A Study in Pastoral Theology by

Gary Ray Branscome

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread and when He had given thanks, He brake it and gave it to His disciples saying, Take eat this is My body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.

After the same manner, He took the cup when He had supped and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying, Drink ye all of it; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which was shed for you for the remission of sins. This do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.


    Because Christ instituted His Supper as a way of assuring every believer that His body and blood were “given” and “shed” for them, the words that He spoke are the most important part of the ceremony. So important, that if the words “Take eat this is My body which is given for you” and “Drink ye all of it; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which was shed for you for the remission of sins,” are not spoken, then the Lord’s Supper has not been celebrated.

    Every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper, those words give us God’s own promise of forgiveness in Christ. And, as the Apostle Paul carefully explained in the third chapter of his Epistle to the Galatians, God’s grace only comes to us through faith in that promise (Galatians 3:6-22). In other words, even though salvation and forgiveness is ours through faith in Christ, without God’s promise we would have no reason to believe that Christ died for our sins, or that we have forgiveness through His death. Therefore, God’s promise is the rock to which our faith holds. And, God uses the Lord's Supper (just as He uses preaching) to give us that promise. Concerning that promise, Martin Luther said:

Now this treasure is conveyed and communicated to us in no other way than through the words “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” In these [words] you receive the double assurance that it is Christ's body and blood, and that it is yours as your treasure and gift… And inasmuch as He offers and promises forgiveness of sins, there is no other way of receiving it than by faith… that which is given in and with the sacrament cannot be grasped nor appropriated by our body. This is done by faith in the heart, which discerns this treasure and desires it. (Large Catechism)

    At the same time, those who cast doubt on what Christ said, by saying “it isn’t really His body,” hinder the work of the gospel by casting doubt on God’s promise, and risk making that particular promise “of none effect” (Mark 7:13). [Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1Corinthians 11:25, 29-31.]


    Christ’s words “This do in remembrance of Me,” make it clear that He wants us to do what He did when He distributed the bread and wine, and we are only doing what He did if we repeat what He said. Therefore, the two statements at the beginning of this essay should be read each time the Lord’s Supper is celebrated.

    Since it is always best to stick closely to what the Bible says, without trying to add man-made embellishments (such as bowing, lifting up the cup, etc.), the minister might read the first statement before distributing the bread, and repeat Christ’s promise as he distributes the bread, saying, “Take eat this is Christ’s body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Him.”

    He would then read the second statement before distributing the cup, and repeat Christ’s promise as he distributes the cup, saying, “Take drink, this cup is the New Testament in Christ’s blood, which was shed for you for the remission of sins. This do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Him.”

    This way of celebrating the Lord’s Supper should be viewed as a continuation of what Christ did, not an imitation of it. In other words, when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we should think of it as part of the original Last Supper, as if all believers throughout history have been present at that Supper, and the bread and wine that Christ started passing out then is finally getting to us.


    By referring to the cup as the “new testament in My blood,” Christ made it clear that the new covenant consists of His sacrifice (His shed blood) not a new set of rules. His words tell us that he is giving us the blood that was shed for us, and faith in Christ consists of believing that His blood was shed for us. Therefore, faith goes hand in hand with what Christ said. The ceremony assures us that Christ’s blood was shed for us, and we receive that blood as the atonement for our sin through personal faith in Him (Galatians 3:6, 22).

The Lord does not merely say “This is My body,” but He adds: “which is given for you”; He does not merely say: “This is My blood,” but He adds: “Which is shed for you, for the remission of sins.” It is plain that He means to say: “The point of chief importance is that you believe that this body was given for you and that this blood was shed for the remission of your sins. That is what you must believe if you wish to derive the real blessing from this heavenly feast.” By the additional remarks: “Do this in remembrance of Me,” Christ means to say: “Do it in faith” [i.e. do it remembering that His body was given, and His blood shed, for your sins]. (C. F. W. Walther, “Law and Gospel”, page 353)


    Since Christ instituted His supper during Passover, the bread would have been the same unleavened bread used at Passover and the cup would have contained Passover wine. The words, “fruit of the vine” are a Hebrew idiom for wine, and those words clearly exclude any non-grape product from being used.

    When it comes to spiritual matters, Christ expects us to act like responsible adults. Christ was not playing games when He instituted His Supper, and He wants us to take it just as seriously as He did. Therefore, those who cast doubt on the validity of His promise, and the ceremony itself, by using something other than bread and the “fruit of the vine,” are trivializing the ceremony, and acting like irresponsible play babies.


    When it comes to the question of who should be admitted to the Lord’s Supper, we need to follow Christ’s example. And, He never offered His Supper to the public at large, to children, to those who were not baptized, or those who had not been instructed in His Word. In addition, the Bible makes it clear that those who partake should be able to examine themselves before partaking (1Corinthians 11:29-31).

    That being understood, every member of the congregation who is not under church discipline — having been baptized, instructed in the faith, and having sufficient age and understanding to examine himself — is eligible to partake. At the same time, it needs to be made clear that only those who, look to Christ for mercy, believing that His body and blood were “given” and “shed” for them, are worthy to receive Christ’s body and blood (Romans 10:4).

    Furthermore, since I have seen the abuse that comes with simply passing the bread and the cup around. (Such as children deciding to take the grape juice, but not the bread), I prefer to have the ushers bring groups who are ready to partake to the front, so that the bread and cup can be distributed to each group in succession


    Through the Lord’s Supper, Christ presents His own body and blood to us as the atonement for our sin. And, we receive His body and blood as the atonement for our sin through believing that His body was “given,” and His blood “shed,” for us for the remission of our sins (Galatians 3:22).