Do you have a yearning to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24) but at the same time you are confused about which church is the Lord’s church? Is it possible to find the 1st century church of scripture still alive and well in the 21st century?
The answer is yes! Evangelist Clint Defrance addresses this topical issue and shows that from a human perspective this quest seems impossible but you can know the church that Jesus referred to as ‘My church’ (Matt 16:18).
Earlier this week we published the completion of Andrew Richardson’s article answering Wayne Jackson’s attempt to make a scriptural case for individual cups in the Lord’s Supper. I speak for the staff of Christian Landmark and many, many readers (who sent their gratitude through phone calls, emails and other messages) when I say that we have the highest appreciation for the study and efforts of Brother Richardson. Little could be said to add to the case he has already built for the common cup in congregational communion. What we offer today is more of a reinforcement than an addition.
In the second part of his article, Andrew mentioned an argument made by Brother Jackson from Luke’s account of the institution of the Holy Supper in which Brother Jackson alleges there to be “vivid” and “apparent” evidence that Jesus did not mean to speak of a container when he used the term cup (poterion) but rather the contents. The article reads as follows:
That the “cup” is not the container is even more vividly depicted in Luke’s record. He states that Jesus “received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves . . .” (Lk. 22:17). The Greek word for “divide” is diamerizo, which means to “divide up” or to “separate into parts” (cf. Mt. 27:35). Were the disciples to divide a container? Of course not. They were to divide the fruit of the vine, which, incidentally, most likely was facilitated by multiple containers. Frederic Godet noted: “The distribution (diamerisate) may have taken place in two ways, either by each drinking from the common cup, or by their all emptying the wine of that cup into their own. The Greek term would suit better this second view” (A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1879, Vol. II, p. 289).
Before commenting on the statements by Dr. Godet, we will note some important considerations about Luke’s record of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. For a man as well read as Wayne Jackson to claim that any clear authority for individual cups in the Lord’s Supper is found in the wording Luke 22:17 borders on scholastic dishonesty. Surely Mr. Jackson is aware of the inherent controversy in Luke’s account not being a question of how the cup was divided, but how the text should be!
“Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22:17-20)
Immediately, the reader will perceive some abnormalities with this passage. First of all it appears that Luke features a pretty major variation by claiming that Jesus took the cup before the loaf, however on further examination we see that He mentions the cup a second time! Most commentators suggest that the first cup is not the “cup of the Lord” but a Passover cup. This writer rejects that theory primarily because the Law of Moses gave no drink element in the Passover and it seems irreconcilable with the sinlessness of Christ that the Lord would have utilized a human addition in his keeping of the feast. (Deut. 4:2 and 5:22) Another possible interpretation is that which is suggested by brother Jackson and other “cups” advocates, however, as brother Richardson observed, brother Jackson and the churches he is affiliated with do not hold true to their own interpretation of the passage!
If this passage is teaching that Jesus commanded the disciples to pour the contents of the single cup He took into multiple or individual cups, we must understand the scene as unfolding in this way: Jesus took a single (undivided) cup of fruit of the vine, He blessed it as a single (undivided) thing and then He gave it to the disciples and commanded them to divide it among themselves, which brother Jackson alleges was done by pouring the contents into multiple or individual cups. Although, if this is how the passage is to be read, then Luke makes no mention of anyone ever drinking the grape juice! Furthermore, if this was the meaning it would still present a problem for brother Jackson in that this is not the practice of most churches of Christ that use multiple cups. For most, a janitor or deacon or some such person fills the little cups before the church service begins (thus the communicants do not divide it among themselves) and when the fruit of the vine is blessed it is not un-divided which constitutes a departure from the pattern of Christ.
The truth is well stated by brother Richardson, “Clearly, no matter how you dice it, those who observe the multi-cup tradition do not accept any significance in the pattern that Christ presented. They do not consider there to be any importance in how He did it. Simply put, they do not keep the ordinances as they are delivered, neither do they hold the traditions as they have been taught by the epistle, nor do they obey the command to all drink from one cup.”
