An Introduction

by Al Maxey

Probably no topic in Christendom has been the cause of more debate and controversy than the Lord's Supper. For almost 2000 years it has stirred the hearts and minds of men, and yet in every age it has been attacked, questioned, and modified. It has undergone such incredible changes in its observance and meaning that the 1st century Christians would scarcely recognize it today.

Paul Tillich writes that we are living in an age of the Church in which we are threatened with "the death of the sacraments." When something spiritually significant, like the Lord's Supper, becomes more ritual than reality, its death is most assuredly not far away.

The 20th century "is the age of inquiry rather than of conviction, and of interest rather than commitment. There are therefore fewer today who can bring to the Lord's Supper what the Lord's Supper demands" (William Barclay, The Lord's Supper, p. 14-15). Men are curious about it, but their hearts are not touched by it!

"Without instruction to precede it, the Lord's Supper degenerates into either formalism or superstition. It may well be true to say that the greatest failure of the present-day church lies in its failure to exercise a teaching ministry, and, where there is failure in teaching, there must also be devaluation of the Lord's Supper" (Barclay, p. 11).

In this study we will make an effort to fill that gap in teaching and help bring a clearer understanding of the Lord's Supper. We will trace its roots in the Jewish festivals, its practice in the early church, and its development and history since the 1st century. We will also examine the many false teachings, practices, and abuses which have surrounded it over the centuries, as well as some of the current issues in the church today. We will finally examine its purpose, meaning, and spiritual significance. Our goal: To come to a much richer and fuller understanding and appreciation of the Lord's Supper!

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