Tag: communion

When Jesus instituted what we call the Lord’s Supper, He pointed to the cup that points to His covenant.

After telling His disciples to eat the bread representing His body, “he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins'” (Matthew 26:27-28). Luke recorded it also, “Likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood'” (Luke 22:20).

The “new covenant” is named as such in Jeremiah 31:31, and related descriptions are paralleled in Ezekiel 36. This new covenant is not like the Mosaic covenant given to Israel when they came out of Egypt. In this one, the Lord promised to put His law directly within them, to write it not on stone tablets but on their hearts. This covenant wouldn’t just point out why they needed forgiveness, it would purchase and apply it.

In its original setting the new covenant was for “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31). The Lord compared the likelihood that He would fulfill this promise to the fixed order of the sun and moon. “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation forever” (Jeremiah 31:35-36).

And it is the Lord who has opened the door for us who were not Jews to enjoy the good news of forgiveness and new hearts. He has opened the way for us, He will finish His promise to save a coming generation of Israel by His Spirit (Romans 11:25-26), and His Word is as good as it has ever been.

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This is a meal of remembrance. We remember, and proclaim as we remember, the death of Jesus. Communion points us to the cross week after week.

It is also good to remember that Jesus remembers us. This truth could be used for selfish purposes, to puff up our esteem, as if God thought us important enough to get us on His side. But the good news is that He does choose us, and He does get us on His side, and He knows us by name.

Computing power and intelligent algorithms can collect and process a lot of data. The limits of digital databases are virtually non-existent, and columns can be matched, even with names. But it still isn’t personal.

The Father chose a people for His Son, and sent His Son as a Shepherd to lay down His life for His sheep. He calls them by name, and they recognize His voice (John 10:3-4). Their names are written in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain (Revelation 13:8). The names in the book, the names who are known by Jesus, are the names He took with Him to the cross.

Christian, you are not a number to God. You are a name. You will walk with Christ in white. Christ will confess Your name before our Father. Remember what you have received and been taught. Remember Jesus’ body and blood. Remember that He knows your name.

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Worldliness dulls our senses. It is harder to describe what it feels like to be wet when we are submerged in water, and it is harder to stand out from the world when we’re standing in the way of sinners (Psalm 1:1). This is one of the reasons why worship sharpens our senses. Worship is a renewal of identity, of our distinct and named identity in Christ.

He names us and He gives us our essence. He makes our lives smelly.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)

I trust its not pressing the analogy too far, but, how close do others need to get to you, and how much proactive sniffing effort do others need to make to smell your life? Some of you have a distinct gospel odor; your neighbors and co-workers and unbelieving family can tell when you’re coming. Likewise your brothers and sisters in the body catch a whiff of your life and give thanks to God. Your life is a savory fragrance of life to them.

Others perhaps need our communion to renew the aroma. May the Spirit douse you with faith and love and service and patient endurance for sake of the Son.

Verse 16 ends with the question: “Who is sufficient for these things?” The obvious answer is that none of us are, but the gospel is the gospel of grace.

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Is communion more of a spiritual act or a physical act? It is both, of course. Just thinking about it isn’t obedience to the Lord’s ordinance, while eating and drinking without faith and the Spirit isn’t a means of blessing, but rather a reason for judgment.

There are a surprising number of tangible things that can distract us from the spiritual nature of the supper. It could be pain, it could be a rowdy kid, it could be a slow row, it could be a dry piece of bread. Keep your eyes on Christ.

But it is also possible for us to be so anxious about keeping our eyes on Christ that we miss all the things about this meal that He delights in. He chose for us to have bodies, that can experience pain or discomfort or fatigue, even death. He knows that. He apparently likes the idea of kids who need to learn self-control, and one of the ways they develop self-control is by watching you be self-controlled in response to their lack of self-control. And He gave you saliva to choke down dry bread if necessary, and He gave plastic to hold our wine so we don’t have to hold it in our hands.

The meditation is: Christ took on flesh and spent His body so that we could live for Him in our bodies, even now through the inconveniences and discomforts, all the way up to dangers. A further application is: if you (or your kid) spills, just let us know so that we can treat it. It’s all His and for Him.

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In our Omnibus class for adults we discussed On the Incarnation by Athanasius last Thursday night. It is a 1600 year-old book about God taking on flesh in Christ, and it is both accessible and encouraging. Near the end Athanasius wrote this:

“For as one cannot take in all the waves with one’s eyes, since those coming on elude the perception of one who tries, so also one who would comprehend all the achievements of Christ in the body is unable to take in the whole, even by reckoning them up, for those that elude his thought are more than he thinks he has grasped.” (107)

This is not a discouragement to stand on the beach and watch a wave, nor a discouragement to read the Bible and look for the Logos. It is a reminder that however great what we see is to us, the reality is even greater. We could sooner count all the oxygen molecules in the sea than we could count all the glories of the Son.

As just one example, from Jesus’ self-identification to the church in Smyrna, He is “the first and the last, who died and came to life.” Where would our meditation on the waves of implications end?

At the Lord’s Table we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” I still get struck meditating on why Paul chose “death” as the element proclaimed. When we know who Jesus is, His death is the element that is the most surprising, even scandalous. How could “the first and the last” die? In some ways His resurrection is more obvious, what sticks out is that He died.

