Posts Tagged 'Holy Communion'

Video Sermon: The Biggest Blunders in the Bible, Part 3

From my corner of Virginia to all my American friends, happy Independence Day!

On today’s VIDEO SERMON, we’re looking a blunder so big, it was causing members of one church to get sick and even die. It’s a lesson on practical and spiritual living. So click away and we’ll learn it together.

Video Sermon: 7 February

Good morning, gang. Here’s what I woke up to this morning:

But, here’s your VIDEO SERMON for this snowy Sunday.  God bless you as we look to His Word today.  Don’t forget, if you have a prayer request or some good news to share, make use of the comments section or email me.  Our prayer warriors are ready!

 

Secrets of the Last Supper

BeFunky_last+supper+6.jpg

1 Corinthians 11:23-29

In most Protestant churches, there are two ordinances: water baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Of the two, the latter has been called “the heirloom of the Christian Church.” And that’s a perfect way to think of it. Consider the emblems the Lord’s Supper; they are homey and simple – bread and wine (or juice as a substitute). Bread is the staple of life and together with either wine or juice, can be found in most any home in any part of the world.

Yet as commonplace as bread and wine are, in the hands of our Lord they embody the most profound facts of the Christian faith. The bread becomes His Body and the wine His Blood. In symbolic fashion, they come to represent Christ’s character and His mission.

Most churches when they celebrate the Lord’s Supper or Communion, read this passage of Scripture, which contains words Paul received from the Lord and which he has passed on to the believers in Corinth, and ultimately to us. Let’s consider what Jesus thought of His Supper.

Preamble

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you… (1 Corinthians 11:23a KJV)

Part of being a member of the church is understanding the importance of the Lord’s Supper. It may be an observance – a memorial – but it is a significant one. There is a right way and wrong way to celebrate it, and apparently some members of the Corinthian church were observing in the wrong way.

When you come together to eat, it isn’t the Lord’s Supper you are eating, but your own. (1 Corinthians 10:20-21a TLB)

In other words, some in the church were celebrating the Lord’s Supper (a good thing) their own way (a bad thing). It’s all well and good to be obedient to the Lord and to support your church, but it has to be done God’s way, not your own. Nobody has the right to approach God any old way. If you’re going to do what God wants you to do, then you have to do it His way, not yours. That, of course, takes discipline and a commitment to actually knowing what God wants.

Believers are guests at the Lord’s table, and as such ought to behave as guests. It’s a solemn occasion for we are not only remembering what Jesus did for us, we are commemorating the establishment of a new covenant of grace.

The Incarnation

…That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread…and said, This is my body… (1 Corinthians 11:23b, 24b KJV)

As an interesting sidelight, Paul used a Greek verb in the imperfect tense to describe the act of betrayal. That whole night was an act of betrayal; what Judas did lit the fuse that ended at the Cross. And in the midst of this betrayal came what have to call, “the Last Supper.”

Jesus said of the bread, “This is my body…” Depending on what denomination you belong to, you either take that phrase literally – that is, the bread mystically turns into the Body of Christ, or you take it symbolically – the bread represents the Body of Christ. Since the days of the Reformation, theologians have discussed  what Jesus meant, and I seriously doubt that I can contribute anything new to that discussion. But I will say this: that piece of bread Jesus held in hand was just that – a piece of bread. It remained a piece of bread that represented His body. This, by the way, is nothing new in Scripture. Think about that dove the descended on Jesus during His baptism. We know the dove wasn’t really the Holy Spirit, it merely represented the Holy Spirit, just as the bread represents Christ’s earthly body. In fact, it represents the Incarnation:

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll–I have come to do your will, O God.’ ” (Hebrews 10:5-7a NIV84)

That’s a marvelous testimony! The Son of God took on, not the body or nature of angels, but the “likeness of sinful flesh.”

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man…(Romans 8:3a NIV84)

Our Lord took the body prepared for Him by the Father so that He could become the visible sacrifice for the sins of the world. And the most marvelous part of this story is that Jesus did it on His own – of His own free will!

