The Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper

Click here to listen to a sermon about how Redeemer Baptist Church approaches the Lord’s Supper.

Summary Outline:
The Lord’s Supper…

1. Is a picture of feeding upon Christ by faith
2. Is a memorial meal
3. Is for believers
4. Is for the local church
5. Doesn’t save you

1. Picture of Feeding Upon Christ by Faith
A. Nourishment
When you are hungry what do you do? You eat. When you are thirsty what do you do? You drink. What happens if you don’t eat food or drink water? Death. This is one of the reasons why Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” (Matt. 6:11) because it’s a reminder that food comes from God and that we are dependent upon His grace even for our food. Our stomachs teach us something about our dependence on God, even as Paul wrote, “‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’ – and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” (1 Cor. 6:13) Physical need for food exposes our spiritual dependence upon God. Paul even describes idolatry as people whose god is their belly (Phil. 3:19). Think of Esau in the OT, he sold his birthright of inheriting God’s covenant blessings for a bowl of stew (Gen. 25:29-34). Whatever we are satisfied with is what we worship. And ultimately God alone can satisfy the spiritual hunger of our souls. This is why money, food, possessions, activities, and even the perfect jobs leave us wanting more. We weren’t made to find our satisfaction in ourselves or our stuff, but God. Fasting is coupled with prayer in the Scriptures. It’s not a form of self punishment by self-starvation, but it’s a reminder that our dependence isn’t on food, but on God, and even as we feel hunger it reminds us to pray and ask God for help.
[1] What we eat and the way we eat is part of our life, and we are called by God to an all of life worship Him. Eating is a deeply religious act. This is why Paul had to address the issue of meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8-10). The Jews knew this as well. God had assigned certain foods as clean and unclean, but Jesus Christ pronounced all food as clean. God is concerned about our entire life, and food comes up again and again in the Bible. But we’re not thinking of food in general, but of a meal. God gives His people a meal, a feast that pictures the nourishment of believers. Jesus was brilliant. Feasts were a big deal to the Jews.

B. Jewish Meals/Feasts
Enter into Jesus’ cultural context with me. What was it like to be a Jew during this time? What was their life like? What was their calendar like? Their entire year was shaped by 8 feasts outlined in the Old Testament. [2] On each of these they gave offerings to the Lord. These were special times set apart to remember God’s grace. First was Passover (Lev. 23:4-8); it was a feast to remember when God’s judgment passed over their families, because they slaughtered and put the blood of lambs on their doorposts. If they didn’t their firstborn would die, but they had a lamb as a substitute. The passover meal was a meal to remember salvation, not primarily from slavery in Egypt, but from God’s wrath for sin. Second was the feast of unleavened bread (Lev. 23:6-8). This was the day after Passover, when God commanded Israel not to take leaven or yeast as they fled Egypt. It lasted a week (Exod. 12:15; Lev. 23:8). Leaven was a metaphor for sin, so this meal was given for them to remember that God was setting them apart from the sins of the nations as the fled Egypt. Third was the feast of first fruits (Lev. 23:9-14). This took place on the Sunday after the sabbath after the feast of first fruits. It was a to help them remember that God is the sole provider of food. Fourth was the feast of pentecost also called the feast of weeks (7 weeks, Lev. 23:15-22). This took place fifty days after the feast of first fruits. It’s another harvest feast given to remember God’s gracious provision. Fifth was the feast of trumpets (Lev. 23:23-25). Trumpets were used to proclaim the freedom of God’s people and of His victory in conquering His enemies. [3] It was given to help them remember truths about God like Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Your hope is on God, so celebrate God’s victory by resting. Remember God’s power. Sixth was the feast of the day of atonement (Lev. 23:26-32; 25:8-12). This was a feast day that the Jews remembered their sin, and that God demands blood for the forgiveness of sin. This was a feast given to help them remember that they didn’t deserve God’s choice, and that their sin had to be dealt with somehow to satisfy God’s wrath. Seventh was the feast of booths (Lev. 23:33-43). This was a meal to remember God’s grace to provide manna for Israel in the wilderness when they came out of Egypt. Lastly, eighth was the feast of Purim (Esther 9). This was a feast to remember God’s salvation from Haman in the book of Esther. The first of all of these feasts though was passover. This was the normal rhythm of a Jewish year eating and remembering, eating and remembering. This is the context that Jesus lived in and taught in.

