Before we eat our weekly fellowship meal together, it’s our designated time this month to observe and enjoy another kind of meal: the Lord’s Supper.
I intend to keep my remarks relatively brief, but I’d like to draw out a few important points about the Lord’s Supper given to us by Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. You can turn there if you’d like, or just sit and listen for a moment. First Corinthians chapter 11, starting in verse 23:
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. (1 Corinthians 11:23-32)
And I’ll stop right there.
First of all, Paul quotes Jesus who said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” The Lord’s Supper is not an empty ritual. These tangible elements, the bread and the wine, are intended to be physical, vivid illustrations that direct our hearts and minds to Christ and his crucifixion. Not only do these elements represent his body and blood, but our ingesting of these things also represents something more.
In John 6, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” He also said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Christ was not suggesting, of course, that we literally eat his flesh and drink his blood, nor was he suggesting that this bread and wine somehow become his physical flesh and blood. But just as these elements represent his flesh and blood, our eating and drinking of them represent our faith and hope in his finished work of atonement. By eating this bread and drinking this wine, we are saying, “Lord, I believe that I am in you and you are in me. I believe that the saving benefits of your death apply to me. Through you, I have eternal life.”
Second, notice that Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of—” who? Not Moses. Not Abraham. But he said, “Me. Do this in remembrance of me.” This may seem less important to a contemporary audience, but Jesus was turning the minds of his Jewish disciples away from the Passover to himself.
Perhaps we could apply this point in a slightly different way. Let me just simplify it by saying, if you’re focused on anything but Christ at this moment, it’s time to refocus. Communion is about Christ and Christ alone.
Preaching and Looking Forward
Third, there is a bit more to the Lord’s Supper than just his death. Paul said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” There are two things I want you to notice in that statement.
The first is that our participation in Communion is a form of preaching. By partaking in the Lord’s Supper, you are proclaiming his death, his sacrifice to one another in the church as well as anyone else who is here at the time.
And second, Communion is not exclusively about what Christ has done in the past. We proclaim his death until—when? Until he comes again. So while his death is at the center of the Communion service, we also keep one eye on his return. We look to the past and the future.
Keep Communion Sacred
Finally, notice the importance Paul places on the sacredness of the Lord’s Supper. But I don’t want you to misunderstand his warning. To some degree, we all feel unworthy to take part in this. And we feel unworthy because we are unworthy. No, Paul was addressing those who approach communion carelessly. There were people in the Corinthian church who not only treated the Lord’s Supper like it was any other meal, but they even refused to give any of it to the poor among them. And for that reason, Paul said they were guilty of the body and blood of Christ. They had profaned something is that is sacred.
So we are to examine ourselves. What are our motives? What is the attitude we have coming into this? Are we approaching the Lord’s Supper with the reverence it deserves?
Christ died so we may live. Do you believe that? That’s why we’re here. That’s why we take part in the Lord’s Supper.
Preached at Joy Christian Church (Benson, NC) on February 5, 2017