8.2.6 Holy Communion in the first epistle to the Corinthians

In 1 Corinthians 11: 17-32 we find evidence of the celebration of Holy Communion and of Jesus' words of institution which He spoke in the process. This text first of all attests that the celebration of Holy Communion was part of the religious practice of the early Christian congregations. Here Apostle Paul cited the words of institution for Holy Communion as practised in Corinth. Here it becomes clear that a predetermined wording was prescribed: "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you." This is followed by the words of institution: "The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes" (1 Corinthians 11: 23-26).


This text describes the situation in which Holy Communion was instituted and also relates the words spoken by Jesus. The commemoration of this unique event in the history of salvation also incorporates the words of institution. Wherever Holy Communion is celebrated, this night in which the Lord was betrayed is also commemorated.


Breaking of bread and giving thanks (Greek: eucharistein) to God also belong together. At the same time, Jesus' interpretation of the bread and wine is repeated: the bread is not only the Passover bread, but rather "My body which is broken for you". Likewise, the cup not only contains the customary wine of the Passover, but is "the new covenant in My blood". The one cup of wine which was passed around during the celebration of Holy Communion calls to mind the death of Jesus upon which the new covenant was founded. Whoever drinks from this cup receives the blood of Jesus Christ, that is to say the Lord Himself. The conclusion of the text emphasises the importance of the proclamation of the unique event of Christ's death as well as the importance of His return. The significance of Holy Communion for fellowship of life with the Lord is also underlined: "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" (1 Corinthians 10: 16-17).