Many Christians and churches aren’t quite sure about the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. They know it’s important, but they’re not sure how it’s supposed to affect them. Still, others largely ignore it, only taking it on rare occasions. However, Jesus himself instructed his disciples to take the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of him. Based on Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34, this message from David Platt addresses the purpose of the Lord’s Supper as well as how we are to approach it as those who are unified around the gospel. We’ll also consider who is supposed to take this meal as well and how often we should take it. Christians ought to be clear about the importance and blessing of this ordinance instituted by Christ.
The Best Meal in the World
If you have a Bible—and I hope you or somebody around you does that you can look on with—let me invite you to open with me to 1 Corinthians 11. It’s so good to be together across Metro DC around God’s Word. Today we are doing what we love to do most—opening God’s Word together, walking through the next chapter and the next verse, hearing what God is saying to us each week.
Today we’re specifically in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 and I want us to talk about the best meal in the world. What comes to mind when you think about the best meal you have ever eaten? Or could ever eat? What was it? Thai? That was quick. It did not take a second for Thai food to rise to the top. If I were asking my kids that question, I think at least a couple of them would say chalupa or a quesadilla from Taco Bell, which just shows you how low the standards are for my children. Thankfully they are only 99 cents, so I’m not complaining.
If I were to ask you what is the best meal you’ve ever had, maybe Thai food would rise to the top. Maybe a nice juicy steak, unless you’re vegan, at which point tofu may rise to the top. Or whatever else comes to your mind. I don’t know what comes to your mind when you think about the best meal in the world, but I would submit the meal we’re talking about today—and that we are going to take today—far outweighs every other meal in the world. There is no comparison in the world with this meal. It’s called the Lord’s Supper.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. “Really? That little wafer? And that little cup of juice or wine? That’s the best meal in the world? I appreciate you’re little preacher tactic here, but I’m not buying it. This just kind of destroys your credibility.”
On the contrary, once you understand what that little piece of bread and that little cup represent, you realize this meal has the power to change your life. This meal is actually designed by God to transform your life in new and fresh ways every time you eat it. Taco Bell can’t do that; neither can any other meal that may have come to your mind.
The challenge is that we have to make sure we eat this meal properly, which was the problem in 1 Corinthians 11. So let’s jump to the first verse in our passage today, verse 17. The Bible says, “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.” What we’re about to see is that they were coming together for worship and for the Lord’s Supper, but they were coming together in a way that was not for good—for “the worse.” In other words, they were worse as the result of coming together.
This leads us to ask, “How do we make sure, as a church, when we come together, that it’s for good, for our betterment and for God’s glory, and not for bad or “worse”? Is it possible that in taking the Lord’s Supper today we could be worse off than when we came in? That’s what this passage is saying. In fact, jump ahead to verse 33: “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.”
The language there is talking about how God will judge them, not about their judgment of each other. Then, just in case we’re not getting the full seriousness of this, jump back up to the middle of the passage, to verses 27-30:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and 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.
Are you getting this? In this gathering of the church right now, God is telling us that how we take the Lord’s Supper is a matter of life and death. Literally. So how do we take the Lord’s Supper and enjoy this meal in ways that are for our betterment, for our good, and ultimately in ways that are glorifying to God? That’s a really important question, because frankly, we’re about to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and I don’t want you to die. God doesn’t want you to die because of the way you take this meal. This is that level of seriousness, according to God.
So with the stage set, let’s jump back to verse 17. I want us to read through this passage and hear what God is saying to us, as we prepare to take the Lord’s Supper—the best meal in the world—together. The Bible says:
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
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 also he 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 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. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
Let’s pray one more time now that we’ve read this.
God, please help us in the next few minutes to understand Your good word to us. We want our gathering today, our coming together today to honor You and honor one another. So help us, we pray, to understand what You’re saying to us right now about our gathering, especially as we prepare to take the Lord’s Supper. We want to do it right, O God. We want to realize what it means, not just for this gathering, but for our everyday lives and all we’re walking through right now. So help us, we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
I was meditating on this passage this week and making a connection with where we were a couple weeks ago. I want you to see in the big picture how 1 Corinthians 11 is talking about what happens when the church gathers together. We saw what I’m going to call two essential characteristics of church gatherings. We looked at the first one a couple weeks ago in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 11; now here is the second one today. There are many other characteristics of when the church gathers together, but 1 Corinthians 11 is pointing us to two of them.
