What is the “cup” of the Lord"?


In 1 Corinthians 1:26 the apostle Paul writes, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till he comes."  The "cup" Jesus speaks of is a metaphor illustrating a particular attitude new covenant believer should have.


The Greek word for "cup" is "poterion."  In its literal application, poterion denotes a "drinking vessel."  The transliteration of poterion is our English word, “pottery.”  A cup is an earthen container, just as we are said to be earthly vessels.  When we drink from the cup, it means we are partaking of a certain kind of fellowship (koinonia) that Jesus offers.  The treasure we have is contained in earthen vessels, so that the glory will be given only to God.


  “Poterion” = NT: 4221; poth/rion potêrion; genitive = pot¢ríou, neuter = noun from póœ (n.f.), which later became pínœ (4095), meaning, “to drink.”  Poterion means, “A drinking vessel, a cup.”


(I)                  Particularly (Matthew 10:42; 23:25,26; 26:27; Mark 7:4,8; 9:41; 14:23; Luke 11:39; 22:17,20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Revelation 17:4; Septuagint = Genesis 40:11,13,21; 2 Chronicles 4:5).


(II)                (II) Metonymically cup as used for the contents of a cup, a cupful, cup of wine, spoken of the wine drunk (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 10:16, "The cup of blessing"; 11:25, "this cup is the new testament"). To drink the cup (1 Corinthians 10:21, "the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils," i.e., both the cups, whether consecrated to the Lord or devoted to idols; 11:26-28 [cf. John 4:14]).


(III)               (III) Metaphorically from the Hebrew meaning lot, portion, under the emblem of a cup which God presents to be drunk, either for good (Septuagint = Psalms 16:5; 23:5) or for evil (Septuagint.: Psalms 11:6; 75:8; Ezekiel 23:31 ff.). In the NT the cup of sorrow, meaning the bitter lot, which awaited the Lord in His sufferings and death (Matthew 20:22,23; 26:39,42; Mark 10:38,39; 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 18:11). Spoken also of the cup from which God in His wrath causes the nations to drink so that they reel and stagger to destruction (Revelation 14:10; 16:19; 18:6).


(IV)             Synonym = phiál¢ (5357), a broad, shallow cup.


(From The Complete Word Study Bible and The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament Copyright © 1991, 1992, 1994, 2002 AMG International, Inc.)


Typically cups were made of clay as metal was expensive and rarely owned by common folk.  Some examples of poterion used as a drinking vessel are found in Matthew 10:42; 26:27; Mark 7:4,8; 9:41; 14:23; Luke 22:17,20; 1 Corinthians 11: 25.  The most frequent use of poterion however is in reference to the sufferings of Christ.  


Matthew 20:20-28 Then the mother of Zebedee's children came up to him with her sons and, kneeling, worshiped him and asked a favor of him.  21 And he asked her, “What do you wish?”  She answered him; “Give orders that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left in your kingdom.”  22 But Jesus replied, “You do not realize what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink and to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  They answered, “We are able.”  23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but seats at my right hand and at my left are not mine to give, but they are for those for whom they have been ordained and prepared by my Father.”  24 But when the ten other disciples heard this, they were indignant at the two brothers.  25 And Jesus called them to Him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men hold them in subjection tyrannizing over them.  26 Not so shall it be among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 And whoever desires to be first among you must be your slave-- 28 Just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many the price paid to set them free.”  AMP (Read also Mark 10:35-45)


The mother of the sons of Zebedee wanted Jesus to make her sons sit on his right and left side in the kingdom of God.  Jesus knew her sons weren't even yet prepared to drink the cup he would soon drink (crucifixion).  Therefore he said to her, “You do not know what you are asking for."


Still ignorant and wanting positions of dominion and rulership, the two disciples said to Jesus, “We are able!" (Verse 22)  Knowing what they would suffer after his departure Jesus replied, “My cup you shall drink...” He knows only the Father can assign positions on his left and right.  His reply to them made them indignant, because these two brothers wanted share a greater position with God.


Knowing they felt excluded, Jesus included them in the cup drinking process.  Jesus did not go beyond the boundaries of his authority, even though pressured by his disciples to do so.


Many pastors could learn from this story.  Oftentimes ministers go beyond what God tells them to do; they make empty promises and assign positions of spiritual honor to naïve Christians.  We must examine our motives, and be slow to speak; by our words we are justified or condemned.


Next Jesus told ALL the disciples HOW it was possible to share the cup.  He told them if they wished to be great they must first become "servants. " (See verses 25-27)  A servant does not hold the attitude that a Gentile ruler does; he or she does not use a heavy hand to "lord it over" (Literally = rule down) on God’s sheep.


1 Peter 5:2-3 Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. NASU


A servant must use authority to tenderly and lovingly care for the needs of others, esteeming them as more important (verse 27). They must follow Jesus' example to serve (verse 28).


Mark 10:35-45 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Him and said to Him, “Teacher, we desire you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  36 And he replied to them, “What do you desire me to do for you?”  37 And they said to him, “Grant that we may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left hand, in your glory, your majesty and splendor.”  38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism of affliction with which I am baptized?  39 And they replied to Him, “We are able.”  And Jesus told them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized, 40 But to sit at my right hand or at my left hand is not mine to give; but it will be given to those for whom it is ordained and prepared.”  41 And when the other ten apostles heard it, they began to be indignant with James and John.  42 But Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as governing and are supposed to rule the Gentiles (the nations) lord it over them ruling with absolute power, holding them in subjection, and their great men exercise authority and dominion over them.  43 But this is not to be so among you; instead, whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be most important and first in rank among you must be slave of all.  45 For even the Son of Man came not to have service rendered to him, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for (instead of) many.”    AMP


Mark 10:37-45 is a parallel to Matthew 20:20-28, but it adds another dimension to the interpretation of "the cup"; in verse 38 Jesus says, “You do not know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism of affliction with which I am baptized?”


Jesus reveals that the cup, and the baptism he partakes of have something in common… to show parallel truths, here are some baptism verses to consider:


Luke 12:49-53 Jesus said:  “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish that it were already kindled!  50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and how greatly and sorely I am urged on, impelled, & constrained until it is accomplished!  51 Do you suppose that I have come to give peace upon earth?  No, I say to you, but rather division; 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided among themselves, three against two and two against three.  53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” [Micah 7:6.]  AMP


Verses 49,51-53 reveal that Jesus' baptism is one of fire!  It is a baptism that will even divide families.  This “baptism” is the same as drinking the “cup” that Jesus drinks; it is partaking of his sorrow, and includes persecution and distress of soul.  The 21st century believer does not like the idea of suffering; they don’t want it to be a requisite for an intimate relationship with Jesus.


Being baptized into Christ means death to continual sin, which requires suffering with him (Romans 6:1-7).  Death to self and sin is a metaphor expressing how a dead person feels and relates it to the living.  Our feelings and desires for the lust of the flesh and eyes, and the feelings of the arrogant pride of life are continually being crucified if we belong to Christ.


Christians think the cup of the Lord is drinking a little plastic cup of grape juice and thinking about Jesus.  How many of them realize what the scriptures teach, and are willing to suffer for that name?


Drinking the cup also means responding to the slander and reviling of the ungodly with an attitude of gentleness and with corresponding good behavior, and maintaining a good conscience before God.

One Baptism & One Cup


There is only one baptism just as there is only one cup of the Lord (Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12).  To drink of the Lord’s cup one needs to make the commitment and have the will to follow in the footsteps of the Master.


If we suffer for righteousness’ sake by being reviled, responding with “good behavior in Christ,” our baptism is working in us a good conscience. (1 Peter 3:14-17,21).  This is the evidence we have truly become partakers with Jesus by SHARING it with him.


The cup and the baptism of Jesus involve fire (testing), distress, suffering for righteousness’ sake, and death to self.  To drink of Jesus' cup we must serve others (Mark 10:43). 


The connection between the one baptism of Christ and the cup of his new covenant blood is not accidental.  Drinking the cup of the Lord is NOT OPTIONAL.  To be a disciple of Jesus, you MUST eat his flesh and drink his blood (John 6:53-58). 


1 Corinthians 10:16-21 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ?  Is not the bread, which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?  17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.  18 Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?  19 What do I mean then?  That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?  20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.  21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.  NASU


1 Corinthians 10:16 says that the “cup of blessing” is a “sharing in the blood of Christ.”  This sharing of the blood of the new covenant can become a “cup of demons” if we partake of it in an unworthy manner.  In the context, drinking becomes a “cup of demons” when we don't consider the conscience of our brethren or unbelievers.


Showing indifference to the conscience of others is equal to idolatry because this attitude honors only the god of self.  This attitude provokes the Lord to jealousy.


1 Corinthians 10:22-33 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?  We are not stronger than He, are we?  23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.  24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.  25 Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience' sake; 26 ‘for the earth is the Lord's, and all it contains.’  27 If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake.  28 But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience' sake; 29 I mean not your own conscience, but the other man's; for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience?  30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?  31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.  NASU


Sharing the “cup” of the Lord means we have to deny ourselves and seek that which is for the edification of another, that it might lead to the salvation of many.  Unless you drink the cup of Jesus’ blood, and do so in a manner worthy of HIM, you cannot have the life of his Father God. 


In fact, to be raised in triumph at the last day, when the son of man sits upon his glorious throne, and separates the sheep from the goats, you must be a CONTINUAL partaker of his blood.  Nowhere is this seen more descriptive than in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25: 31-46).


The apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church describes drinking the cup of the Lord.  He relates how this cup is intertwined with serving others. 


1 Corinthians 11:23-32 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."  25 In the same way he took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.  27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.  NASU


If you take unto your own self the blessed name of Jesus Christ, you have made a covenant with him, and with his Father God.  You are under a solemn oath to drink the life of his blood in remembrance of him, proclaiming his DEATH.  This is a death to self; it is the mortification of one’s will and fleshly desires. 


Drinking the cup of Jesus is a proclamation of an entire life surrendered to serving, even when it is inconvenient, or when substantial price needs to be paid.


A true believer will take to heart the admonitions given in the text above; this passage exemplifies the utter selfishness of certain Corinthians at their communal meals.  Many of those who came were weak and even sick from hunger.  Hoping to ease their hunger caused by extreme poverty, the needy came to these Christian home meetings.  Sadly, the Corinthians who were affluent gorged themselves with food and wine, ignoring the plight of the poor; as a result, many of them became weaker, and some of them even died!


Christians drink JUDGMENT to themselves if they squander their life and resources.  One day every man and woman will give an account of his or her life to God; most will regret they lived with only their own earthly needs satisfied, rarely (if ever) sharing what they have possession of with others.


A trend of greed and contempt for Christ is best illustrated in television ministers that prey upon the financial donations of other Christians, and then lavish it on a lifestyle akin to the rich and famous.


One well-known lady, who professes to be a Christian television teacher, struts her stuff, mixing up Biblical teachings with a boisterous sense of humor.  Her ministry has attracted a worldwide TV following, and the success of the ministry has also brought her, her husband, and all of her grown children, great financial success and tremendous wealth. 


She has furnished her grown children with the same concupiscent extravagance and they all live in homes, lavishly furnished, and drive expensive cars, staying in the finest hotels whenever she travels with her entourage, spreading the “word” (as she calls it) and fleecing the flock.


Do you think she is drinking judgment to herself?  Does she really need the million-dollar homes, furnishings, expensive boats, vacation homes, jewelry and other luxurious amenities, including a home that boasts 10,000 square feet, to provide the needs of her husband and herself?  Do you think she is rightly judging and/or discerning the body of Christ?  Is she REALLY serving others, or is her message in word only?


We must all ask ourselves these questions; this example shows how the god of money has crept into the ministry, and the love of the same is bringing certain and fiery doom to those who mock the name of Jesus with it!!  Many have turned away from the faith and even perished eternally by pursuing their Laodicean lifestyle.





Gethsemane… Jesus Drinks The Father’s Cup


In all the passages of Jesus prayer (below) in the garden of Gethsemane, he mentions the “cup.”  As you read these texts, note the frame of mind, the emotional and psychological stress Jesus suffers as he prepares to drink the cup that his Father God requires.


Mark 14:32-36 Then they went to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit down here while I pray.”  33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be struck with terror and amazement and deeply troubled and depressed.  34 And he said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sad, and overwhelmed with grief, so that it almost kills me!  Remain here and keep awake and be watching.”  35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and kept praying that if it were possible the fatal hour might pass from him.  36 And he was saying, “Abba, which means ‘Father,’ everything is possible for You.  Take away this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”     AMP


Luke 22:40-46 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not at all enter into temptation.”  41 And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw and knelt down and prayed, 42 Saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will, but always Yours’ be done.”  43 And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening him in spirit.  44 And being in an agony of mind, he prayed all the more earnestly and intently, and his sweat became like great clots of blood dropping down upon the ground.  45 And when he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping from grief, 46 and he said to them, “Why do you sleep?  Get up and pray that you may not enter at all into temptation.”    AMP


Matthew 26:38-41 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sad and deeply grieved, so that I am almost dying of sorrow.  Stay here and keep awake and keep watch with me.”  39 And going a little farther, he threw Himself upon the ground on his face and prayed saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; nevertheless, not what I will, not what I desire, but as You will and desire.”  40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “What!  Are you so utterly unable to stay awake and keep watch with me for one hour?  41 All of you must keep awake; give strict attention, be cautious and active and watch and pray, that you may not come into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”   AMP


Now you know what it really means to drink the cup of his blood in the new covenant.  The following points illustrate what drinking Jesus’ cup involves.


Jesus’ human soul was grieved to the point of death because of what he knew God was requiring of him.  He would have to bear the shame of sin for those who would betray and mock and eventually crucify him.  Drinking the cup is suffering for righteousness, and for the eternal benefit of those who have no appreciation for your sacrifice; sometimes it even involves loving surrender for the sake of your enemies.


Jesus had to prepare for this cup alone, because all his disciples had failed him in his hour of need.  He knew it was possible for God to remove this cup because he had walked in righteousness all of his life.  Nevertheless Jesus was willing to drink of this suffering because it was the Father's will.   Jesus had to fight against what his own feelings wanted, and submit, in agony, to God's plan.


The gospel of John records how Peter stepped forward to defend his master, striking the high priest’s servant with his sword.  In this account, Jesus affirms, once again, that he must drink his Father’s cup.


John 18:10-11 Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave's name was Malchus.  11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given me, shall I not drink it?”   NASU


Jesus had already paid the price in Gethsemane through agonizing prayer and resolving to do God’s will.  Now at his arrest, he did not resist the persecution because he recognized that the Father was the one who had given him this “cup” and he would drink it only for that reason.


There are Christians today who are like Peter.  They want to resist the cup that the Father has prepared for them.  Some on the extreme right stockpile with guns and start militias rather than do the will of the God.  Often over-zealous or legalistic Christians, like Peter, swing their “sword” of scripture at people carelessly.  In the process, they cut off the hearing from otherwise listening ears.  Jesus says to live by the sword is to die by it.  Don’t use God’s word for slicing; be like Jesus and restore the hearing ear of Malchus.


Proverbs 25:8-15 Rush not forth soon to quarrel before magistrates or elsewhere, lest you know not what to do in the end when your neighbor has put you to shame. [Proverbs 17:14; Matthew 5:25.]  9 Argue your cause with your neighbor himself; discover not and disclose not another's secret, [Matthew 18:15.]  10 Lest he who hears you revile you and bring shame upon you and your ill repute have no end.  11 A word fitly spoken and in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver. [Proverbs 15:23; Isaiah 50:4.]  12 Like an earring or nose ring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to an ear that listens and obeys.  13 Like the cold of snow brought from the mountains in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to those who send him; for he refreshes the life of his masters.  14 Whoever falsely boasts of gifts he does not give is like clouds and wind without rain. [Jude 12.]  15 By long forbearance and calmness of spirit a judge or ruler is persuaded, and soft speech breaks down the most bonelike resistance. [Genesis 32:4; 1 Samuel 25:24; Proverbs 15:1; 16:14.]   AMP




To summarize, drinking of the Lord’s cup is a metaphor for inward participation of Jesus’ suffering; he was willing to endure to please his Father.  In fact, to drink of the SAME CUP that Jesus drinks is to have the same attitude in you that Jesus had within him.  It is willingness to do the Father’s will; this is the cup of the Lord is.


Drinking is also a metaphor for taking something tangible, and swallowing it into the inner parts; it is the bringing the mind of Christ into our hearts and minds.  As we drink, we keep in mind what Jesus did, and how he did it. 


This cup means we must deny ourselves, what we want, and do only what He wants.  Seeking to please the Father involves distress of soul.  Romans 12:1-2 declares the believer’s life is a living sacrifice; we must be willing to serve others, being as slaves to God.


In this manner alone we partake of His cup and His baptism. Our attitude and behavior towards those who revile, mock, and insult us must be gentle.  This can occur ONLY IF we have first sanctified Jesus as Lord of our hearts.  Remember, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).


Romans 8:16-18 The Spirit Himself thus testifies together with our own spirit, assuring us that we are children of God.  17 And if we are His children, then we are His heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ sharing His inheritance with Him; only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory.  18 But what of that?  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time; this present life, are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and  for us and  conferred on us!  AMP


Thankfully we are not all alone, like Jesus was.  We have each other; as his body, believers are to drink the cup of the Lord together.  What does this mean?


1 Corinthians 12:26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…      NASU


1 Peter 4:1-2 So, since Christ suffered in the flesh for us, for you, arm yourselves with the same thought and purpose; to patiently suffer rather than fail to please God.  For whoever has suffered in the flesh, having the mind of Christ, is done with intentional sin, has stopped pleasing himself and the world, and pleases God, 2 so that he can no longer spend the rest of his natural life living by his human appetites and desires, but he lives for what God wills.  AMP


1 Peter 5:8-9 Be well balanced, temperate, sober of mind; be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring in fierce hunger, seeking someone to seize upon and devour.  9 Withstand him; be firm in faith against his onset--rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined, knowing that the same identical sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood, the whole body of Christians throughout the world.   AMP


Also read the following passages on suffering:  2 Corinthians 7:10-11; Philippians 1:29; 3:8-10; 2 Timothy 2:3; 1 Peter 2:19-23; 3:14-17; 4:12-19 


Jesus has gone ahead of us; he knows our pain and suffering because he suffered the same.  Jesus knows what it means to say, ‘Yes,’ to God’s will, even when everything inside screams, ‘No.’


Jesus suffered in being tempted, tested and tried.  This means he is able to immediately run to the cry of his own sheep.  He will be there to assist and relieve you when you are being tempted and tried.  Also read Hebrews 2:18; 5:8-9 & 2 Timothy 3:12.


Together with Jesus and his body, be a part of the few that choose the narrow path of life; drink his blood, and share in the new covenant.  Sorrow lasts only in this life, but joy comes in the morning.  Eternity will be worth it…



Links to the Entire "Communion” Series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4



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