Let’s take our Bibles and turn once again to First Corinthians, to chapter 11. First Corinthians, chapter 11. We’re going verse by verse through our study of this book, and here we are in the middle of Chapter 11, interested in verses 17 through 34, the theme of which we’re mostly familiar with: the Lord’s Supper. And I want to begin reading in verse 17, and read all the way down to verse 34. Pick it up in verse 17, follow along as I read:
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
Throughout the centuries of church history, there have been a lot of misconceptions about the Lord’s supper. And they’re perpetuated through various traditions. There’s the Roman Catholic mass, which views the Lord’s Supper as a re-representation of the Lord Jesus as a sacrifice in which the bread and the wine actually transform into his literal body and his literal blood so that the participant is being infused with grace that is life-sustaining that if he doesn’t continue eating and drinking the flesh and the blood of Jesus, he won’t maintain his eternal life. That view is called transubstantiation. We’re familiar with the word trans, unfortunately, in our culture. That means to change, and substantiation has to do with the substance, the substance of the bread and the cup are changed into literal flesh and literal blood that you eat and drink. There’s the Lutheran view of consubstantiation. Con means with, and there’s that substantiation again. So, with the substance, the Lutheran view denies transubstantiation and yet does not quite part from the sacramental view of the elements of the Lord’s Table and actually explains them in an interesting way that no one can really figure out because they claim that although the bread and the cup are not the literal body and blood of the Lord, the Lord is present in, with, and under the substance of the elements in some mystical way. Then there’s the view taken by the majority of Protestants: that the bread and the cup are merely symbolic. And yet even there, there’s disagreement about the way in which Christ is present in the meal, and if he’s present really at all. If he is so, how? And in addition to all of this, due to a misunderstanding of the context of this passage that we just read and that we’re going to be looking at, Paul’s words in verse 27 are taken by many to refer to the state of the person participating in the Lord’s Supper rather than the manner in which they participate. And of course, part of this comes about through the King James Bible’s translation of the wording there that says you should not eat and drink unworthily as to where in our modern versions we see that it’s really better translated in an unworthy manner so that the entire observance of the Lord’s Supper turns into a confessional rather than a celebration, and people feel like they’re unworthy to partake. And they anxiously pray in their seats while the piano plays, hoping that they can just confess every last sin before they take that. And so, the focus is taken completely off of the Lord and off of everything that this is supposed to represent, and it’s solely upon me and my anxious state. And it grieves me as a pastor to think about how many ministers either maintain the wrong traditions of their denominations–they just keep perpetuating them because they dare not do otherwise–and how many who are free to do what they would want to do continually make the Lord’s Supper a dreadful experience for the Lord’s people, rather than the delight that it ought to be. The fact is that this is the one place in the New Testament where we have very clear instruction that the observance of the Lord’s Supper is something that is an enduring ordinance for the church, until the Lord Jesus returns, and it’s given in the midst of the Apostle Paul’s correction of the way in which the Corinthians ought to be observing it.
And so, we see that the centuries have not only compounded the misconceptions of the Lord’s Supper, but these misconceptions began at the very inception of the church. And as to where most of our misconceptions and arguments over the Lord’s table are really about finer points of doctrine about the elements and the presence of Christ and what it means to eat in an unworthy manner, and so forth, the fact is that the Corinthians had a problem, not necessarily with all of that. They had a problem with how they were doing this with just the practical carrying out of observing the Lord’s Table. And but because doctrine is never separated from practice, Paul had to correct their understanding of the basics of this ordinance so that they would see just how their behavior was really negating the very message that this Lord’s Supper is meant to convey. I mean, this is really antithetical to the whole message conveyed by this Table. In fact, their conduct was so egregious that Paul says in verse 20 that even though they claimed to be observing the Lord’s Supper, and even though they were going through the motions of it, he says it’s actually not the Lord’s Supper that you eat at all. You’re making a mockery of the Lord’s Supper.
