The PCA’s 40th General Assembly recently answered an amended version of Overture 30 (“Regarding Intinction”) in the affirmative. The overture seeks to revise the “Book of Church Order” (BCO) 58-5, stipulating that “As Christ has instituted the Lord’s Supper in two sacramental actions, the communicants are to eat the bread and drink the cup in separate actions.”

Should the BCO amendment be passed by two-thirds of the denomination’s presbyteries, intinction (dipping the bread into the wine) will be deemed an “inappropriate method for observing the Lord’s Supper.”

What are your thoughts: Is intinction an appropriate way of observing the Lord’s Supper? Please share your opinion here.


21 Responses to ByFaith Survey: Is Intinction Appropriate?

  1. I have never practiced intinction, but when my brothers indicate that they do so to represent the many parts of the body of Christ as partaking of the common cup, I feel the need to honor them. Unless we can all sit around a single table (BCO 58.5), it it my very reluctant conclusion as a pastor that it becomes impossible for any of us to adequately represent Christ’s literal institution of the Supper. In our churches the (single or common) cup that Jesus gave to his disciples to drink from (Matt. 26.27), regularly becomes hundreds of individual disposable plastic receptacles, and the “one loaf” with all the symbolism that the apostle attached to it (1 Cor. 10.17), is usually reduced to pieces of broken crackers or bits of bread, all but ruining the intended symbolism of our holy common-union. And despite what BCO 58.5 says about using wine, most of us fill the little plastic receptacles with grape juice, gutting the Biblical symbolism of wine (Jer. 25:15 / Matt. 26:42, Is. 25:6 / John 2:10-11, Eph. 5:18 for ex.). We should honor our brothers as they seek to be more faithful to the intended meaning of our Lord’s institution of the Supper.

    • This argument is often used, but is completely irrelevant to the question. The question is about intinction and whether Christ’s two commands to eat and drink are obeyed in the act of intinction. It may be that other aspects of the Supper should be examined, but not here.

    • Robert E. Hays says:

      So, since most opf us are doing it incorrectly in some measure, we should allow, and even promote, perhaps – most anything?

      • Saji George says:

        Robert, yes. If, in fact, everyone is doing it incorrectly, then it is hypocritical, IMO, to take out the speck in someone else’s eye before taking out the log in one’s own. But anyway…….

        Stephen’s point is spot on and not irrelevant. It is a very good question to ask how the “individualized” method (little cups-little crackers) complies with the scriptural standards being applied to the method of intinction. It is a very good question because it is, in essence, a question of hermeneutical consistency: Are we applying a different set of standards to one practice (the “individualized” one, for example) versus the standards used to measure the practice of drinking via dipping?

        I don’t understand how that’s irrelevant. That’s very relevant.

  2. John Monroe says:

    This proposed change to the BCO is legalistic and does not add to remembering Him or proclaiming His death during the celebration of this sacrament.

    • How do you find it legalistic, John? Do you think that baptizing with water in the name of the Triune God is legalistic?

      • John Monroe says:

        I appreciate the leadership of By Faith in providing a forum for this discussion.

        Jesus in commanding the sacrament of baptism clearly says that baptism must be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the use of water is clearly part of the practice of the church beginning with Jesus’ own baptism.

        Paul in explaining the celebration of the Lord’s supper says that it is done to remember Him and proclaim His death. The separate actions of eating the bread and drinking the cup are presented by the minister as part of the celebration in the BCO. The use of intinction, in my opinion, may be an acceptable practical method of celebrating of this sacrament in certain situations, if the minister is leading and the session approves per the BCO as it now stands. One such situation might be when a common cup is used and a worshipper wishes to avoid spreading a cold. I hope this explains my use of the term ‘legalistic’.

        (Further, I don’t understand how the designation of intinction as inappropriate will change the celebration.) Finally, I am accountable to the elders of this denomination and joyfully submit to their leadership in this matter.

  3. Bob Mattes says:

    I see lots of arguments about things that some don’t do (wine, cups, etc.) that have zero bearing on the core issue of intinction itself. Whatever anyone thinks that someone else does incorrectly, it does not make the disobedience in intinction right. That line of argument is a red herring.

    I made (or tried to make) the distinction on the floor of GA between the incidental in the narrative of the Lord’s Supper in Scripture and the clearly commanded. I made this against the argument about the table by the Scots at Westminster as mentioned by another commissioner.

    The incidentals include things mentioned but not commanded by Christ at the Last Supper. We don’t celebrate the Lord’s Supper in an upper room, we include women, and we don’t set aside the bread and cup in Hebrew or Aramaic as Jesus likely did.

    Jesus commanded us to eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine in remembrance of him. He ordered those actions of eating and drinking separately without exception in Matthew, Luke, and 1 Corinthians. Of course, it’s physically impossible to “drink” soggy bread by definition. Intinction involves no drinking whatsoever, and therefore violates the Lord’s clear command.

    Other procedures are less clear. For instance, in Matthew 26, Jesus seems to pass around one cup. In Luke 22, he first tells the disciples to divide the cup amongst themselves, after which Jesus institutes the ordinance using his cup. So, the case for a common cup to be passed around is far from clear.

    So, not everything that happened in the upper room was explicitly commanded. Indisputably, though, the separate eating and drinking were explicitly commanded. That’s why I think that intinction should not be practiced. It violates our Lord’s clear commands upon which our Confessional Standards are based. In doing so, we violate the 2nd mark of a true church.

    If someone thinks that our Lord’s commands were legalistic, then take it up with Him. The “legalism” word is thrown around far too freely and inaccurately, so be sure of the actual definition before taking it up with our Lord.

    Lastly, I do not honor my brothers who practice error by tolerating those errors. That cuts to the heart of the 3rd mark of a true church.

