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

An Invitation

The mission statement is,

A call to worship centered around the Lord’s Supper is a call to foster a devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ of great power and purity. (Thanks and a tip of the hat to the prefatory note to the book of Malachi in the New English Bible from which this has been adapted.)

To foster a devotion of great power and purity to the Lord is the goal. This goal means that the Lord Jesus Christ has the preeminence in all things. And it means that we are being conformed to His likeness, that we are in right relationship to Him. To the contrary we don’t want to instead find ourselves fostering a confining legalism with its stifling atmosphere of sanctimonious disapprobation arising from a false sense of piety (this would include a demand for conformity in all things — but this is not a criticism of Catholics).

Worship centered around the Lord’s Supper is one means toward that goal, not the only means, but a very significant means. The Lord’s Supper imperatively gives Christ the preeminence in our worship (if rightly understood).

Such worship that both expresses that devotion, and helps foster it, is only possible amongst those keenly aware of their utter need for the salvation we find by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and who have accepted it. Religious devotion has power only as it comes from Him. Purity is found only in His righteousness. Worship flows from our encounter with God in His Word. Just as Isaiah saw God (Up), realized and confessed his sinfulness (In), and then received grace and served God(Out) (see: Isaiah chapter 6), so we will worship in spirit and in truth only as we see our need and turn to Jesus for grace, according to the Scriptures.

I invite you to join in our eternal vocation, the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ, within your own local church. Our purpose is not to provide a rich, meaningful experience to ourselves. Our purpose is to give the preeminence to the Lord Jesus Christ in all things: in our daily lives, our relationships with others, our personal relationship with the Lord Himself, and when we gather together as the church for worship. But when we worship in spirit and in truth, it bears fruit in us, including a rich and meaningful experience in our worship.

Gathering together to worship is very important because we are the body of Christ. This is expressed when we come together:

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

And the Father,

… hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23)

We are warned not to neglect gathering together, especially in the light of His anticipated return, but encouraged to do so:

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

We have guidelines in the New Testament about how we should gather, and what it is we do when we are gathered. For example there is the brief description in Acts 2:42 which speaks of fellowship, teaching, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. Paul in 1 Corinthians Chapter Eleven gives us more detail about the Lord’s Supper. And we have the examples from the Old Testament that speak in prophetic typology about the Church’s worship of her Lord. Our worship must follow God’s teaching in the Bible. This is God’s prerogative, to be worshiped in the way He has chosen.

We are warned against inventing our own worship which we can too easily do. Worship that we invent can become, if unwittingly, self-imposed and even at times, self worship. Possibly the worst case of self invented worship is seen in what Israel did at Mount Sinai:

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. (Exodus 32:1)

The second commandment says:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (Exodus 20:4-5)

In the New Testament Jesus warned against letting the traditions of men replace God’s Word:

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:8-9)

Paul after an extended discussion of human invention in worship concludes:

Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. (Colossians 2:23)

One way we can see the element of human invention in contemporary worship is how we look at music:

Music is a powerful and vital element in the worship life of God’s people. But precisely because it is so significant, we need to give careful thought to it. We must be sure that we are pleasing God and not entertaining ourselves. The temptation to turn worship into entertainment is great because as sinners we are much more inclined to be self-centered than God-centered. We are much more inclined to amuse ourselves than to serve God."(quoted from Dr. Robert Godfrey - Pleasing God in our Worship )

A quick reading of the literature of worship, written for Christians, from many denominations and points of view will show that even erstwhile pagan elements are offered for inclusion. These things are being incorporated into liturgy in an attempt to enliven worship and provide that much sought after rich experience. Examples are things like drumming, prayer flags, processions (some including animals), drama, dance, and forms of chanting that amount to shamanistic incantations. Granted these are some of the more extreme things, but anything that substitutes for the preeminence of Christ, and God’s disposition of our worship is an error of human invention.

This doesn’t mean that we are limited to a strict worship format according to someone else’s interpretation of Scriptures. This doesn’t mean that we cannot use our imagination in our worship. But when we use our imagination, it must not be that we see Christ as we imagine Him to be, but to see Him as He has revealed Himself in Scriptures. It means that God has given us definite guidlines for our public worship. These are things like what Paul told us: about doing all things decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40). We have the examples of Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 11; and prophetic pictures from the Revelation. And very importantly we have the Lord’s statement: “This do”, concerning the Lord’s Supper. Given this basis we can readily imagine that the Lord was pleased for example by the inventivness King David expressed in the Psalms; true they are inspired, but they are David’s expression. And so it is with things in our worship, including music. Wisdom shows us that it is apparent that we should gather, and that God has given us guidelines for when we do. The briefest statement of these guidelines is that Jesus and His Gospel must always be the center of our gathering and our worship must celebrate Him.

