23 “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”
Now we come to the only detailed explanation of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. The Gospels give historical facts of the Lord’s Supper, but First Corinthians gives its meaning 25 years after its occurrence.
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you:
The phrase “received from the Lord” is divine revelation. Paul does not teach his own opinion about the Lord’s Supper but received this information by direct revelation. The word “I” in “I received” is an emphatic statement about direct revelation. Paul wrote First Corinthians before the Gospel writers wrote the Gospels where we find the events of the Lord’s Supper.
Ga 1:11-12, 11But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;
Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper the night Judas betrayed Him, the time set for the Passover (Ex 12:6). He used two visual aids – bread symbolizing His body and the cup symbolizing His blood. The bread represents the person of Christ, and the blood the work of Christ.
and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,
We get the word Eucharist from the Greek word for “had given thanks.” This is a thanksgiving for Christ’s sacrificial death represented by the sacrificial lamb of the Passover.
“Take, eat; this is My body
The phrase “this is My body” is metaphorical, so “bread” represents His incarnation into humanity. The elements of the Lord’s Supper are pictures of the incarnation of Christ and Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sins. Jesus is not (1) present in a special sense of physically present (transubstantiation), or (2) “really” present though not physically present (consubstantiation), or (3) spiritually present ministering grace through participation. These views usually call the elements of the Lord’s Supper “sacraments” that minister grace to the participant in a direct way. Rather, in the memorial view, Jesus invites His followers into the meaning of giving His body and blood – that is, we remember why Christ did what He did.
which is broken for you;
The word “broken” does not occur in some manuscripts. The words “for you” (in your behalf) represent His substitutionary death as a penalty for our personal sins. He took our hell that we might have His heaven. It is His “body on our behalf.” God judged all the sins of the world in Christ.
do this in remembrance of Me.”
“Remembrance” does not simply recall facts but acknowledges the implication of Jesus giving His body and blood. The word “in” means with a view to the remembrance of Jesus’ person and work after His departure.
In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying,
The “cup” represents the shed blood of Jesus for our sins. It is not the cup per se that is important, but what the cup contained. He ratified the New Covenant by blood sacrifice.
“This cup is the new covenant in My blood.
A “covenant” in the Bible is an expression of will, not an agreement between two parties. In God’s covenants, God alone established the conditions. Under Jesus’ blood, He ratified the New Covenant of the Old Testament (Jeremiah 31:31-34). His blood ratified the contract like a seal of state. The New Covenant displaced the Mosaic Covenant of law (Hebrews 8:8-13; 9:18-28). The effect of this is He notarized His will, making it official. Jesus’ estate became available to believers. The Passover became the Lord’s Supper.
Blood in the biblical sense means sacrificial death. Blood, in this sense, is the end of Jesus’ life. His death for sin was full and final.
“This do” is a command directly from the Lord.
as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
The words “as often as” imply that we should take the Lord’s Supper regularly, but He leaves the regularity to each Christian community. The phrase “as often as” is not in the Gospels, so this is a new revelation to Paul.
It is imperative to keep our memory of the Lord vital regularly.
Many nations remember their leaders by erecting stone or metal monuments. Eating the elements of the Lord’s Supper is a participatory involvement in remembering the cost He paid for our sins in liberating us from the penalty of sin.
Participation in the Lord’s Supper does not curry brownie points with God. It is not a matter of merit but appreciation for the finished work of Christ on the cross. We do not make up for His unfinished work by trying to gain God’s approbation in the participation of the Lord’s Supper. It is thanks for what He has already done. We do not participate in the Lord’s Supper to gain His approval; we take part in it because we have His approval.