Now, this passage is rather long and it breaks down into three units. The first section in verses 17 to 22 is the problem–the problem that the Corinthians had, and then verses 27 through 34 serve as kind of a bookend of the whole passage that is Paul’s teaching about how to correct this problem. And that is on the basis of the middle portion, which is the portion we’re most familiar with, we almost have it memorized: verses 23 through 26. And this morning, we’re going to focus primarily on that middle section drawing from the context a bit as we prepare ourselves for our observance of the Lord’s table this morning. And next time we’re going to come back and we’re going to look at the larger context and see just how that is contrasted with what the Lord’s Table ought to look like.
This morning I want to give our attention to five truths about the Lord’s Supper that we must understand if we’re going to observe it properly, the way it was intended. Each of these is predicated upon the title of the meal, which is given again in verse 20. Notice Paul calls it the Lord’s Supper. That title is a special form of the word kurios, which shows up multiple times in the New Testament. It’s the word Lord, but it’s a specific form of that word that signals a unique possession or ownership, and it’s only used in this form one other time in the New Testament, and that’s in Revelation chapter 1 and verse 10, where John speaks of the Lord’s Day. It’s a way of expressing the fact that while the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, there is a day that is distinctly his, because that’s the day he rose from the dead and conquered sin and death and hell forever. And there’s a particular meal that he’s put his stamp upon that belongs to him in a special way, because it distinctly symbolizes all that his death entails. And so, the Lord’s supper belongs to the Lord. The Lord is the focus of the Lord’s Supper. That’s the point that we need to get this morning.
And so I want you to note the first truth that we find here and it’s this that the Lord’s Supper is an exhortation from the Lord himself. Paul begins this section in verse 17 with the statement that the subject of the Lord’s Supper is instruction. You notice that? And that word could actually be translated command. You need to understand that the Lord’s Supper is not optional for a Christian. It is something that we are commanded to observe and the instruction, as you note, is for the church as a whole. It’s to be observed by every local church, and it’s something that the church does when it gathers. When we come together, actually Paul uses the word sunerchomai which is translated come together five times in this passage and he only uses it a couple other times and it’s in first Corinthians 14 where he’s speaking about our using of our spiritual gifts. I want you to note this with me in our passage. Look at verse 17: I do not commend you because when you come together, it’s not for the better but for the worse. And then verse 18: when you come together as a church. In church, in the assembly. Look at verse 20: when you come together. Verse 33, down at the end of the passage: So my brothers, when you come together; and then again in verse 34: so that when you come together. You see the emphasis on this. When you come together, this is something that the church does when we gather.
It’s an instruction that’s based upon what we call the Last Supper, which was the Passover meal that the Lord Jesus observed with his disciples on the night in which he was betrayed as Paul notes there in verse 23. But what Paul is drawing to our attention in verse 23 is the fact that this exhortation, this instruction, this command, comes directly from the Lord Jesus. This is directly from him. Paul is making it clear. Yes, he’s the apostle of the Lord, so everything he says has the same authority as the Lord Jesus, but he’s making it very clear here that there’s something unique about this. He says I received this from the Lord, and I delivered it to you. Paul is making it emphatically clear. This is direct revelation from Jesus. You may say, well, now he got this from the Gospels because the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all contain the account of the last night, and the Lord’s Supper when it was instituted. But guess what? First Corinthians was almost certainly written before those Gospels, so Luke [Paul] did not draw this from them. His instruction comes straight from the Lord and it comes straight to his church and he says this is my command that is to be observed until I return. And when we obey this command, we’re engaging in worship of the Lord Jesus Christ in a very special way.
