Biblical Ordinances are practices that set us apart as a family of faith. Why are these crucial for the body of Christ and how can we implement them? In this message on Colossians 2, Nate Reed walks through Biblical Ordinances as one of the 12 traits of a Biblical Church. Highlighted within this message are the key Biblical Ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Pastor Mike Kelsey guides Christians through these practices as reminders of what Christ has done for us and what He has called us to do.
- What are Biblical Ordinances?
- The Lord’s Supper
Why You Need Biblical Ordinances
Well, good morning, church family. If you’ve got a Bible, go ahead and turn with me to Colossians 2. If you want to use the Bible that’s near next to or under your seat, that’s going to be page 1,169. And as you’re turning there, I want to say I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving this past week. If you are in town visiting for the holiday weekend, we want to say welcome. We’re so glad to have you joining us here this morning. My name’s Nate Reed, and I serve as a location pastor here at Tysons.
I can say that the countdown to Christmas has officially begun. Got 28 days to go. If you’re excited for Christmas, let me hear you say, oh, yeah.
Yeah. And hopefully as you came in today, you saw the lobby is decorated. We’ve got our advent guides out there, which I’d encourage you to pick up before you go since Advent starts later this week, some of those daily readings. I love the Christmas season, and it is one of the easiest times to engage with others about the gospel.
That’s why later this week, you’ve heard us talking about this over the last many weeks, we’re going to gather together as a Tysons Church family on Saturday morning from 9:30 to 11:30 to have a location-wide Christmas party. But the main aim of that time isn’t just to celebrate Christmas together, we’re going to spend time packing boxes of cookies that have a personalized invite on top of them that you’ll be able to take with you if you come to that party to share with your neighbors or coworkers as a means to build a relationship with them, hopefully then to even share the gospel with them at some point.
We’ll have lots of activities for people of all ages. For children, we got bounce houses, we got crafts, you name it, a lot of good time. We’re going to have a great time together. But if you want to come to that, you need to register for that, and today is the last day to do it. So if you want to register for that, the link is in our e-news or you can head over to mcleanbible.org/events. Click on the Christmas party and cookie packing link. We would love to have you join us for that. And use us as an opportunity to invite others to join us as we enter into the Christmas season, whether that be inviting them to one of our Christmas Eve services. We’ll be having services on Christmas Eve at 03:00, 05:00 and 07:00 PM that day, or inviting them to join us on any Sunday throughout the month of December.
Next Sunday, we’re going to be starting a new series in Philippians 2 that talks about our glorious king Jesus. It’s going to be an incredible series that we want to encourage you to invite others to join you with through the month of December. So let’s leverage this season for the sake of the spread of the gospel as we head into the Christmas season.
Speaking of Christmas, how many of you have Christmas traditions that you practice as a family every year or so? Let me see a show of hands. Christmas jammies, anyone? Yeah, you’re kind of rushing to get those jammies for everyone. Well, growing up in my family, we had a few traditions that we did every year without fail, and we absolutely loved them. It was part of what it meant to be a Reed, it was following these Christmas traditions. I remember when I got married, I was so excited for my wife to get to experience some of these traditions and I figured that she would love them and want to join in them with our family as we started to grow our family.
When you think about traditions, we’re a pretty sentimental family, so we would try to do things to extend the holiday season in different ways. Like for example, on Christmas morning, before we could ever get into our gifts, my mom and dad would always have a long list of chores that we would have to complete before we could actually start opening gifts. We think that’s terrible. They just wanted to build the anticipation before we opened the gifts, I suppose.
And there was one tradition in particular that maybe is pretty unique to our family, but like I said, we’re pretty sentimental. And so when it came time to open our gifts, we really like to take our time in walking through that. So when it was time to open gifts, one person would go to the tree and choose a gift for someone else and they’d walk it over to that person, and that person would take some time trying to guess what was in that gift. And after a while then they would open the gift.
Now, I had a really large family, and so my parents really wanted us to be economical. So rather than just tearing open that gift, we would use a pair of scissors or a knife and slowly cut the pieces of tape, carefully open the paper, because our parents wanted us to save that paper to use on birthdays or other holidays and wanted to be economical.
So we slowly opened the box, and whenever the present was open, we’d take time and celebrate it. The person would get some time to play with that gift. My dad would always take some time to take pictures of every single gift. We would do that for a while until it was time for the next gift to be opened. And so you can imagine, it would take us quite a while to get through Christmas morning, not because there was a lot of gifts, but just because we would take our time.
