Should We Be Using One Cup?
When we in sorrow consider the unfaithfulness of many congregations we clearly see the problem. A lack of understanding or love for God’s law is at the heart of the issue when congregations allow unauthorized practices and doctrines to prevail (Psalm 119:113). We are to lovingly admonish these unfaithful brethren to repent of this wickedness (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).
When we do, often we turn to Revelation 22:18-19 where John writes in part, “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life.” The principle taught is applicable to the entirety of holy writ. As Paul wrote, we must do only that which is authorized by scripture in the name of Jesus without adding our own doctrines (Colossians 3:17). While this argument does well in defeating the progressive ideas of our day, we desire to apply this scriptural principle in all areas of faith. Some would look to the use of multiple cups during the Lord’s supper as a digression from Christ’s authority in instituting the meal with one cup. When using multiple cups are we being inconsistent with the word of God?
Let us consider the cup Jesus used. When Jesus, and later Paul, described the cup that the disciples were to take He called attention to the symbolism present. The cup represents the blood of the New Testament (Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:25). Those who bind the use of one cup teach that the fruit of the vine represents the blood but that the literal cup (container) is part of the New Testament doctrine of worship. Is this what Jesus intended? Notice carefully that Matthew recorded, “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it” (Matthew 26:27). In Luke’s account Jesus told the disciples to “divide it” among themselves (Luke 22:17). Obviously Jesus was using metonymy. He used the word cup to represent the contents of the cup. Otherwise He was telling the disciples to take the literal container and divide it up and drink it. Which is more likely?
If we look to Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 11:27 he tells us to drink the cup of the Lord. Some use the argument that if Paul says there is one cup of the Lord then we should apply that the same way that we apply what we read in Matthew 16:18 where Jesus said He would build His church (singular). Paul said one cup and Jesus said one church by using the singular case so if we believe in one church then we must believe in using one cup. This is a misapplication of the doctrine of the one cup. Truly there is only one cup of the Lord. By that Paul refers to the symbol of the contents of the cup (using metonymy) teaching that if we are to be faithful Christians we must all partake of the fruit of the vine on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). There is one authorized bread and one authorized cup. If we change the items to hamburgers and soda we are worshipping outside of the doctrine of Christ.
As with any doctrine we must examine the consequences of the doctrine to test it. If Jesus and Paul were referring to and teaching that we must use one literal cup then that means we all Christians everywhere must use the same cup. No matter what continent, country, time zone, or city we must all gather in one place and divide one cup among all present if “this cup” means one literal cup. Also, if Jesus is referring to the literal cup He held then we must find the actual cup He had in His hand and all drink from that.
It soon becomes clear from examining the evidence that we are authorized to divide the fruit of the vine. To bind the use of one cup is to ignore the clear meaning of scripture and add doctrine to the scripture which is not authorized. Let us seek to speak “as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11).