Friday, April 15, 2022

How Good Friday Made Possible The Great Day Of Christ's Soon Return: A Good Friday Meditation


        Good Friday is called “Good Friday” because the eternal goodness of God Himself was on display to conquer the darkness and evil of sin. In this post I want to take Paul's instructions on the Lord's Supper as a means of preparing our minds for Good Friday. Think of this post today as  reflections that lead the mind and heart to anticipate all that Good Friday expresses. Furthermore, we will see how focusing upon the cross points believers ahead to Christ's second coming. John writes in Revelation 1:7 of how the Lord Jesus Christ is coming soon and will have the nail-pierced marks, even in His glorified state, 

"Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen."

Salvation accomplished and salvation applied.

We read these words in Romans 5:8-9 

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him."

        When theologians speak of the cross of Christ, they subdivide what took place into two main branches: “redemption accomplished” and “redemption applied”. The first of these speak of what Jesus achieved as recorded in the four Gospel accounts. The latter subdivision describes the Holy Spirit's application of the accomplished work of Christ explained in the book of Acts and New Testament Letters. "Salvation Applied" begins at regeneration in saving faith, through progressive growth in sanctification, to glorification which follows upon the believer's death. The cross of Christ, Good Friday, set in motion the wonder of Christ’s string of victories. Good Friday would lead to Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday looked ahead to Christ’s ascension. Christ’s ascension would be proved by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to begin the church in Acts. It is then from Pentecost to now we look forward to Jesus’ return. The simple diagram below summarizes what Jesus achieved and will achieve upon His return:


How the crown of thorns would point the way to the crowned King of Kings at His return

       For the Christian, the cross is our focal point that enables us to look forward to Jesus’ return (see 1 Corinthians 2:2). Several New Testament passages tie together what Jesus achieved in the His first coming to what He will accomplish at His second coming. I'll cite two fine examples of this linkage between the cross and second coming. Paul writes in Titus 2:13-14 

"looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." 

        The author of Hebrews in Hebrews 9:27-28 connects for us the cross to Christ’s return: 

"And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, (28) so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." 

Jesus gave His church the Lord's Table to recall and prepare in the time between His two comings 

        Furthermore, Jesus Himself gave to His church a wonderful means of strengthening the Christian's faith in which we can focus on the cross while looking forward to His return – the Lord’s Table.  One author has noted that the possessive appelation "Lord's" (that is, as seen in the phrases "Lord's Table" in 1 Corinthians 11:21 and "Lord's Day" in Revelation 1:10) speaks to His Lordship as declared following His resurrection. 

        We see proof of this observation from what Peter states in his inaugural sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:36

"Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” 

        Paul’s admonitions and instructions to a struggling church served to refocus it on the cross so that it could become once again excited about Christ’s return. Clearly there are points here for us to consider. I'll list three of these rather broadly and then expound upon them below.

1. What happens when we’re not focused on the cross.   1 Corinthians 11:17-22

2. How to refocus on the cross in the Lord’s Supper.       1 Corinthians 11:23-34

3. How focusing on the cross prepares the Christian for His return. 1 Corinthians 11:26-34

      So then, let's observe these three in more detail.

1. What happens when we’re not focused on the cross.   1 Corinthians 11:17-22

          We can notice two consequences that follow when churches and Christians lose focus of the cross: loss of unity and loss of focus.

*Loss of unity.          11:17-19

          The church at Corinth was a struggling church. In as much as it struggled with moral and doctrinal divisions, Paul tells us that God's Providence sovereignly allows His church to battle with challenges at every level. We know that in the realm of God's morally revealed will (that is, the Bible, see Deuteronomy 29:29), such errors and sins conflict with what He tells us in His Word (see 1 John 3:4). Yet we know too that no trial comes to any Christian apart from the Sovereign unrevealed will of the Savior (see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 1 Peter 1:6-7). We may not grasp how these two general areas of God's will work together, yet we know that in the final analysis there are no contradictions in the will of God. Moses writes in Deuteronomy 8:3 

"He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." 

          When churches face such seasons like what we read of in Corinth, it can prompt God's people to pursue the unity for which Jesus prayed for in John 17. Unity in the body of Christ is preserved by prayer, purity of doctrine, and practice. Typically, when unity slides, it begins with loss of prayer, followed by practice. The cross and the Word is what keeps it all together. So we see loss of unity as one of the by-products.  Now notice the second effect....

*Loss of focus.          11:20-22

           When we lose focus on the Master, we end up going through the motions. In 1 Corinthians 11:20-21 we read:

"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."