...but made himself nothing,taking the very nature of a servant,being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:7 NIV84)

Notice the words Paul used: [Jesus] made himself… Nobody and nothing forced Jesus to do what He did: not His Father and not even the circumstance of man’s sinful condition. What Jesus did He did based on a decision He Himself made.

The taking of the bread as a symbol of His body was also a voluntary act.

Jesus’ devotion

And when he had given thanks… (1 Corinthians 11:24a KJV)

This is a remarkable thing Jesus did. He didn’t just say grace and pass the food around the table. Remember, the bread He held in His hand – the bread He gave thanks for – was an emblem of His body. In essence, Jesus gave thanks to His Father for a body that was about to be broken and bruised and hung up on a Cross!

Or to put it another way, our Lord thanked God for the privilege of suffering and ultimately dying for a sick, sinful, guilty, and thankless humanity.

Talk about devotion to a cause! This was it! For Jesus, there was no turning back; He knew He was born for this very moment, and He whole heartedly embraced it.

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18 NIV84)

His suffering

…he brake it… (1 Corinthians 11:24b KJV)

These three words are pregnant with meaning. Remember, Paul was not in the Upper Room during the Last Supper. What we’re reading here is not an eye witness account but, rather, a direct revelation from the Lord. These three words are of vital importance because they show, among other things, that Jesus was in full control of everything happening during this night of betrayal. He gave thanks, and He broke it. Jesus didn’t give the piece of bread to Judas to break, He broke it Himself. He gave HIMSELF as a sacrifice for our sins.

…Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2 NIV84)

Jesus did what He did because He loved us. We were unloveable and He still loved us. We were sinners who couldn’t care less about Jesus, and He still loved us.

What our Lord went through in His suffering and death was completely voluntary. He decided what He would do, and when He would do it. He broke the bread.

His substitution

Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. (1 Corinthians 11:24c KJV)

One the very eve of His death, our Lord spoke prophetically about what was going to happen to His physical body. It would be broken. It would be nailed to a Cross. Notice: it would be broken for YOU. In other words, what was about to happen to Jesus should happen to each of us. He suffered – His body was broken, not accidentally but on purpose – in our place.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5 NIV84)

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:7-8 NIV84)

Not only His body, but the wine of His blood was shed for our redemption. It signed the New Covenant.

After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood… (1 Corinthians 11:25a KJV)

Again, “He took the cup.” Nobody else took it; He did. His blood was not accidentally poured or spilled out; it was deliberately shed, and because it was, it changed our lives forever.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV84)

When you take Communion, do you ever think about that? The blood of Jesus made us children of God.

His invitation

Take, eat… (1 Corinthians 11:24c KJV)

...this do…in remembrance of me. (1 Corinthians 11:25b KJV)

The Atonement was made by the actions of one Man: the Lord Jesus Christ. He did it all by His suffering and death. But after that, after Atonement had been made, an invitation was issued: take and eat. In other words, sinners must partake of the benefits provided. All the work of Jesus on the Cross comes to nothing unless a sinner partakes of them. The benefits of the Atonement must be appropriated before they can work in a sinner’s life. Jesus doesn’t spoon-feed anybody! That’s our responsibility.

However, there is absolutely no virtue in just eating and drinking. There must be remembering. That’s the very soul of this ordinance. We must remember Jesus and what He did. The elements of bread and wine are merely the symbols. We have to use our minds to remember what Jesus did.

His purpose

So that’s it? The Lord’s Supper is just a memorial service? Not quite. There is a little more to it:

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death still he come. (1 Corinthians 11:26 KJV)

When we observe the Lord’s Supper, we are sitting at a table that looks in three directions:

It is a commemoration. We are doing it memory of Him. We are looking back to the Cross; remembering what it means.
It’s a communion service. We are in communion with Christ through the Holy Spirit, but we are also in communion with each other. That’s the present view of the table.
It’s a commitment. The communion table also looks to the future: Jesus has committed to come again. The Communion service is temporary; it will end the day He comes back.

