As an advocate of frequent observance of the Lord’s Supper, I think it’s important to consider a variety of the themes that are found in it’s meaning. In fact, I think highlighting these different themes can help broaden the understanding of a church. Below are a few of the themes that are found when we partake…
(1) The Death of Christ – When we participate in the Lord’s Supper we remember the death of Christ because our actions give a picture of His substitutionary death for us. When the bread is broken, we remember the breaking of Christ’s body, and when the cup is poured out it symbolizes the pouring out of Christ’s blood for us.
(2) Forgiveness of Sins – The author of Hebrews wrote, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). Thus, the Lord’s Supper reminds believers that their sins are forgiven due to Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.
(3) Renewal – The Lord’s Supper provides both vertical and horizontal renewal. By properly partaking of the Lord’s Supper, believers publically renew their commitment to Christ. By partaking, believers affirm their faith in Christ. In fact, the Lord’s Supper proclaims the gospel, as it is focused on and serves as a remembrance for the death of Christ. Since it provides spiritual nourishment and refreshment, it is fitting to refer to it in terms of renewal. Yet the renewal is not just towards Christ. The Lord’s Supper also provides renewal for our commitment to Christ’s church. Both 1 Cor. 10:16-17 and 11:29 indicate that there is a connection between the Lord’s Supper and church unity. Finally, by celebrating the Lord’s Supper, Christians renew their commitment to Christ’s work and His future return (1 Cor. 11:26). Hammet notes:
“The renewal called for by the Lord’s Supper thus looks back to the past in remembrance, looks around in the present to the fellowship we experience with Christ and the body of believers, and looks ahead to the consummation, when Christ returns.” (John S. Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, p. 283)
(4) Thanksgiving – While partaking of the Lord’s Supper, believers are to be thankful for Christ’s work on the cross. Furthermore, we are reminded that Christ Himself thanked the Father when He broke bread. Thus, the “Eucharist” (thanksgiving) reminds us of God’s grace.
(5) Eschatological Expectation and Anticipation – Isaiah indicated that there would one day be an eschatological banquet feast (Isaiah 25:6-8). When He instituted the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus reminded His disciples of this idea by saying, “For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God… I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:16, 18). Paul built on this theme when he wrote that “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). Finally, at the end of the age, we are told that believers will be encouraged to “rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come” (Rev. 19:7). When we fellowship at the Lord’s Table, we prophetically proclaim and experience a picture of what will one day occur when Jesus returns.