This sermon is number 28 in a series of 46
1 Corinthians - Part 28
"Celebrating The Supper Of The Lord"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2003 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I Corinthians 11:17-34
Our reading is beginning at verse 17. We were looking at the subject of headship and headcovering last week, and of course Paul has now entered into a new section of this epistle, beginning at verse 2 of chapter 11, with the church's worship and the orders and ordinances of that worship. We begin our reading at verse 17, and the title of our study tonight is 'Celebrating The Supper Of The Lord'.
"Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not", you remember in verse 2 he said 'Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances', the traditions, the teachings, 'as I delivered them to you'. So with regards to headship and headcovering he was able to praise them because they were following his instruction, his apostolic authority and teaching - but now as he comes to this issue of the Lord's Supper, he cannot praise them. "I praise you not that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse". The insinuation is there that they were better not coming together at all, because when they come together they do not adhere to the teaching that he gave them when he was with them.
"For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you". So the two reasons why he was not pleased as they came together to break bread was that there were divisions and heresies among them. "When ye come together", verse 20, "therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper" - you think you're coming together to eat the Lord's Supper, but that's not why you're coming together at all, it's really to fulfil your own fleshly lusts and sensualities. Verse 21: "For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation", or judgement, "to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation", or unto judgement. "And the rest will I set in order when I come".
Both by instruction and by example, the Lord Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry laid down two ordinances that His disciples who were faithful were to obey and follow Him in. Both by teaching and instruction He taught us to be baptised, He taught us to break bread and drink from the cup - but He also practised these things Himself, and by example we see Him exhorting us to do the same. He was baptised Himself, not because He had any sin but in identification with us for whom He would die He was baptised, and we ought to obey His teaching and obey His example. But also tonight we're looking specifically at the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. As we come to Paul's teaching we also find echoed throughout the New Testament other apostles teaching with regards to the Lord's Table. Luke tells us that four marks of the life in the early Christian church were in Acts chapter 2, if you turn with me to it you will see this very clearly in verse 42, the practices that they had - Acts 2:42: 'And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine', that's the teaching, 'and fellowship', being together one with the other in love, 'and in breaking of bread', that's the Lord's Supper, 'and in prayers'.
So right from the very institution and beginning of the church of Jesus Christ after Pentecost, it was their practice to break bread. Many scholars and historians believe that the early church broke bread in their households and celebrated it perhaps after every meal that they ate as a family and as the church of Jesus Christ, because we know that they all lived together and had all things together, sharing of one accord. But of course as we go through the Acts of the apostles and come to chapter 20 we find that it's indicated to us that what was a regular occurrence of breaking bread and drinking of the cup became less regular in the sense that it began to be on the first day of each week. If you turn to Acts chapter 20, you find there that Paul is travelling to Jerusalem, and as he travels to Jerusalem we find in verse 6 that he stops in a town called Troas: 'And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days'. They came to Troas in five days time, but they stayed there a whole week - seven days. Paul marks in verse 7 that 'upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight'. So we see that Paul obviously didn't break bread every day that he was in Troas, but when he arrived in Troas he waited for seven days until the first day of the week which was the instigated day that the believers met in this fashion to break bread, and we see that that is continued right through the church history, and that's why we meet around the Lord's Table on the Lord's Day.
What we often do not see in the Scriptures, and of course in the way that we have interpreted the Lord's Table today as the contemporary Western church is that this breaking of bread and drinking of the cup incorporated more than just an ordinance. We find that the early church developed the Breaking of Bread into what we might call a special fellowship meal that they began to call 'The Love Feast'. Now let me show you why this is the case, if you turn to Jude - only one chapter in Jude of course - before the book of Revelation, Jude and verse 12. We see that Jude is warning against apostates and false teachers, and in verse 12 he speaks of how they infiltrate the church of Jesus Christ, and there is a danger: 'These are spots in your feasts of charity', or feasts of love, 'when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water', and so on, all the descriptions that Peter also echoes. But he mentions this title 'Your feast of charity, your love feast' - and this was a meal, if you like, like a modern day family buffet that we might have even in the church, where the believers came together on a pseudo-social, spiritual basis - to meet together, to eat together, to fellowship together - members of the church family gathering. They would bring whatever food they could, whatever drink they could afford, and they encouraged each other by sharing this food amongst them all - and regardless of how rich you were, or how poor you were, you all got the same helping and you all could partake of the same food and the same drink.