What an awful scene we find at Corinth! Squabbling! Drunkedness! Excesses at the communion table. The activities were so egregious that Paul tells us that what they were doing was not worthy of the name "Lord's Supper". Truly when we lose focus on Christ, we lose sight of what the church is to be all about. So, focusing on the cross enables the church to maintain unity and focus as she looks ahead to Christ's return. Good Friday is the only way the Great return of Christ will be a reality. 

2. How to refocus on the cross in the Lord’s Supper.       1 Corinthians 11:23-34

          Since every Christian (myself included) are inept apart from the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and the life of the church itself, we can see why Jesus prescribed the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Theologians sometimes speak of Baptism and the Lord's Supper as "ordinances" to describe anything commanded by Christ in the Gospels, preached by the Apostles in Acts, and expounded in the New Testament letters. Since this is Good Friday, the Lord's Supper is appropriate for our consideration, since it explicitly refocuses God's people on the cross and drives them to look forward to Christ's return. 



        The Lord has prescribed the Lord’s supper for our periodic practice to strengthen our focus of faith. The name “Lord’s Supper” is used by Paul in 1 Cor 11:20. To illustrate, I consider God’s prescription of His Word and the ordinances like a monorail train. When we lived in Florida, we could witness these trains in action, especially at Disney World. The monorail has main tires or wheels which rest upon a singular beam or track. Then the train may have a dozen or so smaller wheels on each side of the beam to stabilize the train as it travels. I liken this set- up to how our Lord designed His church. The preaching of God’s Word represents the main wheels, traveling upon the beam of the cross, with the stabilizing wheels representing Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  What the Lord's Supper does is enable recall, re-examination, and reallignment.

*Recall the cross in the Lord’s Supper. 11:23-26

        This recall is done by praying through the Scriptures. We could offer several examples of Scriptures that recall for us the "redemption accomplished" by Jesus, however two examples will suffice. Paul writes in Romans 5:6-8 

"For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

      Similarly, Peter records these words in 1 Peter 3:18

"For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit."

*Re-examine your heart at the Lord’s table.  11:27-31

        The Lord's Table is the prescribed method for God's people as a corporate church to examine their heart attitudes toward Christ, others, and themselves. This principle of "self-examination" is found in both testaments. David writes for instance in Psalm 139:23-24 

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way." 

         One question I find helpful is this: from the last time I partook of the Lord’s supper, is there anyone in the church with whom I’ve had dispute or with whom I hold contempt. We have no right to hold grudges against one another as believers. Why? Because we discover that for the Christian, their life is not their own. For example, we read in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."

          We read similar sentiments concerning how Christians have no right to "hold a grudge" in Colossians 3:13 "bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you."

*Reallign with fellow believers around the Lord’s table. 11:32-34 

          As Paul rounds out His discussion of the Lord's Table, he notes how careful Christian must be in their treatment of each other. This carries the same tone we find from Jesus Himself in Matthew 25:40,

"The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."

3. How focusing on the cross prepares the Christian for His return. 1 Corinthians 11:26-34

         As we draw this post to a conclusion, let me briefly mention three ways focusing on the cross increases our preparation for Christ's return by tying into what we looked at in the last point on the Lord's Supper. Firstly, focusing on the cross...

*Increases our desire for His return.  11:26

*Increases our devotion until His returns.  11:32

*Increases our duty to one another until He returns. 11:33

           Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:26 "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes." To celebrate the Lord's Table peridoically gives Christians repeated chances to recall the cross and refocus on looking foreward to Jesus' return. As the three sub-points above indicate, our desire, devotion, and duty toward one another is proportioned by how much we focus on the cross. As I have already noted, Jesus prescribed the ordinance of the Lord's table to aid Christians in such pursuits. The Spirit and preaching of the Word work together to convert sinners and sanctify saints. The Lord's Table stabilizes the Christian in their individual and corporate life of faith with other Christians. Paul expresses how sick and, in some cases, mortally ill those at Corinth became as a result of not properly regarding one another nor their approach to the Lord's Table.  Though God's discipline may seem severe, yet He is ever at work in the Christian life to present His people "faultless and blameless" at His appearing (see Ephesians 5:22-26; 2 Corinthians 11:1-3). May we who observe all Jesus achieved on Good Friday remember that the guarantee of His soon return was paid for by what He guaranteed would be applied to the Christian by the Holy Spirit because of His accomplished redemption on the cross. May we never lose focus on the cross.