By eating the bread and drinking from the cup, we are “proclaiming the Lord’s death.” That means we are testifying to what Jesus did; we are remembering it and publicly witnessing to its reality. We are to do this repeatedly and often.

It’s interesting and not insignificant that our Lord took these two elements, bread and wine, that will spoil and rot and He built a monument. It wasn’t a monument to Himself, but a monument to God’s great plan of redemption. The monument to God’s plan of redemption speaks of Jesus and His work, yet it was made of frailest elements on earth: bread and wine.

EXCEPTional Bible Verses, Part 6

wine and bread 

John 6:52—59

 

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.  (John 6:53  KJV)

One of the most quoted and oft discussed passages of Scripture was really the result of confusion.  Jesus had been teaching some Jews about His divinity. 

“What?” they exclaimed. “Why, he is merely Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know. What is this he is saying, that he came down from heaven?”  (John 6:42  TLB)

These Jews were befuddled by things Jesus had been saying to them.   This was the group that had been miraculously fed by Jesus previously, and this day they had tracked Him down looking for more free food.  Jesus saw the vast crowd following Him and He knew their hearts; He knew they were only following Him around for what they could get out of Him—things like a piece of toast!  To this attitude, Jesus said:

Yes, I am the Bread of Life! When your fathers in the wilderness ate bread from the skies, they all died. But the Bread from heaven gives eternal life to everyone who eats it. I am that Living Bread that came down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread shall live forever; this Bread is my flesh given to redeem humanity.  (John 6:48—51  TLB)

This statement of our Lord’s didn’t help their confusion at all.  These Jews were unspiritual people; their faith revolved around laws and regulations, and the things of the Spirit were completely lost on them.  To them, it sounded a lot like Jesus was teaching that men should literally eat His flesh, as though they were cannibals. 

Then the Jews began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked.  (John 6:52  TLB)

Now, of course, Jesus was not speaking literally but figuratively of His atonement.  But like most people, they stumbled over Jesus’ teaching concerning the Cross.  The apostle Paul noticed this and wrote about it:

So when we preach about Christ dying to save them, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.  (1 Corinthians 1:23  TLB)

If we look at their question closely, we notice how insidious it really was.  Their question was not, “How are we supposed to eat…” but rather, “How is God able…”  In other words, these Jews did not question their ability to eat Christ’s flesh, but Christ’s ability save them through His work.  Imagine questioning God’s ability to save!  Well, that’s what these people were really doing. 

Jesus has one more go with these dense people, and He certainly doesn’t tone it down one bit!  In fact, Jesus goes even further.  If they were befuddled before, now they’re truly “lost in space!”  And this takes us to our sixth EXCEPTional Bible verse:

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.  (John 6:53  KJV)

First cannibalism, now vampirism!   We can only imagine what these people thought about our Lord this day.

1.  Christianity:  Exclusive

In 21st century America we are supposed to be “inclusive.”  It’s the word-of-the-day these days, yet it does not and never has applied to Christianity.  Only in the minds of the most liberal, progressive “Christian” is the church “a big tent.”  It is not.  Jesus’ answer to this group of Jews illustrates just how exclusive true Christianity is.  Only those who eaten the flesh of Jesus and drank His blood have His life in them.  Period.

Well, this must have disgusted the Jews, but not for the reason you may be thinking.  Our Lord had not set out to shock or offend these people this day.  When people, like these Jews, get offended with the words of Christ, it is completely without cause.  Unbelief always takes offense when it hears the truth.  We may understand their befuddlement with “eating Christ’s flesh,” but  now “drinking His blood” has been added to the mix.  At this point, the truth probably began to dawn on them; now they began to grasp what Jesus had been saying.  His words finally began to make sense, and they didn’t like what they heard one bit.  At the mention of “blood,” their Jewish  minds would have flashed back to this verse:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given you the blood to sprinkle upon the altar as an atonement for your souls; it is the blood that makes atonement because it is the life.  (Leviticus 17:11  TLB)

The symbolism of what our Lord was teaching was dawning on them.  To these Jews, blood was the seat of life; it represented life and it cleansed the soul from sin.  By adding “my blood,” the mind shifted from cannibalism to atonement; the nature of Christ’s sacrifice came to the fore:  He was going to offer His life.  He will shed His blood and salvation was by accepting and receiving Him in a most intimate way.

