Didache- The Lord’s Supper In The Early Church

Chapters 9-10

The Apostles and the Apostolic Fathers considered the eucharist (transliteration from Greek, meaning communion or The Lord’s Supper). The authors give instructions about how young churches and new believers should begin understanding the eucharist as basic church practice. I want to notice a couple things. First, it is done in thanksgiving—celebration of what Christ has done in His crucifixion. Second, it is done to the Father’s eternal and everlasting glory. Third, as it is practiced, the Gospel is proclaimed, “…may Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom.”

There is a condition concerning the eucharist. Those who have not received believer’s baptism, credobaptism (see notes on chapter 7), are not to partake in the eucharist because Christ instructed His disciples not to give what is holy to the dogs (Matthew 7:6). The context of Matthew 7:6 indicates that Christ’s disciples were not to give means of sanctification to unbelievers because unbelievers would misinterpret those as moralistic. They would trample on the disciples’ religiosity, turn, and tear the disciples to pieces. The eucharist is seen, here, as a means of sanctification in Christ and a pearl in the Christian’s life—something holy.

The First-Century authors also write, “…after you have been filled, give thanks as follows…” The eucharist is seen as an essential part of Christian worship—such that when it is left out, the Christian is not filled. When the eucharist is absent from the worship gathering, there is a sense in which we are not filled as we need to be in Christ. The authors do not speak in terms of transubstantiation. In a very real way, Christ is present at the table with us and the elements provide a certain filling in Christ that cannot otherwise be attained. So, their view of the eucharist was not Roman Catholic or Zwinglian or Lutheran. It was the view that Calvin held during the reformation.

The authors follow this with more thanksgiving to be made unto the Father in the exaltation of Christ followed by the heartfelt imploration, “Maranatha!” which means, “Come, Lord!”

The final instruction for young churches and new believers concerning basic church practice in chapter 10 is, “But permit the prophets to offer thanksgiving as much as they desire.” This reflects a designation we will see in Chapter 11. Those who hold the office of teacher and work hard at preaching and teaching God’s word correctly and applying it rightly are to be received as the Lord. Prophet, here in Chapter 10, is the preacher-teacher of Chapter 11. That is what a prophet is—one who professes. In this case, he is professing God’s word. The instruction concerning the eucharist enables the prophets, the elders in each church, to decide how often the eucharist is practiced. Here, we recognize that the early church was elder-led and that the elders had the responsibility of shepherding the local congregations. The instruction, here, is for congregants to permit the elders to lead according to the Holy Spirit’s conviction in their lives. We see this confirmed in every Biblical example of eldership for the church. The elders are to lead because their office is the picture of God’s sovereignty and Christ’s preeminence in the local church and in creation wholly. We will see this idea presented again in the next chapter and be able to explore it in more depth.

We see that the eucharist, a means of sanctification and thanksgiving, was something desirable in the First-Century local church. There are many local churches in our day that do not partake in the eucharist at each gathering. One excuse resounds; people don’t want the ordinance to become mundane or merely ritualistic. They don’t want the Lord’s Supper to lose its significance and meaning. If the church of the Apostles and the Apostolic Fathers is our example, those who love Christ and desire to have fellowship with Christ desire to partake in the Lord’s meal more and more often because of its meaning for the Christian’s life and ministry.

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