Many churches go about taking Communion in different ways, but how are we supposed to know what the purpose for the Lord’s Supper is? In this message, Pastor David Platt shares with us that the Lord’s Supper is meant to be an act of worship to God. By taking communion, Christians celebrate forgiveness given through Christ and non-Christians witness the work of Christ.
- Who should participate in the Lord’s Supper?
- Where should we have the Lord’s Supper?
- When should we have the Lord’s Supper?
- How should we understand the Lord’s Supper?
- Why should the Lord’s Supper be significant in our worship?
Today we are going to start in the book of Luke. Acts 2:42 – If you know it, say it along with me, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
This morning and next week I want us to begin thinking about the worship life of the early church. What is interesting is that when you look in this summary statement that we have been looking at in Acts 2:42 –47 you never see the word worship mentioned. In fact, that list of four things they devoted themselves to; the apostles teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer; worship is not in there. It is interesting. Many times we think about this idea – Different to Make a Difference – what often time comes into mind is what makes our church different is worship, the way we do worship. But it doesn’t say in the New Testament that they devoted themselves to worship.
Now I think worship was very important when the corporately gathered together. In fact, that is why we see the breaking of bread included there. The breaking of bread, most scholars believe, is a reference to the Lord’s Supper, to communion, and how important it was in the worship life of the early church. In fact, the Lord’s Supper, or communion, is the only act of worship that is specifically prescribed with certain instructions in the New Testament.
So when we think about worship we think about a lot of different things. We think about singing. We think about studying the word. We think about praying; all these biblical things. Many times we think about traditional things. We have a time where we welcome. Even the way we have done invitations where you raise your hand or walk forward. For the first 1800 years of church history it really wasn’t prevalent in the worship life of the church. What we are going to see today is that the breaking of bread, communion, the Lord’s Supper, was at the center of the early church’s worship life. I think it teaches us a lot about what worship involves. I believe we’ve got a lot to learn from the Lord’s Supper. I think because of its significance in the New Testament we need to revisit the Lord’s Supper because of the way we neglect its significance with our lack of practice many times in the church.
What I want us to do is look at three different passages this morning. Luke 22 which is Jesus having the Lord’s Supper with His disciples. Then we are going to breeze over to Acts 2 where we are going to remind ourselves that the breaking of bread was at the center of the early church. Then we are going to go and see Paul talk about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11. The Lord’s Supper, communion, the Eucharist, all of these things, all different terms to refer to this meal that we have together.
Eucharist literally means “giving thanks”. It is one of the words that is used here in Luke 22 as Jesus gave thanks and then he broke the bread. Look at Luke 22. We’ll start in verse 7. The Bible says,
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.’ ‘Where do you want us to prepare for it?’ they asked.
He replied, ‘As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.’ They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.’
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.’ They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this (Luke 22:7 –23).
So we see Jesus having this meal with His disciples right before He goes to the cross. Then you come to Acts 2 and the Bible says in verse 42, “They devoted themselves, among other things, to the breaking of bread.” Then we see evidence of that as you continue turning to the right in 1 Corinthians 11. Turn with me there to 1 Corinthians 11. I want you to look with me at verse 23 as Paul addresses how the New Testament church was participating in the Lord’s Supper. It says in 1 Corinthians 11:23,
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 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.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:23 –32)
We come from a variety of different religious backgrounds in this room this morning. Some of you have grown up in church. Some of you have not grown up in church. Some of you have come up in different types of religious backgrounds.
1 Corinthians 11 23–32 Discusses Worship And The Lord’s Supper…
Who Should Participate in the Lord’s Supper?
What I want us to do is take a look at the basics of the Lord’s Supper based on these passages of Scripture and a couple of other places in Scripture and just to ask some questions about the Lord’s Supper to help us get an understanding of what it is and then ultimately why it should be significant in our worship.
Believers Share in the Work of Christ as They Eat the Lord’s Supper.
The first question I want us to ask regarding worship and the Lord’s Supper is who should participate in the Lord’s Supper. The answer is, first of all, believers share in the work of Christ as they eat the Lord’s Supper.