But it is not our purpose to simply restate what has already been addressed by brother Richardson. There are some further observations we would like to make regarding this validity of brother Jackson’s interpretation. Most notable is Jackson’s reference to comments by the renowned scholar Frederic Godet. The quotation from Dr. Godet (who actually takes the Passover cup position) may seem to indicate that the scholars are behind the cups position, but this is far from the truth. Why Godet felt that pouring the grape juice into cups was more likely the intended meaning of Jesus when He said “divide it among yourselves” I do not know, but he stands virtually alone in the scholarly community.
Adam Clarke (although taking the Passover cup position) says of the expression ‘divide it among yourselves…’, “Pass the cup from one to another; thus the cup which Christ gave to the first person on his right hand continued to be handed from one to another, till it came to the last person on his left.”(Commentary on Luke)
In the Translators Handbook on the Gospel of Luke, Swellengrebel and Reiling say, “dexamenos implies that Jesus was handed a cup. labete touto – ‘take this’, in the plural, implying that the cup will be taken by each in turn. diamerisate eis heautous – ‘distribute it among yourselves’, referring to the content of the cup, implying that each was to drink from the cup in turn.” (pp. 686)
As brother Richardson observed, many other translations, including the NASB render this phrase, “share it among yourselves…” in keeping with the observations of these scholars. In fact when Matthew recorded what we must believe was the same command, he worded it, “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you…” (Matt. 26:27) “And they all drank from it…” (Mark 14:23)
If the Passover cup and the multiple cup explanations do not work, what shall we say of Luke’s record? Why does he mention the cup first and then again? It seems the answer is simply that Luke recorded the events without much emphasis on the sequence and the action of verse 17 actually and chronologically belongs after verse 19. This should not be too difficult to accept. Luke mentions many things out of sequence in his writings: The temptations of the Christ, (Luke 4:1-12) the Beatitudes, (Luke 6) the commands of the Jerusalem council. (Acts 15:20, 29) This was simply his writing style, but it must be taken into account when interpreting this passage.
All things considered it is the opinion of this writer that brother Jackson was inexcusably irresponsible with his handling of Luke 22:17, yet another sad example of ex post facto eisegesis, forcing a teaching into the Bible after the fact to justify a man-made innovation from the divine pattern.
What authority do men have to use multiple cups of fruit of the vine during their congregation’s observance of the Lord’s supper? We all can surely agree that the Lord gets to decide how it must be observed; after all, it’s His memorial, right? We do not have to swim the Atlantic to know that the manner in which Jesus performed the communion, in its institution, is the manner in which He desires it to be performed by us. Yes, He left us His example, and when He did so, He commanded, “This do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25). Jesus declared that if we’re going to worship God, it “must” be in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24), and the word of God is truth (John 17:17); thus we must worship Him as His word dictates. Communion is an act of worship that must be performed faithfully to the scriptures.
Paul praised the Corinthians for keeping the ordinances just as they were delivered (1 Cor. 11:2). He delivered to them the ordinance of the Lord’s supper by giving them the example of Christ (vv. 23-25) in which one cup of fruit of the vine was used. Again, Paul has commanded to “hold the traditions” as they have been taught by his word or epistles (2 Thess. 2:15). It is a matter of reading plain English to know that Jesus used one cup of juice and commanded the assembled disciples to drink from that cup. Matthew tells us that He “took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it” (Matt. 26:27).
The English Standard Version renders it clearer: “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you…” Mark informs us that He “took the cup…gave it to them,” and they “all drank of it” (Mark 14:23). Luke says He “took the cup,” saying “Take this, and divide it among yourselves,” and that He said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood” (Luke 22:17, 20), and Paul, consistent with their testimony, chronicles Jesus taking, “the cup,” saying, “This cup is the new testament…” (1 Cor. 11:25) This is not rocket science!
