Making Eye Contact with the Judge

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.

Praise Among the Nations

When we think about world missions and reaching the unreached people with the gospel, when we think about being salt and light to our city, when we think about loving our neighbors in a way that benefits their souls, we should not underestimate the centrality of the Lord’s Supper.

Communion is a meal of victory and harmony. When we eat the bread and drink the wine by faith, we remember the Lord’s death, and victory over sin, until He returns, and His final victory over ever enemy. Also, when we eat and drink together, we share as one body of Christ and in one cup of blessing.

Paul quoted Psalm 18:49 in Romans 15:9. It is the first of four quotations in a row (two Psalms, one Deuteronomy, one Isaiah), all making the point that the hope of the Gentiles is in Christ.

But before and after those verses, Paul refers to our receiving one another.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (verses 5-6)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (verse 13)

When we receive one another as Christ receives us (Romans 15:7), when we live in harmony with each other, and have hope that God Himself will make us one, we are giving reason for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy.

Cutting the Cords

Things were desperate for David in Psalm 18. His situation was deathly.

The cords of death encompassed me;
The torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
The snares of death confronted me.
(Psalm 18:4-5)

In David’s case, the cords and snares were reaching up from below the ground trying to drag him down. His song praises God for delivering him, for cutting the cords and keeping him alive.

In another psalm David wrote about someone else who would defeat death by going through it. Peter preached this connection on the day of Pentecost.

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, … you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. (Acts 2:23-25, 27)

The word translated “pangs” in “pangs of death” usually refers to birth pains, to the anguish pre-accomplishment. But in the Septuagint the Greek word translates “cords,” and “cords of death/pangs of death” is only found in Psalm 18 and Acts 2. Peter’s actual quote, “For David says,” is from Psalm 16.

This is the marrow of our meal: it was not possible for Jesus to be tied down by death. God is not just the one who delivers from death, God is the one who defeats death. And for all of us in Christ, the same is true for us.

The Idea Was More Than Ideas

The Lord’s Supper is a great place to get perspective.

The Table has two elements on it: bread and wine. The bread was baked and brought by someone, not dropped out of the seventh celestial sphere. The wine was bottled, and bought and brought by someone, also not delivered via a special Holy Spirit spigot. Anyone, with faith or without faith, could eat this bread, and anyone could drink this cup (though they might move on to another table if they see the portion size).

As believers in Christ we know that the ordinary bread signifies the bread of Christ’s flesh. We receive the wine as the emblem of His blood which atones for our sins. When we eat and drink by faith we do something particular, not common.

And remember, it was God’s idea to give us more than ideas. If all He wanted was for us to have the idea of bread, He could have given us a brochure of visualizing techniques. If all He wanted was for us to have the idea of wine, He could have told us to work on our pretending abilities. But, He doesn’t want us just to have the idea of bread and wine any more than He wants us to have only the idea of a Savior. He sent His Son to take on flesh and to die on a tree. He wants us to have more than just the idea of fellowship, He wants us to be together, around a Table, and share communion with Him and each other.

At the Supper God reminds us that He is much bigger than this life, and also that this is where He meets us.

Thanks in Advance

The timing of the Lord’s thanks stands out at the Lord’s Table. According to Paul, Jesus gave thanks before He broke the bread and “in the same way also” before He shared the cup (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). What really stands out about the timing, though, isn’t only that He gave thanks before both of the elements, but that He gave thanks “on the night when he was betrayed,” before the cross.

Wouldn’t it have been better to wait, to inaugurate the communion meal after the torture was over, the blood cleaned up, the tombstone rolled away? Jesus knew what was coming. He knew His work wasn’t finished, and He taught the disciples to give thanks in advance.

From our historical perspective, Christ has completed His sacrificial work but He has not finished His sanctifying work of His Bride. He is still at work to purify and unite all of us, and we can give thanks before He’s finished.

When you look two pews in front of you, when you stand behind that person getting the bread and cup, are you only noticing all the ways that they fail? Are you thinking about how much more they need to grow? Or are you giving thanks, believing that He who began a good work in them will be faithful to complete it?

Jesus gave thanks on the night He was betrayed. The betrayal lead to His being mocked, beaten, and crucified. But His death lead to His resurrection, and His resurrection leads to our life. He gave thanks because He knew everything that was coming. Give thanks. He’s both done and not done yet.

The Lord Builds

One thing to look for when reading Scripture is the order of the author’s points. For example, Peter said to put away sin for sake of hungering for the Word, and then he connected the Word to tasting that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:1-3).

Tasting His goodness seems like it would be the end, and in some sense it is. But Peter says more about those who taste and then “come to him,” that is, those who come to the Lord. He is good, of course you would come. But we don’t come alone.

We come as “living stones” who are “being built up as a spiritual house.”

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

What do we need to do for this building up, this identification to happen? We need to taste that He is good and come to Him, and then He does the work. “As you come to him…you yourselves like living stones are being built up,” the passive voice. The Lord builds.