In fact, my wife reminded me, the first time that she experienced this, that we actually had to take a lunch break in opening our presents because we had to take some time, get re-fed and then dive back into the gifts. I was so excited for Rachel to experience those because I knew that back in our family these are things that she would want us to pursue. And then I remember we got on the plane because my family’s out West.
We sat down on the plane, and I leaned over to her and said, “Hey honey, what did you think about all of our Christmas traditions?” And she graciously and firmly said to me, “Our children will not be opening their presents that way.”
So needless to say, we’ve established new traditions in our home that I equally love and look forward to, but growing up we just love those traditions. It was part of what it meant to be a Reed. It was part of what set us apart as a family.
Why You Need Biblical Ordinances
The idea of family distinctiveness is what I want us to consider today as we look at the final trait in our series, Why You Need a Biblical Church. And that final trait is biblical ordinances, biblical ordinances. The word ordinance, it sounds like a fancy term, but it simply means prescribed practice. It represents two specific activities that Jesus instructs his followers to practice in order to show that they belong to his family. And those practices are baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
And as we’re about to see, both of these practices are saturated with gospel imagery. There are practices that set us apart as members of His family. And now my aim this morning is not going to be to provide you with an exhaustive explanation of these ordinances, that would take a long time for us to get through both of them. We’re just going to do a quick review of what they represent. But more importantly, I want to show you why we need these practices in the local church. I’m going to have a couple of invitations for you along the way as we explore that.
Why You Need Baptism
We’re going to start with baptism, but before we dig in this morning, I want to give you a moment on your own to ask the Lord to show you what faithfulness might look like in your life for both of these areas as we open His Word. If you’ve already been baptized or you’ve been around the church for a while, you might be tempted to think that you’ve already got these topics figured out. But if these are commands given by Jesus to His church for all of our good, then there’s still much more for us to glean from these practices even if we’ve been walking with Jesus for a long time. Let me give you a moment between you and the Lord to ask Him to speak to you personally. Then I’ll pray, and then we’ll dive into our text for today. Go ahead and take a moment.
Lord Jesus, we thank You for Your Word, and I thank You for what we read in our Bible reading even this morning in Luke 11. That’s where You said, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” Help us to be obedient when it comes to these two practices that You have prescribed for your church. We love You, and I’m going to pray this in Jesus’ name. And all God’s children said together amen. Amen.
All right, well, let’s start with baptism, looking at Colossians 2, and we’re going to start reading in verse 11. And just for some context on this passage, the apostle Paul is writing to a church in order to remind them of who Jesus is and the glorious work that He has accomplished on their behalf. He’s going to show them how baptism serves as a picture of that wonderful reality. So Colossians 2, we’re going to read verses 11 through 14. Starting in verse 11 it says this, “In Him also,” referring to Jesus, “you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ.” Now, let me pause here briefly just so we don’t get too caught up in Paul’s wording here. When he talks about circumcision as a removal of the body of flesh, he’s using an illustration to show what happens when someone trusts in Jesus. He’s saying that they become a new creation. God removes or puts off their old nature and their propensity towards sin and makes them new.
So if you’re wondering how that’s even possible, well, listen to how he continues in verse 12, he says this, “… having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God who raised Him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
These are such rich verses, and I wish we had time to pull apart every single phrase, but let me just highlight a few things that we see here. First, you can’t help but notice how Paul makes it incredibly clear that salvation is accomplished completely by God, completely by God. It’s not something that we can accomplish through our actions or our own works. This verse makes it clear that God is the one who acts. Look at verse 12, it says, “You were raised,” how, “in the powerful working of God.”
Verse 13, “God made you alive.” Verse 14, “He set your debt aside.” He’s the one acting. When someone trusts in Christ, they are filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and the Bible often describes this as being baptized with the Holy Spirit, like being immersed with the Spirit of God to secure our salvation and to empower us to live a new life. Which is so important to keep in mind when it comes to baptism, the ordinance of water baptism, because baptism does not bring about salvation for someone. It doesn’t fill a person with the Holy Spirit, doesn’t cleanse anyone from their sin. All of this is accomplished by God when we respond to His saving work, as Paul in verse 12, through faith, trusting in what Jesus has done on our behalf.
