Must there be only one bread and one cup used at the Lord

Must there be only one bread and one cup used at the Lord’s Supper?

Two factors frame the response to this question. The first is the text and the second is the stated symbolism.

"The cup of blessing which we bless . . ." (1 Co 10:16) indicates a singular vessel. It is a drinking vessel, literally derived from the root word "drink." The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Words says regarding this drinking vessel, "In a Palestinian home it is the pitcher (usually an earthen bowl) that stands filled on the table." Obviously, in this passage, Paul is using a figure of speech. We do not drink the cup; we drink its contents. What we drink comes from a common source, a vessel for drinking.

In the same verse, Paul speaks of "the bread which we break." Again, it is a singular entity. The object is a loaf of whatever shape or substance used as bread. In addition, taking from the loaf is a personal act, each one "breaking bread."

The stated symbolism when we partake of these two emblems expresses a communion, a common fellowship, a sharing with others, or a joint participation (v 17).

To answer the question, then, apart from having one loaf and one vessel for drinking, we cannot express the intended symbolism. If that one loaf is distributed so that more than one person is taking from the loaf at one time, this does not compromise the symbolism. When all have taken from the loaf and the remainder returns to its original place (usually a table), there is value in reuniting the remaining parts to form - as best as possible - a loaf. The loaf has no typical significance. An opening (like a wound) in the side of the loaf, the wheat from which it is made, the process of preparing it, the color of its flour, or our taking the bread are not to be analyzed for added significance. The loaf reminds us of the Lord’s body given for us; taking our part from the loaf expresses our fellowship with those in the assembly who have "broken bread." One loaf seen both before and after we break bread expresses this effectively.

If all drink their portion of the "fruit of the vine" from a common vessel, this expresses our fellowship with the Lord. This is not primarily to express our individual fellowship with the Lord but to express that all unitedly share with God in "the fellowship" that honors His Son. Therefore, although the symbol of the blood of Christ may be distributed in more than one vessel, if it visibly comes from a common vessel, this does maintain the scriptural symbolism.

D. Oliver