Nevertheless, those who advocate individual-cup communion have presented alleged authority for their practice. Wayne Jackson, a writer and editor of the Christian Courier, offers some of the most common arguments in defense of this man-made tradition in an article he entitles, “Do the Scriptures Authorize Multiple Cups?”
Jackson begins with:
“When the New Testament speaks of the ‘cup,’ in the observing of the communion, it is not the literal container that is under consideration; rather, it is the contents, i.e., the fruit of the vine, that is in view. There is a common figure of speech in the Bible called metonymy. The term means ‘a change in name.’ This figure is employed when one thing stands for another. One form of metonymy is where the container is put for its contents. This means that even though the container is mentioned, only the contents are actually under consideration.…”
His argument is this: the “cup” is used figuratively (a metonymy) in which the container is named to refer to its contents, the fruit of the vine; therefore, the cup itself means absolutely nothing to us. This is exactly what Jackson means, for he says, “It is the fruit of the vine that is in view,” and “only the contents are actually under consideration.”
However, this is an irrelevant point, because the fact still remains that the fruit of the vine (which Jackson says is “in view”) is in the cup (which is named) that Jesus picks up and incorporates into the observance. Regardless of whether the cup is named to suggest its contents or not, the reality of what Jesus does has not changed, and thus Jackson’s argument goes nowhere. Jesus took a cup containing the juice of the grape, gave it to the disciples and told them to drink of it. When a congregation employs more than one cup, they violate the divine pattern of Christ; yes, they disobey the command to hold the ordinances as they are taught. Communion with multiple cups is not the ordinance Christ delivered to His apostles, and it is not what Paul delivered to the Corinthians. We do not get to decide how many cups to use—as insignificant as we presume to believe it is (Num. 24:13). It’s Jesus’ decision! He is the head of the church (Col. 1:18; 2:10) and has all authority (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-22); thus multiple communion cups must be authorized by Him (Col. 3:17). We are not allowed to add to that which is specified in the example because we must keep this ordinance as it is delivered. (See also Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Josh. 1:7) Our role is to do as we are told. The metonymy argument is a diversion; we focus our attention on an elaborate argument built upon grammar and figures of speech rather than simply reading what Christ did, adhering to His commands, and mirroring His model. Figures of speech do not change reality—calling the cup a metonymy will not cause the literal cup that Christ held in His hand to disappear.
A closer look at some examples of a metonymy in the communion passages will bring us right back to the same place—the fruit of the vine (“in view”) is in one literal cup, and we must accept the divine pattern. In 1 Corinthians 10:21, Paul tells us that we cannot “Drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils.” It is obvious that Paul does not suggest that we literally consume the container, so the language must be figurative, i.e., a metonymy. A person drinks a cup by drinking the liquid inside of the cup! (Remember when I said it’s not rocket science!) Notice, however, that this involves the container. You cannot “drink a cup” unless the liquid you’re drinking is in a cup, nor can you call the liquid by the cup’s name unless it is in that cup. If I spill grape juice on my shirt, I cannot sensibly say, “Oh, I got cup on my shirt!”
The point is this: all Paul means by saying, “Drink the cup,” is drink out of the cup. But did I really need to say all this? Isn’t it true that you, the reader, really knew this basic, simple, natural, and logical truth? I have no doubt that you are well aware of what it means to “drink a cup.” Nevertheless, Paul himself proves this to be what he means: in 1 Corinthians 11:26-27, Paul uses the same figurative language (drinking the cup), but in verse twenty-eight, he says it in its literal form: “…let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” Yes, indeed, he simply means drink of (or out of) the cup. Jackson makes much more out of a metonymy than he should.