Believers, baptism serves them as a symbol of a spiritual reality that has already taken place. Which is why I said earlier that baptism is a picture. It’s an outward expression of an inward reality that has taken place in the life of someone who has placed their faith in Jesus. Let me say that one more time. An outward expression of an inward reality that has taken place in the life of someone who has placed their trust in Jesus.
What Does Baptism Symbolize?
So let’s unpack that a little bit. When someone is baptized, what then does their baptism symbolize? It symbolizes a few things. It symbolizes deliverance from the judgment of God. We read in our passage that at one point every single one of us had a record of debt that stood between us and God. This is because we’ve rebelled against God’s rightful place of authority in our lives by choosing our own ways instead of His. And if that debt is left unaddressed, verse 13 says that we are dead in our trespasses, separated from God, unable and helpless to escape His wrath.
But God in His great love for us did everything necessary to free us from this helpless states, the good news of the gospel. Verse 14, how did He do that? It says, “He has canceled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands, by nailing it to the cross.” So Jesus being fully man and fully God went to the cross, died the death that we all deserved in order to wash away, wash us clean of the debt that we could not pay. I love how Paul describes this in another letter. After listing many ways that we show this rebellion in our lives, he says this, 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified,” which means you were declared righteous, “in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
So when someone is baptized, it’s a picture that a person has been washed clean of their sin and been delivered from God’s judgment. Not because what they have done, but because of what Jesus has done. So it symbolizes deliverance from judgment. It also symbolizes identification with Christ’s death and resurrection. In order to receive Christ’s forgiveness, one must believe that Jesus actually died on the cross, was buried in a tomb, and rose from the dead and victory over sin and death. When someone is baptized, they’re making a public statement that they are resting their entire lives on what Jesus has done. This is why baptism is meant to be done publicly. It’s a declaration to the entire church and even the entire world that Christ is your life.
And as the person is lowered into the water, they’re acknowledging that just as Jesus died and was buried, they too have died to their old self. But we don’t keep them under the water, we raise them up quickly because Jesus didn’t stay dead. As they rise up out of the water, they’re proclaiming that just as Jesus rose from the grave, they too have been raised to a new life. They’ve been born again into a relationship with Jesus that can never be taken away for all of eternity. This is why when baptizing individuals we will say, “Buried in the likeness of His death, rise to walk in newness of life.” They’re making a public declaration that Jesus did this and I’m with Him, I’m identifying with Him.
This is also the reason why we don’t baptize infants in our church. This topic deserves much more attention than we have time for today. But if baptism is meant to be a symbol of one’s personal profession of faith in identification with Jesus, then they need to be capable of making that profession, which a baby isn’t able to do yet. We pray for that.
So it symbolizes their identification with Christ. It also symbolizes a willingness to follow Jesus, a willingness to follow Jesus. Yes, by following His example of being baptized because Jesus also was baptized at the beginning of His ministry. We read about that a week and half ago in Luke 3 in our Bible reading plan. But it also shows a willingness to obey all of His commands, the first of which just to be baptized. We recited Christ’s final command to believers at the end of our services every week. Arlin just prayed about this just a moment ago. In the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19, Jesus says this, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” And when we share the gospel and someone comes to faith, what does He say to do? Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and then teach them to observe all of His commands.
Baptism Symbolizes Willingness to Follow Christ
Baptism shows a person’s willingness to follow all that Christ has commanded us to do. It’s the first command. Now, we don’t often feel the weight of this picture because of the mildly Christianized culture that we live in today. If you grew up in the United States, most people will recognize getting baptized is a significant event, even those outside of the church. If you got baptized recently and you go to work the next day and someone says, “Hey, what did you do this week?” And you’re like, “Oh, I got baptized,” they’re going to go, “Oh, good for you.” People will recognize that as a good thing. But in other parts of the world, particularly in Jewish or Muslim context, making this public profession will likely result in you being excluded from your family or even the community. It may even bring the threat of death.
When we come to Jesus, we realize though that following Him is ultimately and completely worth it though, even in the face of exclusion. Which leads us to one final picture that baptism symbolizes, it symbolizes union with the church, union with the family of faith. It’s the initial sign of entrance into God’s family. When someone is baptized, they’re not only identifying with Jesus but they’re identifying with his people as well, the local church, which is especially encouraging if your decision to follow Jesus has ended up in you being alienated or separated from your physical family or community. Because Jesus adopts you into a new family of brothers and sisters in the Lord that will last for forever. It brings us into a new family.