Just to review what we saw a couple weeks ago, there is a beautiful understanding of gender mutuality when God’s people come together. There should be a beautiful understanding of how women and men uniquely and wonderfully reflect God’s glory and relate to one another. We saw it particularly in marriage, then in the gathering of the church, in ways that honor God and honor each other. We saw how the church is designed for both women and men to thrive with the good gifts God has given them for the building up of His church. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of God, coheirs in His Kingdom and co-laborers in His mission. We’re loving and leading the church together with equal dignity as men and women, uniquely, wonderfully and distinctly designed by God. That’s the first essential characteristic of church gatherings we saw in the first part of 1 Corinthians 11.
I could summarize what God is saying in this second part of 1 Corinthians 11 like this: He’s calling us to gather in a way that displays selfless devotion to gospel unity. Let me show this to you, starting in the first few verses we read. God says to the Corinthian church, through Paul, with implications for us today, “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.” We’ve seen that already.
“For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.” We know this was a major problem for the Corinthian church. It actually takes us all the way back to the very first chapter of this book. If you have your Bible, turn back to 1 Corinthians 1 because I want you to see this in your Bible. We studied this a long time ago, in 1 Corinthians 1:10. I want you to remember the whole set-up of this entire letter to the church at Corinth. Paul begins by greeting those who are reading this and affirming who they are in Christ.
Then he says in verse ten, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” Notice the repetition of words there that focus on unity in the church. Keep going in verse 11. “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.” That’s the second time he uses family language.
What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
So they’re quarreling here. How did this happen? It happened because they were looking to and following others besides Jesus as the One Who brings them together in the church. They’re separated into camps. There’s the Paul camp over here. There’s the Apollos camp over there, the Cephas camp over there. There’s even a Christ camp, as if Christ is divided.
The Bible is saying here, “Okay, you have differences. You like different teachers. You’ve been influenced in different ways. You have different perspectives. But don’t look to your perspectives or your influences or different teachers to unite you. Look to Jesus to unite you.”
I was looking back at my notes from when we walked through this passage, back in February 2020, when all was right in the world. We heard a little bit about something in China that was affecting a small area of China. We had no idea what was to come through COVID, no idea what was to come in all kinds of tensions that would erupt around us. Then just a couple weeks before things started to break down and we weren’t meeting, God said to us in this gathering, through 1 Corinthians 1 that day…these are the exact notes and slide from walking through this text:
“As a relatively diverse church in a rapidly shifting culture…” We heard God telling us three things.
1. We must unite around Jesus in the church amidst so much division in our culture.
2. We must faithfully follow Jesus as the church when His Word is so counter to our culture.
3. We must love like Jesus from the church when so many people need the gospel across our culture.
I was so overwhelmed when I reviewed those notes last week because God in His sovereign knowledge and His merciful love for us was giving us truth to stand on for a hard year to come. We are a relatively diverse church in a rapidly shifting culture and we love that about this church family. We represent over a hundred different countries. We don’t all look alike. We don’t all think alike about a lot of different things. But we do all think alike about one thing: Jesus. He’s the One.
No one else, no leader, teacher, politician or personality, no background or preference can bring us together. Only One brings us together and His name is Jesus. What brings us together is not our preferences, opinions, experiences or our thoughts about this or that. What brings us together is our need for a Savior and our love for Him, our desire for Him, our trust in the One Who gave His life so that we might have life. He rose from the dead and reigns over all. The One we love is the Lord of our lives.
We must unite around Jesus in the church, amidst so much division in our culture. We want to follow Him when His Word is so counter to our culture, as we have just seen in this series on sexuality, singleness, marriage and so many other issues. We trust and we love this Word; We want to live according to it, no matter what it costs in this world. We want to love like Jesus as the church. We will refuse to hold on to this Word with harsh hearts toward the world. We want to be salt and light with the grace, mercy and love of God. We want to honor everyone, period. Even those who may be farthest from this Word. We honor, we care for, we show the compassion of God for them. We want them to know the good news of God’s love. We want that to be evident in us, in a world where there’s so much hatred.
If you’re listening today and you’re not yet a follower of Jesus, if you don’t yet believe the gospel, we pray it will be clear today in our gathering—through what we have sung, how we have prayed and all I’m saying now—that there is one true God. He created you and He knows you better than you know yourself. He’s created you to know and enjoy Him, to walk with Him forever.