Now this was a regular occurrence in the church of Jesus Christ, probably on the Lord's Day - but such congregational meals were stressing, very clearly, fellowship, affection, mutual caring among the believers; the emphasis of their unity together lead towards the unity that they had in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and before the end of those love feasts and fellowship meals they would silence themselves quietly and come together and remember the Lord Jesus Christ in the breaking of bread and the drinking from the cup. They would celebrate the unifying accomplishment of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Now, it is likely, in fact almost definite, that the Corinthians followed this same custom - but what they had done was, they had laid into the Lord's Supper with a sentiment not of love, not of fellowship, not of worship and remembrance unto the Lord, but in the spirit of a gluttonous orgy of pride and of selfishness.
Now this was common, a common happening in the early church among those churches where false teachers had infiltrated. If you turn with me to 2 Peter, I want to show you this, 2 Peter chapter 2 verse 13, speaking of brute beasts, apostate teachers that will utterly perish in their own corruption, he says: 'They shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children'. Now this is exactly what was happening in the church at Corinth: they were beginning from their love feasts, leading into the Lord's Supper, to revel in a drunken gluttonous orgy in the very sight of God - and it's small wonder that the apostle Paul refused to praise them in what they were doing around the Lord's Table.
Now let's look first of all at their perversion of the supper, verses 17 to 22, as we see in these verses the disorder that was causing chaos within the church. Let me give you an example - verse 21: 'For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken'. The rich would come, and they were supposed, in a feast of love and a feast of fellowship, to share their food with those who were poor in the church - but they didn't regard them at all! In fact, they sat up to their big three course slap-up dinner, with all the drink that they could get, and they ignored those who were poor within the assembly - and because of that some went hungry. Then there were the sensual in the assembly, they weren't too preoccupied with the food, but rather with the drink - they had no regard to sobriety at all, and they made themselves drunk! So, what began as a love family feast of the church of Jesus Christ, which initially would lead into the Lord's Table to break the bread and drink from the cup, became a debauched disgraceful orgy of sensuality and of sin.
For that reason Paul could not praise them, in fact this was a far cry from any fitting prelude or preparation for the Lord's Supper at all. It was totally foreign and opposite, the antithesis of everything that is of love, whether to man or to God. Paul gives us two specific reasons why he was not pleased with the goings-on here in these love feasts - verse 18: 'For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it'. Now he didn't know this first-hand, he obviously had heard it, but he could believe it because he knew - and we have found out in these past weeks what the Corinthians were like, puffed up with pride and they had the party spirit: 'I am of Paul, I am of Cephas, I am of Apollos, and I am of Christ'. Paul says: 'I partly believe these divisions', and the word is 'schismata' in Greek, it's the word we get 'schism ' from in our English language - a division, it literally means a tearing apart or a cutting in half, and metaphorically it speaks of division and dissension within the church.
Now this was a far cry from what the embryo of the church was in the Acts of the apostles - this is what I want you to see: how far away in so short a time they had removed from the Holy Spirit's ideal. From the Acts of the Apostles we know that as the church lived and worshipped together, it says they had all things in common, sharing with all as anyone might have need. But the Corinthian upper-class disdained not only sharing their food, but even sharing the same room, as it were, the same meal, with those who were less fortunate brothers and sisters in Christ. It caused the division within the church, schismata. What I want you to see first of all is that this is a mark of wrong living - now remember that: this is a mark of wrong living. They did not behave in brotherly and sisterly love toward their fellow Christians.
But here's the second thing that Paul cites against them in verse 19: 'For there must be also heresies among you', there were heresies among them, 'that they which are approved may be made manifest among you'. Now that word 'heresy' in the Authorised Version isn't the same meaning as we would have today about heresy, a false doctrine. What it means literally in the Greek is 'false thinking', the false thinking that had led them to their divisions: to think that the upper-crust were a cut above the rest, those who were poor and didn't have the same food and drink as the rest of them. It was the idea, the psychological thinking process, that led them to their divisions. Now the remarkable thing about these heresies, this wrong thinking, was that Paul says: 'they which are approved, these must be like this' - verse 19: 'there must be heresies, that they which are approved may be manifest among you '.
