kataggello.org Home Page ||  Table of Contents ||  Obedience << Previous || Next >>Proclamation
Can We Talk About The Lord’s Supper?
I ask us to reexamine our traditions concerning the Lord’s Supper.

Remembrance and Memorial

In the Bible memorials are of great importance, they are monuments to God for all to see and remember His mighty works. The Lord’s Supper is the greatest monument in the world today, it is a living memorial enacted by the assembled Church in celebration of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Church is the house of God. And the Church is called the “pillar and ground of the truth”. That the Church should enact this living memorial is fitting, celebrating it is how we “oughtest to behave” ourselves in the house of God. Paul wrote this to Timothy:

But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)

Jesus said we should do this in remembrance of Himself. It particularly brings to mind for our contemplation Jesus as He is worshiped in Heaven: the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. In it is figured the Lord’s Passion, the holy sacrifice He made on the cross in His own body, shedding His blood for the remission of sin. And implied in it is His resurrection and promised return. We have the aspect of a command in His words, This do. And we have the aspect of memorial in the words in remembrance of me. Luke reports it this way,

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)

The Lord’s Supper, is a memorial of the fulfillment of the Paschal mystery of Christ. The Paschal, or Passover, mystery is the mystery of God in the flesh, as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:35-36) . The shed blood of Jesus Christ is a covering for our sins just as the sprinkled blood of the first Passover lamb was a covering that protected the firstborn of Israel from death when the Lord passed through Egypt to smite all the firstborn (Exodus 12:1-27). That first Passover is a prophetic type that foretold our redemption in Christ. The Lord’s Supper is the celebration of the fulfillment of that prophecy, here the memory of His love fills our minds with the grace of His person.

The Lord’s Supper is above all else the chief celebration of the Lord Jesus Christ and the mystery of God in the flesh, dying on the cross for the salvation of sinners, an expression of the great mystery of the Christian faith. It is an integral part of the Christian Kergyma, the proclamation of the faith,

To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)

This proclamation is one that keeps Jesus in our remembrance continually, stirring up within us thoughts of Jesus and Him crucified, keeping us in mind of who He really is, not who we might imagine Him to be. And this is exactly one intention God purposed: the perpetual remembrance of the mystery of Godliness: Jesus Christ died; Jesus Christ rose; Jesus Christ will return. This is the vision held before us in the bread and the cup which we can see and partake of, thus setting the scene for the memorial. It is the same vision expressed by the writer to the 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)

Jesus, when introducing this celebration used the words, “in remembrance of Me.” Therefore the Church has always called it a memorial celebration of the Lord Himself. We are to be always put in remembrance of the things of God, Paul says so, Peter says so, John says so, James says so, King David says so, the Lord Himself has said it. Partaking of the Lord’s Supper puts us in remembrance of the Lord’s death and all that it means. So it is both a public memorial and a personal reminder. The Lord is kept in preeminent view through it.

The the exhortation to remembrance is a common and important thread throughout the entire Bible. We have a variety of passages, both Old and New Testament. But let’s start with one very striking example. God Himself has given us a monument to one of His covenants. The living God, Creator of Heaven and earth says He will remember:

I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. (Genesis 9:13-16)

God has set the rainbow as a reminder, not only to us, but for Himself, of the everlasting covenant He had made with His creatures. Do we think that the Lord needs a reminder? Not for even a moment. But us? That is different isn’t it, aren’t we a forgetful people? Yes. If God has put the rainbow before us as a reminder of a covenant, what of the reminder that Jesus has placed before us of the far greater New Covenant in His blood. The reminder which is eating that bread, and drinking that cup which He said figures Himself.

Another example, one that was commanded to the people of Israel upon leaving Egypt, they were to perpetuate the memory of the day of their deliverance:

And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten. This day came ye out in the month Abib. And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters. And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt. And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD’S law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt. Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year. (Exodus 13:3-10)

Israel was to remember their deliverance, “in his season”. The Church is called to remember her vastly greater deliverance in season and out of season!

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (2 Timothy 4:2)

Israel’s deliverance was from Egypt. Our deliverance is no merely earthly thing:

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: ( 1 Peter 1:18-19)

When Jesus said, “This do”, it was His body, broken for us, and His blood of the New Covenant, that He pointed us to. Of His blood we read,

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
(Hebrews 9:12-15)

Because of that precious blood God has promised that He will no longer remember our sins.