There is another problem with Jackson’s statement. He leaves the reader with the impression that the cup is always used as a metonymy—that it’s always merely a reference to its contents. This, however, is not the case. Though the “cup” does suggest its contents in some instances, it also (as we would naturally expect) has reference to the actual cup. When the gospel writers inform us of what Christ took with His hand, they tell us it was a “cup.” Would Jackson believe they were being figurative here? Are they not just describing Jesus’ action? Indeed they are, and nobody unwilling to forfeit their credibility as a reasonable and honest person can deny that Christ took a literal cup of fruit of the vine. If the phrase “he took the cup” is figurative, then how would it be written for us to understand it to be literal? Jackson then says:
“It is quite obvious that the ‘fruit of the vine’ is the ‘this,’ which is the ‘it,’ which, in fact, is the ‘cup.’ Underline these various terms and the connection between them will be quite apparent.”
Again, this is all irrelevant. Metonymy or no metonymy, Christ still took a cup of fruit of the vine, and this is the divine ordinance to which we must hold (2 Thess. 2:15). Jackson is taking us into a bunch of nothingness.
Nevertheless, let’s understand his argument. His reasoning goes like this: the word “this” in “this is my blood” (Matt. 26:28) refers to the fruit of the vine in the cup, and grammatically belongs to the word “cup” (v. 27); therefore, “the cup” is really a reference to the fruit of the vine. So, what is Jackson really trying to say? The cup doesn’t exist? Is he trying to say Jesus took grape juice in the palm of His hand? He is adamant about the fruit of the vine being “in view” by the word “cup,” so does he believe there is no cup? Is the fruit of the vine contained inside of the fruit of the vine? I will repeat it again: Jackson’s point is to no avail. The truth is, at risk of redundancy, that the juice, which Jesus said represented His blood (v. 28), was in the cup He took (v. 27), and it was this cup from which He said, “Drink of it, all of you.” It isn’t any more complicated than that.
As inconsequential as Jackson’s argument may be, is it correct? No, the “cup” in “He took the cup,” refers to the actual cup, and the statement, “This is my blood,” is in regard to the fruit of the vine it contained. This logic is easily realized in considering other examples similar to the account of the Lord’s supper. Take this scripture for example:
“And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head” (Mark 14:3).
Here, the word “it,” which refers to the oil, grammatically belongs to “box”, so according to Jackson’s analysis, “box’ refers to the oil. Does that make any sense? No, because oil isn’t something that can be “broken.” You see (very naturally) that the box means and refers to the literal box, while its pronoun (“it”) refers to the oil which is revealed earlier in context. Likewise, the “cup” means just what it says—a cup—and its pronoun in verse twenty-eight refers to the fruit of the vine. One more example:
Bill opened the bottle and said, “This is going to taste great! No wine tastes better than this.”
Jackson’s rationale would conclude that because “this” refers to the wine, then the “bottle” is the wine also, but it is apparent that “bottle” refers to the actual container—because it is “opened”—and its pronoun, “this,” refers to the wine which it contains.
Since much of this discussion centers around grammar and language, I thought I would contact some men who are well-studied in the field of the English language to get their evaluation of the passages in question and also concerning metonymy usage. I present my questions and their responses for your consideration:
Concerning Matthew 26:27-28, I asked Terrell Tebbetts, Professor of English, of Lyon College of Batesville, AR, the following four questions:
1. In verse 27, strictly according to grammar, is the word “cup” being used literally; that is, does it mean and refer to a literal drinking vessel?
“I understand ‘cup’ to be used literally, not figuratively, in that verse.” T.T.
2. In the command, “Drink ye all of it,” is Jesus commanding them to drink out of and from a literal drinking vessel?
3. If the word “cup” is the proper antecedent of the word “this” in verse 28, does “this” refer by metonymy to the contents of the cup?
4. For the metonymy in verse 28 to exist, must the contents being suggested necessarily be contained in the cup that is named?
Also, I sent the following question to English Professor, Steven Justice:
“Can a pronoun be figurative while having its antecedent used literally? Example:
Take the kettle off the stove when it boils.”