The Bible tells us that this was the pattern followed by the early church. When people came to faith, they are baptized into the local church. You see this even at the beginning of the Book of Acts. So after Christ’s dissension, Peter preaches his first sermon, and this time he’s determined, “I’m not going to mess it up this time, Lord, I’m going to do everything you told me to do.” And we see he preaches, people respond to the message and they ask, “What shall we do?” He remembers Christ’s final command and he says this, Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ.” And they do. And when they do that, it goes on to say in verse 41, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about 3,000 souls.”
Now, what were they added to? The church in Jerusalem. They were added to the church. So baptism sets us apart as part of the family of faith. Now, there’s much more to baptism that we don’t have time to cover during our time in the service today, which is why we’ve actually scheduled a baptism class for next Sunday at 11 o’clock where we’ll actually dig into more about how we approach baptism at NBC. You can sign up for that in the e-news, which if you don’t receive our locations e-news, I’ll throw that address up on the screen, mcleanbible.org/enews. If you don’t get this, you are out of the loop, you’re missing out. But a link to that class to sign up for that’s that’s there, or you can just show up next Sunday.
Baptism Is For The Entire Church
But more than explaining more about baptism, I want to show you why God has designed this practice not just for the person that’s being baptized but for the entire church. If you think about our Colossians passages, it was not written to an individual, it was written to a church, group of people. So why do we as a church need this practice? Let me give you three quick reasons. Number one, to reflect on the gospel. We need baptism to reflect on the gospel. It is a clear picture of Christ’s death and resurrection, that He was buried and He was raised. When we see others being baptized, it gives the rest of us an opportunity to reflect on what Jesus has also accomplished on our behalf if we have trusted in Him.
And as we’re going to see shortly when it comes to the Lord’s Supper, it is a reminder that we need often, we need it often. It also helps us, number two, to remember the Great Commission. It helps us to remember the Great Commission. While salvation is completely from God, belief comes from hearing the gospel proclaimed. Baptism reminds us that we live in a world that desperately needs to hear that they can be saved from the coming wrath of God. And as we see others coming to faith and being baptized, it should deepen our concern for the loss in the world and motivate us to share the gospel with them and call them to be baptized as well. So it helps us remember the Great Commission.
Baptism Helps Us Rejoice In Salvation
And finally, number three, it helps us to rejoice at the salvation of sinners. I’ve got an exclamation point on that point on purpose. Baptism is a tangible way that we get to see the Lord at work in the world as we hear about how someone’s life has been changed by the gospel. That’s why we erupt in celebration when someone shares their testimonies and is being baptized. We’re hearing about and seeing the results of a miracle of God right before our eyes, which leads us to worship and glorify Him all the more for what He has done.
For these reasons, we need a church that practices, believers, baptism, which is where I want to pause and offer two invitations here. First, if you’ve never trusted in Jesus before, we invite you to today to receive His forgiveness. No matter who you are or what you have done, God loves you and has done everything necessary to welcome you into His family. We’d love to walk with you in responding to His good news. I invite you to stop by the welcome center before you leave today or tell the person that you came with that you want to trust in Jesus. We’d love to give you a Bible and help you take next steps to be baptized as your first act of obedience to the Lord. Jesus invites you to receive Him today.
Or if you’ve trusted in Jesus but you’ve never been baptized after making your profession of faith, then I want to exhort you to follow Christ’s command and be baptized, to be baptized. I want you to think about this, if you’re not willing to follow Him in this command, then how will you follow Him in His other commands?
In fact, if you’re not willing to take this initial step, then I would ask you to consider, are you truly following Jesus? Don’t allow excuses to hinder you from being obedient to Christ and pursuing this practice. And so, if you’re either in the first place of wanting to trust in Jesus or if you’ve already trusted Him and you’ve never been baptized, I want to invite you to do something with me right now. Go ahead and take out your phone, and I would like you to text the word baptism to the number 571-581-6297. It’s up on the screen.
When you do that, you’re going to receive a link to begin filling out our baptism application. Now this by texting in doesn’t commit you to being baptized, it merely starts the process. And once you fill out that application, a member of our staff team will reach out and connect with you to help walk you through the process. It’s a form that’ll take a little while for you to complete, so I don’t expect you to do that during the service, but I want to encourage you to do that soon. Follow Christ in obedience to this first practice. And if you’re a junior high or high school student joining us here this morning, you can use that same form and a member of our rock team will actually reach out to you and walk with you through the process. If you’re in elementary school, I would encourage you to talk to your parents or share your desire to get baptized with our Kids Quest or Access Team members as we have processes in places with both of those ministries to help come alongside you and walk with you in that.