This is very strange, because when you read the corrective epistles of Paul you find that he is so hard on wrong thinking and especially false doctrine, our definition of heresy today, so it seems strange that Paul would say on the other hand: 'there must be false thinking among you'. Now that phrase 'there must be' in English is only one word in Greek 'dei', it's found throughout the New Testament and it simply means: 'it is necessary'. So you could translate this: 'It is necessary that there be these heresies and false thinkings among you, it must be'. It denotes, in the sense of the Greek word, 'necessity, compulsion, it has to be like this'. When Peter and the apostles, if you remember in the Acts of the Apostles, were told by the Sanhedrin to stop preaching in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ or they would suffer persecution for it, they replied, Peter and the apostles to the powers that be: 'We must obey God rather than men'. Now the 'we must' is the same word - 'dei' in the Greek - 'we must', it's not an option, this must be for us, it's a compulsion, it's a necessity. We find the Lord Jesus used the same word in relation to many prophetic events including His crucifixion, His resurrection, things that must happen - Matthew 24, Matthew 26, John 3. He even went as far as to say: 'For it is inevitable that stumbling-blocks must come, but woe unto that man through whom the stumbling-block comes' - 'it is inevitable' is that word in Greek 'dei', it must be, it's a necessity. Paul is now using the same Greek word for these heresies, it is a necessity, it is inevitable, it must be that these false thinkers are among you - why must that be? He tells us: 'It's inevitable, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you'.
Let's really try and understand this - what does the word 'approved' mean? Well, it means passing a test, literally that's the picture language that's given here. It used to be used of precious metals that had been tried in the fire and proved to be pure, and what Paul is saying here is that there has to be certain amounts of church division, there has to be! It is inevitable that there will be where the ungodly and the sinful will separate from those who are following Christ and His teaching and trying to live holy lives and spiritual existence - and because of that, by doing this Christ proves His faithful saints, His remnant of those who believe in Him, and who trust in Him and follow His word. Now this puts the myth to what we hear in ecumenism today, that in some way Christ's prayer in John chapter 17 has never been fulfilled, that His children should be one as He and the Father are one. We often hear this: 'We've got to fulfil this prayer' - well, I believe that if Christ prayed a prayer like that, that the Father would answer Christ's prayer, and has answered Christ's prayer, and His church is one in spirit. It is the same spirit right throughout the whole church, but is this a contradiction of what the Lord said in John chapter 17? Of course it is not: the Lord is speaking in a spiritual sense, and praying that they will be united in truth, 'For Thy word is truth', He said in John 17 - but what is being said by the inspiration of the Spirit here is that these schisms will be inevitable because false teachers will infiltrate the church and it will prove those who are My approved, those who have been tried in the fire and come forth as gold.
Heresy is a mark of wrong thinking that leads to wrong living. The wrong thinking and the wrong living, the divisions, the heresies, are the natural allies here - one is the effect, the divisions; the other is the cause, the false thinking that leads to the divisions. So let none of us here tonight, wherever you're from, whatever place you hang your hat, let no one say that teaching does not matter, that heresy does not matter, that being inaccurate in the scripture and doctrine and theology does not matter - it does matter! What you believe determines how you behave! As one put it well: 'The soil of our deeds is our creeds, because we do what we believe is right'. It affects our practice.
Now we see here that unity, before Paul gets into the theology of the Lord's Table, unity is what was at stake at the church of Corinth. He's already addressed, if you remember in chapter 10, the Lord's Table - and again it was the theme of unity in the assembly. Look at chapter 10 verses 16 and 17: '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? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread'. How many times do we find the word 'one', and the phrase or the idea of 'unity' in those two verses? It's right throughout it all, and as Paul comes to chapter 11 the exact same theme is there: are we unified as we come around the Lord's Table, do we see ourselves just as that loaf, one piece of loaf? And as each piece of bread is broken off and we assimilate it into our body, we ourselves - as Paul says in chapter 10 here - become that one loaf, united together as the body of Christ.
