The Lord's Supper: Is One Cup Required?
Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:14-20 are all parallel accounts of Christ instituting the Lord’s Supper. In the establishment of the Lord’s Supper Jesus gave the example of the two elements that are to be used and what those elements represent. Matt. 26-26-29 says, “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take eat; this is My body.’ (27) Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. (28) For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (29) But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.’” The elements that Christ used in the institution of the Lord’s Supper were the bread which represented His body and the fruit of the vine which represented His blood that would be shed on the cross for the remission of sins of sinful mankind. Verse 27 says that Jesus “took the cup, and gave thanks.” He then commanded the disciples to “drink from it, all of you.” Some have argued that this command binds us today to partake of the Lord’s Supper only using a single cup for everyone to drink from. A closer look at the context helps us understand that this simply is not the case.
In studying the Lord’s Supper we find that only two essential elements were involved; the bread and the fruit of the vine. The cup was merely a means to distribute and contain the fruit of the vine itself. Notice once again verses 27 and 28. In verse 27 we are told Jesus “took the cup ,and gave thanks and gave it to them saying, Drink from it all of you.” Notice what He says in verse 28, “For this is My blood of the new covenant.” The question here is what represented His blood? He was obviously referring to the cup in verse 27. Did the cup itself represent Christ’s blood? Obviously not. The contents of the cup, which was the fruit of the vine referred to in verse 29 is what represented Christ’s blood, not the cup itself. Therefore, the essential element was the fruit of the vine. The cup was merely incidental in containing and distributing the fruit of the vine. The cup itself represented nothing and therefore the using of a single cup in observing the Lord’s Supper is not binding today nor was it binding then.
Perhaps Luke’s account make the case even clearer. Luke 22:17 says, “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves.” What was to be divided? The cup itself? No. The contents of the cup was to be divided. What was the contents of the cup? Verse 18 says it was the fruit of the vine. Therefore the contents of the cup, which was the fruit of the vine, was to be divided. The contents of the cup was divided among the disciples before the institution of the Lord’s Supper, therefore, the notion of the necessity of the use of a single cup is thereby debunked.
We also notice Luke 22:19 which says, “And He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying...” The bread was broken and divided among the disciples. Notice also verse 20, “Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying...” The word “Likewise” indicates that same method for the bread was used for the cup. Jesus blessed it and distributed it or divided it among the disciples. The indication is that a single cup was not used.
In the Lord’s Supper the bread represents Jesus’ body and the fruit of the vine represents His shed blood. The cup itself had no greater significance than holding the contents which was the fruit of the vine, therefore the church today is not bound to use a single cup in observing the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s Day.
- Garrett Alsip