Baptism Symbolizes a Commitment
But baptism is needed for everyone in the church to show our commitment to Christ and to reflect His great mercy to those around us. So when it comes to baptism, how might the Lord be leading you to respond? I invite you to consider that today as the first prescribed practice that Christ gives His church. With that, let’s turn our attention now to the second prescribed practice that God has given to the church, the Lord’s Supper. And to do that, I actually want to ask you to turn with me to 1 Corinthians 11. Couple pages to the left. If you’re using the seat Bibles, that’s page 1,139.
And as we think about the Lord’s Supper… Well, actually let me go back and say this. If baptism is the initial sign of identification with Christ and His church, if baptism is the initial sign, then the Lord’s Supper is the ongoing sign. Specifically, it’s a public celebration of our continual identification with Christ and His church. Which as a side note, if you regularly take the Lord’s Supper with us but you’ve not been baptized, you’ve mixed up the order. You’re taking the ongoing sign but you haven’t pursued the initial sign. You need to pursue that initial sign and be baptized.
Why Do We Need the Lord’s Supper?
Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with His disciples while they were celebrating the Passover meal just before He would head to the cross. And here in 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses the Corinthian church because they were abusing this practice. Now, we’ve preached through this passage before. We did that about a year and a half ago when we walked through 1 Corinthians, so I’m not going to pull this apart in the deep dive today, but let me give you just a little context before we read it. After Christ’s ascension, the church begins to grow, we read about that in Acts 2, and they regularly practice the Lord’s Supper just as Jesus commanded them. They would actually normally include it as part of a larger fellowship meal that the church would host regularly. Think about that as maybe the original church potluck or so. Big meal, they’d come together, they’d celebrate the Lord’s Supper together.
But in Corinth, this practice was turning into a mess. Food wasn’t being shared with others, people were being left out, others were coming drunk. Paul rebukes them for this openly. And after admonishing them, he reminds them of Jesus’ original instructions for this practice, and that’s what we see in 1 Corinthians 11, starting in verse 23. You can go ahead and read along this with me. Paul says this, he says, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when 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 he also took the cup after supper saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.’
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Whoever therefore eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and the blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself then. And so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”
Oh, in these words we see a clear picture of what the Lord’s Supper is meant to represent. And again, the word represent is important because just like with baptism, the Lord’s Supper is meant to be a symbol, a picture. Our participation in the Lord’s Supper does not earn us any additional merit or grace from God. When we trust in Jesus, we are credited with all the grace we’ll ever need to make our salvation secure. So then what does it represent? Well, Jesus clearly tells us in this passage. First, the bread represents the body of Christ. Holding the piece of bread, Jesus says, “This is my body, which is for you.” Now, the disciples didn’t understand this at the time, but as Jesus breaks that bread with His hands, He’s saying, “My body is going to be broken and crushed just like this piece of bread.”
And His purpose in doing so is just absolutely flooring. He says, “I’m doing this for you.” In your place, as your substitute. Jesus says, “I’m going to bear the wrath that you deserve so that you don’t have to.” And this bread is a picture of that. So we’re reminded of this picture whenever we take that piece of bread as well. When we eat it and crush it in our teeth, we remember that Jesus was crushed for us. The bread represents Christ’s physical body. And then the drink represents the blood of Christ, which would usher in a new and better covenant for the people of God. Jesus lifts up a cup and He says, “This cup or this drink is the new covenant in my blood.” In other word, covenant simply means agreement. And in the Old Testament, the covenant between God and His people required perfect obedience to the mosaic law, but it was impossible for people to keep. It was intentionally insufficient.
God had promised that one day He would establish a new covenant for His people. This new covenant wouldn’t be based on man’s obedience, but on God’s provision. We don’t have time to read it today, but we see the clearest promise of that new covenant in Jeremiah 31. And Jesus comes on the scene and He ushers in this new covenant through the shedding of His blood, which is exactly what the Passover celebration, what Jesus and His disciples were participating in that upper room, was pointing ahead to. That’s exactly what He’s pointing ahead to: a perfect lamb whose blood would be shed for the people of God.