That is exclusive!  Salvation is not a matter of memorizing a list of rules and regulations.  Eternal life is not found in any man’s teaching or by joining some organization.  Only by accepting Christ’s sacrifice for your sins and appropriating His work for you on the Cross by faith can you gain eternal life. 

2.  Communion

This teaching of Jesus forms the basis for what we call “the Lord’s Supper” or “Holy Communion.”   Some churches—primarily the Roman Catholic Church and a few Protestant denominations—refer to this ceremony as a “sacrament,” while most evangelical/Protestant churches call it an “ordinance.”  Which is it?  And what’s the difference?  A “sacrament” is defined as “a sign or a rite which results in God’s grace being conveyed to the individual.”  This, of course, goes against what the Bible actually teaches:  that grace is not given through outward symbols and no ritual is “necessary for salvation.” Grace is free—it is offered by God.

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.  He poured out this Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3:4—7  HCSB)

An “ordinance,” on the other hand, is a symbolic reenactment of the gospel message that Christ lived, died, was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and will someday return. Rather than requirements for salvation, ordinances are visual aids to help us better understand and appreciate what Jesus Christ accomplished for us in His redemptive work. Ordinances are determined by three factors: they were instituted by Christ, they were taught by the apostles, and they were practiced by the early church.  (S. Michael Houdmann)  This is why virtually all evangelical/Protestant churches call “Holy Communion” an ordinance.

Zwingli, the great Swiss Reformer, arguably came closest to pure Biblical theology when he taught that what Jesus is talking about in these verses, and what we celebrate once a month in our church, is wholly a spiritual and commemorative exercise; that grace is not given or received.  In celebrating Communion, believers remember, celebrate, and commemorate Christ’s work for them on the Cross.  The “bread and the wine” are elements that represent the Body and blood of Christ and the bread and the wine of what we have come to call the Last Supper.  As we eat together, we are really doing two things.  First, we are doing something Jesus asked us to do:

Do this in remembrance of me whenever you drink it.  For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you are retelling the message of the Lord’s death, that he has died for you. Do this until he comes again.  (1 Corinthians 11:25b, 26  TLB)

And, second, as we eat the bread and drink the juice (or wine), we are showing actually what has happened spiritually: we have accepted what Christ’s sacrifice did for us and we have received His life.

Everyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood is in me, and I in him.  (John 6:56  TLB)

How important is “eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus?”  Jesus tells us in verse 54—

But anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him at the Last Day.   (John 6:54  TLB)

Lenki said it best:

As eating and drinking receives food to be assimilated in the body, so believing receives Christ with the atonement made through his sacrificial flesh and blood.

As food and drink nourishes and sustains our physical body, so Holy Communion nourishes and sustains our spiritual life.

3.  Joined to Christ

I live by the power of the living Father who sent me, and in the same way those who partake of me shall live because of me!   (John 6:57  TLB)

The symbolic eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood shows the kind of intimate relationship He wants with us.  To “eat and drink” means to be spiritually joined to Christ.  He is in us and we are in Him.  This, of course, takes faith on our part.  Our union with and to Christ must be taken by faith; the life we receive from our relationship with Christ is received by faith and can be traced right back to its source:  God the Father.  This was the life in Jesus, and it is the life in  us through Jesus.

This is why celebrating Communion is so important and far more than just a mindless ritual.  Christians need to be reminded often what Jesus did for them and in them, and our Lord in His wisdom, gave the church the means to make this happen. 

For I [Paul] received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night 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, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  (1 Corinthians 11:23—26  NIV)


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