How Do I Take Communion – Bread or the Cup First?

Christoph asks…

Hello Pastor David! I live in Germany, so because of the time-difference: Could you answer this question in your next session? I got a question concerning communion: Is it of any importance whether the bread or the cup is taken first? In our church sometimes we read Luke 22 (starting at verse 17 where Jesus obviously takes a cup first) and then it happens that we do it “the wrong way”. When we read from 1 Corinthians 11 it is the opposite and that’s the way I know it since I was little. I know that there used to be more than one cup in the original Jewish Passover and that it has a deeper meaning that we celebrate a “shortened version” of the original Passover.

But do you think the order is important to God? What would you do if you attended a service where the cup is taken first? Would you participate?

  1. The significance of the bread and the cup: Jesus reinterprets these important parts of the Jewish Passover seder (ritual), proclaiming them as His body (the bread) and His blood (the cup).
  2. The order of taking the bread and the cup: In the different places we see communion or the Lord’s Table in the New Testament, the bread comes first and then the cup.

In Matthew and Mark, it is clear that the bread came before the cup (Matthew 26:26ff, Mark 14:22ff). In Luke, it is a little more complicated – there are two cups spoken of, one before the bread, then another one after the bread.

Luke 22:17-20

[17] Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; [18] for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” [19] And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” [20] Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

If you are confused by all the cups, don’t be – the ritual of the Jewish Passover meal (both ancient and modern) has four ceremonial sips or “cups” of wine. This isn’t strange at all.

There is another relevant passage in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, mentioned by Christoph:

[23] For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the samenight in which He was betrayed took bread; [24] and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,“Take, eat;  this is My body which is broken  for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” [25] In the samemanner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do,as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” [26] For as often as you eat this bread and drink thiscup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

In this passage, again, we see that the taking of the bread comes before the taking of the cup.

  • I would say that taking the bread before the cup is the correct way and should be the normal way of receiving communion.
  • However, because of the Luke passage which does mention a cup before the bread, I would not regard it as dangerous or heretical for someone to take the cup first.
  • We need to be careful about the things we would divide over or declare to be heretical. Example: the Quartodeciman controversy in the early church, over whether Easter should be celebrated in connection with Passover or should always be celebrated on a Sunday. Christians declared each other to be out of God’s kingdom over things that are clearly side issues, and one can be wrong about without being deadly.
  • When it comes to communion, the power is not in the ritual itself, but in the reality of what Jesus did for us on the cross, and our receiving it by faith – receiving it into our innermost being.

One other matter: people sometimes ask if communion must be celebrated or observed only in church, or if it can also be received in other places, without recognized church leaders.

My response to this would be that 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 presents communion in the early church at a church setting – having to do with the meetings of the church. So, definitely, in New Testament church communion was celebrated and received at church meetings. Yet, I don’t see anything in the Scriptures that absolutely restricts it to church meetings. In fact, there is a passage in Acts that implies that communion was observed informally in homes: Acts 2:46 says that the early Christians were breaking bread from house to house. That could simply mean that they ate meals together, but most commentators and Bible scholars see the suggestion of celebrating communion in these informal, house to house ways.

However, wherever communion is celebrated, what God tells us in 1 Corinthians 11 must be kept in mind: The Lord’s Table is a place to reverently, respectfully remember and receive what Jesus did for us on the cross, in form of the bread and the cup. It’s wrong to receive communion in a flippant, disrespectful way whether that happens in a church or a home.

And, I would recommend receiving communion with the bread first, then the cup – but I would also recommend against regarding anyone who takes the cup first as a heretic or a dangerous person. To answer Christoph’s question, if I was a guest at a communion service where the cup was received first I would participate, but I would not do it that way myself, and I would not recommend doing it that way.

How do you worship God according to Romans 12:1 and John 4:23?

What’s true worship of God, according to Romans 12:1 and John 4:23?

Romans 12:1 speaks of presenting our bodies a living sacrifice: I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, which is wholly acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

This indicates worse that true worship of God has an element of the surrender of the life. We find this something that the Old Testament prophets dealt with from time to time. The Old Testament prophets would sometimes rebuke the people of Israel because they brought their sacrifices, their demonstrations of worship, but their heart was not in it. It’s important for us to say that not only do we come before God, with worship of our words, but also with a surrendered life.

John 4:23 is Jesus speaking of the importance of worshiping God in spirit, and in truth: God is spirit, Jesus said, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

So true worship has an aspect of genuine surrender of the life and the will unto God. But it also has another aspect to it, of being something that is spiritual, and not just fleshly, or material in its character.

Was Cain the seed of Satan and Abel the seed of Adam?