The Lord’s Supper Symbolizes the New Covenant Family
So in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus provides His disciples and His church with an ongoing sign to show who is now part of His new covenant family. The cup symbolizes this new covenant established by His blood. And so you say, “Okay, Nate, okay, okay, I see the symbolism, but why is this practice even necessary for us? Why do we do this? You don’t even give us that much to eat when we take the Lord’s Supper, it’s just a small little piece of bread and a small little cup. Why do we do that?” The answer shows just how much God knows our minds and our tendencies.
He gave us these symbols because we are a forgetful people. We’re forgetful people. We’re prone to wander, as the great hymn says. This is why after explaining the bread and the cup, in both of those verses, Jesus says to do this how? “In remembrance of me. Do this in remembrance of me.” Why? Because He knows that in the weakness and nearsightedness of our flesh we can easily lose sight of what God has accomplished in and for us. It’s as if He’s saying to His disciples, “I know the difficulties that you’re soon going to experience, and you’re going to need a reminder of what I have done for you. You’re going to need a reminder.”
The same goes for every single one of us today. Jesus gives us the Lord’s Supper as a way of saying, “Don’t forget. Don’t forget. Refocus your attention on me,” Jesus says. “Don’t let your circumstances, your worries, your insufficiencies, your doubts cause you to lose sight of what I have done for you.” In these verses will see three ways that Jesus invites us to refocus our attention as we walk through this life. So let me give you those three ways and then we’ll be done with our time in the Word.
The Lord’s Supper Invites Us to Remember Christ’s Work on the Cross
First, Jesus invites us to look back. He invites us to look back, to remember Christ’s completed work on the cross. When Paul writes this to the Corinthian church, he’s telling them something that they already knew. He’s telling them to remember it. In fact, he’ll reiterated a few chapters later. 1 Corinthians 15 3–4, one of the clearest explanations of the gospel in the Bible, he says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried and He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” And when we look back and remember what Christ has done, it prompts us then to respond with gratitude and thanksgiving. Fitting for us to reflect on that, the weekend of Thanksgiving holiday.
When we remember that Christ has paid the price for all of our sin, no matter what we’ve done in our past, all we can do is humbly come to Jesus and say, “Thank You, Jesus, for paying the price for my sin. Thank you, Lord.” We need that. When we’re feeling condemned of our past sin or even our present sin, we need to remember that Jesus paid it all for us and that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Similarly, it should also lead us to confession and repentance. If there is any confessed sin in our lives. When we look back and remember the cross, it produces repentance and thanksgiving in our lives. So we need to look back. But Jesus also invites us not just to look back but to look forward. He invites us to look forward.
It’s so easy when we’re in difficult circumstances or facing the brokenness of this world just to feel overwhelmed and forget what Christ has done. In fact, some of you are facing uncertainty right now. You’re facing uncertainty in your job, your health, walking through struggles and friendships or in your marriages ,struggling with mental health. Many of you are sad at seeing yet another shooting in our state this week. But look at what Jesus says in verse 26, He says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Until He comes.
The Lord’s Supper Invites Us to Look Forward to Christ’s Return
When we practice the Lord’s Supper, it reminds us to fix our eyes on the day when Jesus will return. Things may be difficult in this life, but take heart, Christian, Jesus is coming back one day. It’s not how this is going to stay. And if you’ve placed your trust in Him, He’s coming back for you, He’s coming back for you. And when He comes, eternal joy, healing, rest satisfaction will be yours because you belong to Him. It’ll be yours. He will be yours, and He will make all things right again. When we take the Lord’s Supper, it calls us to refocus our sight on that day. It says, “Fix your eyes on that day.”
So we look back, we look forward, and then lastly, Jesus encourages us to look around, encourages us to look around. Let me show you what I mean by that. Like baptism, the Lord’s Supper is a public celebration. It’s meant to be done with the gathered church. And Jesus encourages us when we take these elements to look around and be reminded that we are all part of His family, we’re surrounded by brothers and sisters in the Lord.
In fact, I might actually encourage you from time to time to look around the room as you’re taking the elements to be reminded of this picture. It’s one of my favorite things to observe when we’re taking the Lord’s Supper together, seeing us as one collective family of faith take the bread and drink the cup together. Why might Jesus encourage us to refocus our attention on those around us? What is that for?