C. The Last Supper
So it’s not surprising that in a life of feasts Jesus constantly used food as a metaphor for spiritual truths. When Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness He said, that we don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3). Jesus promised to give His people a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14). He described that His food was to do the Father’s will – specifically to die and rise for the salvation of His people (John 4:34; cf. Matt. 1:21; Mark 10:45). Jesus proved His power to feed when he fed more than 5,000 in the wilderness with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Shortly after he said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) Then a few verses later he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man [referring to himself] 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. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58) Later, He would feed more than 4,000 from 7 loaves and 2 small fish (Matt. 15:34). Jesus used the metaphor of leaven, or yeast, in dough to describe the false teaching of the Pharisees, and how it can work its way through the people (Matthew 16:6). Food points to eternal truth. All through the approximately 3 years of Jesus’ ministry [4] He was talking about food in anticipation of the climax of His death and resurrection for the salvation of His people. And just before He was arrested He was leading the disciples in the Passover meal:

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:26-29) [5]

Jesus is taking over the passover but He’s not just taking a Jewish meal and saying, “Okay guys, now you’re going to do this in the same way that Jews did it.” No, Jesus is instituting a new meal that’s similar but different than the passover. One that is no longer associated with our works, but one that is associated with Christ’s powerful work of substitutionary atonement on the cross. A New Covenant. [6] The Last Supper is a hinge into a new world. Isaiah wrote that God was no longer pleased with the Jewish observance of feasts (Isaiah 1:13-14). Their religious feasts had become repulsive to God, because as a nation they had rejected Him. They became events of cultural identity that made them think they were okay with God, when they weren’t. Beware when we think of the Lord’s supper. It is a feast given to the church by Christ to remember Him, but if we participate in it in the wrong way, it doesn’t do any of us any good, and it doesn’t please God. If we simply think of the Lord’s Supper as the New Testament version of the Old Testament feasts we are missing out on the main point – Jesus Christ. Listen to Colossians 2:16-17, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Brothers and sisters, we don’t need to fill our church calendar with different feasts, we fill our church calendar with one feast – the Lord’s Supper in the normal rhythm of our life together. And it’s not a feast that we observe once a year, but again and again throughout the year. As a church we have the Lord’s Supper the first Sunday of each month in the hope that each of us can plan to be together to remember the death of Christ together. So, I want to encourage each of us. Brothers and sisters, let’s do our best to arrange our calendars to be together for the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer of life, and He is the head of the body, the church (Col. 1:15-18). So, when a church practices the Lord’s Supper it’s a picture of our being nourished and sustained by Christ. Often churches use lights, video, and music to engage the senses, but everything falls short of the unique experience of a meal. You see it, hear what it signifies, touch, smell, and taste. God is kind to give us a meal to engage all of our senses to remind us of His power to save.

2. What is the Lord’s Supper? Bread and drink of remembrance.
A. A Memorial Meal
The Lord’s Supper is a memorial meal that causes us to remember Christ.

17 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. 18 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 [or I believe a certain report], 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 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.
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, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for [some MS broken for] you. Do this in remembrance of me” [or as my memorial]. 25 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” [or as my memorial] 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 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. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died [Gk have fallen asleep (as in 15:6, 20)]. 31 But if we judged [or discerned] ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined [Or when we are judged we are being disciplined by the Lord] so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
33 So then, my brothers [or brothers and sisters], when you come together to eat, wait for [or share with] one another— 34 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.” (1 Corinthians 11:17-34)

