Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 2, 1951

One Cup Or One Container --- Which?

Murray Marshall, Frederick, Oklahoma

God's Word is the boundary of man's faith. The commands of the Lord, which He has addressed to us in the New Testament, are essential. Also essential are any specifications He has given (by precept, example or necessary inference) which are connected with the observance of a certain command. But where God has not specified, we are not bound, but are left free to use any ways, means or arrangements which do not contradict or contravene the teaching of the scriptures.

The "one-cup anti' or more accurately the "one-container anti' contends that since Christ used one container at the institution of the Lord's supper and that, likely the disciples drank from the same container, the one in front of the Lord, that we are hereby limited to only one container to an assembly!

We are willing to grant the likelihood that the apostles of Christ used the same container that Jesus held in his hand. Though it is not established beyond a doubt that this is how the apostles divided the cup among themselves (Luke 22:17), yet we are willing to grant that point, since it makes no difference. The number, size or material composition of the container or containers used at THAT time is not an essential. If Jesus had told them, "you drink FROM this container which I hold in my hand," the command would have been limited to THEM and would not be addressed to us. But he did not command them so. But suppose he did. It was NOT addressed to us. It would be impossible to obey it, if it were. The only way we could do so would be for us all, all over the world, to go to Jerusalem and begin the impossible task of digging up that container Jesus used. Then how would we all use it every Sunday if we did find it? Does it sound ridiculous? Well, the hobby is ridiculous and has been exalted into a law and the body of Christ has been divided over their contention for this man-made law.

The Lord did tell the apostles (1 Cor. 11:26) and he does command us (1 Cor. 11:27) to "drink this cup.' It is unscriptural, illogical, ungrammatical and absurd to argue that Jesus here meant the container! To obey him we'd have to melt the container and then proceed to swallow it! Jesus, himself, goes ahead to tell us what HE MEANS by "the cup.' In each gospel account of the institution of the Lord's supper he explains what he means by "the cup" which he took (Matthew 26:27), that he gave to them (same verse), which they drank of (Mark 14:23), and which he commanded them to drink. (Matthew 26:27)

The anti-brethren here make a common sectarian mistake. Just as the "faith only' advocates do in the case of the Philippian jailor, they stop too soon. The "faith only" folks stop at verse 31 of Acts 16. The one-container antis stop with Matthew 26:27, Mark 14:23, and in the middle of Luke 22:20. Listen to them preach and watch where they leave it. They will keep the verses following these in the background, or leave them out entirely UNTIL in a discussion they are forced to notice them, and then they do so ONLY TO DENY the effect of these verses: Matthew 26:28, 29; Mark 14:24, 25; Luke 22:20 (all the verse). They will not let Jesus use language as he does here; they are not willing to let JESUS DEFINE the cup he speaks of!

Jesus says "this (this cup) is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins.' (Matthew 26:28) In the next verse (v. 29) he calls it (the cup) "this fruit of the vine." Note also Mark 14:24, 25. The cup Jesus took, gave to them, commanded them to drink and of which they drank was "the fruit of the vine,' and NOT THE CONTAINER!

If one argues that "a cup' or "the cup' here means "only one container to an assembly' he ought to be consistent and argue that "the vine' means only one vine. I wonder if someday a new hobby will arise with someone contending (to the division of the church) that the fruit of only one vine, of a single grapevine, must be used in one assembly. They will speak of themselves, likely, as the "one-grapevine' brethren as against us as the "vines" brethren! "The fruit of or from only one grapevine to an assembly' is as logical and scriptural as "only one container to an assembly.' The truth is that neither is logical nor scriptural!

I can take the Bible and easily prove that there is only one church for the Bible says so. (Eph. 4:4) I can do the same to show that there is only one faith (Eph. 4:5), only one baptism, only one way to heaven (John 14:6), only one way to offer musical praise to God (Hebrews 13:15), but to save my soul I can't show a verse giving only one way to teach and study the written Bible, nor only one container on the Lord's table! Anti-brethren argue and debate at length over radio, on paper, and in public discussions laboring to prove these two hobbies. If the Bible taught such they could give the chapter and verse for their doctrine in a few words, yes, in the space of postcard size!

I had been teaching along this line a few years ago when a brother wrote to me berating me for teaching that the Lord has not specified the number of containers to be used for the cup. He said the Bible specified but he didn't produce the passage and further refused to sign his name so I could reply and urge him to show the basis for his hobby. If he really had such a passage that teaches we must use only one container for the cup to an assembly, WHY didn't he at least CITE IT among the assertions he was making? Truly the anti cause is very weak if it requires lots of assertions, blustering, bluffing, befuddling and dust making to cover up the weakness, the inconsistency, the unscripturalness of its position! (Next time: "Do We Drink the Cup or the Container?')