Was Cain Satan’s seed, and Abel Adams seed?

I would say no, absolutely not. Especially if we want to talk about seed being in the sense of anything genetic. Cain and Abel, genetically speaking, were the same, being two sons of Adam and Eve. Cain being the firstborn, of course, and Abel being the second born.

Abel was a righteous and a godly man. We know that both from the Genesis text and as he’s mentioned later on, especially in Hebrews, chapter 11. Abel was a godly man, and Cain was an ungodly man, even a murder of his own brother. But to call him Satan’s seed implies that he was born of Satan. Of course the Bible text tells us that he did evil and he advanced the evil purposes of Satan. Cain was, so to speak, a tool in Satan’s hand. You could also speak in the sense that Jesus later spoke about those enemies of God, being a brood of vipers – the descendants of Satan – but these are images, word pictures.

But “seed of Satan” is not the wording that I would use to describe the contrast between Cain and Abel.

What can the Bible tell me about getting a new job?

Can you give me Bible words for a new job?

If someone is praying for a new job, I would say, go to the passages in the New Testament where Paul talks about the importance of working to provide for our own sustenance. Paul says a person doesn’t work they should not eat. And I think you could pray, “Lord, I can see that it’s your general will for all of humanity to work.”

Of course, there’s some people are unemployed, maybe unemployed for a long time, and perhaps God works in and through those circumstances. But we can’t deny that in general, it’s God’s will for humanity, to work and to be provided for by their work through the income they would receive through their work. And so you can say, “Lord, I know this is your general will for humanity, I pray that you would make it my specific experience and pray with confidence, knowing God’s general will.” That’s the best Bible word I could give to you regarding a new job.

Can Christians take part in Halloween?

Can Christians take part in Halloween? And if so, to what extent?

I would say that to whatever extent a Halloween commemoration furthers or promotes or glorifies the demonic, those wicked things that have nothing to do with God, Christians should not be a part of.

I do know that Christians, oftentimes churches, in a form of outreach, have tried to provide an alternative for families, an something that has nothing to do with the evil or demonic associations. But again, I would say that whatever extent a particular commemoration of Halloween would glorify, or associate with, or honor these things of darkness, then Christians just simply stay away from it.

This line may be regarded a bit different, according to an individual Christian’s conscience, their understanding, and their perception. But I think in general, that’s the line to consider.

I think that it’s even better for Christians to recognize that October 31, instead of it being Halloween, to understand it for what it really is: Reformation Day. It’s the day that commemorates the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, or statements against the practice of selling indulgences in the Roman Catholic Church. It’s a marvelous turning point in the history of Europe and the world, being the spark for what is often called the Protestant Reformation.

Is it good to use the Message Bible or the Passion Bible?

I’ve heard that it’s not good to use a good idea to use the Message Bible or the Passion Bible. What do you have to say about this?

I am more familiar with the Message Bible than I am the Passion Bible. Regarding The Message Bible, I don’t think of it as being a great translation. I think it is more of a commentary than a translation. The Message Bible is Eugene Peterson’s own translation of the Bible, his attempt to make the Bible more powerful, more impactful, more brought into the common way of speaking. Whatever his intentions were, I think that the end result is more of an interpretation than it is a translation.

I’m not saying that there aren’t places in the Message Bible where maybe Peterson captures the sense of the text beautifully or powerfully. But in general, I regard it more as a commentary or an interpretation of the text, than I do more of a straight translation. And if a person will read it with that in mind, I don’t see a big problem with it. Just don’t regard it as being a necessarily accurate translation, more an interpretation or commentary of a man on the biblical text. I read all kinds of commentaries, and some of them I mostly agree with, some of them I mostly disagree with, but I want to get different perspectives on the text.

I would just caution you to not regard it as being a good or great Bible translation, and more a commentary or interpretation of the Scriptures

Regarding the Passion Bible, I haven’t read any of it. But I do recommend the work of a man named Mike Winger who has some great research about the Passion Bible on his YouTube channel. I have listened to his content on those translations, and I would agree with him, at least from his analysis, that the Passion Bible is not a good Bible translation. Again, it is highly interpretive, and interpretive in ways that actually distort the text of the Scriptures.

We need to be people of the Word of God. And what I simply mean by that is that we must be people who are committed to the Scriptures, and an accurate rendering of the Scriptures. We want the scriptures to speak for themselves and powerfully. We want to avoid Bible translations that do a poor job of translation, and perhaps translate from a place of bias or agenda.

Here is Mike Winger on the Passion translation:

Will resurrected and glorified believers rebel against God in Revelation 20:7-8?

