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

Three Companions

The Church has the Great Commission to proclaim the historic Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, Who is the Word of God made flesh, Emmanuel: God with us, the Holy One of Israel, Lord and God (John 20:28-29), the Lamb of God Who “taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Our commission is most clearly fulfilled by Evangelism, which is the preaching of the Gospel by exposition of God’s Word. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are also institutions which proclaim this. They are instituted by the Lord Himself, these are God’s inventions, we did not contrive them ourselves. Those three are cognate declarations of Christ and Him crucified. They are three companions.

The Great Commission is to preach the Gospel and Baptize, and teach God’s Word:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

We also have an account of this in the Gospel of Mark, it records that Jesus said,

… Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)

The Gospel of Luke tells of the appearance of Jesus to the two disciples on the Emmaus road after He had risen. They returned to the other disciples and told them what had happened. Suddenly Jesus appeared to them all. What He said adds to our understanding of the Great Commission,

And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:46-48)

Now here is an important side note: Just as John, in his Gospel and Epistles, tells us so clearly that Jesus is God born in the flesh as a human, Jesus here tells the disciples that He has risen from the dead in the flesh. The disciples at first thought Jesus was a ghost, or spirit, apprearing to them. Jesus told them otherwise, and demonstrated it with His physical body and by eating food with them. This last chapter of Luke should be read in conjuction with the first chapter of Acts. We find that Jesus also ascended into Heaven in the flesh. We must understand this to accurately and truly proclaim Christ as He is, not as we might imagine Him to be. The passages are Luke 24:13-53, and Acts 1:1-11.

Thus the commission to preach the Gospel, and the command to Baptise believers. At the Last Supper Jesus instituted what we variously call the Breaking of Bread, or Lord’s Supper with the words, This do. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are His only two commands to us in the form of ordinances. So these cognate acts, the three companions, preaching the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, are God’s institutions. They are not improvised for the moment, rather they are part of God’s determinate counsel and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23). They are God’s plan to further the purpose which He purposed in Jesus Christ. They are God’s work. And we know that God is not changeable, His purposes and methods are constant.

Because they are God’s work, they can never be superseded by what Philip Schaff called, “contrivances of human ingenuity and wisdom”. They are God’s work, and we should prefer nothing to them because they declare God’s truth in the way God devised. Paul says what that truth to which we witness is,

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory (1 Timothy 3:16)

The three companions, Evangelism, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, declare the same thing in different ways for different reasons to suit different seasons. They all speak to the foundation stone of the faith, the mystery of God in the flesh dying on the cross for sinners, which is contained in and revealed by the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This doctrine is the center of the Christian faith. We declare and celebrate it in our weekly worship joined with our congregations. We are also called to live by it, and in that way declare it as we live it out in our own daily lives.

Philip Schaff wrote the following in his History of the Christian Church, Volume II, page 545:

The Messiahship and divine sonship of Jesus of Nazareth, first confessed by Peter in the name of all the Apostles and the eye witnesses of the divine glory of his person and his work, as the most sacred and precious fact of their experience, and after the resurrection adoringly acknowledged by the skeptical Thomas in that exclamation, ‘My Lord and My God!’ — is the foundation stone of the Christian Church; and the denial of the mystery of the incarnation is the mark of anti-christian heresy.

This central doctrine that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Holy One of Israel, the Word made flesh, God in the flesh, is expressed in the preaching of the Gospel, Baptism, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and is at the heart of our prayers, doxologies, and hymns of praise, as well as festivals such as Christmas and Easter. The Lord Himself inspired the prophet Isaiah to say it best, we read a list of titles that tell us who Jesus is,

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

This is who we declare, along with His salvation freely given to us, by preaching the Gospel, through Baptism, and in celebrating the Lord’s Supper. In the Psalms we read,

I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation. (Psalms 40:10)

Our Christian message is the declaration that God’s faithfulness and salvation, His lovingkindness, and His truth are all displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, and now raised to glory from whence we anticipate His imminent return.

This is the declaration embodied in the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. The Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus, John 16:12-15. The spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus, Revelations 19:10. It is God’s good pleasure that the unsearchable riches of Christ should be made known by the foolishness of preaching, 1 Corinthians 1:21.

It is not the least of God’s benefits to us that we have been given the grace and great privilege to share in this declaration of God’s goodness. Paul wrote,

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord … (Ephesians 3:8-11)

It is by God’s grace that we, like Paul, preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. These riches have been hidden until in the fulness of time Christ came to be revealed and to reveal. God has purposed to make His manifold wisdom known to all, through us, the Church, by the foolishness of preaching (as Paul so wryly called it in 1 Corinthinans 1:21), as well as by transformed lives. This is God’s eternal purpose. We have the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper as part of God’s eternal purpose. These three companions are His work. What contrivance of human ingenuity and wisdom shall we prefer to God’s work? None, if we are to please Him.