“Yes it can. Notice that you could rephrase your example sentence ‘Take the kettle off the stove when the kettle boils’; in this case, the second instance of ‘kettle’ would be used metonymically. The pronoun is as much a metonymy in your example as the second instance of the noun is in the rephrased version. I hope this helps.” Steven Justice, Professor of English, Berkeley University
Justice says it’s the “pronoun” which is a metonymy; in other words, the pronoun “it” refers to the contents of the kettle, but the word “kettle” itself means the literal container. The example says that the actual, physical kettle is to be taken off the stove when its contents boil. Also notice that in Justice’s rephrased example that the word “kettle” is used twice, but he says it’s the “second instance” that is used metonymically. Even if a noun is used more than once in the same sentence, each case must be judged separately (including pronouns). Jacksons logic, that if “this” refers to the contents, then “cup” must refer to the contents also, is wrong.
Let’s take a deeper look at the underlying Greek and its grammar. I reached Dr. Gary T. Meadors, Professor of the Greek New Testament at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and asked about the quantity of items Jesus used. According to his examination, he says:
“The Greek terms for bread and cup in the two passages are all in the singular. It seems clear that Jesus worked from one loaf and one cup in this event. This seems confirmed since ‘all’ were to eat/drink from these singular items. Further research about the supper and its procedures would require looking at Jewish sources since the passover Jesus celebrated had standard traditional procedures.”
Also, I asked Dr. David A. Waite, Expert of New Testament Greek and English Translations, and Director of the Dean Burgon Society, the following questions concerning Matthew 26:7-29 and Mark 14:23-25:
1. “He took the cup (poterion)…” Did Jesus take a literal cup or drinking vessel?
“I believe this is what it means. DAW”
2. “…gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of (ek) it (autos)…” Did Jesus hand them a literal cup?
“I believe this is what it means. DAW”
3. Did Jesus command all of them to literally drink OUT OF the very same drinking vessel He handed them?
“I believe this is what it means. DAW”
4. “…and they all drank of (ek) it…” Did they all literally drink OUT OF that very same drinking vessel?
“I believe this is what it means. DAW”
(end of Part One)
Jackson continues on:
“That the ‘cup’ is not the container is even more vividly depicted in Luke’s record. He states that Jesus ‘received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves . . .’ (Luke. 22:17). The Greek word for ‘divide’ is diamerizo, which means to ‘divide up’ or to ‘separate into parts’ (cf. Mt. 27:35).”
If this is what Jackson believes, then the question is this: does his congregation follow this method? Do they begin with a cup of fruit of the vine and then “divide” that cup by pouring it into others? Most assemblies that use individual cups do not do this; they begin from the get-go with multiple containers. Clearly, no matter how you dice it, those who observe the multi-cup tradition do not accept any significance in the pattern that Christ presented. They do not consider there to be any importance in how He did it. Simply put, they do not keep the ordinances as they are delivered, neither do they hold the traditions as they have been taught by the epistle, nor do they obey the command to all drink from one cup.
It is true that a cup can be divided by pouring it into other containers, but is that what Christ intended by His command? It is what He meant by His words that matters. Before He gave it to them, He said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood” (1 Cor. 11:25). We do not need an English professor to tell us how many cups of juice Jesus had in mind by that statement; He did not say “these cups.” So, was “this cup” not divided among the twelve by the act of drinking?
“And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it” (Mark 14:23).
Considering that a cup, by definition, is a drinking vessel, this is the most reasonable conclusion. If Jesus had intended to have the disciples drink from their own cups, why on earth did He hand them His? Moreover, if there were other cups sitting on the table, how much more significant does it become that He did so? Did He give them His cup just to have them use their own cups anyway? The “cup” is mentioned twelve times in the communion scriptures and never in the plural form.
Isn’t the Holy Spirit trying to tell us something about the quantity?