God does command us to be of the same mind, to have the same love, to be in full accord and of one mind (Philippians 2:2). And He creates this fellowship by His Spirit as He builds us on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ.

Never the Same Person Twice

The Christian life is a growing life. At the same time, we are always growing in the same fields. We develop our knowledge and application of one Book–the Bible, one message–the gospel, one Lord–Jesus Christ. Growth involves greater and greater familiarity with a few great things.

But doesn’t familiarity breed contempt? It certainly can and has historically. Aren’t we putting ourselves in danger’s way by cultivating daily habits (such as Bible reading, prayer, fellowship) and weekly liturgy (such as singing, Lord’s table)?

Routine can cut deep ruts. Any man may live so close to special things that he forgets how special they are. But because we read a divine Book, believe an eternal message, and follow an immortal Savior, we can be sure that contempt or boredom on our part is a problem on our part.

In order to properly appreciate great things, grace things, we need grace. We will always need grace, and grace is always God’s to give not ours to take. We ask, we depend, we put ourselves downstream, but always we depend on God to give it.

He regularly gives grace at this Table. It is not magical, but it is supernatural. He doesn’t force-feed it into us without faith, but He will nourish and strengthen and unite believers here by His grace. It works and changes us so that we don’t eat in exactly the same way twice because we’re never the same person twice.

Now We Belong

It used to be that the carcasses of the animals whose blood was used in sacrifices on the Day of Atonement were taken outside the camp to be burned up.

For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. (Hebrews 13:11)

The bodies didn’t belong at the altar. Jesus fulfilled this work for us at Calvary.

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his blood. (Hebrews 13:12).

He was treated as cursed so that we could come in. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by become a curse for us–for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'” (Galatians 3:13).

He was accursed so that we don’t have to be, while those who continue to reject Him, wherever they think they are, are actually in the position of being accursed. Once we were separated and alienated and strangers (Ephesians 2:12), but now we belong.

At the Lord’s Supper we remember His death, the righteous for the unrighteous, that we might be brought to God. We remember His love, not for the lovely but for the unlovely, that He might renew us in His image. Our new status, our new camp, our new community, our new hope, these are all brought to us by grace. As we eat the bread and drink the wine we commemorate His grace at the cross and we anticipate the grace at His coming for us. Maranatha!

Proclaiming the Lord’s Love Until He Comes

Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, let all of it be done in love. This is a conflation of 1 Corinthians 10:31 and 16:14. I’m not rewriting the Scripture, I am connecting two ways of dealing with the same thing.

In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul exhorted the church about using their theological understanding about God’s creative generosity and their liberty in Christ to love one another in what they willingly did not eat and in what they did eat with thankfulness. This is how to give God glory, because what gives God glory is how we love one another.

In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul exhorted the church about their divisive and selfish eating related to their obedience to the Lord’s institution of the Lord’s Supper. Again with food, again in a context of relationships, and again we’re called not to love self but others as we follow the example of Christ.

This is part of why our communion together proclaims the Lord’s death until He comes, because this is also proclaiming the Lord’s love until He comes. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 3:9-11)

Do you want to be godly and glorify Him? Then eat and drink in praise of His love to you in Christ, and eat and drink in love for one another.

Not a Crumb of a Cardboard Cracker

How would you persuade someone that the church’s eating and drinking at the Lord’s Supper should be more happy than heavy?

We believe that the bread and the wine represent the body of Christ tortured and crucified, the blood of Jesus spilled from His head, His hands, His back, His feet. We acknowledge that our sin drove the bitter nails that hung Him on that judgment tree. The murder of God’s Son is the most heinous and unjust offense committed in history, and, according to divine justice He had to be crushed for our iniquities. This is heavy truth.

And when we know Jesus Christ and Him crucified, what does the Father expect us to do next? What was the Son’s work for? What does the Spirit accomplish?

The goal of God’s saving work is our life, our joy, and our fellowship with God. That fellowship is sweet. The work of grace includes a plain, and painful, view of our disobedience. But God opens our eyes to see our sin not mainly so that He can rub our faces in it. His purpose is not to remind us in perpetuity that we do not belong, that we barely got in, and that we should never forget how painful was the price His Son paid.

We will not ever forget Christ’s death. And we will praise God’s love revealed in His atoning, substitutionary sacrifice. We will remember and rejoice because it purchased our forgiveness, our freedom, our fellowship with God and all His people.

It is one of the reasons that we started using wine in communion. Wine is given by God as a gift to gladden hearts (Psalm 104:15). We are not drinking the wine of His wrath, but the wine of His feast (think Isaiah 55). Likewise, the recipe we use for our bread includes a touch of honey, because the word is sweet (Psalm 19:10), and Jesus is the incarnate Word. He is the Bread of Life, not a crumb of a cardboard cracker.

Honey is serious business. We do not deserve salvation or any of its sweetness, and that is part of what makes it a serious gift to us from God.