By believers right there I’m talking about the church, the community of those who call themselves Christ-followers, those who have placed their faith in Christ for salvation, or believers. They share together in the work of Christ as they eat the Lord’s Supper.
Turn back one chapter there to 1 Corinthians 10. I want you to look with me at verse 14 as Paul talks about the Lord’s Supper there. Even before we get to chapter 11 he starts talking about it in relation to idolatry which we will get to in a second. He says in 1 Corinthians 10:14,
“Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:14 –16).
Those two words – “participation” – anybody know what they are in the original language of the New Testament? Koinonia. It literally means, a sharing together. It is the same word that is used to describe fellowship in Acts 2:42. Then he says in verse 17, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Cor: 10:17). You see the emphasis on the fact that this is something we share together as Christ followers; that as the church we participate together in the body of Christ.
Now this has been skewed throughout church history. There was a long time where the Lord’s Supper was limited only to clergy in the Catholic church, people who ministered, and everybody else would sit passively at a distance. They couldn’t participate in the Lord’s Supper. We don’t see anywhere in Scripture where the Lord’s Supper is limited to any particular class of believers. There are a lot of people who say today that the Lord’s Supper should be limited to baptized believers.
Here is why they say that; it makes sense in one way biblically; because if the Lord’s Supper, which we are going to see in just a second, is a reflection on our relationship with Christ, what Christ has done with us, and it is a renewal of our commitment to Him, to walk in obedience to Him. If we have not been baptized and that is a clear, direct command from Christ for us to do and we participate in the Lord’s Supper week after week or month after month or year after year but we are still being disobedient in this fundamental area then we have missed the point of the Lord’s Supper.
So there some foundation there but I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where any type of believer would be deprived from taking the Lord’s Supper. So believers share in the Lord’s Supper. As we eat it together, this is a participation we do.
Now if you are sitting in here today and you are not a believer, you have not placed your faith in Christ, you have not trusted in Christ for salvation and you would not call yourself a Christ-follower does that mean you need to leave the room? Absolutely not. There is a part you have in this whole thing and it is not in eating the Lord’s Supper.
Unbelievers See the Work of Christ as They Watch the Lord’s Supper.
Believers share in the work of Christ. Unbelievers see the work of Christ as they watch the Lord’s Supper. So if you are here today and you have never placed your place in Christ; maybe you are exploring Christianity; you have never taken that step to become a Christ follower; we want to invite you in just a little while when we pass the bread and pass the cup throughout this room just to pass that to the person next to you. What you are going to see and what we do in the Lord’s Supper is a picture of the love and the grace and the mercy of Christ. We want to invite you all across this room to observe God’s love, not just for us, but for you.
You say, “What do you mean—observe God’s love for me?” What you are going to see in the Lord’s Supper is a picture of a Savior who gave His life so that you could have life. He shed His blood and He died on a cross so that you could experience the abundance of God. You’re going to see that displayed in the Lord’s Supper. I am convinced in the early church that they were participating in this very often. I am convinced it is one of the ways people were drawn to faith in Christ. They would see these believers as they gathered together as a corporate body expressing their commitment to Christ and celebrating His grace in their lives. People were drawn to Christ through that.
Just like in baptism—we talked about how in baptism that people come to faith in Christ as they see the picture of the gospel as people go under the water and die in their sin then they are raised to life in Christ – that picture of the gospel. It is the same thing that is going to be displayed in the Lord’s Supper. It is a picture of the gospel.
So if you are not a Christ-follower this morning we want to invite you to see the work of Christ as you observe what the church does in the Lord’s Supper. And I have been praying that God would even draw many people today to faith in Christ for the first time as a result of what you see here.
So who should participate in the Lord’s Supper? Believers share in the supper by eating it. Unbelievers see the work of Christ by watching.
Where Should We have the Lord’s Supper?
The Only Biblical Requirement: Gathering of the Church.
Second question – where should we have the Lord’s Supper? The only biblical requirement is a gathering of the church. That is the only biblical requirement for where we should have the Lord’s Supper – a gathering of the church.
When you come to 1 Corinthians 11 in the section where Paul really talks about the Lord’s Supper, four times you see him talk about when believers come together. You can circle them in your Bible. Look at 1 Corinthians 11:18. Just to give you a picture of the context.
