The rapid spread of the SARS-COV-2 has made it impossible for churches to gather physically as the congregation of God, to partake of the Lord’s Supper. This has caused several churches to adopt innovative ways to ensure that members participate in the Holy Communion. Much of this involves the live-streaming or tele-commuting of the Lord’s Supper services.

However, if one is not careful, the rise of these new methods can lead to an abuse of the Lord’s Supper. In fact, a recent video showed one pastor asking the viewer to grab “whatever you have available to use as the bread and the cup” and “it will be enough”. The same video also encourages the viewers to partake of the Lord’s Supper regularly. In light of most countries being under lockdown (or in Singapore’s case in “circuit-breaker” mode), this would mean that the viewers will be partaking of the Lord’s Supper on their own!

The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament. As a sacrament, it is “an holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.” When one partakes of the Lord’s Supper humbly, reverentially, in faith and with proper understanding of the sacrament, he will experience spiritual benefits. “From this sacrament, pious souls may derive the benefit of considerable satisfaction and confidence, because it affords us a testimony that we are incorporated into one body of Christ. The result of this is, that we are assured of eternal life of which He is the heir, and of the kingdom of Heaven, into which He has already entered. We now cannot be condemned by our sins, from the guilt of which He has absolved us.” (Calvin, as abridged by Timothy Tow in An Abridgement of Calvin’s Institutes). This serves as an exhortation to us unto purity of life, and unity as one body in Christ. “For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17)

On the other hand, it must never be conducted flippantly, neither should one partake it with a lackadaisical attitude. Anyone who does so, will be judged by the Lord. The best example will be the Corinthian Christians whose abuse of the Lord’s Supper led to the Lord sending sickness among them, some of them were even called home early unto
the Lord. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” (1 Cor. 11:28-30)

Then there are those who teach that the partaking of the Lord’s Supper guarantees physical healing for this present time. Isaiah 53:5 is often presented as the basis of this teaching – “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa. 53:5)

A close examination of verses 5 and 6 reveals that the focus on the verse is not on physical but spiritual healing. “For he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities…the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus came to save us from our sins.

On the other hand, does the healing of Jesus include physical healing? Yes, for we are told we will be given a glorified body in the future resurrection. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:51-57)

However, on earth, a believer is not immune to sickness. One good example is that of Job, who under the permissive will of God, was allowed to be afflicted by sore boils for the trying of his faith. Thus, when Isaiah 53:5 talks about healing by the stripes of Christ, it refers firstly to spiritual healing, when we have our sins forgiven in Christ, and it also points to the blessed future where we will be given a glorified body that will no longer corrupt like our present body.

To teach an individual to partake of the Lord’s Supper simply because it guarantees healing in the present time is a deceptive teaching and an abuse of the sacrament.


One question that may be asked recently is whether the bread used for the Lord’s Supper should be unleavened or leavened bread. If leavened bread is permitted, why then do we use unleavened bread for the Lord’s Supper?

Firstly, we have to understand that the Scriptural requirement for the Lord’s Supper is for bread to be used. The Greek word is artos, which can refer to any baked product from a cereal grain, and most commonly a loaf of bread (BDAG). On the other hand, the more specific word for unleavened bread, azumos, was not employed. Thus, it shows that the important principle is that it must be bread that is broken, and not whether it is leavened or unleavened.

Why then do we use unleavened bread for our Lord’s Supper services? The answer lies in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” The picture in this verse is that of the Passover, followed by the Feast of the Unleavened bread, often regarded as one by the children of   Israel because they come one after the other. Christ here is described to be the Passover Lamb of God that is without blemish. After the Passover, unleavened bread would be eaten, describing the perfect purity of the Lord. Thus, in the Lord’s Supper, the preference here is to use unleavened bread, to remind us of the sinlessness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is also a reminder of how we ourselves must be wholly devoted unto holiness. Nevertheless, we must bear in mind that the context of the verse deals with how the congregation of the Lord must walk in holiness by purging sin from within the camp. It is not about the Lord’s Supper.

What then about Christ? When He first broke the bread, did He not break unleavened bread? Yes, He did as it was the Passover. Nevertheless, the term for bread used in the gospels is again artos and not azumos, showing that the focus is on the fact that bread was broken and not whether it was leavened or unleavened. That Christ broke unleavened bread was due to the circumstance of the times.

John Calvin gave an astute answer to this whole debate. “With respect to the external ceremonial, whether believers take the bread in their hands or not; whether they divide it between them; whether they return the cup into the hand of the deacon, or deliver to the person who is next; whether the bread be leavened or unleavened; whether the wine be red of white; is of the least importance.” (An Abridgement of Calvin’s Institutes)

This does not mean that the church can be slack in the administration of the sacraments. For Calvin continues, “Leaving all the mass of ceremonies, let us remark, that the Lord’s Supper might be most properly administered, if it were set before the Church … in the following manner. The service shall commence with public prayer. In the next place, a sermon should be delivered. Then, the bread and wine be placed upon the table, the minister should recite the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and declare the promises which are left for us in it, and, at the same time, should excommunicate all those who are excluded from it by the prohibition of the Lord. After this, prayer should be offered with the same benignity with which our Lord has given us the sacred food, He would also teach and enable us to receive in faith and gratitude of heart, and that, as of ourselves we are not worthy, He would in His mercy make us worthy of such a feast. Then either some psalms should be sung, or a portion of Scripture be read, and believers should participate of the sacred banquet, the ministers breaking the bread and distributing it, and presenting the cup to the people. After the conclusion of the Supper, an exhortation should be given to sincere faith, and a confession of the same; to charity, and a deportment worthy of Christians. Finally, thanksgiving should be rendered and praises sung, to God; and to close the whole, the Church should be dismissed in peace.” (ibid.)

May we therefore treat the Lord’s Supper seriously, and take good care not to abuse it. When we approach it rightly, the sacrament is a means of grace whereby spiritual blessings may be appropriated to God’s people.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew