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Can We Talk About The Lord’s Supper?
I ask us to reexamine our traditions concerning the Lord’s Supper.

Built Up In Him

The Lord’s Supper is the work of God, planned for His own purposes in His determinate counsel and foreknowledge (see: Acts 2:23). One superlative purpose is clear, to focus our attention upon Christ and Him crucified, defining the character of our worship services, that He may have the preeminence in all things (Colossians 1:18).

If this was all that was achieved through the celebration of the Lord’s Supper that would be enough. But there are many heuristic aspects that, acting together, affect us in a comprehensive way that not only lead us into deep of worship of the Son Jesus Christ, but also act upon us to conform us to Him, which is our predestination (Romans 8:29). These many aspects work together to inform us, remind us, exhort us, encourage us, and touch our hearts to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. At this feast, through the hearing of the word, prayer, and contemplating Christ as He wishes to be known, as He has revealed Himself and portrayed Himself in the Lord’s Supper, we are built up, each individual believer fitted as a precious stone, together in Him.

First and foremost among these aspects: it is a memorial to the Lord, devised for us by Himself to remind us of Himself. Memorials, and remembrance: keeping in mind the things of God are a major theme throughout the Scriptures. The Patriarchs built stone altars of memorial. Joshua was commanded to build a stone memorial upon crossing the Jordan. Israel in the Law was commanded to bind the Law upon their hands and foreheads that they might always keep it in memory. The feasts of Israel (especially the Passover) also served to call to mind God’s mighty acts. Paul gave remembrance special significance in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2. The most colorful and spectacular memorial is the rainbow (Genesis 9:11-17). Of that memorial God said, “… I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant …”

Not less important is the declaration we make of the Lord’s death on the cross for our sins when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:26). We do this until He returns as our continual testimony to the world, and stirring up within ourselves the memory of our salvation. Our commission is to preach (Matthew 28:19-20) the things of Christ to the world. The Lord’s Supper is a fulfillment of that commission every time it is celebrated. We are proclaiming Christ and Him crucified. We benefit as we do this work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5 ).

Our participation in this celebration is our own personal confession of faith in the Lord. It is as I eat of that loaf and drink of that cup, and as you eat of that loaf and drink of that cup, that I, and that you, that we in communion proclaim the death of the Lord for our sins (1 Corinthians 11:26). Paul said in Romans 10:10, “… with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”. Though Paul explicitly meant a confession using words, this confession is implicit in our eating and drinking. We are built up by giving of our testimony, and it also encourages others.

Before we partake of the Lord’s Supper we are called to examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:28). Regular celebration is a cause for regular self examination. As we examine ourselves we stir up the things of Christ within ourselves, calling them to memory. We find this to be an opportunity to respond with repentance to the searching of our hearts that reveals our sin to us. This is a time to rejoice in John’s words in his first epistle,

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7-9)

So then, examining ourselves in anticipation of each celebration of the Lord’s Supper leads us into the blessing of knowing God’s grace to us. This is one way that we are being conformed to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

Another important theme that runs throughout the whole of the Scriptures is the idea of thankfulness to God. In fact it is the explicit will of the Father that we give thanks,

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

The very character of the Lord’s Supper is that of a public thanks offering to the Lord for His great salvation. The Church is seen by the world, and we as individuals are seen, to be giving thanks, thus showing ourselves as a thankful people. Thanklessness is a significant fault in Romans 1:21. Our thanks giving is not only worship, but a testimony as well. This helps us develop the character of being thankful.

Adoration means that we thank the Lord for His Son, metaphorically kissing Him (Psalms 2:12). We thankfully contemplate, dwell in our thoughts upon Him as we view Him in the picture of the bread and cup, and His word. We express the homage of worship to Him, returning to Him the deep love and affection which He has for us. Bit by bit we are changed a little more through our constant adoration of Jesus Christ.