He says in 1 Corinthians 11:18, “In the first place, I hear that when you”—here’s the first time—“come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval” (1 Cor. 11:18 –19). Now listen to verse 20, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat” (1 Cor. 11:20). And he goes on and begins to talk with them about the Lord’s Supper and how they had treated the Lord’s Supper which we will get to in a minute.
Then you come to the end of the chapter to verse 33. The Bible says: “So then, my brothers, when you come together”—as a church—“to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you”—here it is a fourth time—“meet together it may not result in judgment” (1 Cor. 11:33 –34). So we take the Lord’s Supper wherever the church gathers together. That is really the only biblical requirement we see.
Now some people think that – well you can only take the Lord’s Supper in the church. By that they mean in the church building, but that gives the theology away from the very start. The church is not made up of a building. The church is made up of people. So whether it is a bed-ridden believer in a hospital; whether it is in this room; or whether it is in the middle of a jungle in the Sudan; wherever believers gather together they participate in the Lord’s Supper. So that is who and that is where.
When Should We have the Lord’s Supper?
The Command: Observe it Often.
Third question—when should we have the Lord’s Supper? Two things I want us to think about – a command and a question. The command is this. Observe it often. Jesus, when He had this meal with His disciples, He said “do this in remembrance of me”. That is a command from Christ. So if we don’t participate in the Lord’s Supper then we are being disobedient to Christ. This is important. Jesus said you need to do this in remembrance of me.
As a result, we see when we get to the book of Acts, they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. To be lifted up there with the apostles’ teaching, the word and the fellowship, to the community of each other and then to prayer; all of these things we know are really important. What about the Lord’s Supper? Observe it often. When you get to Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 he says, “Whenever you do this,” literally means “as often as you do this,” do it in remembrance of Christ.
The Question: What About weekly?
So it is implied throughout the New Testament that we are supposed to observe the Lord’s Supper often. But the Scriptures never tell us you have to do it this many times a year, or this many times a month, or this many times a week. We don’t see that kind of mandate. Here is the question I want us to ask though. We need to observe it often. The question is – what about weekly? Many religious traditions, Christian traditions, have the Lord’s Supper weekly. It is a very common thing.
In fact, hold your place here in 1 Corinthians and go to Acts 20. Obviously we have seen already just in the book of Acts and the fact that they devoted themselves to it that it was very important in their worship life. Look at Acts 20:7. It is talking about the believers in Troas that would gather together every week. Listen to what it says: “On the first day of the week we came together to” (Acts 20:7)—do what? To break bread. It seems to be that there was a pretty common trend for the believers to gather together on the first day of the week to worship Christ and to break bread together.
Even when you get to 1 Corinthians 11 and you see Paul talking about some of the abuses and misunderstandings of the Lord’s Supper, he alludes to the fact that believers would often gather together for meals in their homes. When they would gather together for those meals, that meal would be accompanied at some point by the Lord’s Supper. This was a regular thing for them.
So should we participate in the Lord’s Supper weekly? Like I mentioned, Scripture doesn’t say that you have to do it this certain amount of time. We have really got a lot of freedom to decide. A lot of people think, “Well you shouldn’t do it weekly because that will make it too routine and you will lose the meaning. It will lose its meaning if you do it weekly.”
Well, if we follow that logic than does that mean that we need to gather together for worship services only monthly or a few times a year in order not to let this whole thing become routine? Maybe we’ll just sing once a quarter, and we’ll study the Word once a quarter. That way it will be meaningful.
Well…maybe it won’t lose its meaning. Maybe it will enhance its meaning if we participate in if often like that. In fact, a lot of believers, even some folks I have talked to in the last couple of weeks that have been visiting the church, have asked why we never do the Lord’s Supper. They say, “We are used to participating in the Lord’s Supper. It is a very meaningful act for us.”
“So are you saying that we need to do it weekly?” Well let’s not get too crazy, ok? We’ll get there in a second. Before we answer that question I would like for us to really look at the significance of the Lord’s Supper. But let’s not discount it because it might be too regular or too routine. God help us not to let worship ever become routine. When should we have the Lord’s Supper. Observe it often. What about weekly? We’ll get to that in a second.
