Communion

Reading from the Bible King James Version
1 Corinthians 11:17-32

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This morning I would like to direct your attention a to very important portion of Scripture it's found in 1 Corinthians 11:17-32. It has to do and to deal with the Lord's Table, the communion service. Let me read,

1 Corinthians 11:17-32 (Scripture reading) +

17) Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. 18) For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 19) For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 20) When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. 21) For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22) What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? what shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. 23) For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24) And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25) After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26) For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. 27) Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29) For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30) For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31) For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32) But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

This portion of Scripture is so very, very important, because it deals with the crucial part of the church, and that is the Lord's Table, the Communion Service. Anybody who has been a believer for any length of time realizes the significance the church places on these two ordinances; one of baptism, and the other of the communion service. And the reason why so much importance is attached to these two ordinances is because they are the only two ordinances the Lord ever told us to do. They are commands of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, Himself set the example in both ordinances, and so, we give a high priority to baptism, and a high priority to the communion service. These are really items of obedience.

As Christians we ought to question, then, our own commitment to the Lord if we have not been obedient in these two areas. Sometimes we struggle to know what God wants us to do, and what he wants us to be involved in, and to obey it. This is one area where we don't have to struggle at all because he says, be baptized, he says, do this in remembrance of me [Communion Table]. And I trust that you are doing that in your life. If not, you are going to miss the joy of the Lord in your life. It is not to be a missing ingredient. It is not to be ignored, but it is to be obeyed.

Now, remember His life before His death: The Lord Jesus gathered together in the upper room to eat with his disciples the Passover meal. My wife and I were there in 1980, and had the privilege of standing in that upper room. What a very special time that was. What a special meal the Passover Meal was that they ate there together. It was designed by God to commemorate the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt where God began to deliver them by a series of plagues. The last plague being the killing of the firstborn through the entire land of Egypt was to be the one that caused Pharaoh to finally say, Moses, take your people and get out. The only way the children of Israel could protect themselves from the death Angel who would kill the firstborn in every house, was to kill a Lamb, and take the lambs blood, and put it on the doorpost, and on the cross beam of their homes. Then they would eat the lamb with unleavened bread, and herbs as the Passover meal, signifying that the death Angel had "passed over" their homes, and they were protected. And so, whenever the Jewish people wanted to go back and remember that God is a great deliverer, and a great Redeemer, and Savior, they always thought of the Passover in Egypt.

God instituted this Passover meal to be commemorated, and to be celebrated annually as a remembrance. On that night when his disciples were eating the Passover meal, Jesus took that meal and transformed it into a new meal. He took that bread, and that cup, and made a tremendous transition when he said "this cup is my blood" and "this bread is my body." When we look toward the great redemptive point in history today, we don't go back to Egypt; we go to Calvary. We don't go back to the blood on the doorpost, but we go back to the blood shed on the cross. And that's what Jesus was doing that night before his death. He was transforming the Passover into the communion service. In Mark 14:22-25 it says, "And as they did eat," you say: "Well what were they eating?" They were eating the Passover meal in good Jewish tradition. It says, "Jesus took bread, and blessed, and break it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many." This is the blood of the New Covenant, the new era, the new dawn, and the new day.

Then He says in Mark 14:25, "Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God." This is recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and it's alluded to in John 13, and is commented upon here in 1 Corinthians 11 our initial portion of Scripture by the apostle Paul. And so, in all four Gospels there is a reference made to that evening when Jesus took the Passover meal, and transformed it into the communion service. This then became the normal celebration for the early church. Christ desired that the cross become the focal point, and so He instituted this supper giving the church a way to continually remember his death. This is exactly what the early church did.

In Acts 2:41-42 it says, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly." They continued steadfastly in four areas. First of all, in the apostlesí doctrine it says, teaching theology, "that which the apostles received" that it is a revelation from God. Then it says secondly, fellowship: That is ministering, that is carrying the duties and responsibilities that believers have in the framework of the church. Thirdly, is says the breaking of bread. Now, I feel that that is going one step beyond fellowship, and includes the Lord's Supper because on the night in which Jesus was betrayed it says he took bread, and He broke it. Then he instituted the Lord's Supper, so the breaking of bread really, I believe, is referring to not only the fellowship they had together, but especially to the Lord's Supper. And then lastly, they were together in prayer. And so those are the four dimensions of the life of the early church.

Many theologians believe that the early church celebrated the Lord's Supper on a daily basis, but we can see that communion service was developing into a Sunday service as we would go through the book of Acts. In fact, it Acts 20:7 we see that stated for us, it says, "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread." By this time, it settled down to a once a week observance on the Lord's Day. Notice they were breaking bread, and I believe that's referring then to the communion service, not only to fellowship, but to the communion service as well. And then it goes on and says, "Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." So the church came together on the first of the week to listen to the word of God, and they observed communion together.