I wonder are we united as an assembly? Do we consider everybody in the assembly when we come around the Lord's Table? Is it really a feast of love, and even in a practical sense do we consider the less fortunate in the body, do we try and meet their needs? One verse that you very seldom hear expounded is 1 John 3:17: 'But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?'. 'By this shall men know that ye are my disciples, because ye love one another' - do we consider the weaker? Do we consider the poor? Do we consider the less fortunate?
Warren Wiersbe in his commentary tells the story of when he was at a Sunday School picnic, he was only into his teenage years, and they began to play a relay game - some of you young people have played it yourselves - you throw eggs to one another, and each time you catch an egg you step back another step, until the further you get away the harder you have to throw the egg, and then inevitably it becomes hilarious as the eggs crack over people. However, as they were playing this in all the hilarity and fun, some of the folk noticed two Sunday School pupils who were standing at the sidelines with their mouths agape and their eyes popping out of their sockets, absolutely fascinated. When they thought about it for a moment they realised that they came from a poor family, and they probably rarely ever ate an egg, let alone threw them at one another. The little girl went over to the lady who was leading the games and asked: 'If there are any eggs left over, can my brother and I take them home?'. Wisely, the lady stopped the game before it was really over, and awarded the prizes, and gave all the eggs to the two children, because she knew - this is what we need to know, and the Corinthians needed to know - that it is wrong for some of the saints to have a good time at the expense of others! Before we go into the theology of the Lord's Supper, we've got to ask the question: are we one body, do we take into consideration the needs of each other? Are we united? Or are we divided? Do we have false ideas, is false teaching infiltrating the assembly? I don't know, but these things are what will divide the church of Jesus Christ, and the one place that we ought to be united and at one identification of unification in the church is the Lord's Table - and that is often the very factor that we forget about when we come to meet the Lord, that it speaks of communion with each other and with God.
I was hearing today about a meeting in Scotland, and one half of the meeting wasn't speaking to the other half of the meeting, and they all came as usual to the Lord's Table that morning and they sat down. Then one brother noticed that there was no bread on the table, and inquiries were made. An older elder brother in the assembly stood up, and he castigated them because they were out of love, out of fellowship with one another, and he said that the loaf wouldn't be on the table until it was all sorted out! That brother was right, do you know why? Because Paul says: 'It were better that you wouldn't even do this, as do it wrong and do it without unity'. Seemingly frustrated, trying to find a rational explanation for their behaviour he says, exasperated in verse 22: 'What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God? Can you not eat like this at home if you want to? If you want to get drunk, do it at home, don't do it at the Lord's Table! Or do you despise the church of God, the weaker brother in the church, those who aren't as well off as you? Do you shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not'. What he's saying is, if you're at your love feast, if you can't show love why have a love feast at all?
Friends, let's not fall into their perversion of the Supper, because these are types of sins that we seem not to take too seriously: division, false thinking about one another, a lack of love, a lack of compassion, a lack of caring for each other and laying our lives down for each other - and God forbid that we should ever come to the Lord's Table with a grudge with one another!
Then he comes, and it's almost trying to soften their hearts by reminding them of the Lord Himself. He comes to the Lord's institution of the Supper, verses 23 to 26, the purpose of the Lord's Table. One author says it's like a diamond, these verses, on a muddy road. One of the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture, and it's given in the middle of a castigating rebuke from the apostle of such debauchery and drunkenness and idolatry. So he comes, and he says in verse 23: 'For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread'. Let me note a couple of things with you before we go on any further. Most conservative scholars believe that 1 Corinthians was probably written before the Gospels, and that means that Paul's account here of the institution of the Lord's Supper is the very first one, and it includes some literal quotations direct from the mouth of the Lord Jesus, and they're absolutely consistent with what the gospel writers brought to us at a later date. We know that the Lord Jesus never spoke to Paul on the earth in His habitation as He was here, He was revealed to him on the Damascus Road of course, but we have to believe that what we have here is given to Paul directly by revelation from God probably in Arabia, where we read of him in Galatians 1 - it wasn't from the apostles, but it was direct from the Lord because he didn't commune with any man.