Please notice the word, serve, we are to, “… serve the living God …”. It is the Greek word, latreuo, the same word used in Romans 12:1. Here again is the language of worship used to describe how we ought to live our lives.

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 10:16-17)

Our sins and iniquities, of them God has said, “… will I remember no more.”

Among many instances of reminders: festivals, phylacteries, altars and monuments, we have the example of Joshua who obeyed the Lord after he had led Israel across the Jordan. We read in the book of Joshua,

And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying, Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night. Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. (Joshua 4:1-7)

At the Lord’s Supper, we the Church, living stones, celebrate a living memorial to the Lord that is a sign among us. We show all who may see us there that the Lord Jesus Christ was cut off, dying on the cross for our sins, according to the Scriptures, that we might pass over from death to life everlasting.

Remembrance has practical benefit for us, David wrote in the Psalms often on the value of remembering the Lord, the benefits He has blessed us with, and indirectly on the danger of forgetting God’s word. Here are two well known verses:

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: (Psalms103:2)

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psalms 119:11)

In the New Testament Paul warned about remembering, the following passage doesn’t imply that our salvation is a chancy thing, but consider:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

Most of us would say that if one forgot about the Gospel, forgot about Jesus, that they had never truly had a saving faith, but that whatever profession they had made was a vain one. It is striking however, to see Paul link keeping the Gospel in memory with salvation. And what is very striking indeed is how the Lord’s Supper speaks directly to the Gospel, to the Lord’s death on the cross for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and to His burial, and resurrection, according to the scriptures, and to His return. And it is very striking indeed how the Lord spoke of us keeping Himself in memory,

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. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:19-20)

The Lord’s Supper portrays the very same Gospel that Paul preached. Paul told us to keep that Gospel in memory. Jesus told us to keep Himself, and those facts about Himself that are the Gospel details, in our memory.

We are keeping in memory the vision which the writer of Hebrews has given us:

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)

When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we are celebrating the memorial which the Lord Himself gave us. We are remembering His Passion, proclaiming it, celebrating it. There, as we discern the Lord’s body and blood we declare with David,

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits (Psalm 103:2)

We are a forgetful people, the Lord knows us. How easy it is for us to get caught up in the worries and pleasures of life. Then too, the world, the flesh, and the devil are always there trying to tug us away from the Lord. This is why we should hide His Word in our hearts, and meditate upon it day and night. This is why we should pray without ceasing. And the Spirit who knows our infirmities always prays for us with unutterable sighs and groaning.

The Lord knows us, and to help us He gave us the Breaking of Bread to remind us of Himself. He said, “… this do in remembrance of Me …” This is one reason why it is so valuable to us as Christians to celebrate this simple feast at our weekly gathering when we come together as the Church. There, at the Lord’s Supper we cannot forget the Lord, because: “… we see Jesus …”. So we are remembering, bringing to mind, contemplating, meditating on Jesus Himself. It is a reminder that helps to keep us in an intimate and meaningful relationship with Him. Not only does it help us stay in close touch with Him. It keeps us focused on the truth about Christ as He is rather than who we might imagine Him to be. It keeps before our minds who He really is and what He has done for us.

Drawing from several verses of Scripture to develop an idea, we know that while we were still sinners He proved His love for us by dying on the Cross for our sins. What is more, He rose again and ascended into Heaven from whence He will return to take us to be with Himself. The breaking of bread holds these truths always before us. As Paul said, we, “… shew His death until He returns ”, we are keeping in memory the Gospel by which we are saved.

We are cautioned to not neglect the gathering of ourselves together, but that we ought gather together as the Church. The practice from the beginning has been to assemble on Sundays. But some hold aloof from regular fellowship in a local assembly. They believe that they can have fellowship with God and worship Him wherever they are. And although this is true in part, it hinders growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ because we miss out on the ministry of gifts given to the body in order to build us up. When we sit alone with our own thoughts and understandings we become off-centered from the truth. Iron sharpens iron we read in Scriptures. The gifts given to and exercised by believers helps us to stay centered on Jesus. But only if we come together in fellowship.

