How Should We Eat the Lord’s Supper, and What Does It Mean? #254
Happy and joyful Lord’s Day to you, dear friends. Drink in the future victory today that was made possible by the resurrection of the Son of God on a different Lord’s Day many years ago. The King is Coming Again. Join us today live at 11am at the VBC Salinas page on Facebook for a time of worship and testimonies as we begin a new series in Corinthians.
Speaking of Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 11 is our focus passage today, and we are also reading 1st Samuel 31 (the death of Saul and Jonathan), Ezekiel 9 and Psalms 48. One thing I want to point us to in Ezekiel 9:
3 Then the glory of the God of Israel rose from above the cherub where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. He called to the man clothed in linen and carrying writing equipment. 4 “Pass throughout the city of Jerusalem,” the Lord said to him, “and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the detestable practices committed in it.”
In this passage, God is instructing a spiritual being to mark those people who lament and groan over all of the sin in the city of Jerusalem at the time. Only those people with the mark will be spared the horrible judgment that is about to come on Jerusalem. Does this mean that it is good to complain? It doesn’t, but it does most certainly mean that the people of God should be sorrowful in the face of a culture filled with sin.
1st Corinthians 11 is quite a controversial chapter, and there are a lot of controversial chapters in this book. I’m not discussing head-coverings today, but here is a good article if you are interested in that issue. CLICK HERE.
The Lord’s Supper/Communion is something that Jesus commanded His followers to do as often as we get together, in remembrance of Him. This is MORE THAN A MEAL. Let me say that again, for emphasis: The Lord’s Supper/Communion is NOT MERELY A MEAL of crackers/bread and juice at church. This is something hugely significant, and the Lord’s Supper can be dangerous, as we discussed in episode #55. Today, I want to discuss HOW we should take the Lord’s Supper. I don’t mean as in how the ceremony should work…I don’t even think that Jesus, nor Paul, intended it to be a ceremony, and I actually think we DIMINISH the Lord’s Supper when we make it ceremonial. Let’s read the passage and then talk about the heart of what Paul is teaching here.
Notice the warnings here and the instruction Paul gives. There’s nothing about what kind of bread, or any sort of ceremonial language at all. Paul does NOT write as if he is giving us a ritual, but rather a practice that is focused on remembering the resurrection in a way that honors the other people in the church.
27 So, then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself; in this way let him eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep. 31 If we were properly judging ourselves, we would not be judged, 32 but when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined, so that we may not be condemned with the world.33 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, welcome one another. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you gather together you will not come under judgment. I will give instructions about the other matters whenever I come.
1 Corinthians 11:27-34
Paul’s great concern seems to be that the church would remember the purpose of the Lord’s Supper (that is, the sacrifice that Jesus made for us) and that the church would partake of communion in a way that honors the whole church/Body of Christ – each person behaving the very opposite of selfishly.
These instructions are a culmination of what Paul has been writing up to this point. Passages like:
1 Corinthians 1:10, “10 Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction.”
1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, and that is what you are.“
1 Corinthians 9:19, “19 Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people.”
1 Corinthians 10:24, “24 No one is to seek his own good, but the good of the other person.”
1 Corinthians 10:32-33, “32 Give no offense to Jews or Greeks or the church of God, 33 just as I also try to please everyone in everything, not seeking my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved.“
It’s all about the Body of Christ, which Paul is going to go into depth about in the next few chapters, taking care of itself by taking care of others. Communion is first of all a proclamation of the Gospel, but the way that it is done is a proclamation of honoring others above yourself and doing good to others more than yourself and loving your neighbor as yourself. Communion should broadcast the good news of Jesus AND demonstrate the great love that the church has for each other, remembering that teaching of Jesus that the world will know us as followers of Jesus by our love for each other.
Here are some wise words from Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Communion:
There is one other thing that is represented by the bread and the wine, and it is this: the union of believers with one another. They are not only all joined to Christ, they are all joined to one another. Now the apostle Paul has taught this in 1 Corinthians 10, a chapter to which we should always pay careful attention. He writes, ‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?’ Then notice this: ‘For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread’ (1 Cor. 10:16–17). Now you see what Paul is teaching there? He says that as we partake of Christ, we become one; we become, if you like, one loaf. There are some who say that verse 17 should be translated: ‘For we being many are one loaf’—not bread—‘and one body.’ So as we come to the Communion Service and the bread is broken, we are reminded at one and the same time of the parts and of the whole.
The term communion, therefore, represents not only our communion with the Lord but also our communion with one another. We are bound together with Him because we are all in Him, and that is why, in chapter 11, the apostle goes on to give the teaching he does. He says, in effect, ‘You are denying the very principle of communion. Some of you are eating too much while others are not having enough to eat. You are selfish, you are divided, but you must all be one. You must wait for one another.’ ‘Can’t you see,’ says the apostle, ‘that you are denying one of the central things taught by the Lord’s Supper—that you are all one? You should bear one another’s burdens, you should share what you have with one another, because you are all parts of the same loaf, the same bread. And it is idle for you to say that you have communion with Him if you are not in communion with one another.’…What [communion] does is intensify the grace, it makes it more effective to us. Go back to my illustration: the man who puts the ring on his lady’s finger is not loving her any more at that minute than he was before, and yet she is getting something in that intense manner which his declarations do not give. And it is exactly the same with the Communion Service and the partaking of the bread and of the wine. It is one of the means used by God to make His own word to us effective. It is a portrayal, it is something the eyes can see. And so we thank God for this sacrament and should ever go from it feeling strengthened and built up and established in the faith and rejoicing in our great salvation.
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Church and the Last Things (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 57.
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Church and the Last Things (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 53.