The problem is that each one of us have sinned against this God. We’ve all turned from God and His ways to ourselves and our own ways, so we’re separated from God by our sin. If we die in this state of separation from God, we will spend eternity separated from God in judgment due our sin. But the good news of the Bible—“gospel” means good news—is that this God loves us so much that He has come to us in the person of Jesus. He did what none of us could ever do. He lived the life we could not live, a life of no sin. Then even though He had no sin to die for, He chose to die on a cross to pay the price for the sins of anyone who would trust in Him. The good news keeps getting better because He didn’t stay dead for long. Three days later He rose from the grave, conquering death itself, so that anyone, anywhere, no matter who you are or what you’ve done or what your background is who will trust in the love of Jesus will be forgiven of all your sin before God. When you do, you’ll be reconciled to enjoy Him forever and ever. No one is disqualified. This is the gospel.
I urge you today to put your trust in Jesus and in the good news of God’s love for you. When you do, then keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). Keep your eyes fixed on Him, amidst all the temptations in this world to turn your eyes elsewhere, even in the church. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Be a member of a church that comes together with eyes fixed on Jesus. It’s not because we all think or act or look or talk exactly alike; it’s because we all love the same Person with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength. We all want to make His love known in the world. We want to glorify Jesus by spreading His gospel hope among the nations, starting right where we live.
So this is what the Corinthian church had totally lost sight of. They’d lost sight of the unity they had in Jesus, so different people were sowing division among them. And the same thing can happen today if we are not careful. This whole passage is about selfless devotion to gospel unity, specifically when the church comes together.
The picture of unity the Bible emphasizes is exemplified in the Lord’s Supper. When the church comes together to celebrate the body and blood of Christ, it’s a celebration of the unity we have in Christ. The problem in Corinth, in the Lord’s Supper, is that they were coming together and that was actually sowing division. They were becoming more divided by the way they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. Basically, when the church in Corinth would come together, everyone would bring food, but they wouldn’t bring it like a potluck to share with others. They’d each bring their own food for themselves. The rich in the church would bring a lot of good food and drink for themselves, but the poor in the church would bring hardly any food or drink for themselves. When they got there, the rich wouldn’t share with the poor. Even worse, sometimes—because the poor worked in more menial jobs, even slave-like jobs, they wouldn’t be able to control their schedule in the same way. So they’d come to the meal late. By the time they got there, not only was all the food gone, but all the rich people were practically drunk. That was the setting in which they were celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
So God says, “You’ve missed the whole point. This is not the Lord’s Supper.” That’s the language he used, right? Look at verses 20-22:
When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
Then Paul tells them what the Lord’s Supper is. They were showing what it wasn’t, so he wants to tell them what it is all about in verses 23-26. Then in verses 27-34, he tells them how to take that meal in a worthy manner.
In order to kind of bring all this to a head, I want to remind us of what God tells us about the Lord’s Supper and how to celebrate it in a worthy manner, how to get the most out of this meal and how to make sure we’re honoring God and each other in it. I want to show you how the Bible answers five of the most basic questions we could ask about the Lord’s Supper: who, what, when, where and why. We’re going to hit these pretty quickly, but as we go through them, be reminded of the significance of the meal we’re about to take.
1. Who should participate in the Lord’s Supper?
The Bible teaches that followers of Jesus share in the life of Jesus as they take the Lord’s Supper. Every time we see the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament, including here in 1 Corinthians, it only involves followers of Jesus, people who have trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord of their lives.
“Followers” is a key word here. We’re going to see in a minute that even if you call yourself a Christian, but you are deliberately disobeying Jesus in your life, then you should not take the Lord’s Supper in that moment. This is a reflection of faith in following Jesus. We’ll talk about that more in a minute.
For those in this gathering who would readily admit you’re not yet a follower of Jesus, that you’re exploring Christianity, or you’ve come with a friend or family member, then you should not take the Lord’s Supper today. That doesn’t mean you need to leave the room. No, those who are not followers of Jesus will see our love demonstrated as they watch the Lord’s Supper. So when followers of Jesus take this meal, we want you in the meeting to see the love of Jesus for you.
Our aim is not to be inhospitable. I mean, how nice is it for us to invite you to a meal and then say, “You can’t eat in this gathering”? And you might look at that little piece of bread and cup and think, “Well, I’m not missing out on much.” We actually hope you see you’re missing out on a lot. We pray that as we take the Lord’s Supper, you will see and realize in your heart how much God loves you, in a way that you might choose, even today, to put your trust and your life into the hands of the One Who loves you this much. We are really thankful you are here in the gathering of this church.