And if we neglect joining in fellowship we miss what is of great value in our gatherings, celebrating the Breaking of Bread. As I said, this simple meal holds before our minds who Jesus Christ really is. It keeps us from wandering from what is true about Him. And it keeps our focus from drifting away from Him. He is to have the preeminence in all things, especially our meetings. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we make a striking proclamation of His death and return; it truly is a profound Kergyma. We commune together in Him with Him. We make confession of faith in Him. We celebrate Him as the Lamb slain, risen, and returning. This is the Gospel that Paul preached “according to the Scriptures”. In this way, and others, the breaking of bread holds us to the truth. It holds us to Jesus. It keeps us from drifting and error. We begin to see Him as He is, not as we imagine Him, but as He is according to the Scriptures. To see Him is to become like Him, little by little now as we seem Him in sign and symbol, completely and suddenly when we see Him face to face.

Throughout the Bible we are taught to meditate upon God’s word, to keep it in remembrance, to stir it up within us. The Lord has given to us, the Church, this thing called the Lord’s Supper for this very purpose, to hold before us the vision of Christ and Him crucified. If I may paraphrase from an old tract (The Faith of Our Fathers, 1871) I think what I mean will be plain.

First let us be refreshed again with what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26,

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.

Now I paraphrase from the tract:

From these words we learn that the principal motive which our Savior had in view in instituting the "breaking of bread" was to keep us in perpetual remembrance of His sufferings and death. He wished that the scene of Calvary should ever appear in panoramic view before our eyes, and that our heart, memory and intellect should be filled with the thoughts of His Passion. He knew well that this would be the best means of winning our love and exciting sorrow for sin in our soul; therefore, He designed that in every assembly of Christians throughout the world, this simple meal should be observed to serve as a monument erected to His mercies to His people, as the children of Israel erected a monument, on crossing the Jordan, to commemorate His mercies to His chosen people. the Lord’s Supper is truly a memorial service of Christ’s passion.

In just the same way that Paul preached the Gospel, “according to the Scriptures” (cf: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4) And just as he also wrote in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation”. And just as this same Apostle concluded his line of reasoning in Romans 10:17: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” So also the remembrance celebration which is called the Lord’s Supper holds this same Gospel of God’s Son and His word before us in the most simple, elegant, and poignant manner that cannot leave God’s people untouched, and must also impress the world, if it be truly and well celebrated. It is a monument set amongst us to His love for us.

By truly and well I mean that the Lord’s Supper should be the center of our chief meeting, which for most of us is on Sunday mornings. And that it should, actually must, control the character of our meeting because we set the simple elements before us and say,“the body and the blood of the Lord”, to which we say “Amen”. With those before us what other object or subject of worship can we have than the Saviour Himself. It is a time to view Him, in word, prayer, song, and in the thoughts of our hearts; it is a time when,

… 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)

It is a time to rehearse all His excellences. And this is also what I meant that we should prefer nothing to it, for during our celebration, the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified, and He alone, is given the preeminence in the assembly of the saints. Our vision is Jesus “crowned with glory and honour.” Thus we remember.

Come now, don’t you want to remember the Lord as He asked us to? Let us gather and do this. Let us worship Him. This is our eternal vocation. Let us begin now and continue regularly. We benefit from this, He is no man’s debtor. He will repay in good measure, overflowing measure. Worship is our due to Him, but it is also our joy. Angels watch and wonder. The world watches and receives the testimony of the Church. The saints rejoice and give thanks that Jesus is worshiped. The Father is pleased that much is made of His Son. He said, “kiss the Son lest the I be angry with you. (Psalm 2:12) . At the Lord’s Supper, the breaking of bread, Jesus is kissed, Jesus is made much of, witness is given, worship is given, He is declared to be the Lamb slain, His sacrifice is proclaimed, He receives the preeminence. This is our memorial, which we as a forgetful people have been ordained by the Lord Himself to erect within our congregations as a reminder so that we forget Him not in the hurly burly of life. Do I plead with you? Yes I do. I plead with you to persuade you to join in the chorus of worship as saints around the world, and in all ages, and place that memorial in the center of your congregation to celebrate the Lord in the Breaking of Bread. It is a memorial He has designed, what of our own will we prefer to it.

©FH 2012

Next >> Proclamation

Previous >> Obedience

To top of page ||  Table of Contents ||   kataggello.org Home Page