The Lord’s Supper was instituted by our Lord at the Last Supper. It was the night He was betrayed, the eve of His crucifixion. This was His final meal before being condemned as a criminal, judged by the Jewish and Roman authorities and then executed under a guilty sentence.
Criminals sentenced to death today get a last meal before their execution is carried out. Though the chronology is reversed–Christ ate and then was tried–because of Christ, we are no longer on death row. We were. Apart from the cross, God would be just to make this meal, or any meal, our last. But it isn’t. This isn’t our last meal, this is our life meal.
Our celebration of participation in His life does not come at the cost of justice. The Judge wasn’t duped. We are not singing because God forgets our sin and sentence. We sing because God sent His Son so that all who believe would not be condemned.
Eating and drinking is not a reminder of our condemnation, it is a reminder of One who was condemned on our behalf. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). We don’t sit and stew over our sin, we sing in and for our Savior. Our judgment is not in the balance. No trial awaits us. The jury isn’t out. The verdict is in: “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”!
God possesses many weapons in His judgment arsenal. One of the most dangerous weapons is abandoning wrath, when He gives men over to their sinful desires. Romans 1 documents different groups that love sin so much that God confirms their sinful loves, maintaining their trajectory to destruction. The danger not only relates to the certain end of destruction, but to their blindness, a deceived heart that thinks its getting what it wants.
Christians thank God for any and all interruptions, interventions, convictions, and arrests of conscience. Our Father’s love doesn’t let us get away with lesser loves. His grace doesn’t let us get away with being satisfied in separation.
Sin seeks satisfaction apart from God in broken cisterns that can hold no water. Sin breaks fellowship with the only One who is good for us. He doesn’t let His own pout in the corner. He pulls the lonely out of isolation, even if that’s sometimes a painful process.
Be thankful for conviction. Be thankful for His Spirit that uncovers sin, that pulls sin out at the roots, that pokes at pride and self-pity. Be thankful for His Word that pierces and lays bare so that there would be nothing keeping us from Him or each other. Be thankful for His Son who endured separation from the Father so that we could come to the Father. If it leads to confession, a guilty conscience is a good thing.
Our time around the Lord’s table celebrating the Lord’s supper is also called communion. The KJV translates 1 Corinthians 10:16 accordingly.
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16, KJV)
The Greek word for “communion” is κοινωνία, translated elsewhere as “sharing” (NAS), “participation” (ESV), “fellowship” (YNG). What is our communion? What is it that we share, that we have in common?
It is more than our doctrine, though we affirm the full deity and humanity of Christ along with His substitutionary sacrifice on behalf of sinners that enables God to be both just and the justifier of those who believe. You can pry the hypostatic union and sola fide out of our cold, dead orthodox hands; we will not give those up.
But our communion, though composed in sentences, cannot be contained in sentences. Our communion, our fellowship, our common connection is life. Jesus said,
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. (John 6:53–54, 57 ESV)
Certainly this is a hard saying and many do not want this type of communion. But as Peter acknowledged, there’s no one else to go to. Jesus alone has the words of eternal life because in Him is life. We eat and drink here together as an eternal society. We will have life and fellowship with Him and with each other forever.
I really enjoyed this twenty minute classical music experiment from Benjamin Zander. The primary take-away observation for me was: leaders with enthusiasm, excellence, long-view, and laughter can’t help but be contagious.
What is the point of confessing sin? Why is it so important?
The point of confession is not primarily to confirm our understanding of the rules, not primarily to agree with God’s righteous requirements. His law is perfect, His commandments pure, His rules true. We acknowledge the standard and submit to His authority when we confess our sins. But confession is not mostly a test of our ability to define righteousness with exactitude.
Nor is the point of confession primarily to express sorrow over our disobedience. Blessed are those who mourn; there is a godly grief that produces a repentance that leads to salvation. But confession is not mostly a time for God to rub our noses in our mess to make us feel extra bad on top of the pain already in our consciences.
So what is the point? Confession gets us back into fellowship.
Sin disrupts relationships, both up and down (with God) and around (with each other). Unrighteousness separates. So disobedience breaks fellowship. We don’t confess to ratify that we were walking in darkness. We don’t confess to apply dark lipstick to our guilt. We confess to be cleansed and restored.
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6–7 ESV)
John goes on to say that nobody can claim sinlessness, and that means we all get out of fellowship. So what do we do? We confess our sins and He is faithful to forgive us. He doesn’t forgive us by yelling at us from across a long room with His faced turned the other direction. He forgives so that we are welcomed back with Him so that our joy may be complete.
Paul told the Corinthians that “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). How so?
Among other effects, the Lord’s table is evangelistic, not to those who eat and drink but through them. The bread and cup don’t save, but someone might be drawn to the gospel by watching others celebrate it.
This meal that portrays us eating Christ’s body and drinking His blood makes absolutely no sense to the natural man. Without faith it’s disagreeable, disgusting, and detestable. What God would require mock cannibalism as worship? Well, our God does, the Father God who gave His only Son. The scandal of this table begs why the death? What could make that death a cause for feasting? Because the death came from love; the Son died because we deserved death. We believe this so much that we put our faith where our mouth is.
In addition, the world is represented around the table. If you’re an unbeliever, you might say, “I know that guy. How could that person be allowed to eat?” Or maybe, “How could those people possibly have anything to share, any reason for communion?” The answer is God’s love. Our eating is evangelistic because if it makes you ask why that person, it may also make you ask, “Why not me?” Our drinking is evangelistic because if it makes you ask what those people have in common, it may also make you ask, “How can I get in on that?”
If you don’t believe in Christ then don’t participate. You have no business celebrating another’s death when you have your own judgment coming. But if you don’t believe, you’re more than welcome to watch. There may be reason for you not to eat, but there is no reason for you not to believe.
For us who do believe, we ought to be making the world crazy with wonder about God’s love as we proclaim His death until He comes.
“God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NAS). The death of God’s Son on the cross makes forgiveness possible, His sacrifice means that condemned men can be cleared of charges and cleansed of unrighteousness. Because God gave His only Son, there are two types of sin that can be forgiven when they are confessed.
First, no sin is too sinful, no sin is too large to be forgiven. Why? Because no sin is bigger than God’s Son. Christ is more valuable to God than your sin is offensive to God. Arguing that He can’t forgive your deepest sin suggests you can dig a bigger hole than you deserve credit for. No sin of yours can eclipse God’s Son.
The second type of sin that should be confessed is the small (to our mind) kind, and it’s the same reason: God gave His only Son. Any disobedience, no matter how modest, offends His infinite majesty and requires forgiveness. The cost for mini-sins is the same as massive ones. God cares about the small ones because He cares that Jesus died for those, too. No sin of yours can hide in the shadows.
Lest tender consciences get consumed with confessional bookkeeping, sweating over every line item, remember my first point. No sin is too big nor are there too many, big and small added together. The key is to confess them all. Because God gave His only Son, what can be neither too big or too small? Sins we must confess, sins that His blood covers and cleanses.