Years ago, in the very first article of Biblical Horizons, James B. Jordan commented upon how the church has come up with some really strange substitutes for the perscriptions of the New Testament (Not just the Old Testament! – this isn’t a how to understand the relationship between the covenants kind of issue!).
Though I now rearrange excerpts from the original article.1 He writes concerning the Lord’s Supper,
Amazing, isn’t it? Jesus asks us to do two simple things, and century after century the Church comes up with weird substitutes. Why is this? Why can’t we just do what Jesus said to do?…
…Let’s see. First of all, Jesus said to bring wine. How many churches use wine today? The American evangelicals have decided to give wine over to the devil, instead of claiming it for Christ. As a result, they use grape juice. Jesus, however, used (alcoholic) wine. He turned water into wine as the first manifestation of His Kingdom. He ate and drank with publicans and sinners, and was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard — which shows what He was drinking (Matt. 11:19). He prescribed just this kind of liquid for His meal.
…Well, what about bread? Suppose my wife phoned me at work and said, “Jim, would you go by the store and get some bread on your way home?” Now, let’s say I bought some saltines instead. My guess is that she would be unhappy. She would say, “Jim, that’s not bread; those are saltines. Don’t you know the difference between bread and saltines?” Or suppose I brought some pressed-out wafers home?
I think we know what bread is. I do. Don’t you? Bread is bread. If we believe in using unleavened bread, it should still be unleavened bread and not crackers or wafers…
…Let me use another illustration. Can you find anywhere in the New Testament a command to have a sermon in worship? Try and find one. Now again, I believe that we should have a sermon in worship, but again there is no explicit command about it.
Now consider 1 Corinthians 11. Paul says that when the Church comes together she is to have the Lord’s Supper. This is plain as day. While we don’t have any explicit command to have a sermon, we do have an explicit command to have the Lord’s Supper. Paul expects the Lord’s Supper to be held when the Church gathers — every week. Do we do it?
…What posture were Jesus and the disciples in when they ate? Were they kneeling or standing? No, they were reclining in the normal, relaxed eating position of the day. Is there any indication anywhere in Scripture that God wants us to assume an unrelaxed and unnatural eating posture for the Lord’s Supper? No. In fact, Anglican theologian Gregory Dix agrees that kneeling for communion has no foundation, and that the Puritans were right to argue for sitting.
So, the Bible indicates weekly communion, and we don’t do it. The Bible indicates that baptized children are welcome, and we don’t do it. The Bible says to eat in a normal way, and we don’t do it. The Bible says to use bread, and we don’t do it. The Bible says to use wine, and we don’t do it. Churches that do some things right, do other things wrong.
It is fairly amazing that we have a variety of different things tacked on in addendum to the services of our church (much, but not all, of which is perfectly appropriate), yet particularly the Lord’s supper seems so strange and foreign compared to the way it was done in Scripture.