Now, I want you to notice with me in 1 Corinthians 11:23 the original portion of Scriptures we referred to at the beginning; just two points.

First: The purpose of the Lord's Supper.

Second: The preparations for the Lord's Supper.

 

First: the purpose of the Lord's Supper is in 1 Corinthians 11:23 it says, "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you." The apostle Paul was saying here: What I say to you is not my opinion, it's not my view, and itís not my own idea. What I say to you is not some tradition. But what I say to you, I have received from the Lord. In other words here is divine truth. It is important for us understand that the apostle Paul wrote the holy Scriptures, and everything that he wrote, when he wrote those books of the New Testament, was inspired by God, but this was taken from the very statements of Jesus Himself. In other words, here he is quoting the words of Jesus.

Notice the rest of 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 it says, "that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lordís death till He comes." The apostle Paul here is quoting the Lord Jesus Christ. These are the words that Jesus spoke the night before he died; the night in which was betrayed. It is interesting that the apostle Paul says the same night in which he was betrayed. Why didn't he say; on Thursday night before the crucifixion? Because the New Testament does something periodically, and that is; it sets the most glorious, and the most wonderful over against the background of the ugliest. By contrast, the beauty is even that much more obvious.

For example, in John 13, we have the beautiful passage on the love of Christ seen in Him washing the feet of his disciples. But all the way through that beautiful section is a story of the betrayal by Judas. Satan enters Judasí heart right in the midst of that whole event. Here you have the contrast between the hatred and evil of Judas, and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ for his own.

Another example would be, as we look at the cross where we have God the Son dying for the sins of the world; around the cross is the mockery, and the hatred, and rejection of all the unbelievers. The love, therefore, seems to be even that much more beautiful when we see the contrast. And here, in the most beautiful ordinance that the Lord ever gave to his church that of communion in the Lordís Supper is set against the ugliness of the betrayal and so, it simply says, "the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread."

Please remember, that this was no ordinary night, as I mentioned a moment ago. This was the Passover that they were eating that night. And always remember, that Jesus was crucified on Passover because he was the ultimate Passover for us.

During the meal, Jesus took the bread, and broke it, and said, "This bread is my body." And after the meal He took the cup. We it know was after the meal because it says in 1 Corinthians 11:25, "after he had supped," which means after He had supper. He then said, "This cup is my blood, which is shed for you." By doing that Jesus transformed the Passover into the Lord's Supper. He was saying, in essence, that Passover is a great thing. It got you out of Egypt, and ultimately into Canaan the Promised Land. But My death is going to get you out of the bondage of sin and Satan, and into the Promised Land of heaven. The Passover provided only for you a physical relief, but My death is going to provide for you an eternal and spiritual release. Jesus Christ transformed the Passover into the Lord's Supper.

Please remember, when Jesus said, "this is My body" and "this is My blood," He meant the bread represents his body and the cup represents his blood. The bread is not His [physical] body, but it represents his body. And that cup is not His [physical] blood, but it represents His blood. Jesus said in John 10, "I am the door." He didn't mean that He was a literal door. And He said in John 15, that "I am the vine." He didn't mean that He was a literal vine. Jesus is using this as an illustration. It is a symbol; symbolizing the bread is His body, symbolizing His blood, and we understand that to be the case.

We do not believe in transubstantiation. That is, it is not the literal blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the literal body of the Lord Jesus Christ by some mystical incantation or ritual. Notice in 1 Corinthians 11:24, where Jesus says, "this is given for you, which is broken for you." Those are the two most important words in that entire verse. God became man for you. Jesus came into the world for you. Jesus died for you. Jesus bled for you. Jesus suffered to forgive you. He went to the garden, and he poured out his heart all that night for you. He went through everything just for you, and just for me. Jesus says: Look, would you please remember everything that I have just done for you. Can't you remember this because I went through all of this just for you? The whole incarnation was for you. He died as a substitute for you. And so Jesus says, would you then "do this in remembrance of me" since I've done all of this for you. Would you do something for me? Would you do this in remembrance of me?

Yet, some Christians hardly ever observe the communion service. Only when it is convenient, and that is such disobedience when they do that. It is a sin when they do that. Notice in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 when Jesus says "this do in remembrance of me." It is in the imperative mood in the Greek which means it is a command. It is not optional! It is not something we can pick and choose to do if we want to, and when it is convenient, but it is a command.

