Monday, March 26, 2012

The significance of the Lord's Supper

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

The Importance of the Lord's Supper
We typically refer to the final meal that the Lord Jesus Christ had with his disciples the night before His crucifixion as "the Lord's Supper".  All four Gospels and Paul's statements here in 1 Corinthians 11 (as well as 1 Corinthians 10) are the primary texts we look to when discerning the meaning and purpose of the Lord's supper. Paul emphasizes that he had "received from the Lord that which I delivered to you", giving us the chief reason why the Lord's table is so important: Jesus Himself gave it to His church to practice, to celebrate what He accomplished, and to anticipate His soon return.

The Lord's Supper was an ordinance given by Christ to His church, along with Baptism
Last week I blogged about the meaning, mode and place of Baptism in the Christian life.  I won't rehearse that material again, since it is available in the past blogs.  I will point out to the reader that when Jesus prescribed ordinances (commands or "orders" given by the Lord to be carried out by His church), two, and only two were given: Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

We know this first of all by the fact that Baptism occurs at the beginning of each Gospel and the instiution of the Lord's Supper is found at the end of each of the four Gospels.  Both are consistently practiced by the early church in Acts and both are taught in the Epistles.  Both picture the Gospel in some way and both are used by Christ to encourage the faith of the New Testament believer. 

Baptism's connection to the Lord's Supper
Just as Baptism is performed following the believer's faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord's Supper is an act that follows after the believer has been baptized.  Acts 2:38-42 gives the standard order of events in the life of the Christian: Conversion to Christ by grace through faith, followed by believer's baptism, then participation in the "breaking of bread" or the Lord's supper.  

While Baptism signifies a one time act, the Lord's Supper signifies continual and repeated practice.  Baptism, being the Christian's first major step of Christian obedience, determines  who should partake of the Lord's table.  The Lord's table is a believer's table - first and foremost.  Secondly, the Lord's table points to His Lordship, His ownership of the Christian.  In approaching the Lord's table, the Christian comes with the attitude of remembering Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  Reasons such as these are why Baptist Churches typically require all those partaking of the Lord's table to be both genuine converts of Christ who have been immersed in believer's Baptism.

What the Lord's Supper Means - Picture and Encouragement to the faithlife
The Lord's Supper points us in two directions: what Christ accomplished and who Christ is.  The Lord's Supper pictures and communicates Christ the God/man.  The ordinary elements of bread and fruit of the vine picture for us His humanity, of which being God He assumed when He came to earth in order to die for our sins.  Through the Lord's table the Christian is encouraged in their faith-life about the centrality and significance of Christ's finished work on the cross and His intercession for them in Heaven as the God/Man.

With the focus on His humanity/Deity and his accomplishment in His first coming, the Lord's Supper also points us forward to His second coming.  The Gospels and 1 Corinthians 11 tells us that the church is to celebrate the Lord's Supper until He returns.  Therefore the Lord's Supper encourages the faithwalk of Christians to lift their eyes to the hills from whence comes there help. (Psalm 121) 

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