The True Elements (Lord's Supper, Episode IX)
Why Use Leavened Bread And Fermented Wine?
The elements used in the Lord’s Supper are important because of the symbolic truths contained in them. The believer should not treat the “nature” of the elements lightly. A study of Scripture shows that the elements, which were given by Christ to His disciples during the “Act of Institution,” were common (leavened) bread and fermented wine—and that for good reason. (The use of unleavened bread and unfermented grape juice is NOT of apostolic origin.)
On a world map if one were to draw a straight imaginary line north to south, and that line would run through the city of Rome, Italy, it would be interesting to notice that it is the custom of Christianity west of that line to use unleavened bread for the communion meal; while it is the custom of Christianity east of the line to used leavened(common) bread. One might ask the reason why this is true, and come up with several hypotheses. One, that this author favors, is that eastern Christianity continues the apostolic practice; while the west, being evangelized mostly from Rome, adopted the Roman practice of unleavened bread. Rome was well-experienced in introducing pre-Christian religious customs into the Church. (See: http://www.reformation.org/unleavened-bread-error.html.) The cult of Roma, for example, used unleavened bread in its worship of the Sun, etc..
Lev 23:11-12 He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord.
Mt 26:17,19 Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.
Mk 14:12,16 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?” 16 So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover.
Lk 22:7,13 Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. 8 And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.” 13 So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.
Jn 13:1-2 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, ...
Jn 18:28 Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover. 29 Pilate then went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?”
Jn 19:31 Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Leavened (Common) Bread
Although leaven (yeast) represents corruption in many places throughout the Bible, it is not always the case. Examples of leaven used as a type (or symbol) of the Holy Spirit, and/or the Kingdom of God are also present in Scripture. Some of these examples are:
Leviticus 7:13 “Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leaven bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings.” ～ Since this bread was to be for the domestic use of the priests (and not for the fires of burnt offering), it was leavened. Since the shewbread of the tabernacle is nowhere specified to be unleavened, and since it, too, was for the domestic use by the priests, it is assumed by many Bible scholars to have been leavened as well.
Leviticus 23:17 “And ye shall bring out of your habitation two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the firstfruit unto the LORD.” ～ These loaves of Pentecost were baked from the wave sheaves (verses 11 and 12). When typed to the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the symbolism is clear enough: the grain is a type of “all flesh,” and the leaven is a type of the risen Christ, Who poured out His Spirit upon all flesh and infilled the believers on that day.
Matthew 13:33 “Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” ～ Here leaven is said, by Jesus, to be a type of the Kingdom of Heaven, which would eventually work throughout the whole earth.
Moreover, the “bread,” that Jesus served His disciples at the Last Supper, is identified by the New Testament Greek language as: artos (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19). Artos: bread (as raised) or a loaf: — (shew) bread, loaf (Strong’s NT#740). Therefore, the bread, served by Christ to His disciples, was bread that had risen; bread that had life in it. This, alone, is appropriate to represent the risen Savior. The Greek word for unleavened bread is azumos, which means: un-bread, or not bread. This word is nowhere associated with the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament.
Some suppose the bread to have been unleavened because of a misconception that the Last Supper, which Christ celebrated with His disciples the night before He was crucified, was the Passover. This is in error, however. The Last Supper was observed a full day before the Passover meal was eaten by the Jews. We see this from John 13:1; 18:28. Also notice John 19:31 where we are told that this particular Sabbath, which began the evening after the crucifixion, was a high sabbath. A High Sabbath occurred when the weekly Sabbath and the Passover fell on the same day. Therefore, Jesus was crucified the day BEFORE the Passover Sabbath. Consequently, then, the Lord’s Supper was instituted the evening before His crucifixion; and, as a result, was NOT the Passover.
The passover lambs were being slain in the temple courtyard, as Jesus died on the cross. The supper the disciples shared with Jesus, the night before the lambs were killed, could not have been the Passover, since no passover lamb was available for the supper. Looking back on this night years later, the apostles seemed to have referenced it as the Passover (Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12,16; Luke 22:7,13), although it was not the passover meal proper. We can understand their reference this way:
We may journey a great distance to visit a loved one for Christmas. We have come with great expectation concerning the Christmas dinner at the much respected loved one’s home. On Christmas Eve a great dinner is celebrated with all present, but, all know this dinner is only a prelude to the main feast that will take place the next day. During the night on Christmas Eve, the loved one unexpectedly dies. Because of the confusion and grief caused by the death, there is no Christmas dinner on Christmas Day. In the coming years, however, the entire family will look back with special memories of the Christmas Eve dinner, and reference it as their Christmas dinner that year.
This was the case with the Lord and His disciples, concerning the passover that year. The illustration does, indeed, give an interpretation that will harmonize the Synoptic Gospels with the Gospel of John. The Synoptics seem to identify the Last Supper as the passover, while the fourth Gospel goes out of its way to deny it as such.