The Gospel is the good news that we are reconciled to God through Christ. Gospel is an English word that means good message, it is used to translate the Greek word, euaggelion, a word which itself also means, good message. The Gospel is the good message of reconciliation through Christ, preached to draw us to Him. The Greek word has been transliterated into English as, evangel, meaning message; and as evangelist, meaning messenger of the good news. The root of the word is angel, or messenger. Paul gives us the outline of the Gospel he preached,

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)

The essence of what Paul said is: Christ died; Christ was buried; Christ rose; all according to the Scriptures; and this is what we are saved by if we continue to believe it.

This is the message of the central, single most important doctrine in the Bible: the mystery of godliness, that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, crucified, died, buried, risen, ascended to Heaven, and coming again. The import of that message is God’s power for our salvation. Paul said in one place,

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

In another place Paul says that the power of God works through the Gospel,

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

The good message which we are saved by is God’s own message, preached to us by His messengers of the good news (evangelists), it is God’s word, His revelation, His power. Paul explains this in Chapter Ten of the Book of Romans (with poetic laud to the messengers taken from Isaiah 52:7) drawing a conclusion in verse 17, here is the passage,

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:13-17)

The conclusion that faith comes by hearing God’s word echos what Paul said in Romans 1:16, that the Gospel, God’s message, His word, is the exercise of His power for salvation.

We have been commissioned to preach the Gospel by the Lord Himself. What is called the, Great Commission, is to preach the Gospel and baptize believers, and to teach them,

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

The second companion, cognate to the Gospel, is Baptism. It is called a sacrament by some, an ordinance by others. As we can read in the Great Commission, it is commanded by the Lord Himself. The point I want to make here is that Baptism speaks to the same mystery of the faith that the Gospel declares. I am not dealing with doctrines about its necessity, what it accomplishes, or how it should be done, or any other aspect. My only point is that it embodies the Gospel in its imagery, and is for that reason a cognate to the Gospel. Paul speaks of the figure that Baptism displays,

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)

Baptism, in any form, whether by immersion, sprinkling, or even for those who believe that it is a spiritual thing only and not done with water at all, Baptism, speaks to our identifying with the death of Christ, and His burial, and His resurrection. We are baptized into His death. We are buried with Him. We are raised up like He was. That is the exact cognate of the Gospel outlined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Another passage makes this very clear,

Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12)

Buried with Him implies dying to our flesh. Risen with Him implies being born again to newness of life by His Holy Spirit. Christ died. Christ is risen. Christ will return. This is the message inherent in the figure of Baptism. And we identify with Christ in these things. It is the same message as the good news given as a personal testimony.

The third companion is the Lord’s Supper, a cognate to the Gospel and Baptism. The Lord’s Supper is a celebratory declaration of the Gospel. Paul says that we are declaring the Lord’s Death until He returns when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. He wrote,

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

The word shew means to declare, even preach, based on the underlying Greek word, katangelló. The root of the word (angel) is related to evangelism. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper makes a declaration like that found in Psalms 40:

I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation. (Psalms 40:9-10)

It is the Gospel message which the Lord’s Supper declares.

This Gospel message is the sum and summary of our faith. All other doctrines are bound up in it and point toward it. In it is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself. (tip ’o the hat to Catholic phrasing)

Two elements of the Lord’s Supper that Paul mentioned, the Lord’s death, and that we celebrate “… till he come …” speak to the same mystery of the faith Paul outlined in the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15. Christ died. Christ is returning: “… till he come …”. The whole Gospel inheres in the Lord’s Supper by implication. The bread and the cup are figures of His body on the cross, and His blood shed for the remission of sins. We are told that He is returning. Salvation is declared in a figure at our celebration.

We have from the Lord Himself a Great Commission, and two ordinances; (or for some, sacraments) that are cognate declarations concerning Himself. The Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Each is instituted and commanded by the Lord. Each is God’s plan to further His purposes concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.

They arise from the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. Peter spoke of it,

Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. (Acts 2:22-24)

The Gospel was not a reaction by God, it was His plan from eternity, before creation. And of Jesus, Peter went on to say,

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:36)

There it is in brief, God’s purpose: that Jesus is made both Lord and Christ. Paul gives us more detail,

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:9-10)

All things are being gathered in Christ so that He is over all.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

God’s purpose is to exalt Jesus above every name, that He should have the highest place. It is Jesus Who shall have the preeminence:

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; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:15-20)

This is God’s determinate counsel and foreknowledge. This is God’s plan. This is God’s message. It is God’s right to choose what we should say about Him. And it is His right to choose how we should say it. To further His own purposes, and for His own good pleasure, He has given us the three cognate declarations: the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. These three companions are His work to which we can prefer nothing else.

©FH 2012

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