Outside of the communion context, the scriptures do present instances of multiple cups, such as in Mark 7:4, 8. So, it’s no question that when the authors have more than one cup in mind they know how to write it as such. Note that the New American Standard Version, Good News Bible, New Living Translation, God’s Word Translation, Weymouth New Testament, and the World English Bible, among others, render this verse using “share,” rather than “divide.” [Note: The various Bible versions were cited for comparison only and not because this author believes they are reliable translations as a whole.]
Jackson listed a legitimate definition of “diamerizo,” but there are others that he did not list. Various definitions for “diamerizo,” according to lexicons, are to divide into apposing parts, to be at variance, in dissention, to cleave asunder, cut in pieces, to share, and distribute, etc. The honest approach is to search for the intent of Jesus in His command and then decide what definition or definitions match closest to it.
Arndt and Gingrich Greek – English Lexicon (from of Walter Bauer’s 5th edition):
Share with someone Lk. 22:17 (p.186)
Notice here that Arndt and Gingrich give “share with someone” as the meaning of “divide” in Luke 22:17. This lexicon, of course, is not the final authority, but according to the context, the intent of Christ, and the harmony of the other gospel accounts of communion, “share” is closest to the correct idea. This harmonizes with Matthew, Mark, and the whole context of the communion. After all, we read of how the apostles responded to the command: “he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it” (Mark 14:23).
The Corinthian-Ephesian Argument
Jackson explains further:
“That the term ‘cup’ is not to be pressed as a container is evident from Paul’s use of the term in one of his epistles. During the apostle’s three and one-half year residence in Ephesus (Acts 19:1ff), he penned a letter to the saints in Corinth, across the Aegean Sea some 250 miles to the west. Therein he said: ‘The cup [singular] of blessing which we [plural] bless . . .’ (1 Cor. 10:16). Note the terms ‘cup’ and ‘we.’ It is obvious that ‘cup’ cannot refer to a container, as evidenced by the fact that Paul in Ephesus, and his brethren at Corinth, were sharing (note the ‘we’) the same ‘cup,’ i.e., a common substance (fruit of the vine), which reflects a spiritual idea, namely the blood of Christ, not a common container.”
In other words, Jackson says the “cup” cannot mean an actual physical cup since Paul and the Corinthians were too far apart to bless the same literal cup. It’s understood that the two assemblies were not blessing the same cup, but neither were they blessing the same fruit of the vine; each congregation had its own! So, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. In whatever sense the fruit of the vine is being blessed by both congregations, the cup that contains it can be blessed in the same.
So, Jackson’s argument that Paul’s statement forces the “cup” to mean only the contents hits a dead end. Once again, Jackson has failed to abolish the most important fact—the cup from which Jesus commanded the assembled to drink was an actual cup. It was a literal cup containing literal fruit of the vine, and each assembly’s observance of communion must adhere to that command. When Paul says, “the cup of blessing,” he is indeed referring to an actual cup—the cup of fruit of the vine that is blessed during communion. The two congregations were performing the same act—blessing the “cup of blessing,” but they were doing so in two separate occurrences. If Wayne Jackson raises his children in his house and I raise my children in my house, then I can sensibly say, “The house in which we live is where our children are raised.”
This language does not force the word “house” to be figurative, nor does it mean both Jackson and I live in the same house. However, if I were to say, “Wayne Jackson bought a house and gave it to his children,” then this would refer to a single house, and likewise, when we are told, “…He took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you,'” only one cup is meant.
In correcting the Corinthians on communion (their attitude and form), Paul offers them the example (the same one we find in the gospels) of Jesus as the solution (1 Cor. 11:24-25). In it, Paul chronicles one cup: “After the same manner also he took the cup”…, and “this cup is the new testament in my blood.” Nothing in it allows the idea that multiple cups of juice were employed by Christ and the disciples. (Again notice the contrast between this and Mark 7:4, 8) For Paul, this example was the solution to their problem. It is the solution to our disagreements as well; let’s follow it and end our divisions. Next, Jackson says:
“Moreover, in the context just cited, just as Paul uses ‘cup’ figuratively, so also does he employ the term ‘table’ symbolically (1 Cor. 10:21). It is no more logical to press the idea that ‘cup,’ i.e., container, has some mystical meaning, than it is to insist that ‘table’ has a spiritual significance.”
