What do Seventh-day Adventists Believe about the Lord’s Supper?
Like many Protestants, Seventh-day Adventists believe in the practice commonly called the “Lord’s Supper.”
This post will walk you through the details of this practice, and why it’s so important to Adventists. You’ll learn:
- The Old Testament roots of the Lord’s supper
- What the Lord’s supper symbolizes (and what it doesn’t)
- What this ordinance means to Adventists
- Why Adventists practice foot washing and its spiritual importance
- Who can participate in these ceremonies (everyone)
The church’s official statement of belief explains the meaningfulness of the Lord’s Supper:
“The Lord’s Supper is a participation in the emblems of the body and blood of Jesus as an expression of faith in Him, our Lord and Savior.
In this experience of communion, Christ is present to meet and strengthen His people.
As we partake, we joyfully proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again.
Preparation for the Supper includes self-examination, repentance, and confession.
The Master ordained the service of foot-washing to signify renewed cleansing, to express a willingness to serve one another in Christlike humility, and to unite our hearts in love.
The communion service is open to all believing Christians.”
What is the background of the Lord’s Supper?
As believers in the Bible, Adventists trace the ordinance of the Lord’s supper back to the final days of Jesus’ life. This supper is recorded in the Gospels and in Paul’s writings (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
The Lord’s Supper, also called the Last Supper, has its background in the Passover—the Jewish celebration of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.
The Israelites were still enslaved by the Egyptians, yet God was working miracles on their behalf. On the night of the first Passover, the destroying angel “passed over” the homes of the Israelites and spared their first borns. But he killed the Egyptians’ first born children (Exodus 12:21-28).
The Jews still celebrate this feast as a memorial of their exodus from Egyptian captivity. And Christians also see it as an emblem or symbol of the death of Jesus on our behalf, which spares us from eternal death.
It was during Jesus’ last Passover celebration with His disciples that He transformed it into what we know as the Lord’s Supper.
“When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, ‘With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God’” (Luke 22:14-16, NKJV).
It’s in this context that the first Lord’s Supper took place.
What does the Lord’s Supper symbolize?
This whole celebration meal is largely symbolic. The original context of the meal is the first symbol, calling attention both to the Passover and to Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.
Even the items in the meal are symbolic. The bread is a symbol of Jesus’ body (Matthew 26:26), and the drink is a symbol of Jesus’ blood (Matthew 26:27-28).
Adventists believe we are only saved through Jesus and His sacrifice for us on the cross, which is why this ceremony is so meaningful.
By believing in Him and accepting His gift, we have assurance of salvation, and this is what Christ alludes to during the Last Supper.
But this is not the only time Jesus refers to Himself as the bread:
And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35, NKJV).
And in the same way, Jesus says He’s the water, or drink of life:
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14, NKJV).
These are symbols of the spiritual fulfillment we can receive in Him. Just as food and water are necessary to live on Earth, acceptance of Jesus is necessary for eternal life.
The Bible continues to tell us that “as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body’” (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22, NKJV).
After the bread, “He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom’” (Matthew 26: 27-29; Mark 14:23; 25; Luke 22:20, NKJV).
And as a final directive, He instructed His disciples saying, “do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19, NKJV).
It’s in direct obedience to this instruction that Adventists practice the Lord’s Supper.
What does the Lord’s Supper mean to Adventists?
Beyond the symbolic connection of the Lord’s Supper to the Passover and Christ’s death, there are more symbols to consider. Adventists believe that it’s also a symbol of the new covenant.
As we have seen, the Lord’s Supper took place during the time of the Passover. And this was both a symbol of the Passover for the Israelities and Christ’s death on our behalf.
However, Jesus fulfilled that prophecy, and instituted this practice in its place. From this, you can tell that the Lord’s supper is closely linked to the Passover.
In a simple sense, one could say that the Passover was a symbol of the old covenant—God’s special relationship to ancient Israel (Exodus 34:27; 1 Chronicles 16:15; Psalm 132:12).
On the other hand, the Lord’s Supper is a symbol of the new covenant, which is God’s special relationship with the church (Hebrews 8:13; 12:24).
During the ceremony, Jesus said that the bread was His body, and that the drink was His blood. What did Jesus mean by these statements about eating His body and drinking His blood?
Jesus was using symbolic language. He was expressing what it means to believe in Him, and to experience the reality of what He’s done for us.