There only two ordinances Jesus ever gave to the church, and yet, some Christians can't find time to be obedient to observe the communion service, and to be baptized. How very, very sad! Either you do it, or you don't. To do it is to be obedient, and to not do it is to be disobedient. It is as simple as that. And so, Jesus says: Since I have done all of this for you; won't you do this in remembrance of me?

I don't know if we could ever fully understand the meaning of that word remembrance. To the Hebrews, the word, remember, means to call into fullest of the conscious mind the presence of the one that you are remembering. For a Jew, to remember it meant, that he was totally absorbed. His total mind, his body, his soul, his heart was filled with that person. He was totally absorbed in that, he totally wrapped his mind around the whole concept of that person. You can come and drink the cup, and you can come and eat the bread, but if your mind is a million miles away about what youíre going to do this afternoon, or what youíre going to do this week, or what is on your schedule for next week, or what you're planning to do in the future, then you have not observed the Lord's table no matter what you do.

It isn't a simple thing to come to the Lord's Table, but we are to remember what Jesus Christ has done for us, with all her heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. Yes, the Lord's Table is a very, very special place. And when we come, we better come with special attitudes, and a special heart.

 

Second: That leads to our second point: We see the purpose of the Lord's Supper well.

Notice the preparations for the Lord's Supper in verse 1 Corinthians 11:27 says, "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." It is important for us understand how serious this really is. If you treat this special ordinance [the communion table] in a common way, you are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. What does that mean? How do you treat the Lord's Supper unworthily? Let me name a few ways you can treat the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner.

Number one: By ignoring it rather than obeying it; by just not doing it. By saying it is irrelevant, it is not important, it doesn't matter, it doesn't make any difference anymore, it is not necessary, it isnít convenient, or I'd rather be doing something else.

Secondly: You can treat the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner by making it just a performance rather than something meaningful to your heart. By just making it a ceremony, by just making it a ritual, by making it a routine, by just doing it rather than really understanding what you're doing.

Thirdly: You can treat the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner by coming with unconfessed sin in your life; or if you come with bitterness towards someone, resentment towards someone, or anger in your heart. If you come with unconfessed sin, then you come to the Lord's Supper and the Lord's Table unworthily.

Notice that it says that you are "guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." Being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord means that you have become guilty of treating what Jesus Christ did for you lightly or irreverently. You become guilty of being irreverent to the Lord. You are mocking the whole cross experience, and God will hold you guilty and punish you for that.

For example, a man comes in, and he tramples the flag of the United States under his feet, and he decides to burn it. He just doesn't destroy a piece of cloth, but he insults his country, and becomes guilty of dishonoring his nation. Someone who tramples with indifference the elements that represent the Lord's body and blood become guilty of dishonor in mocking the very person of Lord Jesus Christ himself.

And so, what should we do as we approach the Lord's Table? In 1 Corinthians 11:28 tells us; it says there, "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." We should examine our hearts. Look at your own heart. Is there anything there that should not be there? Be careful that you are not careless, or indifferent, or flippant, or entertaining sin, or unrepentant. Why should we do this? In 1 Corinthians 11:29, it says, "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." The word damnation is the Greek word karima. It means chastisement. And so, the person who eats and drinks of the Lord's Table unworthily will bring chastisement upon themselves from the Lord. You will cause God to have to chasten you, because you aren't treating the Lord's Supper with seriousness, and dignity, and purity, and holiness, and respect, and sincerity.

How does God chasten us? In Corinth, He had to chasten quite a few of these Christians. Notice in 1 Corinthians 11:30, "For this cause," that means, because you are not treating the Lord's table as you should: "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." The word sleep refers to death for a believer, because the Corinthianís abuse of the Lord's Table was so serious. Some of them had gotten weak, some of them were mildly sick, some of them were very sick, and some of them had actually died. So, you get the idea of how serious God takes the Lord's Table. I personally believe that Ananias and Safira, who were accused by the Lord of lying to the Holy Spirit, and they were executed by God for their sin, were probably killed at the communion service, because that's what the early church did when they came together; they celebrated the Lord's Table. It was around the Lord's Table, where they should have had clean hearts that they had guilty hearts, and they had unconfessed sin. This can be true today, because some Christians still treat the Lord's Table with indifference, and carelessness.

Notice the remedy for that in 1 Corinthians 11:31 it says, "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." In other words, if we would just examine ourselves in our hearts, and our attitudes, and our motives, then we will not be chastened. But the Corinthians were being chastened my God because they would not examine themselves, and clean up their lives before they came to the Lord's Table.

