Friday, August 28, 2015

How the Lord's Table is connected to the reality of Spirit-filled life

observing the Lord’s Supper
1 Corinthians 11:20-23 "Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise thechurch of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you. 23 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."

These last several posts have attempted to trace the relationship between the Lord's table and the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life. Care has been taken to advance the notion that when the Lord's Table is observed in any local church, what is being pictured by the elements of bread and fruit of the vine is not some empty ritual or mere remembrance of things. The bread and fruit of the vine are symbols for sure - but they are more than symbols. 

Three realities pictured by the Lord's table
The bread and fruit of the vine that is partaken of converted people of God who have been scripturally baptized (see Acts 2:38-41) signifies certain realities. 

1. The chief reality of the past is of course the accomplishmentof salvation won by the Lord Jesus Christ - which Paul expressly tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. 

2. The second reality communicated by these signs and symbols is a future one - namely the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as stated in 1 Corinthians 11:26. However, in many Baptist churches at least - no further significance is found. 

3. The third reality portrayed by the Lord's table is the Spirit's work in ministering to God's people the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ. This is sadly a glaring omission that is unknowingly over-looked by many churches, pastors and Christians. When we consider what Paul states about his receptions of the Lord's Supper instructions for the church at Corinth, we must ask: in what manner did the Lord Jesus Christ deliver these instructions to Paul. The wording corresponds to what we read in the first three Gospels. However, when Jesus came to Paul, He had already risen and was already ascended. 

The post-resurrected, ascended Jesus is able to be with His people here while remaining in heaven due to the fact of Him not only remaining God, but by the Spirit granting opportunity for His people to experience Him.  It is in this vein of thought we must consider the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 

To get as quickly as possible to the point of today's post - it must be stated that the current Person and activity of Jesus Christ is experienced and enjoyed by the repeated filling and re-filling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit's filling ministry of the Christian following their conversion represents the epicenter of post-conversion life. 

The importance of the Spirit-filled Christian life in the local church
The Spirit of God is the One who initially unites us to the Living and exalted Christ at salvation - hence taking care of our position before God in Christ. The Spirit's filling ministry deals with our experience of such a life with God by our fellowship with Christ Who lives inside of us. 

The very identity of the church as the "body of Christ" speaks to the present reality every Christian continues to enjoy from their inception into salvation by grace through faith. The church as a body of believers partaking of the Lord's table is the chief point of 1 Corinthians 11. Moreover, the church as a body of Christ is made possible by the Person and work of the Holy Spirit - as seen in 1 Corinthians 12. 

As we noted earlier, the Spirit's ministry of filling the Christian stands as the central hub of post-conversion Christianity. The Spirit-filled life is the Spirit-led, Spirit-controlled life. Whenever one reads the key passage on the Spirit-filled life - Ephesians 5:8-21 - we find the call to such a life in Ephesians 5:8-14; the command to have a Spirit-filled life in Ephesians 5:15-18 and the consequences flowing from such a life in Ephesians 5:19-6:4. 

All Christians have the Holy Spirit indwelling them from the moment of regeneration in saving faith (Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:4-5). Were the Holy Spirit not active in salvation - no one would be saved. In that moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit unites the new Christian to Jesus Christ through what the Bible calls "Spirit-baptism" (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). All of this occurs instantaneously. The Christian now has all of the Holy Spirit they're ever going to get. However, the issue that remains from regneration onwards is: "how much of me does God the Holy Spirit have?" 

The answer to that question is answered by the filling ministry of the Spirit. The filling of the Spirit weds the increased experience and power of the risen Christ. This is not to say that I wasn't already connected to Jesus. The Spirit's initial uniting of me to Him guarantees that positional reality (see Ephesians 2:6-8). However, the Christian should throughout their Christian walk desire to have an increasing experience to match what they are learning about their position in Christ. 

When we approach the Lord's table - we approach with the idea that what is being pictured in those signs and symbols is not only the historical reality of Calvary and not only the future reality of the second coming - but also the present reality of the Spirit's uniting of Jesus with me - and me with Him. Our churches need Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit. The filling ministry of the Spirit is a repeatable reality that is available to all Christians and is commanded to all Christians. Are we yielded to the Lord? Does He have more of us today than He did yesterday?

Since the weaknesses of the flesh and the onslaught of the world makes Christians prone to spiritual leakage - we need to be filled again and again. The repeatability of the Lord's table reminds us of the fact we need to be fellowshipping with Jesus repeatedly. The experience of the Lord's table and the actions of taking in bread and fruit-of-the-vine reminds us of the growing experience every Christian needs in taking in the Person, presence and power of the risen and ascended Christ by the filling of the Spirit. Proof positive of these observations found in the next chapter of 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. Together we "drink" of One Spirit. Together we are the body of Christ. Such truths are pictured by the Lord's table. 

The hope from these last few posts is that the reader is seeing the clear linkage between the Holy Spirit's Personal ministry in continuously uniting the Christian to Christ to what is communicated and portrayed in the Lord's supper. Moreover, the specific filling ministry of the Holy Spirit stands central to the post-conversion Christian life. Although no passage of scripture forbids a Christian from partaking of the elements who is not Spirit-filled, nonetheless the picturing of the necessity of that reality in the Lord's supper should quickly move a wavering Christian to repent and ask the Spirit of God to fill them anew with a deeper experience and love for Jesus. 

More tomorrow....

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