The 39: The Sacraments (6)

The exposition on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper turns to reform of the Roman Mass. Tracking the confession from article 28, Anglicans insist that the elements of the Supper are signs that signify Christ, but are not Christ himself, thereby denying the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Then article 29 more precisely denies any sense of a local presence of Christ in the elements, instead arguing that those without faith who partake in the Lord’s Supper are not participating in Christ, and bring condemnation on themselves. Article 30 gives instructions of how the Lord's Supper is to be offered or administered to the congregation. It sets out that both elements, particularly the cup, are to be served to the congregation.
XXX — Of Both Kinds

The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people; for both the parts of the Lord’s Sacrament, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.
Article 30, new in 1563, was written by Archbishop Parker and remained unchanged in 1571. The correlation of historical evidence suggests that this article was the Anglican response to the canons of Session 21 of the Council of Trent July 16, 1562:
  • Canon I. – If any one saith, that, by the precept of God, or, by necessity of salvation, all and each of the faithful of Christ ought to receive both species of the most holy sacrament not consecrating; let him be anathema. 
  • Canon II. – If any one saith, that the holy Catholic Church was not induced, by just causes and reasons, to communicate, under the species of bread only, laymen, and also clerics when not consecrating; let him be anathema.
  • Canon III. – If any one denieth, that Christ whole and entire -the fountain and author of all graces-is received under the one species of bread; because that-as some falsely assert-He is not received, according to the institution of Christ himself, under both species; let him be anathema.
There are several hypotheses as to why the practice of withholding the cup arose in the Middle Ages. One possibility is that due to issues around hygiene it was not right to drink from a common cup. Another is that due to local presence theology the elements were to be so revered that they were to be kept from human contamination. A third would be the erosion of a right understanding of Christ's completed high priestly work that changed the role of the minister to a sacerdotal priest-representative. Whatever the case, it resulted in the bread placed directly upon the tongue of the recipient and the cup withheld.
Again the primacy of Scripture is the Anglican standard for doctrine in article 30. Parker rightly alludes to article 19's "Christ's ordinance and commandment" definition of the right administration of the sacraments. When the Lord Jesus Christ established what the formularies call the Lord's Supper, he invited all the disciples (Judas having departed in betrayal) to the bread and to drink the cup in remembrance of him (Matthew 26.26-30, Luke 22.19-22). The bread broken and shared, the single cup shared among them. Paul instructs the church in 1 Corinthians 11.23-27 about the correct manner in which they were to come to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, it’s clear the expectation was that people would be eating the bread and drinking from the cup, linking the practice of the Corinthians to the night before Jesus’ death.
Why did our Anglican forebears insist on this to such an extent that it required an article in the confession? It is their fidelity to sola scriptura. Its testimony is of a single cup given to the communicant member. One of the most poignant Old Testament images of God’s judgment is the Cup of Wrath. This imagery is widely used in the Old Testament prophets (See Jeremiah 25.15–27; 29.12; 51.7; Lamentations 4.21; Ezekiel 23.32–34; Obadiah 16; Habakkuk 2.16). All the Old Testament descriptions are of a single cup. We can, therefore, understand the significance of singularity when the gospels witness the climax of God's judgment in the singular Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ who freely drinks this cup of wrath (Matthew 26.42) to satisfy God's punishment for our sins. By taking this judgment on himself, Christ then offers a new cup of wine symbolizing the new covenant (Luke 22.20,42; 1 Corinthians 11.25–26, see Ray Dillard’s sermon, "The Other Cup"). When Christ comes again in judgment, the cup of God’s wrath is transposed to the impressive reality awaiting those who remain in hard-hearted rebellion. What Christ experienced on the cross for believers in drinking this cup is reserved at the final judgment for nonbelievers (Revelation 14.9–10).
Jesus distributed a single cup (the third cup poured or the “cup of blessing” according to the Passover ritual) and, in accord with the blessing, commanded that his disciples drink from it, saying: “This is my blood, covenant blood, (to be) poured out for many” (Mark 14.24 [= Matt 26.28]; cf. Luke 22.20 [= 1 Corinthians 11.25]). This scripturally charged language, by its allusions to Exodus 24.8, Jeremiah 31.31, and Isaiah 53.11–12, interpreted Jesus’ imminent death as both an expiatory offering and a sacrifice sealing God’s covenant with all who would enter the new Israel. In immediately following his words on the bread and, again, immediately following his words on the wine, Jesus gave the same bread and the same wine to his disciples to be eaten and drunk. This act of giving signified that by their eating and drinking they shared in the atoning power of his death and the new covenant that his death would seal. The combination of these signs thus defined Christ’s disciples as the beginnings of a renewed eschatological Israel that has now spread over all the earth.
Archbishop Parker and the other divines concluded that there is a logical priority to the theology of the Lord’s Supper revealed in its distribution. The common cup is a sign of our communion and fellowship in the one body, one baptism, and one faith of Jesus Christ. Just as Christ has not authorized individual loaves of bread to be given to each communicant, so he has not allowed individual cups to be given to each communicant. We who come to the Lord's Table express by our use of one bread and one cup our oneness in Christ and by logical consequence our unity with each other in faith and love by the Holy Spirit.
It is significant that article 28 clearly states that the sign of the Lord's Supper is not only a sign of love that Christians should have one to another, but it is instead a sacrament of our Redemption, emphasizing the unique mediation of the Lord Jesus and the singular communion the believer has with his/her Savior. Article 30 references explicitly the single cup of blessing. The Book of Common Prayer Exhortations emphasizes the individual's sharing in Christ, as does the Westminster Directory for Public Worship. Anglicans should respect the single cup rather than confuse the connection between word and sacrament by the use of small individual cups. There is no real evidence for individual cups before an 1892 article for the Annals of Hygiene that first suggested their use for sanitary reasons. We must not allow concerns for hygiene (misplaced, since there is no recorded instance of worse health among the vast majority who have always used a single cup through the centuries) to take precedence over a biblically faithful theology of distribution.

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For previous articles in this series, see:
  1. Introduction
  2. One God in Trinity, Trinity in Unity (Art. 1)
  3. The Incarnation and Atonement (Art. 2)
  4. The Work of Christ (Arts. 3-4)
  5. The Holy Spirit (Art. 5)
  6. The Rule of Faith: Part 1 (Art. 6)
  7. The Rule of Faith: Part 2 (Art. 7)
  8. The Rule of Faith: Part 3 (Art. 8)
  9. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 1 (Art. 9)
  10. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 2 (Art. 10)
  11. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 3 (Art. 11)
  12. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 4 (Art. 12)
  13. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 5 (Arts. 13-14)
  14. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 6 (Art. 15)
  15. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 7 (Art. 16)
  16. Grace Alone! (Art. 17)
  17. Christ Alone! (Art. 18)
  18. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 1 (Art. 19)
  19. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 2 (Art. 20)
  20. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 3 (Art. 21)
  21. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 4 (Art. 22)
  22. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 5 (Art. 23)
  23. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 6 (Art. 24)
  24. The Sacraments: Part 1 (Art. 25)
  25. The Sacraments: Part 2 (Art. 26)
  26. The Sacraments: Part 3 (Art. 27)
  27. The Sacraments: Part 4 (Art. 28)
  28. The Sacraments: part 5 (Art. 29)


Henry Jansma