Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Some thoughts on how the Lord's supper signifies the Holy Spirit's work among the body of saints

picture is from
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread."

1 Corinthians 11:23-24 "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; 24 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.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."

Today's post opens with the above three verses from Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth. I'm sure that many readers have experienced what it is like to partake of the Lord's supper. It is fair to say that often-times, the meaning of the Lord's supper is too often restricted or boiled down to one meaning. Certainly the main point of Paul's exposition in 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 is to show how this covenant meal was given by the Lord Jesus to His church to signify the spiritual realities He achieved for them on the cross and empty tomb. However, it is very evident that the significance of the meal goes beyond some bare symbol or referring merely to a time where we try to recall to our minds that all-important death of Jesus.

The Lord's supper is a sign that signifies true spiritual realities. What Jesus did on the cross and accomplished following His resurrection from the dead is stated in Paul's opening statement in 1 Corinthians 11:23. A living, post-resurrected Jesus gave these instructions directly to Paul. We can of course trace the wording and significance of the instructions back to what we read of Jesus' institution of this meal with his disciples in Matt 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24 and Luke 22:17-20 

Nonetheless, the same Jesus who initiated this meal in the four Gospels had risen, ascended and at some point relayed them to Paul by way of a Personal, post-resurrected appearance. Hence the point is to show that in the Lord's supper, we are given a sign of the reality of what it means to experience Jesus Christ - Lord of the past, present and future. 

The Lord's supper points not only back to what Jesus achieved in His first coming in the past, but also what He will accomplish when He comes again in the future. 1 Corinthians 11:26 states - "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes." 

So in celebrating the Lord's supper as pointing believers to what Jesus has done and what He will do, what about the here and now? I think too often in Baptist churches at least, we tend to approach the Lord's supper with the idea that Jesus is only to be thought of for what He did for us in the past. I of all people certainly do not want to minimize that point, since it is after the main point of the meal. 

However, focusing our attention on what Jesus has done is not the only point of the Lord's table. As we just mentioned, the meal points us to the future whereby Jesus will return and gather us to Himself, raise the dead, conquer His enemies and (without going into inordinate detail) reign. This to me is an exciting element that both Jesus and Paul communicate about the rich significance of this meal. However, there is one remaining time element - namely the present. To put it plainly - the Lord's supper is a sign that reminds Christians what Jesus in them, by the Holy Spirit, is currently doing. 

When the Lord's table is approached, do we ever think of the fact that Jesus Christ is already present inside each and every Christian as a result of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit? Whenever we read the above three opening verses, it is clear that within the context of Paul's exposition of the Lord's supper, there is a tie to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit's role from the inception of Christian salvation until we are in the presence of Jesus is to prepare us, shape us and make us more and more like Jesus. Additionally, the Spirit's main work has to do with uniting us to Jesus and Jesus to us. 

The goal over these next couple of posts is to spell out how the Lord's supper signifies or pictures for us the reality of the Holy Spirit's continuing work of enabling Christians to participate in the life of Jesus, and He with us. These thoughts (I hope) will excite the reader and perhaps give a fresh perspective on how we view the Lord's supper. 

Jesus is not hermetically sealed off somewhere in the past nor is He waiting with anticipation in the future before He can be with us. Such thoughts tragically and often-times describe how many Christians view their relationship with the Lord Jesus. We rightly build our faith on what Jesus has done in the past, as well as what He will do in the future. However, we must realize there is an in-between-time, the present. Jesus Christ is by the indwelling Holy Spirit in every Christian living and acting. He did promise afterall that He would be with His church, even to the end of the age. 

Hence when God's people meet together to celebrate the Lord's supper, they are in that instant presenting snapshot of the reality of the risen Christ working in union with them, and they with Him. The Lord's supper pictures for us the amazing reality of the Holy Spirit's continuing work in us as we enjoy our union with Jesus Christ by faith. This particular point is what I hope we can understand in the days to come. 

More tomorrow....