26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:26-29

 

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:22-25

 

15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:17, 22

 

Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts Acts 2:46

 

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?1 Corinthians 10:14-21

 

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.1 Corinthians 11:23-26

 

These are all the verses used for teaching on communion or the Lord’s Supper, specifically the cup. When you look at them, it’s clear the focus is on the contents of the cup and not the cup itself. And the teaching is clearly on remembering Jesus’ blood spilled for us. There is no teaching on the cup itself. But since Jesus took a single cup, blessed it, and told His disciples to drink from it, this has caused some confusion and focus on the cup itself and that we should always take it from one cup. I have no objection to people taking it that way but list 8 reasons below why I think this is a real danger to the church (generally speaking) if forced on people or called a sin issue. And even if you ignore all these reasons, you certainly can’t deny that pouring from one cup into another vessel is allowed (see point 5 below). That is so clear because “sipping” from the cup is not remotely taught or given as an example whatsoever. It has to be assumed that that’s how Jesus did it, which is certainly no way to build a sin doctrine. 

 

1) There is no need for us to be exactly literal of Jesus’ command for the disciples to drink from “the cup”. We can’t drink from that exact cup He had. And we don’t usually take other significant things of that event literal like taking it at Passover. The passage is clear that this is a symbolic act so there is no need to be exact on anything other than what he clearly taught, and that was to remember His sacrifice in it. This is the only actual teaching in every passage related to the communion and it’s clear and strong in that teaching. There is no actual teaching or focus on the cup. It’s about the contents of the cup. That’s why he said, “divide this among yourselves”, that has to mean the contents of the cup since they didn’t actually divide the cup itself by breaking pieces off it. This is called a Metonymy where one thing represents another thing, like “God so loved the world” doesn’t mean the world itself, it’s talking about its people. In the same way, the cup represents what was in the cup. Now of course he did have to take a literal cup and tell them to all drink from it and that’s the verses that are used for this position. But without any actual teaching on the literal cup itself there’s no need to take that as teaching and partake of communion the same way. 

 

2) Besides Jesus’ command to the disciples to drink from “the cup”, the only other scriptural source for this “one cup” doctrine is that there are verses in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11 (e.g. 1 Corinthians 10:16 and 1 Corinthians 11:26) which refer to the communion we now take as “the cup”, which is also in the singular. But calling the communion cup as “the cup” also fits fine with it being a symbolic reference to it, just like “the table” which is also mentioned (1 Corinthians 10:21). So this doesn’t make it clear either way. Ps, besides these verses, 1 Corinthians 11 also refers to “the cup”, referring specifically to the exact cup that Jesus had, so those would fall in the discussion above of taking Jesus’ command to the disciples literally for ourselves.

 

3) In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul corrects that church for taking the Lord’s Supper in a lighthearted manner. It seems they incorporated the Communion as part of their normal meal, but they weren’t waiting on each other and some were eating and drinking to excess, even drunkenness (the church had a lot of problems). It’s clear that they thought they were taking communion in this excessive meal because Paul corrects them that they are NOT taking communion under these terrible conditions (this is in a series of corrections he has to give them). But it’s interesting that he never corrects them for not taking from one cup in this whole passage, which would have certainly been the strongest point he could make if it was a requirement. This problem wouldn’t have happened if they knew to drink from one cup and Paul could have easily rectified it by reminding them of this simple requirement. Instead, his argument is one of politeness to eat together and the need to take communion in a “worthy manner”. He reiterates what Jesus did at that first communion and His instructions to remember His sacrifice in it. He then gives them strong teaching and warnings to examine themselves and take it in solemn remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice. But again, not a word about taking from one cup, so that just doesn’t seem to be in the picture here.

 

4) I think it’s only Hollywood where I’ve heard belief that the actual Lord’s cup contained power. So the natural question for those who believe in “one cup” is why did Jesus want them to drink from one cup? This is where an additional teaching is mixed in: they say we should drink from one cup because it was important that the disciples remember their unity by drinking from one cup. But this is never taught. You can put that thought into 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 because it says we are one body when we take of “one bread”. The cup isn’t even mentioned and “one bread” is vague (it doesn’t say “one piece of bread”). It’s interesting that it says “we who are many are one body” so it’s a perfect example right there that the unity is symbolic and only figurative. The bread could be figuratively one as well, with no regard to if it’s broken when we take it or not. And you see that this is a passage about people participating in pagan temples and being united with demons, and so that verse 17 just means when we take the cup and bread, we are united with Christ in His body. So once again the focus of communion is remembering Jesus’ sacrifice. There are a lot of verses about Christian unity in the Bible but none referring to communion. In Contrast, baptism is actually referred to twice as something that unites us. One is Ephesians 4:5-6 and doesn’t specify what kind of baptism, but in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 it says it’s the baptism by the spirit. 1 John 1:7 says we are united when we all walk in obedience. Romans 14 and 15 talk about being united by not disputing over “disputable matters”. So unity comes from these things, not a ritual of sipping from one cup, which when you think about it sounds kind of like a dark pagan ritual. See point 6 below. 