But it’s not mere external observance that the Lord is after. Just like anything else the Lord wants us to obey this from the heart, and in order for us to do that, we need to understand the meaning of it. We need to shed all those traditions and all of those misunderstandings and misconceptions, and we need to understand what this Table is all about. Just like baptism, the other ordinance of the church, isn’t just some random thing that Jesus came up with for us to do, but it’s laden with rich symbolism of our union with Christ, so the Lord’s Supper is rich in meaning. And so, that brings us to the second truth that I want us to understand this morning about the Lord’s table, in order that we might observe it the way it was intended and it’s this: that it is a commemoration of the Lord. It’s not just an instruction from the Lord, but its meaning, its symbolism, is first and foremost, a commemoration of the Lord. Notice in verses 24 and 25 (you probably don’t even have to notice–you remember this from doing this over and over and over if you’ve been a Christian any amount of time), he says: Do this… That’s a command, by the way. That’s imperative. You do this in remembrance of me. As we noted, the meal our Lord shared with his disciples on the night in which he was betrayed was the Passover meal, and the Passover was that symbolic meal observed by the Israelites each year to commemorate God’s merciful deliverance of them out of the bondage of Egypt. Remember when they were about to leave Egypt, the final plague that God sent upon the Egyptians was the striking dead of the firstborn of every household. And in Exodus chapter 12 verses 1 through 13, the Israelites were commanded to choose a spotless lamb to slaughter it and to take its blood and apply it on the top and the doorposts of their home, so that when the angel–the destroyer–came to slaughter the firstborn. It would pass over those homes that had the blood applied. And God instituted the Passover as an ordinance for Israel to be observed annually, and they were to come together to do this. And they were to do it in all subsequent generations. It was to be a memorial of God’s deliverance of them out of the bondage of Egypt. Note what he says in Exodus 12:14–straight from the Lord: This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations as a statute forever. You shall keep it as a feast. And then down in verses 24 through 27 of that passage, he says: You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and your sons forever. And when you come to the land, that the Lord will give you, as he promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, what do you mean by this service, you shall say it is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses. So, this was a symbolic meal for the Israelites to communicate, to keep bringing them back to this wonderful deliverance that the Lord had given them as he formed them as his own special, called-out nation and people. But it also looked forward to the greater deliverance of God’s people through their sin from the Messiah, the Servant, the one who was to come. This was looking back, but it was looking forward, foreshadowing the Lord Jesus. In fact, Isaiah 53:7 prophesied about this Servant, the Messiah, that: he was oppressed, he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter and like a sheep that before its shearers, is silent, so he opened not his mouth. And then when you come to the New Testament in John chapter 1, John the Baptist sees Jesus coming towards him and he points, and he says, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the word. Jesus is the promised one who would open the way for the ultimate exodus, not just for Israelites from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, but for those from every nation and all tribes and peoples and languages, from the bondage of sin. And it’s interesting, if you remember in our study back in First Corinthians chapter 5 and verse 7, the Apostle Paul says Christ, our Passover lamb, has been crucified. On the night he was betrayed, the night before his crucifixion, our Lord Jesus celebrated this memorial meal, and he fulfilled it. And he transformed it into this new symbolic meal, which is his Supper. And from that point on the bread which was eaten at the meal would symbolize his body, the body that was given for you, and the cup, which was the third cup of that Passover meal, would symbolize his blood, the blood that was shed to inaugurate the New Covenant. And so, the Lord’s Supper is a picture of the sacrifice which the Lord Jesus made on our behalf. The bread and the cup reminds us of what he did, and they serve as a mnemonic device for us that reminds us continually of the gospel. Just as the Passover served as a continual memorial, commemoration of the Exodus, now in a similar way, the Lord’s Supper serves to bring us to remembrance of the Lord Jesus by his command: Do this in remembrance of me. And this commemoration is not simply for us, but it’s for all generations that follow. I remember when my son Caleb was a little boy and we came back from an evening service at church where we’d celebrated the Lord’s Table, and it was the first time that he had seen anyone do that. And he came to me afterwards when we got home, and he asked me what that meant and I was able to share with him the symbolism of that meal. And I was thinking of Exodus chapter 12 in that regard. You will tell your sons…this will be a reminder when they ask you what it’s about. This is what it’s about, my son, and so on and on the generations go until he returns.