Verse 1 Corinthians 11:32 is the last verse will look at. It is such a beautiful verse. It says, "But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." That shows us God's tremendous love for us! He chastens us so that we won't be damned with the world. Christians under any circumstances, or at any time, will never be damned with the world. If ever we see the love of God for us, it is in that verse. Our Heavenly Father, with his loving hand, chastens us so that we will never be damned with the world. Like a loving father, He disciplines us. Oh, may we not treat the Lord's Supper ever, ever, ever, with irreverence, and with carelessness, and indifference, and with a flippant attitude, or an unrepentant spirit. But may we treat the Lord's Table with respect, and seriousness, and dignity, and purity, and sincerity. Remember that he went through all of that for you and for me.

Down through the years there've been many wonderful hymns and songs written about the cross, and about Calvary. Perhaps one of the most beloved of all is the one that was just composed within the last hundred years. It was the favorite hymn of so many Christians entitled the " Old Rugged Cross." George Bernard, the writer of the Old Rugged Cross died in 1958, and on the outskirts of his hometown of Reed City, Michigan, the townspeople have erected an old rugged cross along Route 131 telling travelers that this was the home of George Bernard. It was a cross that was there for many years, and I believe itís still there. It has a light on that cross, and it can be seen at great distances telling the world that Jesus is the light of the world. But let me tell you something thatís better than a light on a across along a highway in Michigan, and that is, when God's people have the right attitude, and the right motives, and the right actions, and are showing others in the world that they love the Lord Jesus Christ, and they take seriously the words of the Bible, and they are obedient to the words of Scripture; and we will do far more than any light on any sign or cross will ever do.

If you have wrong attitudes, or motives, or feelings as we approach the Lord's Table, I trust that you'll talk to the Lord about that. The Bible says, "Let a man examine himself, and then let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup."I trust that you would do that. I really do.

Just before we gather around the Lord's Table, please make sure your heart is right with God. If there is anything that you know you need to confess, make sure you confess it lest you approach the Lord's Table in an unworthy manner, and face the discipline of God. If you are doing business with God, I hope that you will feel the joy of God entering your heart once again, and you will know the close walk with the Lord that you should know as you walk with Him.

If you're here without Jesus Christ, I want you to know that the Lord's Table is only for believers. We don't believe in closed communion except, when it comes to unbelievers. If youíre an unbeliever, we ask that you refrain from taking of the Lord's Table. If you're a believer that is not walking with the Lord, then we ask during this time of quietness before we partake of the Lord's Table, that you come back to the Lord, you get yourself right with the Lord, and then you can partake of the Lord's Table with us.

So, we do not believe in closed communion for believers. We believe in close communion for believers, close communion. That means that youíre walking close to the Lord, you are walking with the Lord. Your daily walk with the Lord is very close to Him. And youíre keeping short accounts with the Lord. Every day, you get closer and closer to the Lord.

And so, if you don't know the Lord as your Savior, we ask you to put your faith and trust in Him today. Now, if you put your faith and trust in the Lord today, and ask Him to come into your life, and save you from your sins, and youíre born-again, and you're saved. Then, of course, the Lord's Table would be open for you because you have come to know Christ as your Savior, and you walking with Him. I trust youíll do that. I trust youíll do that today, if you have never done that.

Shall we bow together in closing prayer please?

[Praying] Father, we thank you for the privilege of being able to gather today around the Lord's Table. We pray you help us, Lord, as we gather here to be able to know that we are being obedient to you in this matter of walking with you; especially when we gather around, and we remember what you did for us through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We know all that He went through on the cross, and prior to the cross experience for each one of us.

We thank you for that. Those of us, who are believers, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for what He's done for us. We thank you for saving us. We thank you, Father, for what You've done for us in sending Your only begotten Son in the world to die for us. And we pray that we would examine our hearts right now, and we make sure that we are walking close with you. And as we will close with you, help us to partake of the Lord's Table with a serious attitude and motive, and Lord, may our spirits be close to you, we pray.

For those who are not saved, I pray that You will bring them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ today, helping them to put their faith and trust in You. And then help them to understand that the communion service, Father, does not save them. The communion services is an outward way of showing obedience to the Lord, and remembering all that He went through for them, but Father, they need to be born-again first, and then they can partake of the Lord's table. May that be the case for them today, we pray. And we will thank you for what you do in our hearts. You do what no man can do. Do what only you can do, Father, by the Holy Spiritís convicting power for we pray this Jesus name.

Amen. Amen.

Copyright © 2013 Mullica Hill Baptist Church NJ - Dr. Al McLeod ThD PhD, Author. All rights reserved worldwide.