One Cup Call II
NOTE: My last posted article on this website was entitled “One Cup Call” (which please see). It revealed the details of a recent telephone conversation which I had with a good sister of the so-called “one cup” persuasion among us; a perspective which insists that all Christians must drink from the same, one container during communion – a perspective and insistence which is, in all reality, absolutely unsustainable when thoroughly examined, as outlined in that article.
After its posting, it was suggested to me by a good brother in Christ that I might please consider composing a follow-up article, but this time detailing and revealing more of the scriptural reasoning as to why the vast majority of the churches of Christ do not insist upon the “one cup” perspective. The following article is a loving attempt to biblically explain exactly that. Thank you for taking the time to thoroughly examine and consider its contents… God bless!
The first thing I would like to do is to commend my good brethren of the “one cup” persuasion for their concern and conviction, regarding wanting to be as biblically accurate in their worship as is as absolutely possible (John 4:23-24). I could only wish that a few more of my brethren overall were that concerned with biblical accuracy! It is certainly my personal hope to accomplish exactly that with the following examination of what the Scriptures actually say.
Those who insist on the usage of only “one cup” during communion, would point to Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:27, which states: “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying ‘Drink from it, all of you.” Certainly anyone can clearly see where any person or persons (such as our so-called “one cup” brethren in particular) who were striving for biblical accuracy above all else, would see in that passage a position for the usage of only one cup in the observance of communion. I can as well. Jesus took the cup; He gave thanks for the cup; He gave them the cup; and then He commanded His disciples to drink from the cup.
…But the passage doesn’t stop there. And just as with any biblical topic, in order to get the fullest, clearest, and most complete understanding possible, we must examine not only just the one verse, it’s context, contents, and any possible figures of speech or linguistic tools the speaker may or may not utilize therein, but we must also examine both the surrounding verses as well any other passages in the Scriptures pertaining to that particular topic, in order to see exactly what additional light they might possibly also shed on that particular, specific topic. Any failure to do so is exactly where every egregious, soul-costing and accosting, caustic religious error always originates – on any topic and in any area! Tragically, failure to thus thoroughly study through Scripture is precisely what all too many of our denominational friends and neighbors do with John 3:16 – all the while completely and utter excluding all such other divinely-inspired passages as Acts 2:38, 22:16, James 2:19-24, and 1 Peter 3:21, to name but a few!
And so, we consider the rest of that passage: Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matt. 26:27-29).
“The cup,” for which Jesus “gave thanks,” and of which He then gave to His disciples and commanded them to drink, He Himself then immediately defines and refers to as, “this fruit of the vine” in verse 29. This is known as “metonymy,” a term which Merriam Webster’s free online dictionary defines as: “A figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated (as ‘crown’ in ‘lands belonging to the crown’).” Jesus often made use of the phrase “drink of this cup” in similar, metonymic fashion – but never actually focusing on or referring to the importance of the literal cup, lone or otherwise! In every case He used the term to focus on and refer to that which was related to or associated with it (See: Matthew 20:22, Mark 10:38-39, John 18:11, and 1 Corinthians 10:21)!
As brother Guy N. Woods additionally stated, Thus, by metonymy (the container “for the thing contained” – Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary), our Lord used “the cup” to signify what it contained, the fruit of the vine… Thus, “the cup” of the first sentence (verse 27), becomes “this fruit of the vine” in the last sentence (verse 29). In effect, the Lord said, “By the ‘cup’ I mean, ‘this fruit of the vine.’ The one cup (container) advocates say, ‘by the cup’ we mean the container!” (Questions And Answers; Open Forum, Freed-Hardeman College Lectures,” © 1976, by Guy N. Woods).
Jesus Himself defined precisely what He meant by “the cup” (i.e. “this fruit of the vine”) in the very passage under consideration. Jesus no more gave thanks for the container itself than He meant to imply that it contained His literal blood in Matthew 26:27-29 – which of course it did not. In both cases, by His own admission and instruction, He was describing, defining, focusing on and giving thanks for the physical “fruit of the vine,” which was in the container, and not the literal (and infinitely insignificant by comparison) cup or container it was in. To contend for one container, and insist upon and further transfer the pre-eminence and importance to the container, over that of its contents, is something neither Christ or His disciples ever did or taught – but in fact, just the opposite.
Consider the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” When Paul wrote that to the congregation in Corinth, he was more than 300 miles away in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8). Paul could not possibly have been contending for one, literal, “cup,” because he included both the Ephesian and Corinthian congregations – over 300 miles apart – in the shared “we” of that statement. Both congregations shared in the same blessing of “the cup.” But obviously both congregations were not using the same, lone, literal one container – or loaf. That is not at all what the emphasis, importance, or divinely-inspired instruction was anything about. The emphasis, importance, and divinely-inspired instruction and focus here, is on the unity, oneness, and common union (“communion”) we all have with one another, because of the blessed blood of Jesus Christ!
The obvious emphasis and importance throughout here, is that we are all to be “one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-29). We are all one body by virtue of the blood-sacrifice of, and our baptism into, the one body/church of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). If we desire to be obsessed with “one” anything, then may God help us to get it to be with being the “one,” undivided and undenominated body of Christ on earth, as God intended and as His Son prayed for the night before He died to establish that “one body.” After all, to divide that “one body” (a term which actually occur in Scripture – in fact, some ten times total in the New Testament – and therefore does bear defending), over something such as the literal “one cup” (a term which never actually occurs in Scripture anywhere) seems rather inconsistent with the Savior’s emphasis and sacrifice when you really study it out… doesn’t it?
(For more information, please see: http://www.clevelandcoc.com/?p=3942).