And so, it gives us a platform on which we can preach the gospel in a unique way. And that’s the next thing I want you to notice–the third truth about the Lord’s supper that I want you to notice and embrace this morning. It’s found in verse 26, and it’s this: that it is a proclamation of the Lord. It’s an exhortation from the Lord, it’s a commemoration of the Lord and his death, and it’s also a proclamation of the Lord and what that death accomplished. Notice verse 26: As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. You know, when we hear the word proclaim, we typically think of someone doing what I’m doing–standing up and preaching, announcing something, right? Heralding something. And that’s literally what this word means. It means to make known in public to as many people as possible, to proclaim, to announce. That’s the idea. It’s the word that the apostle Paul used of his own ministry, reminding the Corinthians of when he had first come there, back in chapter 2, verse 1, he said: And I, when I came to you brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. And he goes on to explain, I came proclaiming to you Jesus Christ and him crucified. He was preaching the gospel, he was announcing, he was proclaiming, he was heralding. But here we see that the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation without words. What is it that proclaims? It’s not the explanation of it, it’s when you eat this bread and drink this cup. It’s the eating and drinking that symbolizes, that proclaims the Lord’s death until he comes. This is a living word-picture. Every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim the Lord’s death.
Now the Lord’s death is a concise way of referring to the good news of the gospel. Notice the symbolism the Lord attaches to the elements again in verse 24 concerning the bread. He says, this is my body, which is for you. That little word for is powerful. It can mean for the benefit of, or it can have the nuance of meaning of in place of, and that’s the meaning here. This is a reference to the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus gave himself for us in the sense that the Father took the guilt of our sin and placed it upon him, and wrath was poured out upon him instead of us, in our place, that our sins might be forgiven. And so, the Lord’s Supper isn’t just merely a commemoration of the Lord’s death, but this proclamation tells us about the singular, eternal significance of this momentous event and its application for us. We proclaim that the Lord Jesus left the glory of heaven, came to earth and lived a perfect life that we could never live and died a death on our behalf that only he could die as the perfect sinless God-man.
Likewise, notice he said of the cup that the cup is the new covenant in my blood. The cup represents his blood. That’s what he said in the Gospels. He took the cup and said this is my blood. Here, he says it’s the new covenant in my blood. The blood is that symbolism of his death, his shed blood, his death on our behalf that ratified the New Covenant. The New Covenant has come–that everlasting covenant of salvation that reconciles us to God, that was foretold in the Old Testament, that looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, and now he has come. And now his blood has ratified that New Covenant. So, as the heavens declare the glory of God as we read in Psalm 19 without a word–they’re shouting, Psalm 19 says, without a word–so our partaking of the bread and the cup shout–they proclaim the good news of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ: that the just died for the unjust to bring us to God, that the wrath of God has been completely satisfied in the death of Christ, that sinners may fly to Christ. If you’re here this morning and you don’t know Jesus and you have the guilt of your sin weighing on your conscience as I speak, you can fly to Christ and be forgiven completely of every stain of sin. And that’s what we proclaim when we gather around the Table of the King.