The early church observed the Lord’s Supper as part of a meal that the entire church ate together (Acts 2:42; 20:7, 11; etc.). But here we see that in the Corinthian church it was becoming an opportunity for division. The Lord’s Supper doesn’t have to be part of a meal after church sometime. Verse 22 makes it clear that the purpose of the Lord’s Supper wasn’t just to have a potluck, or as I like to call it a pot-providence, after church. He tells them to eat at home. The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic meal. Listen to verse 23 as he describes where it comes from, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you.” It’s from Christ. Also, notice the element of giving thanks. The Puritan John Flavel wrote about this meal, “The Lord’s supper is memorative, and so it has the nature and use of a pledge or token of love, left by a dying to a dear surviving friend. It is like ring plucked off from Christ’s finger, or a bracelet from His arm, or rather His picture from His breast, delivered to us with such words as these: ‘As oft as you look on this, remember Me; let this help to keep Me alive in your remembrance when I am gone, and out of sight.’” [7] The meal given to grow our love for Christ first by looking back. It proclaims the death of our death in the death of Jesus Christ. In the death of Christ, God’s wrath was satisfied for His people. We deserve the wrath of God for our sin. We often make little of our sin, but when we do this we make little of Christ. Our lies, our anger, lust, frustrations, pride, and selfishness. If you miss the depth of your sin, you’re going to miss the depth of the beauty and the glory of Christ who died for our sin to reconcile us to God. It also grows our love for Christ by looking forward. It proclaims the death of Christ until He comes. This is our hope what Christ has done, and what He will do. Jesus Christ is going to come back for us. We have not been abandoned. We have not been forgotten. I don’t know what kind of trials you face, but friends, this meal that we regularly share together comforts us in our sorrows as it points us to the dying love of our Savior.

B. Bread and Beverage
The elements don’t mystically and magically turn into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ. I’m only saying this because many have taught this in the past. So, if some of the the bread or juice spills we don’t need to despair that Christ’s literal blood is seeping into the carpet. It’s a symbol. Nothing changes in the elements, other than the fact that we set it apart to proclaim the beauty of salvation and of our union with Christ and the church. Again, consider the context that the Lord’s Supper came out of. The passover meal was filled with symbolism. The herbs they ate represented slavery, the charoset paste of fruit and nuts represented the mortar, salt water the tears of Israel, the lamb represented the lamb that was slain whose blood was applied to the door posts, and the egg was a symbol of mourning. In practicing a the passover meal no Jew ever thought of the elements were magically transformed into the substance of actual tears, slavery, a lamb, and mortar. They weren’t thinking that somehow these elements rematerialized back together from thousands of years ago. The passover feast, and all the feasts were symbolic. Also, Christ hadn’t died yet, and still they were eating and drinking what symbolized his body and blood. The plain sense of the Last Supper and the Lord’s Supper is that it’s an arrow pointing to Christ not literally Christ himself. Hebrews 10:11-12 is the point, “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” Even as we remember the Last Supper when we practice the Lord’s Supper, we aren’t re-sacrificing the body and blood of Christ. And the Lord’s Supper isn’t a jewish passover meal. It’s a meal of the new covenant forged on better promises and by the power of Christ. That happened one time for all time. There is no inherent power in the elements other than serving as symbol pointing at Christ.

3. For Believers in Jesus Christ
The Lord’s Supper is a meal for believers. 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 and 27-34 makes this clear. We must come and participate in the Lord’s Supper in a worthy way. We should examine ourselves. The context of this passage is that the Corinthian church was using the Lord’s Supper as an opportunity to humiliate other brothers and sisters in Christ who were part of that local church. The rich were feasting and the poor were hungry. So, as they take the elements they should be thinking of their relationship with Christ, but also with the other members of their church body.
[8] Paul intends the Lord’s Supper to be for Christians, not for those who are condemned along with the world. Church discipline in 1 Corinthians 5:11 implies that those who are outside of the membership of a church shouldn’t participate in the meal together with the church. This is one of the reasons why I say what I say this when we have the Lord’s Supper, “If you’re a baptized member in good standing of a church that preaches the same gospel there as you hear preached here you’re welcome to partake of the elements with us.” We considered that baptism was the entrance into the membership of a local church. So, to join in the Lord’s Supper here, you don’t have to be a member of our church, but we encourage you to abstain if you aren’t a member of a gospel preaching church somewhere. This is for your own protection. Don’t be offended if you’re not a member of a church somewhere. Let it be an encouragement to you to join a church. If you’re here and your not a Christian, you shouldn’t take the elements. But it’s my hope that you will consider your sin, consider God’s wrath that you deserve for your sin, trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection, be added to the church and join us in this meal. If you’re not a Christian the goal isn’t to get you to eat the elements of the memorial meal, but for you to see your sin and set your hope upon Christ. I’d love to talk with you after the service about how you can trust in Christ.

