My father’s family comes from a long line of “one-cup, non-Sunday school, non-located preacher” churches. My great grandfather, J.S. Bedingfield, was a well-known preacher among these brethren. There has been quite a bit said, shouted, and written about the Greek text of Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and I Corinthians 11 over the years and even more use of the word metonymy. My personal study led me to a debate book from 1950 that records a discussion of the issue between W. Curtis Porter and Irvin Waters1. One of those arguments has specific application to our age of worship via internet livestream.
Brother Waters made a point from I Corinthians 10:16 regarding the fact Paul uses the phrase, “The cup of blessing.” Waters declared if the Bible says “the cup,” singular, there is no authority for multiple drinking vessels (p15-19). Most one-cup brethren also believe you must all divide from one bread (one loaf). Waters makes that point from the same passage of Scripture in a tract referenced during the debate. The Holy Spirit says, “we all partake of one bread.”-I Corinthians 10:17. For Waters that sealed the discussion (Proverbs 18:17).
When brother Porter began his first speech, he said something I had never noticed before and it solidified my feelings on the issue. It also has bearing on our current situation. Porter points out there are at least two drinking vessels and two loaves in the passage (p23, 56-57). Do you see them? Here is the answer. Paul does say “the cup,” “the bread,” and even “one bread.” But he also says “we bless” and “we break.” When Paul broke the one bread with the Corinthian church and blessed the cup, he was in Ephesus! So, the references to “the cup” and “one bread” at the very least, meant two cups and two loaves. In the context of the Porter-Waters debate, it establishes an apostolic example of a singular grammatical reference encompassing a plurality of vessels and loaves. But it provides a greater meaning for us today.
Paul tells us the fruit of the vine we bless is a participation in Jesus’ blood and the bread is the body of Christ. Our Savior is not divided no matter how many Christians in how many places take the Lord’s supper. We all eat the one bread and drink “the” cup. Do you see how this applies to our virtual worship?
We, like Paul and the Corinthians, are separated from each other in the body. But we can be one in spirit. We can bless and partake of one bread and the cup. When we come together as a church, in the only way we can right now, we are eating the Lord’s supper as one body. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”-I Corinthians 11:26.
Is Facebook Live the best way to assemble as a church? No. Do we long for being one body face-to-face? Boy howdy! But during our present distress, even when we are absent in the flesh, we can be present in Spirit. How do we, “maintain the unity of the Spirit”-Ephesians 4:3? We can be joined in heart as we assemble virtually, while we sing, pray, commune, teach, and give in reality. Where we worship, God is (John 4:23-24). We are all sealed with the same Spirit (Titus 3:5) and joined by the same Jesus (Mark 14:25). Even when we are apart we can be one body, taking one loaf and one cup. I plan to be with you this Lord’s day!
1 Smith, Lynwood M., editor. “Porter-Waters Debate.” Murfreesboro, Dehoff Publications, 1952.