But Christ’s death is not all that the Lord’s Supper proclaims. Notice what he says again, in verse 26: you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. And here’s a fourth thing that I want you to note about the Lord’s Supper, a fourth truth. It’s not just an instruction and a commemoration and a proclamation of the cross and its saving power, but it is an anticipation of the Lord’s return. An anticipation. He says, we do this until he comes. You see, in the Lord’s Supper as we take this, we’re reminded that Jesus died, but he did not stay dead. He is alive. We celebrate that at Easter, but we should celebrate that every day of our lives. We serve a risen Savior! He is living! Christians don’t make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to go to the tomb of their master. You can go there. A lot of people do, but the only thing you’re going to find is an empty tomb. It’s probably not even the right one, but the tour guide will tell you it is right? The Lord Jesus sealed our pardon, and he offers us eternal life because he not only laid down his life for us, but he took it up again and he ascended to the right hand of the Father. And one day–Paul says, until he comes–one day he’s coming. And when he comes this time, he’s not coming as the Lamb of God, but as the Lion of Judah. He’s coming as King. He’s coming to stand once again upon this earth. And as we read about that first Adam and the last Adam, he’s going to be that last Adam that comes and does what the first Adam failed to do. And he’s going to rule over this earth as King. And guess what? The Bible says we’re going to rule and reign with him, those of us who know him. And so, Christians are those who wait for the Lord. In fact, look over with me just really quickly to a couple of my favorite verses: First Thessalonians chapter 1. And note what he says there in verse 9. He’s talking about people who have heard about this buzz that’s going on in the church at Thessalonica and he says, they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you and how you turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
Christians are those who are waiting for our risen, living Savior and Lord to come. This is glorious. And this brings us to a final truth that I want you to note this morning. We’re going to look at this truth, and then we’re going to come back to this truth as we look at the context of this passage and how terribly and egregiously the Corinthians were treating the Lord’s Table. And it’s this: that the Lord’s Supper is a participation with the Lord. The Lord’s Supper is a participation with the Lord. As we noted at the outset, given the context of First Corinthians 11, it’s very ironic that there has been division in the church for centuries because this was given to us in the midst of division to, you know, be the solution to the division that was going on in the Corinthian church. And yet the Lord’s Supper has been the cause of such division in the church, and you can just remove the Roman Catholics for a moment. But when you think about the Reformers, they were not united in their understanding of the Lord’s Table fully. Luther was dug in with his consubstantiation view that we noted–that Christ is in, with and under the elements in some way. Calvin insisted that Christ was not present in the elements themselves, but he was present in some spiritual sense, and Ulrich Zwingli insisted that Christ was not present in any way, that the Lord’s Supper is purely symbolic. Well, the symbolism in verses 24 through 25 of chapter 11 is obvious, right? When Jesus said, this is my body, this is my blood, clearly he was speaking symbolically. He was speaking metaphorically. That shouldn’t surprise us, just in the use of language at all. But if you think about it, when Jesus first said these words, he was sitting there with his disciples, so it would be very odd for him to take this and say, this is my body. They’d say, actually, that’s your body, right? So, it’s very clear that this is symbolic language. If you want to argue with that, I don’t really know how to help you with that. I think it’s just clear. One commentator cleverly states about our passage that arguments about transubstantiation and consubstantiation have no substantiation in the intention of the text. But when we think about this idea of Christ being present, the reason why it was such an issue is because, where is Christ in all of this? And we can’t go too far with this, as, as Millard Erickson has said: Out of a zeal to avoid the conception that Jesus is present in some sort of magical way, some have sometimes gone to such extremes as to give the impression that the one place where Jesus most assuredly is not, is the Lord’s Supper. He calls this the doctrine of the real absence of the Lord Jesus. And I completely agree. And in fact, we have a Scripture on this that really clears this up: First Corinthians chapter 10, verses 16 through 17. Turn back there with me.
If you’ve been here with us through our study, we looked at this in detail, and as you remember, Paul is in the midst here, in this context of Chapter 10, of warning against idolatry and the practices of the pagans, and he mentions the Lord’s Supper as the antithesis of what? The pagans. He uses it to say, look when you’re involved with these idols, you’re actually communing with them in some way that you’re supposed to be doing in the Lord’s Table, and you can’t do both. Note verses 16 and 17. He says: The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. What does he mean by this? Well, the word participation is koinoinia, and it’s the whole theme of this passage. He’s saying you can’t participate with the demons and participate with Christ. And koinoinia means a close association involving mutual interests and sharing its fellowship. Its participation. That’s probably the best term here, but you know, maybe you come from a background where we call the Lord’s Table Communion. I sometimes call it that. I’m fine with that because that comes from this passage. Communion is just another translation of the idea of koinoinia, and Paul says that the cup and the bread are a participation in the blood and body of Christ. So, in what way do believers participate in the blood and body of Christ? Well, in a very real sense, each of us is united with Christ in his death and resurrection. Scripture is clear on that. That’s that blessed doctrine of our union with Christ. And so, our participation in the Lord’s Supper is really a reminder of that. And if you think back to baptism, what does baptism symbolize? It symbolizes the fact that we have died with Christ, we’ve been buried with him, and we’ve been raised to walk in newness of life. Paul says in Romans chapter 6, we’ve been united that way, and that word baptizo there isn’t talking about going into the water. It means to be immersed in Christ. But when we baptize, that’s the outward symbol of what Christ has done inwardly in us, in uniting us in some way to Christ, so that his death is our death, his burial is our burial, his resurrection is our resurrection, and we share in all of that power, not only over the penalty of sin, so that we’re not going to go to hell someday, we’re going to be in heaven with him, but so that we have power over sin in this life. That’s what Paul’s speaking of in Romans 6–that we can put sin to death. We have the power to do that. Sin no longer has dominion over us. And so, we’ve been united with him. In fact, my favorite verse in all of Scripture is Galatians 2:20, and Paul says there: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. That’s how united we are with Christ. We’ve been crucified with him. We’ve been raised up with him. His life is our life.
