Sip It, Don’t Dip It

Rightly administering the Lord's Supper is one of the marks of a true church.

Some will no doubt believe I am spending too much time on too trivial a matter; but, in my estimation, this is an important matter to which we should give serious consideration. Should a church’s partaking of the bread and the cup in the Lord’s Supper keep the elements separate (eating and then drinking), or combine the elements by dipping the bread into the wine and then consuming both together?

 

Rightly administering the Lord’s Supper is one of the marks of a true church. It occupies a critically important place in the life of God’s people as a memorial of Christ, a preaching of the gospel, and a means of his grace. Yet, even among those who share this perspective there remain differences in practice. Throughout church history many have allowed for the use of white or red wine, wine or grape juice, leavened or unleaded bread, and a shared common up or individual cups. The frequency of the church’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper also differs among Christ’s churches. All of this is worth debating, but one of the differences worth noting today is that of dipping the bread into the wine and then consuming the sopping bread vs. eating the bread and drinking the wine separately.

Some will no doubt believe I am spending too much time on too trivial a matter; but, in my estimation, this is an important matter to which we should give serious consideration. Should a church’s partaking of the bread and the cup in the Lord’s Supper keep the elements separate (eating and then drinking), or combine the elements by dipping the bread into the wine and then consuming both together?

What is Intinction?

Keeping the elements separate, eating the bread and then drinking the wine, is the earliest recorded practice of the church. Intinction is the dipping of the bread into the wine and then consuming both elements together. While we don’t know exactly when this practice first showed up, we first read about it in the fourth century when Pope Julius I wrote against the practice. The early church did not combine the elements, so some time after the Apostles and before Pope Julias’ comments the practice arose. This new practice received increasing opposition until it almost entirely disappeared. Because it wasn’t the practice of the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation intinction didn’t get much attention by the Reformers, though later theologians like Herman Witsius, Francis Turretin, and John Owen argued for keeping the elements separate.

Charles Hodge addressed the practice of intinction in his Systematic Theology, when he wrote:

“That it is against the nature of the sacrament, when instead of the two elements being distributed separately, the bread is dipped into the wine, and both are received together. This mode of administering the Lord’s Supper, was, it is said, introduced at first, only in reference to the sick; then it was practiced in some of the monasteries; and was partially introduced into the parishes. It never, however, received the sanction of the Roman Church.” (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology Vol. III, p. 620)

This has been a controversial practice among our Presbyterian brothers and sisters, especially in the PCA. You can find much more thorough treatments of this issue by those brothers. But since intinction has been adopted by many baptists and baptistic churches without much pushback, I want to encourage people to reconsider the “combo-meal” approach to the Lord’s Supper.

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