Now what does he remind them of in the institution of this Supper? He tells them two things: look backward and look forward. The Lord's institution of this Supper was intended to make them look backward, and very poignantly he reminds them that this was instituted on the night, look at it in verse 23, the same night in which He was betrayed. What he is insinuating here is that when the Lord instituted this supper He did it in an environment of wickedness, in an evil world - there was God establishing good; and what men meant for evil, God intended for good. I wonder is he making application to these believers in Corinth, that as they meet together for their fleshly lusts in their little political factions, there they are - but God, nevertheless, is doing a good thing because those among them who are Christ's and who are walking with Him, are being approved even in the midst of that wickedness and worldliness.
Another factor that we often miss when we look at the institution of the Lord's Supper is that the Lord Jesus and His disciples were celebrating the Passover. I think I reminded you of that last week as we looked at the headcovering, but it's strange that none of the gospel writers or even Paul here in Corinthians 11 indicate any details of that Passover meal, but rather their concentration is to show us that there's something new happening here: it's the end of Judaism, and now it's the beginning of God coming in to the Gentiles and the whole world in fact, and bringing His new covenant through the Lord Jesus Christ. But nevertheless it was still the Passover meal that the Lord took and adapted and changed into the new thing of the Lord's Supper.
Let me give you a resume of what happened at the Passover meal, and hopefully the jigsaw pieces will fall into place. The Passover meal began with the host pronouncing the blessing of the first cup. He lifted the first cup, one of four cups that were on the table at the Passover meal. That cup was full of red wine, and he would pass it from hand to hand after he had partaken of it himself, and after the first cup had been drunk they would take a bitter herb, and they would dip that bitter herb in some fruit sauce and then it would be eaten. After the first cup was taken the bitter herb was dipped in the fruit sauce and eaten, some one of them would stand and give a message giving the meaning of what the Passover was all about - the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt toward the Promised Land. Then the first part of a hymn was sung, and that hymn was called the 'Hallel' (sp?) - 'Hallel' actually is like 'Hallelujah', 'Hallel, Hallelujah, praise ye the Lord', 'Hallel' simply means 'praise' - they would sing a hymn which was comprised of Psalm 113 through to 118, the first part was sung now. Then after that they would take the second cup, and it was passed to the host and he would pass it around, drinking of it. Then they would take unleavened bread, and they would break the unleavened bread and pass it round. Then after the unleavened bread they would eat the roasted sacrificial lamb, and then the third cup was passed around and drunk of after it was prayed over. When it was passed from hand to hand and drunk from the rest of the 'Hallel' was sung, and then the fourth cup was taken which celebrated the coming kingdom in a day that was yet to be, and it was drunk before immediately leaving.
Now what I want you to see is: in the gospel writings, and here in 1 Corinthians 11, it was the third cup that the Lord Jesus took and passed around his disciples - we saw last week in chapter 10 it was none other than what was called 'the cup of blessing'. Luke tells us in Luke 22:20, that in the same way He took the cup, that third cup, and after they had eaten, after they had eaten the sacrificial lamb, He said: 'This is my blood, poured out for you, of the new covenant' - and the record of Luke is that after they took that some brief words of warning were given by the Lord Jesus Christ, a rebuke and instruction, the meal was concluded by the singing of the 'Hallel', and they went out. Let me tie all that together for a moment: here's the first point, as far as I can see, and I would value your instruction, He did not take of the fourth cup of the kingdom - because He said, in fact, on that occasion: 'I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom'. When He had given thanks, and in the Greek it is the participle of 'eucharistio' (sp?), from which we get 'eucharist' - it just simply means 'thanksgiving' - when He had given thanks for the bread He passed it from hand to hand. Now what does that unleavened bread represent in the Passover? It represents the deliverance, the representation of their exodus - but now He takes it and He gives it a new meaning, to represent His body, the body of Messiah.