  4. John Hendrickson says:

    I agree with Mr. Clark. At the same time, I am personally disinclined to participate with a common cup. Not for theological reasons but ever since Gary H. had a heavily sandwich contamination with the backwash into the “common” bottle of soda several of us were sharing with our lunch, I have been turned off to sharing my drink with anyone. It is a dilemma to want to do what is the biblical way when feeling this way. An easy out would be to dismiss the requirement as theological overreach and unimportant. Such an reaction is common, as the “American way” is to exalt our personal likes and dislikes above all else, even in matters of the faith.

    It is understandable to be concerned with an overly “legalistic” emphasis in the BOCO. At the same time, if we cannot be particular about the sacrament when the example is very clear then can we make definitive declarations about anything? I am concerned with the use of terms such as legalistic, as they tend to be used more to shut off discussion or debate than to encourage it. I am not saying this is Mr. Monroe’s intention. But the casual use of the term tends to act like a “scarlet L”; the gut response also tends to be one of taking offense.

  5. guy webster says:

    Who was the only one at the Last Supper who dipped his bread?

  6. Marion Clark says:

    Would a practitioner of intinction please explain why he feels compelled to carry out this practice? What scripture or theological doctrine compels him to practice dipping bread in the wine? I am unable to find such an article and sincerely would like to know, as I am baffled as to why such a practice is being introduced.

  7. Amen to Dr. Clark’s words. We don’t practice it, but we respect and love those who do. Christ is not threatened. The Faith is not in danger. The Supper is not negated. And the convictions and practices of sister congregations, led by brothers who have taken the same vows that we have, are worthy of our support and protection. I have not yet met a pastor who practices this lightly or rebelliously.

    The sacrament is as much symbolic as it is reality and mystery. We celebrate with symbols, the reality of one core truth: That Jesus, with body and blood, has paid for our sins and the sin of the world. We practice heaven when we come to the Table, and look to the day that with us, Jesus will ‘drink of the fruit of the vine.’

    Our denomination began, in part, out of concerned for similar ‘centralized’ control. I think this is not something we should find to be our core concern – by a long shot. peace.

  8. Dear Mike.

    I took no offense. Still, “legalistic” is an extremely loaded word. Perhaps “pharasaical” gets closer to what you were suggesting.

    Still, to you use you word, would you consider it legalistic if a number of PCA churches, in an attempt to be more egalatarian, where baptizing in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer and the an overture was brought before the GA to prohibit the practice? I have a reason for asking.



  9. Mark Ensio says:

    Surely the PCA in particular and the body of Christ in general have more important matters to attend to.

    • It is sad how many people think that the right administration of the Sacraments is an unimportant thing.

    • John Hendrickson says:

      It is not very constructive nor charitable to dismiss those one disagrees with by belittling the importance of the matter to others. This is not a discussion about the right color for the sanctuary’s walls or carpet.

  10. Doug says:

    Where would intinction be done? Hospital patients desiring communion may not be physically able to drink or eat separately; military personnel serving in remote, dangerous places may desire to enjoy the Lord’s Supper… but may not have all the “supplies” or time to eat or drink separately. As with either sacrament, the methodology of the details can change as exceptional circumstances surface.

    • Doug Mallow says:

      As a former Navy chaplain who has served communion in some very difficult situations, the intinction methodology is very personal and practical. It did not in anyway remove the mystery or ultimate goal of this beautiful means of grace the Lord has given us. I currently attend a church that serves communion weekly through intinction (I was a bit skeptical at first, more so with the weekly administration, thinking it could become rote or mundane). I have found the celebration, and even more so the weekly observance, to be more personal as well as more corporate (the sense of the body of Christ participating) than a monthly or quarterly offering (it is a means of grace, right?). Having a ruling or teaching elder deliver words of blessing to each person that receives the elements, often moves me to tears of joy and deep reflection. To me, it is much more personal than having plates of grape juice in plastic cups and small pieces of cut bread or cracker passed back and forth. In addition, families may bring all their children forward whether they receive the elements or not… they share in the celebration and receive a blessing from that involvement. Remembering the Lord’s sacrifice and grace until the day He returns is a beautiful gift that needs to be experienced often, many variations have been discussed, none take away or undermine this purpose, some may even enhance the celebration!

      I understand that all of my remarks reflect a more pragmatic perspective, that being said though, I have no sense of disobedience or a playing fast and loose with our Lord’s desires for His church. I am very thankful that we are able to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and look forward eagerly to the weekly event.

  11. Michael Abrams says:

    How about a comment from a newbie to Christ (saved June 2011) as well as the PCA (April 2012)?

    The Lord’s Supper is a remembrance commanded by our Lord, Christ Jesus. I also agree that there is a bit of uncertainty about whether one cup was passed around (Matt 26) or seperate cups were implied (Luk 22). However, although one ceremony, it IS clearly two distinct acts…One of remembrance of Him (the bread) and another, the remembrance of what He did for us (the cup). So, in a sense, the Lord’s Supper while one sacrament, is actually two acts. Consequently, personally I prefer the bread and the cup over intinction, however I wouldn’t judge my brothers for using intinction. And, in my congregation we have a significant number of older folks and it just might be a bit easier for them to have someone dip the bread and administer to them.

    A more significant item for me personally is the use of leavened bread. The Lord’s Supper was intiated during the Passover and as such, the unleavened bread was in iteself a sacrifice of sorts. Therefore, I would prefer seeing unleavened bread stated as the standard.

    Finally, how far do you want to carry discussions like this? For example, Baptism. I don’t think Jesus was baptized with a simple dripping of water over his head as is done in many churches. Consequently, shouldn’t the BCO require Baptism by full immersion? Where do you draw the line?