes no difference.

Of the many who oppose the use of one cup in the distribution of the fruit of the vine, the apparent majority are sticklers for following the pattern in other ways. (However, this is changing.) To contend for the use of one cup in the Communion is somehow considered the epitome of ignorance, making laws where God has made no laws, and "missing the whole meaning of the Supper." We have been represented in about every unfavorable light that conservative people can be. We would deny it all, but it would make no difference.

Of these good people just named, most of them insist that thanks be offered for the bread and fruit of the vine separately, as did Jesus. But what difference does it make, other than that is what Jesus did? Why cannot thanks be offered for both, say, in the opening prayer of the assembly? When thanks is offered, thanks is offered—what difference does it make so long as it is offered in the assembly gathered for communion? Certainly, it would seem to make no difference if thanks is offered for the cup in the same prayer of-fered for the bread. To this, the only possible objection could be that to do so violates what Jesus did in instituting the Supper.

Most insist that the bread be taken before the fruit of the vine. But why? What possible difference could the order of taking the emblems make? By faith, the bread is Jesus' body even if the cup is taken before the sermon and the bread following the sermon. What difference does the order of taking the bread and the cup make, other than the Biblical example of the order Jesus used?

Most of our brethren insist on using unleavened bread, but why is this necessary? That is the only bread Jesus had at hand. How do we know, in actuality, whether it matters if the bread is leavened or unleavened? How can we know that a donut will not suffice? And who can say it is absolutely necessary to use fruit of the vine as the drink element? What is wrong with using water as the Mormon's do? Is not all of this "legalistic nit-picking"?

No, it is not "legalistic nit-picking" to follow the Divine pattern. It is not only right, but necessary that the church reject all changes in the essential structure of the Sup-per—whether the offering of thanks, the order of partaking, etc., etc. This is not "nit-picking" or so-called "legalism." To do what Jesus did, and to follow what the apostles require is eternally safe, and in the Communion, it is clearly keeping this "ordinance as delivered" (1 Cor. 11:2).

But if in such a study as this, we introduce that Jesus also used only one bread and one cup in his Supper, all sorts of opposition is proposed. Few have any interest at all in following the pattern in this area. In matters related to the acts of public worship, there are few things more inconsistent among churches of Christ. Every one of the forenamed prac-tices, including the one bread and the single cup, are lifted from the same Bible example.

This is where it is vital to have solid conviction and dedication to the plea of the early restorationists..."Speak where the Bible speaks; be silent where the Bible is si-lent...do Bible things in Bible ways." In many areas of church work, we have only "here a little and there a little." We must study diligently to establish the truth on so many ques-tions troubling the church. But here, in the Communion, we are blessed to have a Bible example—a pattern—to follow. There is no need for anyone to be confused or in doubt. The accounts are so plain a child can understand them.

But does the Biblical account really matter? Yes, the Record matters. It matters be-cause it is positive Divine revelation. It matters because our practices are thus lifted from the Holy Book of God. It matters because the Lord was concerned enough about the correct observance of his Supper that he showed us precisely what he wanted—he "acted it out" if you will. If his actions in instituting the Supper were not intended to be exemplary, the Supper cannot be observed wrongly. There is nothing to violate. The great majority of churches of Christ have chosen to take chances and "go beyond that which is written." That is their option, but it is unreasonable that they scorn other brethren, calling them "legalists," who refuse to take that chance.

Where the spirit is right, it is impossible to be lost following Bible examples, doing precisely as the apostles instruct (John 4:24, Rev. 2:10). This is certainly true as we gather for the Communion hour. No man on earth can be wrong doing expressly what the Lord did and what the apostles taught. Nor can any preacher be wrong in preaching exactly what is written. But no soul is safe, no congregation secure, participating in a practice in public worship that cannot be found in the inspired account, certainly one scarcely a hundred years old.

Concerning the use of one cup and one bread and the charge of "legalism"...if doing what Jesus said do, in the way that he said do it, and for the reason he said do it—if this is judged to be legalism in a bad and contemptuous sense, then so be it. Or, to quote bro. Guy N. Woods, "If it is legalism to insist that every command of Christ should be equally respected and faithfully obeyed, then let us all be legalists."

 

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