To the Jewish mind the body didn't just mean this flesh, it represented the whole person - not just the physical being - but Jesus' body would have meant the mystery of who He was, the incarnation, His whole life, His whole teaching, His ministry and His work, all that He was and all that He did. It says that He give it to His disciples. Most modern translations and scholars believe that that word 'broken' is not there, because of course the prophecy was that none of His bones would be broken. Nevertheless, it was passed from hand to hand, and Paul gives us the record of the Lord, and it says: 'This is for you'. I think those must be some of the most beautiful words in the whole of Scripture: 'This unleavened bread being broken, just as the children of Israel came from Egypt, bondage, into the Promised Land, this is my body being broken for you, and here you are, eat of it!'.
The cup He gives them, that third cup of blessing, do you know what it represented? It represented the lamb's blood, Exodus 12, that was smeared upon the two doorposts and the lintel, that was protecting them as God came by and the angel came by. He takes that cup representing the blood of the lamb and He declares: 'This is the New Testament in my blood, shed not just for the Jews, but for the salvation of the world'. He turns to His disciples after taking this Passover, this Jewish feast, and totally making something new out of it that no man had ever seen before, and He says to His disciples: 'This is for you, now do this in remembrance of me'.
My friends, as we consider the typology of all this and the significance of it, let me just pause for a moment: do you realise that this isn't an option, this isn't an added extra for the Christian church? In fact, it is disobedience of the highest order not to break bread and drink from the cup, because it is the command of the Lord Jesus - it is sin not to remember Him! For the Hebrew, to remember meant much more than simply a memory or to bring something to mind, to merely recall something that had happened in the past, it actually means to go back psychologically in one's mind, to actually recapture as much of the reality and the significance of an event that you've already experienced, to almost feel that you were there - and that's what we've to do every first day of the week, do you do it my friend? I know that some of you don't, for I never see you, never see you! More than that: Christ never sees you!
What did He mean when He said: 'This is my body'? This has been debated down through all the centuries, when He give thanks on this did the molecules of the bread turn into the molecules of His body as the Roman Catholic Church teaches - transubstantiation? Of course it didn't, that is perhaps the most Satanic and blasphemous interpretation of the Lord's Supper that has ever been seen on the face of God's earth. This was metaphoric language, and a casual reading of the Scriptures would show you that this is the case - did the Lord Jesus not say in this same Upper Room: 'I am the vine and ye are the branches'? Did He literally mean that He was a vine and they were the branches? Of course He didn't. He said: 'I am the door, by me if any man enter in He shall be saved' - He didn't point to a door and say: 'That door is me, I am that door'. In fact in 1 Corinthians 10 that we studied a few weeks ago, Paul says that the rock that followed the children of Israel in the wilderness was Christ - does that mean that Christ literally is a piece of granite, flinty, and hard and cold? Of course it doesn't. You maybe walk into a friend's or a neighbour's house and you see a photograph on the wall of somebody you don't recognise, and you point at it and you say: 'Who's that?', and the person says: 'Oh, that's my son', or, 'that's my daughter', or, 'that's my mother or father'. Would you ever say to them: 'I thought that was a piece of paper with a frame around it hanging on the wall'? You would never say that, because you know what they mean, they're talking in representatory, imaginary in the sense of imagery, language. They're saying: 'this represents', but they just say, 'that is my son', 'that is my daughter'.
The whole of the Lord's Supper, the breaking of the loaf, the drinking of the cup, is a representation to our physical senses for something that is spiritual. As we show forth the Lord's death till He come, what we are not doing is we are not sacrificing Christ all over again - that is the blasphemy of the mass! The sacrifice is complete, and that's why we're looking backward to something that has been done and is finished, it is a commemoration. It doesn't indicate either that the physical person of Christ is in the bread or in the cup, neither does it insinuate that Christ is beside the bread or beside the cup as the Lutherans believe - consubstantiation. What it means is that Christ is not in the bread or in the cup, but Christ is there in the people! Christ is there in the meeting by His Spirit, it's the spiritual presence of Christ that it signifies - and as we partake of that bread and of that wine it has been designated as the flesh and the blood of Christ not literally, but as we take it by faith in our minds and in our hearts we are trusting in the sacrificial death that He accomplished for us. As one man put it: 'Eating Christ's flesh and drinking Christ's blood are done with the mind and the heart, not with the teeth and the throat'. Didn't the Lord say in John 6: 'Whosoever eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life' - did He mean literally eat His flesh and drink His blood? He could not have meant it literally: one, because He was sitting there as He gave the bread and wine, did He have two bodies? Was one body already dead when He was signifying the sacrifice? If it's a spiritual body, had He been dead and resurrected before He'd even gone to the cross or the tomb? It is absolutely impossible - and apart from all that, we know that it was a year before this institution was instigated after Jesus said: 'except ye eat my flesh and drink my blood ye shall have eternal life' - does that mean the disciples could not have eternal life for a whole year until they had the Lord's Supper instituted and given to them? Of course not! These words are spiritual, that's what He said Himself - the ordinance of the Lord's Supper was not instituted so that we could have a physical presence in our body or beside us of Christ, but so that we could know that we are His, and He is mine, and He is with us, and He is in us - not by bread and wine, but by His Spirit. Now as well as that He didn't say that 'the cup is my blood', He says the cup is the New Testament - the cup is not His blood, it is the New Testament in His blood.