Well, the text shows us that Jesus knew there would be times when His children wouldn’t get along, they wouldn’t get along, that they would forget what had made them family in the first place and that they would need a regular reminder to draw them back together in order to be restored. The Bible shows us that this would absolutely be necessary. It’s a pattern we see all through Scripture and even in our lives. Paul clearly observed this problem in the Corinthian church, that’s why he wrote to them about this. Jesus certainly saw this dynamic at play in the upper room. Some of the disciples were still arguing about who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom and another had just left to hand Jesus over to the Roman soldiers. There was drama at His table.
Some of you’re like, “Well, that sounds like my Thanksgiving experience this past week,” which shows that this still happens today. Our sin distracts us from the reality that we now enjoy, and it impacts our spiritual family in difficult and harmful ways. Our passage shows us how the Lord’s Supper can refocus our attention when there’s tension in the family of faith. Look at this with me, 1 Corinthians 11:27, again, it says, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks of the cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and the blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
Now when we hear that phrase, “examine himself,” it’s tempting to think that Paul is telling us to examine ourselves for unconfessed sin in our lives. But that’s not what Paul is telling them to examine. He’s telling them to look at something else. Look at verse 29. He says, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” And when he says body he’s using the same imagery, but he’s not talking about the bread now, he’s talking about the Body of Christ.
Discerning the body. He’s telling them to examine their relationships with others in the church. So taking the Lord’s Supper is not ultimately about personal holiness or cleaning yourself up. Why? Well, because we can’t make ourselves acceptable to participate in the first place. None of us are worthy to receive God’s mercy. None of us deserve it. We all deserve His judgment and wrath, which puts us all in the same plane, all in the same playing field.
Paul says, “Don’t forget this reality when you go to the table with your brothers and your sisters.” And then he tells them that God takes this so seriously that in verse 30, “This is why many of you are weak and ill and some have even died.” God takes this seriously, and He tells them that their division is leading to God’s judgment. And then the verses to follow, he goes on to tell them that to avoid further judgment they need to graciously and lovingly work out their issues before they come to the table together to take the Lord’s Supper. Otherwise, they’re participating in an unworthy manner.
Dr. Greg Allison, a pastor and a professor at Southern Seminary, he summarizes it this way, I love how he says it, “This self-examination is not to detect the presence of personal or unconfessed sin, nor is it to ascertains one’s worthiness to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Rather, the self-examination is specifically for the purpose of detecting broken relationships, division-causing behavior, disrespect and mistreatment of brothers and sisters in Christ. If self-assessment reveals these problems, the Christian should refrain from participating in the Lord’s Supper and act decisively and promptly to rectify the mistreatment of others and reconcile broken relationships.”
The Lord’s Supper Encourages Self-Reflection
This is the attitude that follows of Jesus or to have every single week as we gather. In fact, this should be on our minds as we’re driving to the church building every Sunday morning, especially as we take the Lord’s Supper every single week. As we walk into this room, we need to be thinking to ourselves before the service even starts, “Are we good? Are we good with each other?” I heard a yes over there. You need to ask yourself every Sunday, “Is there anyone that I need to reconcile with before approaching the Lord’s table in order that I might not experience the judgment of God?”
And if the answer to that question is yes, then go find that person. You might need to track them down the lobby or step out and send them a text or give a phone call, find them, and in view of God’s, God’s mercy, ask for or extend forgiveness. Which we should have the same approach that Jesus describes in Matthew 5, the same kind of attitude. He’s not talking about the Lord’s Supper here, but this similarly applies. Jesus says this, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Jesus has given us the Lord’s Supper as a way to examine our relationships within the local church, the family that He has graciously brought us into in order that we don’t hinder the unity that we are called to display as His children. In fact, it’s a unity that Jesus prayed for immediately following that first Lord’s Supper with His disciples. John 17:21, Jesus prays, “… that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us.” Why? “So that the world may believe that You have sent me.”
Jesus gives us the Lord’s Supper to remind us of the unity that He has graciously given to us. We don’t deserve it, but in His love, He has made it available to every single one of us. So when we take the Lord’s Supper, we look back and remember what Jesus has done. We look forward in anticipation of His return and then we look around to be reminded of what unites us as a family. God has given us some amazing pictures in both of these ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They’re pictures that remind us of what He has done and what He has called us to. They are practices that set us apart as the family of faith. It’s what we do if we’re part of His family. We do them in order that the world might know that Jesus is Lord.