How Should We Understand the Lord’s Supper?
A Traditional Misunderstanding: A Change of Substance That Results in Salvation. How should we understand the Lord’s Supper. I want to take this from two different angles. First of all a traditional misunderstanding looks at the Lord’s Supper as a change of substance that results in salvation.
Many of you are familiar with this. Maybe you have grown up in a religious tradition where that was the case. It is most common in the Catholic church. There is a big $2 theological word, “transubstantiation”. The word literally means, “A change or transformation of substance.” What the Catholic church officially teaches and what transubstantiation means is that outward appearance of the bread and the wine stays the same but the inner substance changes to actually be the body of Christ and the blood of Christ. So when we come together for the Lord’s Supper we eat transubstantiated bread and we drink transubstantiated wine. It is a change of substance.
But I want you to see that not only does that affect the physical way we look at the Lord’s Supper, but it affects the spiritual way we look at the Lord’s Supper because if Christ’s body is really in that bread and if His blood is really in the wine or the juice in the cup, then this participation in the Lord’s Supper becomes very important. The Catholic church teaches that
in the Lord’s Supper the grace of God, the grace of Christ is infused into us. It is a part of the process by which we receive salvation.
I have spent the last 6 years in New Orleans and got to know a lot of folks. New Orleans is a predominantly Catholic city. I have talked with many different people from the Catholic tradition as well as priests. I remember one priest describing Catholic theology to me as a theology of covering bases. By that he meant you do infant baptism, then you go to confirmation, and you participate in the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper, week in and week out. As you do these things the grace of God is infused into you and you cover these different bases and it results in salvation. It is involving works in our salvation. And therefore, participating in the Eucharist every week is very important because is this is one of the means by which the grace of God is infused into you. I don’t believe that gospel, that message of salvation and that approach to the Lord’s Supper is biblical. It is a traditional misunderstanding.
A Biblical Understanding: A Symbolic Meal That Reflects Salvation.
A biblical understanding is not a change of substance that results in salvation. A biblical understanding is a symbolic meal that reflects salvation. When Jesus said in Luke 22 as well as in Mathew and Mark, the other places where we see the Lord’s Supper, when He says this is my body, He is saying this represents my body. It is a word in the original language of the New Testament that is used other times to talk about something that represents something.
But even just in that picture with Jesus saying this is my body – obviously His body was still right in front of them. This is my blood – that was obviously not His blood. His blood was still in His veins. It was not literally His body. This was a picture of His body. “This is my body – this represents my body. Do this in remembrance of me.” It is a symbolic meal. It doesn’t result in salvation.
What we do today when we take the Lord’s Supper in a few minutes is not in order to earn salvation or step along the path of obtaining salvation. This is a reflection and a celebration of the salvation that we have already been given by the grace of God in Christ. We don’t have to do certain things in order to be saved. We have been saved by His grace through faith. This is the thing we celebrate in the Lord’s Supper. That is important for how we understand this. Not as this change of substance that gives us salvation, but a meal that reflects our salvation.
Those are three basic questions. Who should participate? Where should we participate? When should we have the Lord’s Supper? Actually there are four questions – how should we understand it?
Why Should the Lord’s Supper be Significant in Our Worship?
Now here is the one I really want us to focus on. Fifth question—why should the Lord’s Supper be significant in our worship? I want to give you four different reasons why the Lord’s Supper should be significant in our worship. They are all going to start with “R” just to help us remember these things. This sermon is now brought to you by the letter are. Why should the Lord’s Supper be significant in our worship?
1 Corinthians 11 23–32 Helps Us Remember …
Number one, we remember. In Jesus’ account of the Lord’s Supper He says, “Do this in remembrance of me.” When we come to 1 Corinthians 11 it says two different times – “This is my body,” in verse 24, “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24). Then, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:25).
