The Agape/Eucharist Relationship in 1 Corinthians 11 -- By: J. Timothy Coyle

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 06:2 (Fall 1985)
Article: The Agape/Eucharist Relationship in 1 Corinthians 11
Author: J. Timothy Coyle

The Agape/Eucharist Relationship
in 1 Corinthians 11

J. Timothy Coyle

The earliest passage which presents the clear perpetuation of the eucharist, 1 Cor 11:17–34, places it in the context of a meal known as the Lords Supper or agape. This study analyzes the communion service in this passage in its biblical, theological, and historical contexts. The agape is the ideal setting for both the eucharist and the ordinance of footwashing. It offers an opportunity to anticipate the joy of what lies ahead in the kingdom of God, to reflect upon the events and meaning of the Last Supper, and to celebrate the present fellowship of believers with one another and God.

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From the inception of the Brethren church in the early eighteenth century by Alexander Mack and a small band of believers, Brethren churches have practiced a communion service that consists of three parts: the washing of the saints’ feet, the love feast, and the bread and the cup. Because these three observances are practiced in conjunction with one another, the service is referred to as a “threefold communion service.” This service has become one of the distinctives of Brethren churches. In harmony with the traditional practice of the Brethren, the only communion service observed today by the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches is threefold. No one part is regarded as more important than the others, nor practiced separately from them. This is done not simply because this service is a Brethren distinctive, but because it is believed to be the form of communion that the Lord intended his followers to practice as act forth in the NT.

Aside from passages in the gospels in which Christ instituted the communion service on the night of the Last Supper, perhaps the key passage regarding the communion service is 1 Cor 11:17–34. In this passage reference is made both to the love feast (also referred to as the agape) and to the bread and the cup (also referred to as the

eucharist). While most Christians believe that the eucharist is to be observed by the church today, most do not practice the love feast. Various reasons for this are given, but the most common one is that, although the early church practiced the love feast, there is no command or even suggestion in the NT for it to be continued. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that the agape was intended to be perpetuated, and that the eucharist is inseparably linked to it.

The Context of 1 Corinthians 11

1 Corinthians 11 begins ...

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