Look backward, then he says 'look forward' - verse 26, the second half: 'ye do shew the Lord's death till he come'. It helps us look forward to a day when we will be with Him - why did he say that if we're already with Him in the presence of the bread and wine? It's looking to the day when we shall see Him as He is, and - Hallelujah - we shall be like Him. You know, it does show forth His death till He come, and it's only for believers - I think that's absolutely clear in the passage and every other verse of Scripture concerning the Lord's Table - but could I just say that I believe it's a great shame that there aren't more unbelievers at the Lord's Table, not partaking of the emblems, but witnessing the Lord's death till He comes. I've heard of children who have been born-again by seeing and witnessing the ordinance of the Lord's Table and realising the significance - do you remember the children around the Passover table? God told them that their children would say: 'What meaneth this?', and their father would tell them!
Looking backward, looking forward, and then thirdly and finally: our preparation for the Supper - our preparation. Twofold: look inward, and look outward. He says in verse 27: 'Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily', or unthoughtfully, 'shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ'. Now Paul isn't primarily talking about if you are unworthy person, of course if you're not saved this is not for you, it's for those who are saved and on their way to glory. But Paul is primarily talking about partaking in an unworthy manner, the way that you partake, not who you are. He said that if you partake of this feast without thought - now get the import of this please - you are guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord! If there's any fresh crucifixions that is the only sense that there could be one, that the sacrifice of Christ has already been made and you sin at His table - and it's almost, in a sense, as if you're putting the nails and the thorns in even more. That is not literal, of course.
How else can you eat of it unworthily? If you eat of it ritualistically without participating with your mind and your heart, you go through the motions and your emotions are not touched, you treat it lightly rather than seriously. You eat of it unworthily if you believe that it imparts some kind of grace or merit to you, that you're saved by eating it or it makes you cleaner, or it keeps you going on your way to heaven. Some other people come, as we've already said, with bitterness, with hatred toward another believer in the same assembly, or come with blatant sin in their life that they refuse to repent of - and all of that is eating and drinking unworthily, and it says you're guilty of the blood and body of Christ!
My friend, this is serious stuff. You dishonour His body, it's like trampling the flag of your country on the ground, only it's worse than that. Paul says every time you come to the Lord's Supper, therefore, a person ought to examine himself. Can I ask you, before I go any further: if you are at the Lord's Table how much time do you spend before you come? Do you rush out, wash your face, put your clothes on, out the door, bomb it down the road, sit down and then expect to have a time of worship and fellowship and meditation with the Lord Jesus? That is to drink and to eat unworthily, if you're not examining yourself, looking inwards. A person who eats and drinks without the right spirit, eat and drinks, Paul says, look at it, judgement to himself! The word in the Authorised is translated 'damnation', which is an incorrect translation because there is no condemnation, as Romans 8:1 tells us, for them which are in Christ Jesus. The word is the sense of a judgment, 'crema' (sp?) is the Greek word, he uses 'condemnation' later in verse 32 with regards to those who are in the world - they are condemned, 'catacrema' (sp?) - but the believer is only judged, it literally means 'chastened', out of love, to be disciplined. Now listen to this: this means that if you don't come to the Lord's Table and remember the Lord, or if you come and eat and drink unworthily, the Lord will discipline you out of love so that you'll not go into the condemnation of the world, so that you'll not be labelled with them - and even if it means, like some of these in Corinth who slept, that means they died, or they came under serious diseases, even if God has to do that to you, He will do it in love rather than see you condemned with those that are in the world. It mightn't seem like love, but it is.