Now, notice how verse 17 links our corporate partaking of the one bread inseparably with this reality of our union with Christ. He says because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. And we noted Paul’s emphasis in Chapter 11 of the context of the Lord’s Supper as gathering together as a church, right? He’s very emphatic about that. When you gather, you do this when you gather together. The church as the body of Christ is a major theme in this letter and in the very next chapter, Paul is going to set this forth in Chapter 12. Turn over there for a moment. And note verse 13, where he speaks of the very thing I was speaking of in conjunction with baptism. He said: For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. He’s obviously not talking about water baptism there. He’s talking again–baptizo means to place in, immerse. You’ve been placed into Christ–he’s talking about your union and he’s talking about it in the context of, we all have done this. And he’s going to go on to speak about the fact that God has gifted us and interlocked us all together in such a way that we need one another, that we’re not getting away from each other, even here in America, where we just get mad and leave over this little issue or that little issue and go to that church or that church. We’re not getting away from each other because we can go over there, but we’re actually bound together in Christ, if we really do know Christ. And so, we are bound together, and this is a prominent theme that permeates the New Testament.
And so, what’s wonderful about this is that the way Christ is present with us is the fact that he lives in us–that he’s here with us when we gather together in a special way. We’re united to him individually, but listen, brothers and sisters were united to each other in him. He is the focus. And this meal brings us to that realization, and we participate together with Christ as one in him. You remember Matthew 18:20 says, where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in the midst. We quote that a lot. That’s actually in the context of church discipline. So, if Christ is there where two or three are gathered in a special way for church discipline, how much more is he here with us when we partake of his Table? The aspect of God’s people gathering together for worship, specifically observing the Lord’s Table, is what makes it so special. The fact that we do it together. And we declare our union with him together. So listen, brothers and sisters, we don’t need to squabble over the bread and the cup. They are purely symbolic. There’s nothing in the bread and the cup at all that has anything to do with Jesus in any literal way. But Jesus is here with us when we partake of this Table. He’s always here with us and he’s saying this is my Supper and this is a special way for all of us to focus in on remembering me and my death and to proclaim that death and all its application and to anticipate my return. And so, we participate together as one, as we’re drawn in and our focus is on Jesus. That’s what this Table is about.