So obviously there is a very real sense in which the Lord’s Supper involves remembering. That is important. We are remembering the historical events of the life and the death and the resurrection of Christ. Many times we view the Lord’s Supper as kind of a mystical thing that we do. In a sense, it is. In a sense it is a bit mysterious – the spiritual presence of Christ with us in the Lord’s Supper. But when we need to remember that it is rooted in historical facts that we remember. This is not channeling. It is not imagining something. It is not dreaming. It is not just listening. It is not going into neutral. Instead we focus our minds, consciously and directly on the fact that Jesus died on a cross for our sins. We focus our minds on that. This word – remember – in the New Testament is deeper than just – “Remember to take the trash out, Dave.” That is just a don’t-forget-to-do-this. This is a conscious directing of your attention to the historical events of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection – what we know about Him from the Bible.
So what do we remember? Two things. We remember the body of Jesus, first of all. “This is my body given for you” (Luke 22:19). Notice that He broke the bread and said, “This is my body given for you.” He doesn’t say, “This is my body broken for you.” Remember Jesus’ body on the cross – was it broken? No. It had been prophesied years before that it would not be broken, not a bone would be broken. Christ gave His life deliberately. He gave it for you. We remember the body of Jesus.
We remember, second, the blood of Jesus. Now this is where it gets really rich. I wish we had more time today, maybe we will do this some time, to go back in the Old Testament to see the picture of covenants between God and His people. There were always at the center of those covenants was blood.
Noah in Genesis 8:20 – blood at the center of that covenant. Abraham – Genesis 15:10. Moses – Exodus 24:5 –8. What we see in Leviticus 17:11 is that that was important because the life of the flesh, Leviticus 17:11 says, is in the blood. It represents the relationship between us and God, that covenant relationship that we have with Him.
What we see as you look in the Old Testament is the Passover in Exodus 12 and following. Remember the historical events of the Passover – how the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and God was going to deliver them from their bondage and their slavery? How could they escape the judgment of God and be delivered from slavery? They had to take a lamb and to slaughter the lamb and sacrifice the lamb and take the blood of the lamb and put it over the doorposts of their homes. They would be delivered out from under the judgment of God into freedom from their slavery.
It just so happens in Luke 22 that when Jesus gathers together with His disciples, what are they eating? The what meal? The Passover meal. All of these Jewish folks had come together in Jerusalem to celebrate, to remember the time when God had delivered them from His wrath and His judgment and brought them into freedom by the blood over the doorpost. That is what they are remembering and Jesus just hours after this, walks to a
cross, and there He sheds His blood. As all these Jewish folks gather together in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover they see the picture of the Son of God and His blood being shed that would deliver us, deliver them from their bondage to sin and bring them into freedom from slavery to sin. Isn’t that good? What a coincidence that that would happen on that particular day.
Ladies and gentlemen, when we come together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper we do not remember blood over the doorpost. We remember the blood of the God made man who gave His life for us so that we could be delivered from God’s judgment and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. That is significant in worship. So we fix our minds on that. We remember the body of Christ and we remember the blood of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11 23–32 Calls Us to Reflect
Second, we reflect. It is more than just focusing our attention on something in the past. The word literally means we bring its implications to the present and how it affects us today. That is where we really focus on those beautiful words: “This is my body given”—what? For you. All of a sudden this supper, this thing we call communion, is not just something that they did back in the New Testament in the early church. This is something that applies to us today. When we take the break and we take the cup we say this symbolizes, this represents, the body of Christ, the blood of Christ shed for you. Let those two words sink in – the unbelievable grace and mercy of the God who became a man for you; the God who experienced agony for you; the God who was tortured and beaten and mocked and spit upon and scourged and put on a cross for you. Whether or not we accept the sacrifice of Christ in our lives is our choice, but you can’t get around the truth in Scripture that Jesus shed His body and His blood for every single one of you.
So we reflect, not just on the historical event, but how it affects us and the love and the grace and the mercy it provides us. What do we reflect on? Two main things. We reflect first of all on our sin. This is why Paul emphasizes self-examination so much. When you look to the crucifixion of Christ, the death of Christ, you immediately see that He died for not just the sins of people long ago, but He died for my sin. We reflect on our sin and that is why Paul says you have got to make sure you don’t treat the Lord’s Supper lightly. He said in verse 27, “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:27 –28).
