The Gospel of John deepens one’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper by clarifying that union with Christ (John 6:56) by the Spirit (John 13–14) constitutes a reality of the Supper. Ignatius, drawing ideas that seem assumed by about 109 AD and so likely derive from much earlier, affirms the life-giving aspect of the Supper and its official nature in the church.
Christians today understand the Lord’s Supper by comparing common Reformation-era debates concerning the meal with the New Testament. The most important theological notions then become whether or not one holds to the real presence, spiritual presence, or memorial view of the Supper.
Distinctions - Supper - Wealth - Witnesses - Century
While such distinctions help us understand the Supper, we should not omit the wealth of historical and theological witnesses we have from the first and second century.
We have a number of writings that explain how the Lord’s Supper was understood and celebrated during the time of the apostles and while the New Testament still was being written. And we have additional witnesses that follow the apostolic age who adopted already established practices from the apostolic era.
Paul - Documents - Letters - Date - Years
Paul wrote some of the earliest Christian documents that we know of. His early letters date to about 20 years after Jesus died. Hence, he gives insight into the earliest Christians. In his letter to the Corinthians, we can discern a basic pattern for the Supper.
First, Christians would celebrate the Supper according to Jesus’ words of institution. Paul cites the words of Jesus in ways approximating the later writing of the Gospel according to Luke. The meaning of the Supper then centres on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as well as the coming kingdom (1 Cor 11:23–36).
Lord - Supper - Meal - Paul - Wait
Second, the Lord’s Supper likely revolved around an actual meal since Paul advises, “when you come together to eat, wait for...
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