He was using symbolic language to talk about what it means to be intimately connected to Him by faith. Jesus revealed what He was really talking about when He said that those who eat His body and drink His blood will “abide in Me, and I in him.”
Christians live out this new life that they have in Jesus by surrendering their lives to God, by obeying Him, claiming His promises, praying, studying the Bible, and living according to what they learn.
And Adventists have this understanding as one of their statements of beliefs which says:
“Eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood is symbolic language for the assimilation of the word of God, through which believers maintain communion with heaven and are enabled to have spiritual life . . . . Believers feed on Christ, the bread of life, through partaking of the Word of life—the Bible. With that Word comes Christ’s life-giving power”. (Seventh-day Adventists Believe: General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2005, P. 231.)1
This spells out the significance of the Lord’s supper.
It is an expression of what it means to have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, all based on His death for us on the cross.
Is the bread and drink actually Christ’s body and blood?
The bread and drink are symbols for the purpose of remembrance. A great debate has existed in Christianity over the exact nature of the bread and drink used in the communion service.
Some believe it is literal—that it supernaturally changes into the blood and body of Jesus even if it looks like real bread and normal grape juice.
But there is no debate among Adventists.
Adventists don’t believe the bread and drink are anything other than bread and grape juice. Just like they don’t believe that going under the water in baptism supernaturally cleanses a person from sin.
Instead, the communion bread and drink are symbols of the believer’s surrender to Christ. It also serves as a memorial for Christ and a renewal of the commitment to have Him abiding in the believer’s heart.
Yet this supper is more than just a memorial meal.
It’s an open expression of our continued desire to serve the Lord. It is an acknowledgement of the salvation offered by His death, and the promise of eternal life which comes because of His broken body and shed blood.
Thus, the Lord’s Supper uses symbols to point us to what Christ did for us by dying on the cross where His body was broken and His blood shed.
Why do Adventists also practice foot washing during the Lord’s Supper?
Though this practice may not be widespread among most Christians today, Adventists believe that foot washing (John 13) should be part of the communion service.
This is because when properly understood, it gives us a powerful message of what it means to be followers of Jesus.
The Bible tells us that Jesus washed His disciples’ feet just before they had the Last Supper on that night. He did it to demonstrate humility and service to His disciples.
“After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (John 13:15, NKJV).
But Peter was aghast that Jesus, whom He believed to be his master and the promised Messiah, would stoop to wash his feet (John 13: 6-9).
However, Jesus insisted.
“Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:12-15, NKJV).
In these words of Jesus, Adventists find their biblical mandate to participate in the humbling practice of foot washing.
During Jesus’ time, the people walked everywhere and wore open sandals, so by the end of the day, their feet were filthy. And yet Jesus washed them.
With Jesus acting as our example, He shows us how to humble ourselves in service to others. If Jesus, the Messiah, can wash the feet of ordinary people, then no earthly man is too good to wash the feet of his neighbor.
It is this first act of complete humility that prepares the heart to participate in the practice of the Lord’s Supper.
What is the Spiritual Importance of Foot-Washing?
Beyond the example of humility, we see another expression of Christ’s ultimate willingness to give Himself for us. Just like when He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming to the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7, NKJV).
Foot washing is also a symbol of washing and cleansing of the heart from sin and defilement.
Many times, the people who participate in foot washing have already been baptized. These ceremonies of remembrance are not meant to be in place of baptism but are a sacred practice for believers.
But foot washing stands for the fact that, just as washed feet quickly get dirty again, Christians need to be cleansed daily from “the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1, NKJV).
They are cleansed through repentance and forgiveness of sin.
Also, foot washing is a powerful reminder that in Christ, there is no distinction between the rich and the poor, the powerful and weak, the famous and the unknown.
At the foot of the cross, we are all equals—sinners in need of God’s grace.
Who can Participate in the Lord’s Supper in an Adventist church?
Adventists practice what’s called “open communion.” Anyone who has accepted Christ can partake of the Lord’s Supper.
Adventists do not require someone to be a member of the church to participate. But they believe that all who do should come to the service in an attitude of humility and repentance.
People receive the greatest blessing when they come in faith, leaning on the merit of Jesus who offered His body and shed His blood for us. They are willing to receive His offer of a new life in Him now, as well as the promise of eternal life.
Interested in learning more about what Jesus did for humanity? Sign up today for Bible studies!
 Seventh-Day Adventists Believe. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. 2005. P. 231.
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