 

5) We can actually all drink from one cup by pouring it into each person’s cup. We know that in John 4:12 it says Jacob drank from the well, but he most certainly used a different vessel to drink from it. So the Biblical principle of using a different vessel like that is totally valid. So if the “one cup” was truly the important part, pouring it into our own cups would be fine (we can call this the “one pouring cup” doctrine). But people actually oppose this because they say it’s not exactly how Jesus distributed it. So they really believe in “one sipping cup”. But it’s interesting that we actually don’t know how they distributed it. Jesus just said “drink from it” and just like Jacob drank from that well with another vessel, the disciples could have drunk from that cup with other vessels. Sipping is never mentioned anywhere. Now, they may very well have all sipped from the one cup. They must have had incredible immune systems back then from all the things they used to do, and they had much shorter life expectancy. But the point is, you really can’t make the “one sipping cup” doctrine from either a direct teaching or even an example. It’s totally assumed, and that’s not how you define a clear doctrine. So it would certainly be hard to call the “one sipping cup” a sin issue. The Bible would certainly be clear to actually teach that we must all sip from the cup. At a minimum Jesus would have said, “sip from it all of you.” But we don’t find anything like that. 

 

6) Looking at the scriptures, as I’ve done, is the only sure way to examine the issue, but I do want to pause for a moment and just discuss this from a common sense perspective. We can certainly be unified without sipping from one cup. There’s no need to do that. And the Bible doesn’t ask us to do things we know are harmful to ourselves just to please God. There are people who actually handle snakes and drink poison to please God based on a vague reference to this in Mark 16. And sipping from the same cup to be united is actually pretty close to the infamous “blood brothers” unifying ritual of cutting your fingers and pushing them together to share each other’s blood. Sharing germs thru drinking from one cup is also close to the Hindu ritual of bathing and drinking from the “holy” Ganges River or Muslims licking the mosque. Contrastingly, all the Bible’s commands are for our health, like all the rules of the Old Testament that we now know are good for health (like washing hands in running water). I wouldn’t be surprised if drinking from the same cup violated one of these rules (let me know if you find it). Another angle to consider, is this linking of the physical to the spiritual is very common to many religions and even some churches like the Catholic Church, which in its heyday had holy water, relics that you touch to forgive sins, certificate of indulgences to commit sin, and many superstitious things like gargoyles on buildings to deflect demons from coming down. But the God-fearing Christian churches starkly contrast these churches with their clear teaching on the spiritual symbology in all these things. The Bible is constantly using symbols and figures and it seems that just about every one of them has been taken literal from some church group and caused division.

 

7) It’s easy to show that it was not one literal loaf and cup by calculating the difficulty of the church in acts drinking from one enormous cup and loaf, with around 10,000 to 15,000 people. (In Act 5:12,13 it says they met together in Solomon’s Colonnade, which can easily hold this number.) But I’ve heard this explained away by the verse in Acts 2:46 that says they broke bread from house to house. We don’t know for sure this “broke bread” means communion, but if you take that interpretation to avoid this difficulty of one cup with a large church, then you have to believe it can be done in a smaller setting outside of the church service. It has to be one of these options and so there’s no need to be divisive in the church over it to force everybody to do it. 

 

8) Also, a couple points in passing, you may hear that multiple cups were not practiced until the 1800’s. But there’s a clear reference in the 4th century to “chalices” (plural) in instructions about communion in the Liturgy of Saint James. Also, you may encounter people who wish you to take from one cup out of love to appease their sensitive conscience. While there’s nothing wrong with this, this principle in Romans 14 and 15 is meant more for things that would truly cause someone else to sin, like eating meat in front of someone who has accustomed it with sacrifices to idols. Or drinking wine in front of an alcoholic. These things have a real draw to them so this makes perfect sense to avoid these things out of the law of love to avoid tempting them, because when they do them thinking it’s sin, it is sin to them. But this really shouldn’t be evoked just when there’s a difference of Biblical interpretation on an issue. That would be covered by the beginning of Romans 14 where we are to not condemn each other over them (I.E. not argue over them). 

 

So in summary I think it’s pretty clear that there is no clear teaching to follow the exact method that Jesus and His disciples used to take the communion of one cup and certainly no need to sip from one cup. Now if someone wants to do it that way, that’s great, but I think it should be one of the disputable matters of Romans 14 and not a divisive issue. So no one should call other people sinning because they interpret it differently.