Communion is the most commonly thought of aspect of the Lord’s Supper, even to providing a name for it. In truth it is a time for communing with the Lord. We are spending time with Him alone as it were, time thinking upon Him only and nothing else. He is the object and subject of our thoughts. Silence is an important part of our celebration, because in it we are sill and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). But whether in silence or in joyful song we commune with the Lord. It is the expressed desire of Jesus,

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:21-23)

In our communion with Him, we show our communion with each other. This is not the least aspect either. We being many are one in Him, His body, His bride. Paul said it thusly,

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

In our communion together we display the love we have for one another. And it is by our love that we will be known,

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35)

Our communion has wide implications for us as we sit as the Lord’s Supper. It is an egregious breech of the Scriptures to partake with variance, envy, or strife amongst ourselves. We are instructed by Paul to keep unity,

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:3-6)

Communion emphasizes one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all. The practice and acknowledgement of communion on a regular basis strengthens our bonds between ourselves and the Lord. We are built up this way.

Sacrifice inheres in the Lord’s Supper. It proclaims the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross for the sins of the world, according to the Scriptures. We proclaim, remember, and give thanks for this one sacrifice. Our communion, with God, and with each other, exists and has its being in and because of this sacrifice. Jesus’ shedding of blood is the only shedding of blood that has made peace between us an God (Hebrews 9:11-14). The typology of sacrifice in the Old Testament is that those for whom the sacrifice is made partake of it (see: the account of the Passover in Genesis and various passages in the Law). We, in Christ, partake of His sacrifice for us by faith believing. This is symbolized in our eating of that broken loaf and our drinking of that cup. In that sense the sacrifice of Christ is made present to us in the elements of bread and wine. We are continually remembering the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:2), it is held in our thoughts this way. What we have in our minds continually is formative to us, as we keep in mind how that He “… made himself of no reputation …” (Philippians 2:7) we are heeding Pauls exhortation:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:5)

There is another sense of sacrifice present at the Lord’s Supper. There is the implied sacrifice of ourselves, as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12.1). It is as true and spiritual worshipers (see: John 4) that we come to the Lord’s Supper. This begins within ourselves, otherwise we come to the Lord’s Supper as an outward ceremony. As we reaffirm our faith there is this sense of renewed dedication to the Lord. Holding His sacrifice before ourselves, and our sacrifice in response to His sacrifice, builds us up in Him.

Anticipation is an aspect of the Lord’s Supper stated explicitly by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:26. The return of Jesus at the end of the age to gather us to Himself that we may be with Him where He is, conformed to His likeness, is “… the hope of his calling, and … the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints … (Ephesians 1:18). Hope is a principal virtue, one of the three: Faith, Hope, and Love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Hope is a major theme in the Scriptures. In the New Testament our hope is the awaited fulfillment of the promises of God in Christ. The anticipation of Christ’s return is identified with the fulfillment of our hope. This anticipation is itself a major theme, the effect it should have upon us, liberation from ourselves, is best explained to us by John,

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we not only declare and meditate upon His death, but we also declare and meditate upon the anticipation of His imminent return. As Peter said,

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. (2 Peter 3:10-14)

In the Lord’s Supper we exhort one another, and all who watch us, to the anticipation of His return, which must change us. Paul’s statement below reminds us of John 3:2-3 —

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Seeing Him as He is, rather than how we imagine Him to be, is transformative. A lively looking for His return gives us strong reason to pursue our salvation in this way. And, our anticipation of His return frees us from the care and pleasures of this word so that we may pursue the Kingdom of God.

In all these aspects the Lord’s Supper holds before us the vision of Christ and Him crucified. This has been eloquently said in Hebrews,

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man (Hebrews 2:9)

In Proverbs we are told,

Where there is no vision, the people perish … (Proverbs 29:18)

We are gathered together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We are holding this vision of Jesus before one another. We are buiding one another up, stirring up the things of Christ within us, provoking one another:

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: (Hebrews 10:24)

We, the Church, who are called by His name, have been given this celebration for the sake of His remembrance: holding this sustaining vision continually before ourselves. The Lord’s Supper is a simple, eloquent, and therefore elegant vision given to us in the breaking of bread devised for the Church by the Lord Himself in His determinate counsel and foreknowledge. This is why we call it the work of God and say that we should prefer nothing to it. This is why its regular celebration is so important to us. We, as an obedient people, must remember His words of institution, “… this do … (Luke 22:19). Shall we substitute a liturgy of worship devised by ourselves in the place of it?

©FH 2012

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