2. Where should we take the Lord’s Supper?
The only biblical requirement we see regarding location is within the gathering of the church. Look at 1 Corinthians 11 again you’ll see four different times that Paul talks about “when you come together.” You saw that phrase over and over and over again. It’s in verses 18, 20, 33 and 34. “When you come together… When you come together… When you come together… When you come together…”
Then even in verse 29, the Bible says, “Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” While the “body” could be a reference there to the physical body of Christ, it’s more likely a reference to the church as the body of Christ. The Lord’s Supper is not something we do privately. It’s something we do publicly when we come together.
This is why throughout COVID, when we were separated from one another physically, we chose not to participate in the Lord’s Supper. We waited until we could come together. This is when we take the Lord’s Supper. Even now if you’re watching online, we invite you to come together with us physically. If you’re not near us, then come together with a church wherever you are, so you might share in this meal
and celebrate this Supper together with others.
3. When should we take the Lord’s Supper?
On this question, the Bible does not give a specific answer. The Bible doesn’t say, “Do it at these intervals.” Here in 1 Corinthians 11:26, God says, “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup…” So I would say we’re on safe ground here. Then when we put this together with what we see in the early church in Acts 2, where they were devoting themselves to this meal, that Scripture commands us to observe it often. That’s the word Jesus used—celebrate the Lord’s Supper often.
Which leads some to ask the question, what about weekly? The Bible doesn’t command this, so different churches do this a bit differently. We have a possible hint in Acts 20:7 that seems to imply the disciples in Troas were observing the Lord’s Supper weekly. Even that causes some people to ask, “Well, doesn’t the Lord’s Supper become too routine, not quite as special, if you do it that often?” re, I guess that could be a danger. But if we’re going to use that rationale, there are a lot of things you do regularly that are fairly special and important. You eat fairly regularly. You drink fairly regularly. You sleep fairly regularly. Those are still pretty special and important times. Every week we sing. Should we just sing once a quarter to make it special? Should we just preach the Word or read the Word every once in a while so it’s special?
As the one element God has prescribed to do when we come together, then I think it’s wise for us to think about how we do this often, realizing it’s special every single time. Not just every once in a while, but often among us.
And these reasons lead us to the final two questions.
4. What is the meaning of the Lord’s Supper?
The answer to this question takes us to something really important. I wish we had more time to dive into it, so I’ll just skim the surface here. A traditional misunderstanding of the Lord’s Supper is that there’s a change of substance that results in salvation. So the big theological term for this is transubstantiation. If you are a kid this morning, you’re learning a new word. Just pull it out somewhere this week. “Ah, Mom, Dad, I was thinking about transubstantiation the other day….”
Now what does that mean? This is the official understanding of the Lord’s Supper in the Catholic church. According to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, in the Eucharist, or the Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ, in such a way that when you receive these elements, you are receiving Christ. This is the exact language from the catechism of the Catholic church. We could dive into so much here, but basically that means your participation in the Eucharist—in communion, in the Lord’s Supper—is a receiving of Christ as a means of grace in your salvation. It’s a change of substance that results in salvation.
I want to make it clear at this point, that is not what the Bible teaches. Understanding this distinction is key to a biblical understanding of the gospel and salvation. The Lord’s Supper is not a means by which we actually receive Jesus or receive salvation. If that’s the case, that makes doing this is necessary for salvation and that’s a fundamental altering of the gospel. Friends, we are not saved from our sin by anything we do, even the most holy things we may do. We are saved from our sins by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone. Realizing this is critical for understanding what the Lord’s Supper is.
So, a traditional misunderstanding is that there is a change of substance that results in salvation. A biblical understanding of this meal is that it’s a symbolic meal that represents and reflects salvation. When Jesus says, “This is My body,” the verb He uses that is translated “is” often means “represents.” When Jesus said this to His disciples, His body was still present in front of them. His blood was still in His veins. There is nothing in the Bible that points us to the bread and cup actually becoming the body and blood of Jesus, in such a way that we receive Jesus and forgiveness through eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper.
Now, I want to be careful. Even in pointing this out and emphasizing it, in an attempt to make it clear that Jesus is not physically present in the bread and the cup, we can go too far and start to look at the Lord’s Supper like Jesus is not present at all. The reality is, He is very present in a very real way, in a far more meaningful way than any attempt we make to earn salvation.
