July 1, 1986
by Voyd N. Ballard

A sister in California writes me as follows: "I will not argue, but there is no way I will drink from one cup with all the diseases there are now. The Lord expects us to be clean. Drinking from one cup is neither clean nor sanitary. We have a large congregation here and it would take too long with just one cup." My reply follows:

You say you are not going to argue, but then you turn right around and argue against the very thing the Lord specified when he instituted the Lord's Supper--The Cup. Your sanitation argument is a very poor one at that, and one that has long since been worn out by those who contend for a plurality of cups. In fact it is so worn out that they have quit using it.

You say, "But there is no way I would drink from one cup." Because it is not clean and the Lord expects us to be clean." Naaman didn't seem to think the waters of Jordan very clean either, but that was what God told him to do. 2 Kings 5:12.I wonder if the blind man thought it was very clean when the Lord spit on his eyes? Mark 8:23. I wonder if the deaf man thought about sanitation when the Lord put his fingers in his ears and spit on his tongue? Mark 7:32, 33. If you were blind or deaf would you say, "There is no way I would let anyone spit in my eyes and on my tongue because it is not clean and I might get some disease."?

There is far more danger in getting some disease by handling money, door knobs and handles, and by being baptized in a baptistery where others have been baptized, than there is in drinking from a common communion cup. Do you really think the Lord would tell us to drink from a common cup if he knew we would get some dread disease? He did tell us to all drink from one cup. He said, all of you drink of it." Matt, 26:27. In Mark's account of the institution of the supper we read, And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drink of it." (Mark 14:23) I am sure the Lord knew what he was doing when he instituted the communion, Had there been any danger involved in using one cup the Lord would have known it. We need to remember that it is never dangerous to do what the Lord commands. It is very dangerous not to do what he says. I have heard people argue that it is dangerous to be baptized, but I cannot believe it because the Lord commanded baptism. On the same basis, I cannot believe there is danger in one cup because that’s what the Lord commanded us to use.

Please notice that Jesus "took the cup" (Matt 26:27) Not the cups. He "gave it to them" - Not "them" but "it". that is the cup which he took. "They all drink of it". That is the cup which he gave them. It does not say they all drink of them or of the cups. Cups are nowhere mentioned.

The cup is not the fruit of the vine and the fruit of the vine is not the cup. If the only important thing is, as some say, the fruit of the vine the Bible could just as well say, "and he took the fruit of the vine" But that is not what it says. The fruit of the vine is nowhere called "the cup." And the cup is nowhere called "the fruit of the vine."

Now "the cup" which Jesus took and out of which they all drank contained the fruit of the vine. He said, "But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."(Matt 26:29) From this we can see that the drinking vessel which Jesus took contained the fruit of the vine. The cup which Jesus took was a solid. In this cup (solid) there was fruit of the vine (liquid). Therefore, the cup of the Lord is a drinking vessel containing the fruit of the vine, which is sanctified by prayer and thanksgiving. Remember that the Lord's command is, "Drink ye all of it". It is impossible to obey this command when individual cups are used. You cannot drink from IT when you use THEM.

One cup (drinking vessel) in the communion is absolutely essential. You cannot worship God without it. More than one is not essential and is without any scriptural authority whatsoever. Every congregation must have one cup containing the fruit of the vine in order to observe the communion. No congregation needs more. If you are having visions of a congregation getting so large that a cup would not be practical just remember that we have Bible authority for more than one assembly for the communion, but we have no scriptural authority for "cups".

    There are three elements in the communion. All equally important.

    1. The one Bread symbolic of His One Body: Luke 22:19.

    2. The One Cup-- symbolic of His Covenant: Luke 22:20.

    3. The fruit of the vine symbolic of His blood: Mark 14:24.

When people say that the cup is of no significance they fail to take into consideration what the Lord said about it. He said, "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." Luke 22:20 That is, "This cup in the New Testament ratified or made valid by my blood."

Individual communion cups are of modern origin. They were invented by a denominational preacher by the name of J.G. Thomas and first used in a denominational group in Ohio in 1894. However, they were not used in any of the churches of Christ for at least another 20 years after their invention.

G.C. Brewer in his book entitled, "Forty Years On The Firing Line" said on Page 12, "I think I was the first preacher to advocate the use of individual communion cups in the church of Christ, and the first church in the state of Tenn. that adopted it was the church for which I was preaching, the Central Church of Christ at Chattanooga. My next work was with the church at Columbia, Tenn. and after a long struggle, I got the individual communion service into that congregation." This was in the year 1915.

So it is an established fact that the church existed and prospered for 1900 years without individual cups, and there is no record of any of it's members ever catching nor dying from a disease as a result of using one cup just as the Lord commanded. And if the world stands that long I am sure we will be safe in continuing to do what the Lord says for another 1900 years.

Other OPA Article Links:

Innovations - Multiple Cups

Voyd N. Ballard
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