Brothers and sisters, be encouraged. Just because this is a meal for believers, doesn’t mean that it’s not a meal for sinners. It is to sinners like us that Christ gives the Lord’s Supper. We don’t come to the Lord’s Table as if we were worthy and righteous in ourselves. We come in a worthy manner if we recognize that we are unworthy sinners who need our Savior, if we consciously discern his body given for our sins, and His body in the local church, if we hunger and thirst after Christ, giving thanks for his grace, trusting in his merits, putting our faith in him.

4. Union to the Church
A. This is why it’s often referred to as “communion”
The Lord’s Supper is a picture of our Union to Christ and to each other in a local church. Communion is from the Latin word communio meaning sharing in common. This was the word used to translate the Greek word koinonia or fellowship. It refers to a common identity, a common purpose, a shared mission, shared possessions, and being part of each other. Pray that God would grow our church more and more in this. So the meal is a picture of our union as a church. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are may are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” In 1 Corinthians 11:23 Paul received the Lord’s Supper from the Christ and delivered it to “you”. That’s a second person plural “y’all”. He delivered it not to each individual, but to the church. Then he applies Jesus’ words to them, “This is my body which is for y’all” (v. 24), and again, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as y’all drink it, in remembrance of me.” (v. 25) Every time “you” appears in the text it’s a 2nd person plural referring, not just for everyone who ever lived, but applied to the church. It pops up again twice in verse 26, “For as often as y’all eat this bread and drink this cup, y’all proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” We live in a society characterized by “rugged individualism” and we can be tempted to read texts like these and think it’s just talking to you as an individual, but we need to own the second person plural. This isn’t a meal for us to do individually, but corporately as a church. This is one of the reasons why we don’t take the elements to those who aren’t able to be with us after the service. It’s for the gathered congregation. Paul makes that clear in verses 17-22 describing three different times that this is a meal shared “when you come together”. Verse 33 makes this clear too, “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”

5. Is Not Salvific – Doesn’t Save You
Earlier we sang, “What can wash away my sin?” Last week I asked if baptism could? The answer was “No”. So this week we have to ask, can the Lord’s Supper wash away our sin? Again the answer is “No”. There is no power in the elements to do away with our sin. There is no power in our act of eating and drinking the elements that can take away our sin. There’s no power in a me or in any man who would pass out the elements to wash away your sin. Nothing  can wash away our sins, nothing but the blood the blood of Jesus. Don’t think of the Lord’s Supper as a meal that saves you. Think of it as road sign pointing to what can – faith alone in  Jesus Christ alone.

The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the full consummation of when Christ will bring His people home. Revelation 19:6-9 “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’ — for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’” The feasts of the Old Covenant were fulfilled in Christ, and He has given us one feast in the Lord’s Supper. But even the Lord’s Supper is only a glimmer of the feast that awaits God’s people in the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ will bring His people to Himself. He will wipe away every tear. He will judge with perfect justice. And we will feast. This is the feast that Isaiah looked forward to in Isaiah 55:1, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” We will say along with the bride in Song of Solomon 4:2, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of the Good Shepherd that we read about in Psalm 23 earlier. After we have the Lord’s Supper we’ll sing The King of Love, which is a description of how Jesus perfectly fulfills that passage. Listen to verse 2, “Where streams of living water flow my ransomed soul He leadeth, and where the verdant  [lush and full] pastures grow, with food celestial feedeth.” Now look at verse 5, “Thou spread’st a table in my sight; Thine unction [anointing or healing] grace bestoweth; and O what transport of delight from Thy pure chalice [cup] floweth.” Jesus is our passover. He is the Lamb of God, and the Bread of Life. Hope in Him.

[1] Piper, John. A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2013. See also chapter 9 “Fasting…for the Purpose of Godliness: Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014.
[2] cf. Exodus 23:14-17; 34:22-23; Deuteronomy 16:16
[3] Joshua 6:4-20; Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 11:15; etc.
[4] Justin Taylor and Andreas Köstenberger The Final Days of Jesus (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 27. Cf. Their article titled April 3, AD 33, Why We Believe We Can Know the Exact Date Jesus Died published on April 3, 2014 in First Things. Last accessed May 2, 2015: Also, see Köstenberger’s article The Date of Jesus’ Crucifixion in the ESV Study Bible, 1809-10.
[5] cf. Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23
[6] Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 12:24; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; etc.
[7] Flavel, John The Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations, Puritan Paperback (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), 171.
[8] Ciampa, Roy E. and Brian S. Rosner The First Letter to the Corinthians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2010), 554-5.

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