5. Why should we celebrate the Lord’s Supper?
The Bible gives us many reasons for why we should celebrate the Lord’s Supper. I’ll summarize them here with four Rs.
First, we remember. At the core, the Lord’s Supper is about remembering. This is in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. When we take the bread, we remember the body of Jesus. We look at that bread and remember Jesus in the flesh, suffering in the flesh, dying in the flesh, His real body on a real cross. We remember His body given for us.
We also remember the blood of Jesus when we look at this cup. We member that His blood that covers over all our sins. We remember the price He paid for that to be a reality in our lives. This is so important. The Lord’s Supper is not about imagining something in our minds or dreaming in some way. It’s about deliberately directing our thoughts back to a real event 2,000 years ago, when God in the flesh gave His body on a cross for our sins. It’s about remembering the past with such vividness that it affects the present.
We’ve been reading this in our Bible reading in Deuteronomy where God says to His people over and over again, “Don’t forget. Don’t forget. Don’t forget Who I am. Don’t forget how much I love you. Don’t forget what I’ve done for you or My promises to you.” We need to be reminded often, if not every week, when we come together. Amidst a world where we are constantly tempted to wander, every single one of us needs to be reminded Who our God is, how much He loves us, what He’s done for us and His promises to us. We need to feast on this remembrance. This reminds us of the Passover in the Old Testament, when God commanded the Israelites to “Remember, remember. Remember what I did among you.” .
Second, we reflect. We reflect on our sin. In 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, God warns us not to come to this table in a callous or careless manner. God said in verse 28, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Think about that language. Examine yourself before you eat the bread or drink the cup.
Let’s be honest. This is not something we like to do or that we naturally do, especially in our culture today. Even in our church culture, we are so quick—if not eager—to examine and criticize others, to see and even seethe over what’s wrong with “those people on that side.” We can conduct a full examination of others in the courtroom of our minds. This is what we’re constantly encouraged to do in our culture. It’s not like social media is designed to humbly examine ourselves. It’s designed to examine and point out faults in others, putting a false front out for ourselves.
God is saying crystal clear to us right now, “Stop. Stop it and examine yourselves. Reflect on your heart, mind, thoughts, motives, words and actions, all laid bare before Him, the perfect holy God Who sees all and knows all and is pure above all.” In the Lord’s Supper, if we don’t reflect on our sin, we eat and drink judgment on ourselves. That’s what God is telling us. We put our health and life at stake before God.
God is saying, “Don’t take this Supper lightly.” Students, teenagers, moms, dad, kids—don’t take this Supper lightly. Mom or Dad, don’t think, “Well, I know my child hasn’t come to faith in Jesus, but I’m just going to let him take the bread and the cup.” Don’t do it. They need to see the seriousness of this through you. What an opportunity for you to talk with them about the seriousness of this. Teenager, man, woman, I urge you, don’t sit here and think, “I’m just going to go through this religious routine any Sunday, including today.” Don’t think like that. This is a serious time of self-examination before God. Examine yourself. Reflect on your sin. Here’s the beauty of reflecting on our sin. We also reflect on God’s forgiveness.
So this can sound like a downer of a meal, right? Just thinking about all our sins and struggles that come to the surface. But we don’t need to be afraid to confess our sin before our God Who is gracious and loving and merciful. With every confession He says, “I’ve covered that. I’ve covered that.”
You can pour out the worst things—the things you would not want anybody else in this room to know—and Jesus says, “I know it and I do not hold it against you. It’s covered. As far as the east is from the west, I’ve removed that sin from you. I do not hold it to your account.” That’s what makes this meal awesome. It’s Jesus saying in a fresh way over your life, “I love you and forgive you.” The meal just comes alive as we are feasting and reflecting on Jesus’ forgiveness of us and His faithfulness to us.
That leads us to the next R—we renew. We renew our commitment to Jesus. So yes, we don’t take the Lord’s Supper to earn salvation before God, but when we do take this Supper, we celebrate and consecrate ourselves, we commit our lives in a fresh way in the salvation we have experienced by His grace. When we take this bread and this cup, we’re saying in a Galatians 2:20 kind of way, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
His life is my life. Yes, we are feasting on Jesus through faith in Him. This is so key, especially in the context here of 1 Corinthians 11. These people were thinking that if they just ate the food and drank from the cup, God would be pleased with them, no matter what was going on in their lives. That misses the whole point. We renew our commitment to Jesus; we renew our commitment to each other.