This is a serious reflection on our sin and our need for God, our need for Him to forgive us. It is a deep reflection of our sin. That is why whenever we take the Lord’s Supper, no matter how often it is, we can never treat it casually or lightly. We don’t come in a callous, cavalier manner to the Lord’s Supper. It is not a flippant thing we do. It is something very serious because we think about our sin in our lives. In fact, Paul says some of you have treated it in an unworthy manner and he says in verse 30, “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 11:30).
That doesn’t mean that they fell asleep in the Lord’s Supper, that they were too tired. It means they died. This was a serious thing. In the original language of the New Testament this means take the Lord’s Supper seriously as we reflect on our sin and our need for God.
Now in the early church, we have evidence that often times they would have prayers and then a reading of the Scripture, an explanation of the Scripture and then the Lord’s Supper. It makes sense that they would have the Lord’s Supper after their time in the Word, as they see the Word it convicts them of their sin and they see their need for the Word and immediately respond and they say, “We reflect on the fact that we don’t measure up.” Doesn’t that happen when we study the Word together in worship? “Lord, I have fallen short.” It is at that point that we look at the body and the blood of Christ and reflect on the fact that He died to forgive us.
So we reflect on our sin but we don’t stop there. We also reflect on His promises. All of the promises from God’s Word begin to take root in our heart and what you have to see and the way this whole thing is set up is that the Holy Spirit nourishes us spiritually through the Lord’s Supper. This is not a physical meal that we come together for. That is not the primary purpose. We haven’t gotten together a group of people this morning who are really hungry so we are going to give them a little piece of bread, and you are really thirsty so you get this big gulp called a little cup. It is not primarily a physical meal. This is primarily a spiritual meal by which the Holy Spirit nourishes our hearts with promises of God. As we remember our sin, we reflect on that, we feast on two things.
We feast on His forgiveness. We realize as we reflect on our sins if we confess our sins He is faithful and just and He will forgive us our sins and He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness and we realize as we take the bread and take the cup that our sin has been wiped clean by the blood of Christ. We feast on His forgiveness.
Then we feast on His faithfulness. We are talking about how we see in the Word our need for Christ. So many times we walk away from the Word and we start to think, well, I can’t do that. We spent some heavy time last week looking at the community of faith. How many of us walked away last week thinking how do I do that? How can I really live that out in my life? It is in the Lord’s Supper where the Spirit nourishes us through the presence of Christ and says, “It is not about how you can do it is about what I will do in you and through you.
I live in you,” and we are feasting on Him. This is a table where we feast on His forgiveness and we feast on His faithfulness so drink up and eat up and enjoy the supper because as we reflect on our sin we see His promises come to our heart. We see this picture of the death of Christ, not just being important 2000 years ago, but being important for us today in this room.
We remember. We reflect. Number three, we renew. I think we are seeing in this passage, particularly in 1 Corinthian 11, three ways we renew ourselves. Number one, we renew our commitment to Christ. If you look in 1 Corinthians 10 over and over again you see Paul talking about idolatry. In verse 7 and verse 14 and verse 18 and 19, listen to what He says,
“Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy” (1 Cor. 11:18 –22)?
You see what Paul is saying is, “You come to this table and you eat the bread and drink the cup. If you walk away and you sit down at the feast of idols and you give yourselves to disobedience then you have just trampled on the Lord’s Supper.” This is a renewal of our commitment to Christ because we see our need for Him and our need for His forgiveness.
We feast on His promises and then we walk away with a renewed zeal to honor Him. We profane the Lord’s Supper if we eat this bread and drink this drink this morning, and then walk away and give ourselves to the things of this world. We have missed the whole point. That is exactly what they were doing in 1 Corinthians 10 and I am convinced it is exactly what millions of believers do today. We see the Lord’s Supper as a grace dispenser that we have and as long as we eat it and we drink it we are ok. That is not the picture. This propels us into obedience to Christ.