The thought is powerful, and then he says don't just look inward to whether you're right, confess your sins, and if you confess your sins 1 John 1 tells us He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness - and you can come to that Table if you confess your sins to Christ, but confess them, and if you need to confess it to another brother and face him or her you have to do it! Then look outward, verse 29, you eat and drink unworthily if you eat and drink not discerning the Lord's body. Now of course that means the literal body of the Lord, and how He sacrificed that for you and for me, but I believe it has a dual meaning - it can also mean to discern the Lord's body as in the church, look outward to your brethren and sisters, for as he said in chapter 10: 'We being many are one bread and one body' - and that supper, let us not forget this, this is Paul's main point, has to be a demonstration of the unity of the church together in love. But there was no unity in Corinth and there was very little love, in fact the celebration of the feast of love, the Lord's Supper, was only a demonstration of their schismata.
Beloved, if God loves us we ought also to love one another. Let me sum it all up in the words of one man of God who put it so well: 'This sacrament indicates' - I don't like that word 'sacrament', but nevertheless - 'indicates the whole scope of Christ's relationship to us. It indicates Christ for us in the atonement; it indicates Christ in us by appropriation; it indicates Christ among us by communion; it indicates Christ to us in the second advent. It is a feast in commemoration of Christ's death; it is a feast in recognition of Christ's life; it is a feast in proclamation of Christ is coming - therefore, in all these elements, the Lord's Supper binds the past, the future, to the present moment. It is our present communion with Christ, which links us to the past commemoration of His death, and the future anticipation of His return'.
'As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup' - is it often? 'This do in remembrance of me', verse 24 is in the present continuous tense, which means 'remember continually' - remember continually! In the days of the Covenanters in Scotland a young girl was going to attend the Lord's Supper held by the Covenanters on a Sunday afternoon. It was a service that had been prohibited by the law, and the soldiers of the King of England were looking everywhere for people who were going to meet together and partake of the Table. As the girl turned one corner on her way she came face-to-face with a band of soldiers and she knew she was trapped. For a moment she wondered what she was going to do or what she was going to say, and she was unwilling to lie about what she was doing but she knew it would be deadly to tell the truth. Immediately on being asked the question where she was going, she found herself answering - listen to this, this is marvellous: 'My elder brother has died, and they are going to read his will this afternoon, and he has done something for me and has left something for me, and I want to hear them read the will' - and they allowed her to go.
Do you go? When you're there do you remember? Do you worship? Jesus says: 'Do you remember me?'.
Oh, Lord Jesus Christ, we worship at Thy feet for Thy great sacrifice for us, Thy people, that we may be one with Thee, even as Thou art one with Thy Father. Our Father, we thank Thee that Thou didst send Thy Son to bleed and die, and gave Him to this fallen world. Oh, our Father, we give Thee thanks; we praise Thee for the love of Jesus. Lord Jesus, we thank Thee for going to the cross, for bleeding and shedding Thy blood, and offering Thy body prepared for death in holiness and spotlessness, the Lamb, and laying it down for me. Lord, let us never forget, let us always remember, and let us be united in Thee as Thou art one. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twenty-eighth tape in his 1 Corinthians series, titled "Celebrating The Supper Of The Lord" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
All material by David Legge is copyrighted. However, these materials may be freely copied and distributed unaltered for the purpose of study and teaching, so long as they are made available to others free of charge, and this copyright is included. This does not include hosting or broadcasting the materials on another website, however linking to the resources on preachtheword.com is permitted. These materials may not, in any manner, be sold or used to solicit 'donations' from others, nor may they be included in anything you intend to copyright, sell, or offer for a fee. This copyright is exercised to keep these materials freely available to all. Any exceptions to these conditions must be explicitly approved by Preach The Word. [Read guidelines...]