So let’s put it together. The Lord’s Supper is an expression of our unity together in Jesus, which the Christians in Corinth were totally missing. When they were getting together, the rich were gorging themselves and even getting drunk, while the poor were going without food. The Bible says, “No. You’re a body. You come around the Table together as one body, with no barriers between you. The plane is level at the Lord’s Table. We’re all for each other here.” So we’re renewing our commitment to each other when we come around this Table together.
We also renew our commitment to this mission. Notice in verse 26, Paul says the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of Jesus’ death until He comes. So there’s a proclamation element in the Lord’s Supper. We’re not just eating and drinking; we’re proclaiming something. That’s the essence of mission, right? Proclaiming the gospel, the good news of God’s love. When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we’re proclaiming, “We’re a people bought from every nation, tribe and tongue for His praise, until He comes.”
Which leads to the last R we do in the Lord’s Supper—we rejoice. Because Jesus has set us free and because of some of the things we’ve talked about today. The Lord’s Supper is often perceived and participated in as a solemn, serious, contemplative tone. Clearly, to some extent, it should be that way. We don’t want to treat this meal casually. We’re examining ourselves. But we don’t stop there.
Like we said, we don’t just think about our sin and walk away engrossed in how horrible our sin is. No, we are feasting on God’s forgiveness, as well as the freedom God has given us. When we look at those elements, we realize that God has freed us from the penalty of sin. He died for us so that we would not have to experience the judgment of God that we deserve. He experienced all of that on our behalf.
We’re free from the penalty of sin and free from the power of sin. Jesus lives in us. The One Who has conquered sin, death and the grave is alive in you; you are no longer a slave to sin. You are a child of God. With the Holy Spirit of God living in you, you have power over sin. That’s reason to rejoice. He set you free. What other meal will you eat this week, this month, this year, in your entire life, that sets you free from the power and penalty of sin and death? This is why this is the best meal in the world. But that’s not the only reason we rejoice.
We rejoice because Jesus is coming back. Notice the time limitation on this meal. We take this meal, we proclaim the Lord’s death, the Bible says, “until he comes.” Jesus said to His disciples before He went to the cross, “I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:18). That means that when we take the Lord’s Supper, we’re not just looking back, we are looking forward. We’re looking forward to the day when Jesus will return for all who have trusted in Him, when we will drink this cup face to face with Him in His Kingdom.
This is so significant, not just for our gathering, but for our everyday lives. Just feel what this means—yes, for when we come together—and for what this means in the middle of whatever you are going through. Amidst your hurts, amidst the pains you have experienced in this life, amidst the suffering you’re walking through right now, amidst attacks you face, amidst trials you endure, amidst even struggles with sin and sorrow in this world—amidst it all, the Lord’s Supper is a regular reminder to you and me that one day all of those things will be no more. No more sorrow. No more pain. No more attacks. No more trials. No more temptations. No more struggles. One day He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and those things will be no more. Every time we take the Lord’s Supper, we remember that trials in this world are temporary, that life and joy in God are eternal, that nothing can ever take these away from us. That’s reason to rejoice!
Will you bow your heads with me? In this moment, with your heads bowed and your eyes closed, I know there are some here in this gathering right now, or maybe watching online or reading this transcript, who have not yet put your trust in Jesus in this way. God has been speaking to your heart in the last few minutes. I invite you to pray to God from your heart, right now, simply saying to Him, “God, I know I have sinned against You. I have turned aside from Your ways to my own ways. But today I believe that Jesus died on a cross for my sins, that He rose from the dead so I can be forgiven of all my sin and be restored to You. So I trust in Your love for me. I trust You as Lord of my life.” When you express that to God by faith, He forgives you your sin and restores you to relationship with Him.
For all who have expressed this faith and are followers of Jesus, we invite you to take this meal together.
To You, O God, thank You for this meal. We confess, God, that if we’re not careful, we can come to the Lord’s Supper and miss the meaning and wonder of what it is. We say in a fresh way today, thank You for the invitation to be at Your Table. We don’t deserve to be here. Thank You for the invitation to feast on Your forgiveness, faithfulness and love. So we pray that You would be honored in the way we do this now, that You would be glorified in the way we take the Lord’s Supper. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.