We renew our commitment to Christ. Number two, we renew our commitment to each other. What happened, the whole background of 1 Corinthians 10 and 11 is all the believers when they come together for meals it would be like a pot-luck thing. The only problem was that they would bring their food and they would sit over in a corner and eat it together and ignore the poor people who were there. They wouldn’t share their food with them. They missed out on the whole point of the fact that this is when the body comes together in worship. The unity of worship is really pictured here in the Lord’s Supper. He said, “If you are going to take of my body you better care for my body of the church.”
This is one of the ways that I am convinced our worship stays real and stays unified because when we come together to take the Lord’s Supper there are no different social classes. There are no different races. There are no different ages. We all come together before Christ as one. That is why we say we take one loaf. That is why many times people participate in the common cup. Some of you are scared by even the thought of that kind of unity across 2000 people today – that we are going to share a common cup. I tell you what – you go over seas and you spend time in Sudan, in the jungle of Sudan, with persecuted believers, or you sit around with house churches in China and there is a common cup that is being shared around the room. You know there are all kind of diseases that you need to pray through and you know that there are all kinds of germs but there is a sense of unity that is very real between brothers and sisters when you share that kind of commonality.
We are not supposed to participate in the Lord’s Supper if there is division between us and another brother or another sister. We need to see the unity that is expressed here as we commit ourselves to each other. We renew our commitment to each other.
Third, we renew our commitment to His mission. Did you hear what Paul said? He said, “As often as you eat this meal you proclaim the Lord’s death.” So we are not just eating the bread and drinking the cup, we are proclaiming the death of Christ. We are saying this is real in our lives. He has changed us. He has transformed us. We are proclaiming our identification with Him. We are proclaiming the fact that what Christ has done in us, we are called to proclaim outside of this room.
The Lord’s Supper as an act of worship propels us into proclaiming the Lord’s death not just in here, but in the marketplace, in the neighborhood, in the places we work and the places we live to proclaim Him. We recommit ourselves, renew ourselves to His mission.
Many times when it comes to camps or conferences we go to or maybe even decisions we make in the church, people talk about, “Well I rededicated my life.” What I want us to see is that every time we take the Lord’s supper it is a rededication of our lives. It is renewal of our commitment to Christ, to each other and to His mission.
We remember. We reflect. We renew and finally, we rejoice. “Dave, did you say rejoice? What do you mean rejoice? I thought the Lord’s Supper was a very somber thing marked by almost a gloomy tone.” Undoubtedly the self-examination needs to be there, but many times we take the Lord’s Supper and we walk out and we are just kind of looking down, almost like we are sad, like somebody died. Well, somebody did die. Christ died for us.
Don’t forget – it is in the death of Christ that we live. It is not just that He died on a cross, it is that His body was resurrected from the grave and as a result we have got a lot of reason to rejoice in the Lord’s Supper. This is why the early church would not gather together on Friday every week to worship to remember Good Friday. They gathered together on resurrection day to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The Lord’s Supper is a picture of rejoicing. We rejoice, I think, in two ways.
Number one, we rejoice because He has set us free. When we drink this cup and eat this bread we remember sin no longer has dominion over us. We are free from the bondage of sin and we are brought into freedom and are walking with Christ and the power of His spirit. We have got a lot of reason to celebrate because He has set us free.
But did you catch those last three words? “You proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). We rejoice not only because He has set us free, but number two, because He is coming back. He said to His disciples in Luke, we saw it in Luke, let me show it to you. I think it is even clearer in Mathew – Mathew 26:29. He is telling these guys as they are eating the Lord’s Supper: “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29).
So we take this bread and we look forward to the coming of Christ. Let me read to you from Revelation 19:6,
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready—we are the bride by the way—Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”’ (Rev. 19:6 –9).
Here is the deal. I want you to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and we are going to remember His death and we are going to reflect on our sin and His promises and we are going to renew our commitment to Christ and to each other and to His mission. But then we are going to rejoice because we are going to have a spiritual feast this morning around this room but one day it won’t be a spiritual feast. It will be a physical feast. We will be with the physical presence of Christ one day for all of eternity and there we are going to have a supper. Why would we not want the Lord’s Supper to be significant in our worship?
The Bottom Line …
The bottom line is this – the Lord’s Supper is a climatic element in our worship. They devoted themselves to it and a central expression of our obedience to the Word.