His death is His glory, and our redemption. Even though we cannot count the flood of blessings that come to us in Christ, we should swim in thanks.

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Love, good works, fellowship, and eschatology go together. They are like ingredients in a pot, and each of us has a spoon.

Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

The command is to consider, to think, to strategize. The strategy should include how we can get our spoon into the pot; elbow grease will probably be required. The goal of stirring is to get love and good works simmering, and the order is right. It’s not just certain behavior, but good stuff done from deep affections. This means we’re not looking for a hundred and fifty neighbor-tyrants, The Sanctimonious Sisterhood of Bossy Pants.

We stir the pot, and we belong in the pot, not neglecting to meet together. And we do it knowing that the Day is on its way. We are closer today than yesterday, and we want all of us to be ready.

One of the encouragements is eating and drinking together at the Lord’s supper. You can also target a word-blessing at a friend before or after the service. Your loud and glad singing gets heard by your church family, not just by God. Stir up each other, and be easily stirred up (to love and good works) by them.

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There are only two uses of the adjective form of “Lord” (κυριακῇ) in the New Testament. One is in Revelation 1:10 regarding the “Lord’s day.” The other is in 1 Corinthians 11:20 regarding the “Lord’s supper.” We use these descriptions many centuries later because they are inspired descriptions. This adjective is worth keeping.

It is also worth noting that when John saw the vision of the resurrected Lord, he fell at Jesus’ feet as though dead. It is an awesome thing to behold the Son of Man in His glory. Such humility is appropriate before the Lord, and when we consider what a “lordy” day is to be, and when we consider what a “lordy” meal is to be, we are certainly intended to see something special.

But Jesus’ response to John’s humility is also instructive. This dazzling Lord, clothed with divine glory, put His hand on John, told him not to fear, and announced His authority over life and death for John’s good. Don’t fear because He is the living one. Don’t fear because He died, and behold, is alive forever more. Don’t fear because He has the keys of Death and Hades.

While it is possible to abuse the Lord’s kindness to us, which some of the Corinthians had done, the Lord’s supper is a reminder of His authority and His grace. It is a reminder that the one who invites us to eat and drink shares Himself, His life, and His kingdom with us.

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If a harbor would be home to many ships, its shore must be broad. If a man would be host to many for a meal, he must not only have a large table, he must also have a large heart. As one of your shepherds, I love you, but the head of this communion table is Jesus Christ, the one who love us and freed us from our sins. His heart is great.

God has the greatest love. His love is constant; He is love according to the apostle John, and that is always true among the three Persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, from before the world began. His love is potent; He does not just love those who love Him, He loves His enemies who hated Him out of rebellion and adopts them as His own. His love is costly, nowhere shown in its worth more than at the cross where Jesus took our sin on Himself, the just for the unjust.

The apostle Paul knew that it takes God’s own Spirit to teach us about God’s love, and it will still be more than we can fathom. Paul prays that God would strengthen us in power that we would have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19a).

When preaching on this passage, John Bunyan asked,

Couldst thou (sinner) if thou hadst been allowed, thyself express what thou wouldst have expressed, the greatness of the love thou wantest, with words that could have suited thee better? (All Loves Excelling, 37)

In other words, if you could ask to be loved, could you have asked for more? The heart of Christ is great and great with love, and He invites us to commune with Him.

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In his book The Religious Affections Jonathan Edwards explained how the defining feature of real religion is love for God. He defines affections, shows how some affects in a person’s life may not be from genuine affections for God, and then spends most of the book describing the characteristics of true love for God.

One of his concerns, as should be a concern for all of us, is the possibility of false comforts. It is possible to think things are great, to be optimistic about your condition, and to believe you have peace with God when there is no peace.

On the other hand, I think that some believers have heard these warnings so much that we are afraid of comforts. We are afraid of communion as a celebration because, Hello?!, we might not take it seriously (enough). These are not the only ways to mess up participation in the Lord’s Table, but they are actual misunderstandings.

What should we do? We should read all the words in Scripture. The communion cup is, for example, “a cup of blessing.” So we thank God for it. We remember God’s favor to us so we are glad in it. And, then we go on to remember that this cup is “a participation in the blood of Christ.” It is a costly cup.

“The comforts of the true saints increase awakening and caution, and a lively sense of how great a thing it is to appear before an infinitely holy, just and omniscient Judge.”

Our comforts are not in oblivion, our comforts are purchased at the cross. We have blood-love, love bought by the blood of the Lamb.

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Presumptuous sins are sins of undue liberty, of going beyond the bounds. They are willful, understood, and so directly culpable. It’s still breaking the law even when you don’t know the law, but with presumptuous sins we make eye contact with the judge to make sure he’s watching.

David was especially concerned about the enslaving nature of presumptuous sins. When we sin knowing full well what our will is doing, we actually give our wills over to bondage. That’s why David asked, “let them not have dominion over me!” He was concerned that he would be overtaken. Being under the dominion of sin increases our responsibility, ironically.

As believers, the way to deal with this is to submit to the law, the testimony, the precepts, the commandment, the fear, the rules of the Lord. When we submit to His Word we also learn to submit to His righteousness altogether, and we demonstrate that submission by eating His body and drinking His blood by faith. We war against taking unrighteous liberties when we receive the liberties of righteousness in Christ.

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