Jackson’s argument that the cup is here “figurative” (metonymy) has not been proven, but even if it is, the fact that Jesus took a literal cup containing literal fruit of the vine still remains. Also, if it were true that the cup has no spiritual significance, this does not negate the fact that we still must follow the example. We must still worship in “truth.” We must still hold the traditions as they are taught in the epistles.
Additionally, when there is a command involving an object, that action must be performed regardless of whether the object has spiritual significance or not. The upper room in which Jesus instructed the disciples to prepare the Passover (Mark 14:15) had no spiritual significance, but was required by His command. Concerning the cup of fruit of the vine Christ gave them, the command was “Drink of it, all of you…” When we assemble to commemorate the death of Christ, we must follow this example and obey the command. As far as the cup by itself, i.e., the container alone, having any spiritual significance, it is the cup with its contents that has significance. Jackson would deny this, but let Christ have the final say: “This cup is the new testament in my blood…”
What about the “Lord’s table”? In context, Paul was teaching that Christians cannot be in union with Jesus while partaking in idolatry. The “cup of the Lord,” “cup of the devils,” “Lord’s table,” and “table of devils,” are terms used in explaining this contradictory fellowship. To partake with the Lord is to partake at His “table” (Luke 22:30). When a congregation assembles to break bread in remembrance of Christ, the cup of juice which they bless is the “cup of the Lord.” When we drink of it, we drink with the Lord (Matt. 26:29). The literalness or figurativeness of the “Lord’s table” has no effect on the fact that the cup which Jesus took in the institution of His memorial was real.
Spiritual Significance in Unity
Having said this, there is a spiritual significance Jackson has missed by looking only at the “container”—the unity of the assembly partaking of the symbolic blood of Christ from the common cup. The very word communion presses a unity and joint-participation which is forfeited in the use of multiple cups of fruit of the vine. Those who think like Jackson have taken an act designed to be a “communion” and have made it an act of individualism. Instead of coming together to drink of one common cup, they come together to drink of their own individual cups. Thus they have defeated the need to come together at all for the event.
“A reasonable interpretation of the scriptural data relative to the Lord’s supper would indicate that the use of multiple containers in the distribution of the fruit of the vine is an optional expediency which may be employed at the discretion of the worshippers…”
What Jackson calls a “reasonable interpretation of the scriptural data” is actually just sophistry and a misunderstanding of grammar. What he calls an “optional expediency” is really an unlawful expediency. He presents multiple cups as an aid rather than an addition, but in another article he authored, Jackson accurately defines the difference between the two:
“An addition occurs when a particular action has been altered, or the fundamental composition or substance of a thing has been changed. An aid alters nothing; it merely facilitates the implementation of the action or substance, without changing anything” (Aid or Addition – What is the difference?).
According to his own words, Jackson has added to the Lord’s divine example. He says an addition is when a “particular action has been altered.” What was the action of Jesus? “He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them…” Jackson’s assembly takes cups and distributes them. The quantity of cups is specified in the passages, and those akin to Jackson’s modus operandi have added to the number decided by Jesus.
At the end of the day all the points Jackson lists fall short in providing the justification he needs. The individual-cup communion is an anti-scriptural tradition that violates the divine pattern of Christ. The Biblical authors, moved by the Holy Spirit, wanted us to know that it was a cup of fruit of the vine that Jesus used. Since He commanded the disciples to all drink out of it, they found it necessary that we should know such; otherwise, how could we follow the example and obey the command? Yes, they have not failed at delivering us “all instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16), and “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).