This is rich. This is wonderful. It’s an exhortation from the Lord himself. It’s a commemoration of his atoning death on our behalf. It’s a proclamation of all that death entails. It’s an anticipation of his return, and it’s a participation with him and his people as we gather. And listen folks, we’re going to get into this next time–we don’t have time to do this today–but this is why it was such a blight upon the Corinthians and upon the church to do what the Corinthians were doing, because they were just completely disregarding one another. They were approaching the Lord’s Supper in a spirit of pride and selfishness rather than loving one another and cherishing one another and waiting for one another. They were treating this as a mockery. They were just bowling each other over–they didn’t care. Their attitudes were all wrong, and that’s why Christ says I don’t care if you’re going through the motions, this isn’t the Lord’s Supper you take. Notice what he says in verse 27 how serious this is: Whoever therefore eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Again, if you have the King James Bible, that says unworthily, it’s a wrong translation. This is talking about the manner in which this is done, not about the person. None of us is worthy. We’re never worthy to come to this Table in and of ourselves, folks. The issue here, what it means to eat in an unworthy manner, specifically in this context, is to do what the Corinthians we’re doing. It is to partake of the Lord’s Supper in a selfish, irreverent, prideful way that disregards others. That’s what it means. And of course, it is right to go beyond that and to say that eating and drinking in an unworthy manner has a wider application to those who would be in, you know, known sin and unrepentant and coming to the Table and not caring to repent and just continuing on in sin. It has that wider application, so yes, that’s why I say if you’re here this morning and you’re sinning against a brother, especially. But if you have any sin that you are nursing and you’re not ready to give that sin up, then you shouldn’t partake of the Table, because that would be a mockery of it as well. That would be in an unworthy manner. But that’s an application of the real issue. The real issue is what this Table points to: our unity in Christ. And by the way, battling sin is a lot different than nursing a sin. So let me just be clear about that. That’s why I say none of us is ever going to be worthy this side of glory to come to this Table in and of ourselves. We only come because we’re worthy in Christ. So I don’t mean that if you’re fighting and battling sin and you’re in the warfare–you’re always going to be in that warfare. I’m talking about someone that’s here this morning and they could care less. They just can’t wait until I get done. Someone dragged them here and they’re going to go out and keep sinning. If you partake of this, you eat and drink judgment to yourself. But brothers and sisters, how much more hypocritical than that, even, is it to disregard your own brothers and sisters in the fellowship of the body of Christ. This is how seriously the Lord takes the unity of his church, because we’re united in him. We’re not united about, you know, the color of the decorations. We’re not united in our preferences about what sort of music we sing. We’re not united in the fact that we like pickleball, you know. Were united in Jesus Christ. That has nothing to do with anything on a human level–you name it–it has nothing to do with it. It’s a spiritual, eternal union in Jesus Christ. And when you mock, that when you come to this Table and you treat it like it doesn’t matter and you treat other people who belong to Jesus like they don’t matter, Paul says, What? Do you despise the church of God? This isn’t even the Lord’s Supper you’re eating. And when you eat it, you eat judgment to yourself. He says don’t do that. Examine yourself.
So what does that mean, to examine? Again, we’ll come back to this next week. But just very quickly, since we’re coming to the Table, it means that you examine your heart and your motives in this. Is that the way you’re coming? And if it’s not, then praise God and rejoice in this meal. Don’t sit there fretting. That’s not what this is about. It’s about joy in our union with Christ. If you don’t do that, he says that the Lord’s going to have to discipline you and you’re going to be condemned along with the world. He says some among you are sick and have died. So I don’t recommend doing that if you’re an unbeliever here today, please let the tray pass. And if you’re someone who claims to be a Christian, but you have bitterness and hatred in your heart for a brother, or you have some unrepentant sin in your life that you’re not willing to let go of, then don’t partake of this meal. But again, if you’re battling sin and you love Jesus and your heart is thrilled to hear all of these things, and you’re so thankful that Jesus died for you and that you’re just counted to be one of his, then take this meal with joy. Your heart should soar as we focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what we’re here to do. Let’s bow together.
Our father in heaven, this has been a rich time this morning to focus on the Lord’s Supper, because this is a very special gift that you have given to your church. This is indeed the Lord’s Supper. It’s very special. I hope that we’ve seen that this morning. I hope that our eyes have been enlightened to things that maybe we hadn’t understood before. I hope that some things have been cleared up. Or perhaps we’ve just been reminded of some wonderful truths that had gone dormant because we can so easily become cold and rote and ritualistic and external. I pray this morning that our hearts would indeed soar as we partake of the bread and the cup together. As we wait for each other. As we do this together, the way you commanded us to do. As we proclaim, this wonderful death of the Lord Jesus Christ, that we remember together. As we do so, anticipating his return. As we participate in a very real way together in our union with him as our Lord. We ask all of this for your glory in Jesus’ name. Amen.