Saturday, September 27, 2014

P1 - The Gospel in Stereo: The Lord's Table

1 Corinthians 11:28 "But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup."

I will never forget as a youngster the fascination I had with stereo equipment. The bigger the speaker and the louder the stereo yielded a bigger smile. Whenver it became possible to attach a good stereo to a big t.v screen, what was a smile became a shout of jubilation! Why? Because watching t.v went from a passive activity to a full-fledged experience and event. Supreme audio and video to this day still gives me goose bumps whenever we are getting ready to watch a movie and that bass-rumbling "THX" monicker pops up on the screen.

Whenever God ordained the proclamation of salvation, He did so through the audio of the preaching of His word and the visual aids of feasts and ceremonial ordinances in the Old Testament. It was the scriptures that converted the human soul (Psalm 19:7) and it was the feasts and ceremonies that pictured for the people God's saga of redemption. 

When Jesus came and the New Testament era began following the Day of Pentecost, one of the Old Testament feasts - Passover, was succeeded by Jesus' institution of His Covenant meal, called by many Christian groups today "The Lord's Table". Likewise the Old Testament rite of circumcision which was a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant came to be replaced by the New Covenant rite of believer's baptism. The Gospel message in terms of its contents and method of converting people never changed. However the way God ordained the Gospel to be visualized did change. Today's post and the next will feature the two visual means ordained by God to visualize the Gospel to both His church and to a watching world. For today we will deal with that first means - the Lord's Supper. Tomorrow's post will feature the second visualized portrayal of the Gospel - Baptism.

The Purposes for the Lord's Table and main point of application
In today's blog we want to understand the purposes for which the Lord's Supper was prescribed by the Lord Jesus Christ to His church.  Regular observance of this "meal" by the local church enables the body of Christ to maintain its corporate identity and grow closer together.  (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)  The point of application for today's post will be: The Lord's Supper's purposes enables Christians to visualize why they need Christ, the Gospel and One another. Below are four reasons why celebrating the Lord's supper is vital to Christians both individually and as members of the local church. Our key text will derive from 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. The reader is encouraged to read the text and use the headings and explanation below to work through the text.

1. The Lord's Supper is used by Christ to repair divisions. 1 Corinthians 11:17-22
The letter of 1 Corinthians was written to a church that was fractured in its fellowship.  Out of the 10 churches that the Apostle Paul wrote to in his 13 New Testament Epistles, the church at Corinth was the most heartbreaking.  Jesus had prayed in John 17:21 that His church as a whole would be one as He and the Father are one.  Clearly the church at Corinth was going in the opposite direction - which is why the Holy Ghost inserted instructions about the Lord's Supper.  The Lord's supper gives the church the opportunity to seek forgiveness, heal division and fix fellowship issues that may have arisen since the last Lord's supper. (1 Corinthians 11:28-34)

2. The Lord's Supper rejoices in the cross. 1 Cor 11:23-25
The cross in the scriptures was the event that the Holy Spirit used to point me to the source of my salvation.  Additionally, the cross is the place the Holy Spirit uses to cleanse me in my post-conversion sanctification.  The cross must never be forgotten. (1 Corinthians 2:2)  The Lord's table intentionally focuses the entire church on all the signifcance and daily need for the cross.  (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

3.  The Lord's Supper repeats the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 11:26
The Gospel of Jesus Christ focuses upon what Jesus came to do in His first coming - accomplish salvation.  The Gospel also tells us how we can be saved from the reality of God's wrath that is coming upon this world in Christ's second coming. (Romans 5:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10) As an ordinance, like Baptism, the Lord's table conveys the Gospel in picture rather than words.  By the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ communicates and reinforces these truths to the hearts of His church through their observance of His ordinance (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:26)  This is why the Lord's table is celebrated in conjunction with the communication of the scriptures.

4. The Lord's Supper urges re-examination of the Christian walk. 1 Corinthians 11:27-34
We are told in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to "examine ourselves to see whether or not we are in the faith".  What kinds of questions are good to ask myself when getting ready to receive the Lord's Supper (or communion, as it is sometimes called)?  What if any unconfessed sin has crept into my life since I last partook of the Lord's supper?  Do I have any resentment towards anyone?  Have I grown cold in my love for Jesus, His Word or prayer?  How am I doing in the areas of supporting the local church of which I am a member through my giving of tithes and offerings? Am I mad at God? Have I done anything to grieve His Spirit?  Have I seen growth and change in my life for the glory of God?  What has God shown me about Himself since the last time I partook of His meal?

Questions like the ones above remind the Christian of the need for daily examination.  There is no cruise control on the steering column of the Christian life.  We don't coast, we aim to strive for all we can in Christ, since it is He who is working in us His perfect and pleasing will. (Philippians 3:12-13) 

This is the Gospel in stereo: the audio coming from the scripture, and the video (visual) coming from the Lord's supper. Tomorrow we will consider the second part of the Gospel in stereo when we examine believer's baptism. 

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