In his highly thought-provoking, reproduction of lectures on the Lord’s Supper (Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper), theologian Markus Barth made this insightful comment:
A language has been fabricated for describing the mystery of the Lord’s Supper, a language that is certainly learned, deep, mysterious, but hardly clear and persuasive. The Bible itself does not speak of sacrament, transsubstantiation, consubstantiation, transfunctionalization, transsignification, or symbol (a sign that shows what it effects and effects what it shows)…The Supper has been wrapped in a smokescreen of very difficult language.
The cumbersome language has to do with the strange and curious questions that have been asked about the Lord’s Supper. One who asks a wrong question is most likely to get a wrong answer.
This last quoted sentence is pregnant with meaning. I have been on a quest to ask some very basic questions concerning the Lord’s Supper. The most basic question is this: is the Lord’s Supper a meal or not? Scholar I. Howard Marshall asserted the following: “The Lord’s Supper in the New Testament is a meal. The appropriate setting for the sacrament is a table…To describe the central piece of furniture as an altar is completely unjustified in terms of the New Testament understanding of the meal.”
I have come to the same conclusion as Marshall. However, the central challenge to this conclusion from the perspective of many is the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. Matthew Henry’s view is typical: “They [the Corinthian assembly] were to eat for hunger and pleasure only at home, and not to change the holy supper to a common feast.”
So, what do you think? Is the Lord’s Supper to be maintained as a meal? Or is it best to see it in the established manner (a sole liturgical function with bread and cup alone)?
For those who are interested, here is a brief verse-by-verse commentary on this passage. Continue reading Should the Lord’s Supper Be Observed as a Meal?