Ekkehardt Mueller, ThD, DMin, is a retired associate director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.


The foot washing with the aspect of cleansing has set the stage and the tone for the subsequent Lord’s Supper.

Salvation through Christ
(Matt 26:17–19)

The Lord’s Supper was originally linked to and grew out of Passover. Both Passover and the Lord’s Supper still share some common elements. The participants eat. They drink of the cup. Their thoughts turn to God, and God intervenes. He brings about salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. All slavery is gone. Freedom is restored. We can enjoy fellowship with God and serve Him willingly. We are saved through Jesus Christ.

The Means of Salvation
(Matt 26:26)

In the Lord’s Supper, the bread represents the body of Christ and the contents of the cup represent the blood of Christ. The life of Jesus and His death are the only means for our salvation. By celebrating the Lord’s Supper, we recognize that all attempts to save ourselves are futile. We are dependent on what Jesus has done for us, not on what we have done, are doing, or will do.

In light of the cross, all our attempts at self-improvement and all our intriguing ideas of using the powers of self in order to reach our full potential are useless.

Remembering Christ
(Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24)

The Lord’s Supper is taken as a remembrance of the substitutionary atonement. Because we forget so easily, because we may tend to grow too accustomed to the gracious gift of salvation, because we are imperiled by our reliance on ourselves instead of on the Lord, we constantly have to remember what Jesus has done for us. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial service, not a funeral service. It is a joyous celebration of the love of the Godhead and the sacrifice of Christ that has brought us to full salvation.

Fellowship of Christ and Unity in Christ
(1 Cor 10:16–17)

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul stresses to a great extent the concept of koinonia. The term can be translated as “fellowship,” “a close mutual relationship,” “sharing in,” or “participation,” to name some possibilities.

In the Communion we participate in the blood of Jesus.

Those who receive the cup rightly receive Christ. They are bound together in fellowship with Christ. . . . Such a reception is, of course, a spiritual process, and therefore takes place by faith. . . . The statement about the bread must be understood similarly: the broken loaf means a participation in the body of Christ.1

Fellowship with Jesus produces fellowship with those who belong to Him.2 Because we partake of one bread, we become one body. The Lord’s Supper contributes to the unity of the church.

The New Covenant in Christ
(Matt 26:28)

Jesus taught that the cup we take represents the blood of the covenant. A new covenant was already promised by God through Jeremiah. There are elements of continuity and discontinuity between the old and the new covenants.

God’s basic law and intentions would not change. But whereas the old covenant only foreshadowed the new covenant, salvation became a reality under the new covenant, not through the sacrifices of animals but through the sacrifice of Christ.

In the Last Supper this new covenant became a reality. As the disciples partook of the cup, they participated in the provisions and power of that new covenant, made possible by Christ’s death. . . . In Bible times a covenant was often consummated with a meal. By eating together, the parties committed themselves to fulfill their pledges. . . . Jesus would shed His blood for them, making possible their salvation; He also agreed to prepare for them a place in God’s kingdom, to which He eventually would take them. . . . As their part of the agreement, Christians partake of the emblems of His sacrifice as evidence of their compliance with the terms of the covenant.3

The covenant concept stresses the close relationship between the two parties involved in the covenant. We enjoy such a close relationship with God.

Forgiveness through Christ
(Matt 26:28)

In taking the Lord’s Supper we remember that our sins are taken care of by Christ. One of the most important elements of the new covenant, especially stressed in the book of Hebrews, is the fact that forgiveness is a reality to those who repent and believe.

We do not need to live guilt-ridden lives. We do not need to fear God or Christ’s second coming. The Lord’s Supper reminds us that we are free from sin and guilt as we accept Christ’s gift of redemption and forgiveness and commit our lives to Him.

The Expectation of Christ’s Second Coming
(Matt 26:29; 1 Cor 11:26)

The Lord’s Supper not only takes us back to the life and death of Jesus but points ahead to Christ’s second coming.

By partaking of the emblems, we remember that Jesus has promised to eat and drink with us again in His Father’s kingdom. By partaking of the emblems, we confess that we are eagerly waiting for His return.

Loyalty to Christ
(1 Cor 10:21)

It is a serious contradiction to attempt to worship Christ by celebrating the Lord’s Supper while we worship ancient or contemporary idols. The Lord’s Supper calls for us to express our loyalty to Christ as the supreme Lord of our lives and challenges us each time we take part in its emblems to recommit our lives to our only Savior and Hope.

Proclaiming Christ
(1 Cor 11:26)

Participation in the Communion is an act of proclamation. We confess that we are followers of Christ, in order that we may rely on His merits only. We are grateful with all our hearts and minds for His life, death, and ministry for us, and we look forward to and count on His second coming. We keep our priorities in order because of what He has done for us, is doing for us, and will be doing for us.

Living Lives Worthy of Christ
(1 Cor 11:27)

Finally, the Lord’s Supper has an ethical dimension. Paul discusses abuses of the Communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and stresses that we cannot play with the Lord’s Supper but must celebrate it worthily. What does this mean? The context tells us that the way in which we treat our brothers and sisters is crucial.

The Lord’s Supper not only has a vertical dimension—namely, our relationship with God—but also influences the horizontal, our relationship with each other.


Foot washing and the Lord’s Supper are rich and beautiful in meaning. In them our Lord wants to meet us, and we want to be open to Him. When we meet to celebrate the ordinances, we lay aside all routine and whatever hinders us to listen to His voice and His story. We accept the Lord’s invitation to His wonderful meal.

1 Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1993), 143–144.
2 The idea of fellowship may be present already in Matthew 26:27.
3 Herbert Kiesler, “The Ordinances: Baptism, Foot Washing, and Lord’s Supper,” in Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, ed. Raoul Dederen (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2000), 598.

Ekkehardt Mueller is Associate Director for the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. This article has been reprinted, by permission, from Reflections, the BRI newsletter.

Ekkehardt Mueller, ThD, DMin, is a retired associate director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.

2019 Fourth Quarter

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