My question is about Revelation 20:7. How can resurrected and raptured saints that have glorified bodies still be subject to the deceptions of Satan?

Revelation 20:7 says, Now, when the thousand years were expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth,  Gog and Maygog to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. And then the next verse describes the end of that battle goddess answers with fire from heaven and destroys this last satanic resistance upon Earth.

The question is, how could it be that believers with resurrected and glorified bodies could be victims of the kind of deception that is described there in Revelation 20:7-8?

Again, whenever we’re talking about end times, events and things to come in the future, there are a variety of opinions about these things in the Christian world. But you asked me, so I’m going to give you my perspective. I do not believe that the people described in Revelation 20:7-8, the people dwelling on the earth, I do not believe that those are resurrected, glorified believers. I believe that those are citizens of the planet Earth, Earth dwellers, people who have survived Armageddon and the Great Tribulation, who have been allowed into the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ. No double we are really talking about the descendants of those who first came into the millennial kingdom. But these are people who are not yet dead, so to speak, they still live earthly lives.

And it’s among those people that Satan will be able to stir up a final rebellion, as it’s described there, in Revelation 20:7-8. So, again, I believe that believers, resurrected and glorified, will be part of the millennial Earth, but not as the inhabitants of Earth through the millennium, but rather those who rule and reign with Jesus Christ through the millennium. If you have more questions on that, you can go to the video on my YouTube channel.

I think you are assuming that the people described in Revelation 20:7-8 are resurrected, glorified believers, when I would say they are not. They are inhabitants of planet Earth, who have not yet died, who have not yet passed on to eternity.

David’s video on the millennial kingdom:

What are good books on Church history?

Are there any books you recommend on church history very interested in the Puritans and about the Crusades? I want to thank you for your commentary and Blue Letter Bible. Very helpful.

I’m happy to recommend two books on church history:

A History of Christianity in two volumes, by Kenneth Scott Latourette. This is the best treatment of Church history that I’ve read. It’s long, but again – Latourette combines real scholarship with spiritual insight.

Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley. This is a solid, shorter, one-volume treatment of the history of Christianity.

Also, another good resource is by my good friend, Pastor Lance Ralston. He has an outstanding podcast on church history:

Are Christians to hate their enemies as it says in the Psalms?

My Bible study got stuck on a psalm passage yesterday. David says, “I hate my enemies,” but we’re supposed to love our enemies. can’t remember the exact passage.

In the Psalms, we do see David or others expressing hatred against enemies. Part of it we understand in terms of David being the leader of a unique nation, the nation of Israel, called to a unique purpose in God’s plan. Therefore, he could hate those who were enemies of God’s work in and through Israel. He could hate them because they were opposing God’s work.

Anybody who wanted to destroy ancient Israel was not only a sinner for their desire to destroy it, but they were setting themselves against God’s plan in a way that was different than opposing any other nation. So in that sense, sometimes commentators like to make the idea that when David and others in the Old Testament speak in that way, they’re speaking in a representative sense, representing God’s people, and God’s work as a whole in and through Israel. And I think there’s something to that.

But I think there’s also something for us to say, simply that the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Now, I am not saying that there was no grace and no truth revealed in the Old Testament – of course there was. Yet we have to admit that the fullness of God’s revelation of grace and truth is revealed in the New Testament.

I really want to emphasize this point. I’m not saying that the God of the Old Testament is not a God of grace and truth – He is. In the Old Testament we’re commanded to live in a way that demonstrated God’s love and grace to humanity. However, we must admit that there is a greater revelation of the love and grace of God in and through the person of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. So we have a greater understanding of the love, and even the sacrificial love that we are to have for other people, and even loving our enemies, by what we see revealed by Jesus and other writers in the New Testament.

I don’t have any problem arguing it on both points. Number one, the hatred David and others expressed in the Old Testament was sort of a representative hatred on behalf of God and His people. And secondly, we just simply recognize that there is a greater revelation of the love and grace of God and that we should show to others in the New Testament.

How can I seek the Lord with all my heart?

How do you seek the Lord with all your heart?

I know that sometimes this concept of seeking God with all your heart, or what some people call, full surrender, these are concepts that trouble some people, because they say, “How can I seek God with all my heart? I will fail in some respect. How can I make an absolutely full surrender to God? That would imply a perfect surrender, I can’t do that.”

I understand the concern, but I also think that this misunderstands what it means to seek the Lord with all your heart or to make a full surrender. When I make a full surrender to God, I am surrendered to Him everything that I am conscious of in my life. When I give Jesus, all my heart, I’m giving to him everything that I am conscious of.