Ephesians chapter two makes the reason for this clear. God has set Jesus in the highest place. We read of the mighty power of God,

Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, (Ephesians 1:20-22)

Scriptures tell us that it is Jesus:

Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; (Colossians 1:15-19)

If you would read Ephesians chapter two, and Colossians chapter one, you will see the absolute preeminence given to Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew we read that the Father said from Heaven:

And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 17:5)

Jesus is the Father’s only begotten son (cf: John 3:16; 1 John 4:9), and it is said of Him by the writer to Hebrews,

For unto which of the angels said he at any time, ’Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee’ And again, ’I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son’ (Hebrews 1:5)

This theme, that Jesus is the Son of God is repeated throughout the New Testament. Read: Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; II Peter 1:16-18.

These verses make the following passage from the Psalms shine with special luster:

Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (Psalms 2:11-12)

“Kiss the Son”. Give Jesus the preeminence, worship Him. One of the Greek words in the New Testament translated into English as worship has the sense of a dog showering its master with love and submission by licking his hand. “Kiss the Son”.

God has given us a brilliantly simple way to keep us centered on this vital truth. Paul tells us:

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Using the Lord’s Supper as the organizing center of our worship we are kept centered on the true object of worship: the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. St. Augustine is said to have called the it the visible word. This is a helpful way for Protestants to think about the Lord’s Supper: a picture of Christ and Him cruficied. It is not a ceremony for its own sake. It is a means of staying focused on Jesus. The bread and the wine speak of God’s provision to us of salvation by the supreme self-sacrifice of Christ. These elements bring the very core of the Word of God, the Gospel itself, the good news about Jesus into our worship, and His absolute preeminence is maintained in this. These elements organize our worship by limiting it, as shown in the next paragraph, and in those limits we find great freedom to worship “in spirit and in truth” as Jesus said in John chapter 4.

We should note carefully Paul’s warning about discerning the Lord’s body and blood. The bread and wine are figures of the holy: Jesus’ body and blood. Therefore they take on the aspect of the holy also. They become sacred because they are set aside for God’s purposes. This is not a ritual or ceremony carelessly devised, it came from the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, the breaking of bread, or the Lord’s Supper was evidently planned for us to celebrate from eternity. Just as Jesus is the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, and just as His death on the cross was according to Scriptures, foretold from the beginning; just as God by His determinate counsel and foreknowledge planned the Gospel from eternity, so He planned this feast as a proclamation of these things from eternity. This puts the Lord’s Supper in a special place in His plan for the Church’s testimony of His Son. It is a figure of the holy and sacred, and it is associated with the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God concerning the celebration and proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Shall we then neglect this celebration! No, it is to be a regular and central feature in our assemblies. It is an organizing principle that keeps us centered on Jesus, and Him crucified, which is our whole testimony as the Church; our testimony of God’s love and wisdom and power.

The celebration of Jesus, and Him crucified is a Heavenly worship also. We find the hosts in Heaven worshiping Him as the “Lamb that was slain,”

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. (Revelation 5:6)

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. (Revelation 5:9-12)

This is a picture of Heavenly, eternal worship. Jesus is at the center, and His Gospel is the ground of that worship. Our worship ought to imitate this pattern. The Lord’s Supper keeps us centered on this.

The Lord’s Supper has many aspects, some of them are:

The Lord’s is not the object of our worship, nor is it all there is to worship. It is a part of worship, a means of worship pointing us to Christ. We can worship without the Lord’s Supper but it is what He Himself gave us to do when He said, “… this do …”.

We gather to worship the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is the theme of our worship. The Lord’s Supper is a physical center for worship, but it is not the focus, it is a lens that we look through. It serves to focus us on Jesus.

As I said, our Lord has given us this simple, elegant, and striking act, using simple elements to center our attention on Himself. This act is of His choosing, it is not something which we have invented. He said, “… this do …”:

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19)

So we take what He has given us to do and make use of it in our worship of Him, showing forth His death until He returns. Can we worship without the Lord’s Supper? Yes, however both history and experience show the value of this act in directing our attention in worship to giving Jesus the preeminence. The Lord’s Supper helps restrain us from wandering too far afield in our themes of worship. We are kept centered upon Jesus and Him crucified. And in this restraint, by His grace, we find liberty to worship Him in spirit and in truth. It has been repeated often in these pages, the Lord’s Supper is God’s work and we should prefer nothing to it.

©FH 2012

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