Ex 12:6-8 Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. 7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. 8 Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
Lk 10:30-35 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’
1 Cor 11:21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
Fermented Wine (Juice of The Grape)
When the Corinthian church observed the Lord’s Supper, there was more of a party atmosphere than one of worship. Instead of the simple meal of bread and wine, as Paul had instructed, some were overindulging in the wine and actually becoming intoxicated (1 Corinthians 11:21). It is seen, then, that fermented wine was used by the apostolic church to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
Apart from the evidence from the Corinthian church, the question as to “What Was in the Cup” is all but settled by the time of the year the Last Supper occurred. The Lord’s Supper was instituted at the end of what is commonly called the Last Supper, which took place one day before the Passover. Passover starts on the fifteenth day of the Jewish month of Nissan. The time of the Passover (15th of Nissan) varies by year, since the Jewish year is a lunar year, and thus differs from our Gregorian calendar (regulated by the sun); however, it always falls in the springtime (in the Northern Hemisphere). The grape harvest took place in Palestine during the month of Tammuz which always falls in the early summertime. In Jesus’ time of history the only way to preserve the juice of the vine (grape juice), from the time of the summer harvest to the springtime Passover (some 9 plus months later), was fermentation. (Pasteurization of grape juice did not take place until 1869, by Thomas B. Welch.) Therefore, Jesus served the disciples fermented juice of the grape as a symbol of His blood.
(The method of pasteurizing grape juice to halt the fermentation has been attributed to an American physician and dentist, Thomas Bramwell Welch (1825-1903) in 1869. Welch was an adherent to the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion which strongly opposed "manufacturing, buying, selling, or using intoxicating liquors" and advocated the use of unfermented grape juice instead of wine for administering the sacrament of the Eucharist, or communion, during the church service. A few years earlier, Welch had relocated to Vineland, New Jersey, a town started in 1861 by Philadelphia land developer Charles K. Landis (1833-1900) to create his own alcohol-free utopian society, a "Temperance Town" based on agriculture and progressive thinking. Landis declared that he was "about to build a city, and an agricultural and fruit-growing colony around it." The population reached 5,500 by 1865 Landis determined the potential in growing grapes and named the settlement "Vineland", and advertised to attract Italian grape growers to Vineland, offering 20 acres (81,000 m2) of land that had to be cleared and used to grow grapes. Welch had moved to the region following his sister who was one of Vineland's earliest residents and begin to produce an "unfermented wine" (grape juice) from locally grown grapes that was marketed as "Dr. Welch's Unfermented Wine" This product became "Welch's Grape Juice" in 1893 when Welch and his son Charles E. Welch (also a practicing dentist) had decided to incorporate in 1893 as the Welch's Grape Juice Company at Westfield, New York.)
Only fermented wine would have been appropriate for the Lord's Supper; because the blood of Christ is a purifier of the soul from the infections of sin, and fermented wine contains alcohol which is an antiseptic. The story of the Good Samaritan illustrates this point very well: The Samaritan poured fermented wine into the wounded man’s wounds to cleanse them. Just as the “oil,” in the story, is a type of the Holy Spirit, the wine is a type of the blood of Christ. Fresh grape juice would have further infected the man, who was already dying.
We must not be flippant with the symbols Jesus chose to represent His body and blood. If the potency of the symbol is lost, it is only a matter of time before the intended lesson taught by the symbol is lost as well.
☩ Jerry L Hayes
Read More From the Bishop On Holy Communion
- The Lord's Supper (From the Beginning)
This article is the introduction to a series on the Lord's Supper. Jesus instituted this covenant meal and commanded its observance. Here we review the teachings of those whom the apostles taught.
- What Is the Lord's Supper, Episode II
In this writing the author gives a brief description of the different terms used by Christians to describe and identify the sacramental meal Christ instituted the night before His death.
- Breaking Bread (The Lord's Supper, Episode III)
This writing establishes the biblical phrase "Breaking Bread" as a discriptive name for the Lord's Supper.
- The Christian Altar (The Lord's Supper, Episode IV)
As one searches the New Testament for a reference to the Christian altar, it comes as a shock to evangelicals that the Lord's Table is the only New Covenant altar mentioned. Here, we declare it so.
- Who May Partake of Holy Communion? (The Lord's Supper, Episode V)
The question of "Who may Partake of holy Communion" is explained by this writing. Some churches practice "open communion", while others practice "closed Communion." Which is biblical?
- Is The Lord's Supper Salvific? (The Lord's Supper, Episode VI)
This article reviews the question; Is partaking in holy Communion necessary for salvation?
- How Often Should the Lord’s Supper be Observed? (Episode VII)
With the many different practices of Eucharistic observance in Christianity it may be a challenge to know what the biblical frequency is; this article seeks to present the biblical view.
- Who May Administer the Lord's Supper (Lord's Supper, Episode VIII)
There is a message being sent from non-denominational type churches that just anyone may officiate at the Lord's table. Counter to this is the question of the imperfect minister. What says the Bible?
- Are Symbols Important to God (A Study in the Lord's Supper, Episode X
In this study we examine the importance of biblical symbols, especially in relation tot he holy Communion.
- Bishop's Epistle: The Real Presence (Lord's Supper, Episode XI)
The Book You Should Read
In "The Lord's Supper" Bishop Hayes presents a comprehensive study of the holy Sacrament. Both the Catholic and Reformed positions are examined and biblical solutions are given for the problems that exist in the mentioned theologies. The book answers important questions, like: "What is the Lord's supper?" Who may partake of the Lord's supper?" "Is the body and blood of Christ really present in the elements or do the elements actually change into the body and blood of Christ?" "How often should the Lord's Supper be observed?" These are but a few of the questions addressed in the book. Having shopped in several Bible bookstores and discovering how little is written on the subject it is safe to predict that this work will be in great demand and a standard volume in the libraries of those who love the Sacrament.