I understand that we will never give ourselves to God perfectly on this side of eternity. We are imperfect human beings. However, the idea of “all your heart” is just simply to say, “Is there anything that I am consciously withholding in my life, from the Lordship of Jesus Christ, from obedience to Him?” If there’s anything that I am consciously withholding from Jesus, then that especially is what I want to surrender down before Him in the name of Jesus.

Why is it harder to evangelize those in our own family?

Why is it harder to evangelize someone in our own family? What do you think we should do besides pray for their salvation? Sometimes I catch myself thinking I won’t see my brother in heaven someday.

What you say is true. For many of us, maybe even most of us, the most difficult people to evangelize are people in our own family. There is a family dynamic, where they know us better and we know them better. Also, we so desperately don’t want to make for a bad or an awkward relationship with people in our family. We don’t want them to reject us, or to reject God’s message because of something that we say or do. Also, there’s a spiritual dynamic at work as well. I can’t give you all the reasons why it is very difficult for us to evangelize people in our own family. But it will say this, what you talk about is true. And what you say about what to do beyond praying, that’s a good thing to think about. But I want you to know that praying is the most effective thing we can do. If you ever had to choose between speaking to God about lost people in prayer, or speaking to lost people about God, people in giving them the gospel, I would say if you ever had to choose between the two, pick, praying for them. Now thank the Lord, we don’t have to choose between the two – and we should actually do both. That it’s a wonderful thing – to both pray for people’s salvation, and to speak to them the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. We can do both, but it is very important, perhaps even more important, for us to pray to God for the salvation of those who don’t yet know him.

Pray for them, but then also pray for yourself that God would give you wisdom and courage to speak when there is a good opportunity to speak. I think there’s something powerful and strategic about good evangelism, simply in the sense that there are times when God gives us an open door and we want to be able to take those opportunities with everything that we have. So, make that your prayer. Not only that God would remove the veil that blinds your dear family member or loved one from perceiving their need for the gospel and God’s provision in the Gospel. But also pray that God would give you wisdom and courage to see opportunities and to speak the proper word when you have such an opportunity.

How can God be a “jealous God” as in Exodus 20:5?

What are your thoughts on the idea of a jealous God as in Exodus 20:5 – you shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them for I the LORD thy God, am a jealous God.

The idea of God being a jealous God, when we use the word and the idea of “jealousy” in English, we think of it as only being a negative thing. In the English language we would never use the word or the idea of “jealousy” in a positive sense. But in the biblical languages, the idea of jealousy also includes being properly zealous for the faithfulness of something that you’re faithful to. A spouse has a proper expectation for the faithfulness of her husband and vice versa. Of course, that is not inappropriate.

God has a proper jealousy, not a sinful one, not a strange one, but a proper jealousy for the love and the commitment of his people. Even though in English we regard jealousy as being something that’s only negative, that’s not the concept in the biblical languages, and we just simply can understand that there is a legitimate expectation of faithfulness, in particular relationships, and in the relationship that God has with us. God has a rightful expectation of us being faithful to Him.

Have you seen the video series “The Chosen”?

Have you watched the series “The Chosen” if you have watched it? Did you enjoy?

I have not. It’s come highly recommend. Matter of fact, I’ve had people just sort of grabbed my arm and say, “You have to watch this. It’s really good.” But I have not yet seen it. I’ve heard very good things about this video depiction of the life of Jesus.

Do Christians believe in a patriarchal God?

My friend, who is not a believer, pulled me aside the other day and said, “Do you believe in a patriarchal God?” Could you provide some points to speak to that?

I would go back to something that I’ve dealt with in some previous question and answer programs, where I deal with the question, “Does God want to be depicted as a man or woman, as a father or a mother?” The short answer this is, we understand from the scriptures that God is not male or female. God is beyond this idea of human gender, beyond being either male or female.

However, God has overwhelmingly chosen to present Himself to us in the scriptures as being male, not female. There are a few places in the Bible where God is depicted in something that we might call a traditionally female attribute or aspect. But again, overwhelmingly, God presents himself to us in a masculine or male sense. It might even be 1000 to 1 if you want to talk about proportion.

I would simply say, God wants us to think of him as male. Again, keeping the understanding that He is beyond male or female, but He has chosen to represent Himself that way to us.

If in someone’s mind, that means that Christianity is patriarchal, then so be it. All we can do is say, this is how the Bible tells us how God is, and simply go from there. We know that God is a Father, there may be a few passages that speak of God in a motherly sense, but again, those are outnumbered 1000 to 1 or more. God mainly wants us to think about him as a Father, and in male terms, all the while understanding that He is actually beyond male or female.