Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Lord's Supper

With Easter coming very soon, many Apostolic churches will be celebrating the Lord's Supper in their communion services. What follows is a brief Bible Study that I teach on the topic. It is my hope that someone will find it useful for teaching their congregation.



The Lord's Supper (A Bible Study)

1 Corinthians 11:23-29 KJV
(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.

From this passage, we understand what the Lord’s Supper is and what the purposes for it are. The Lord’s Supper simply consists of the church corporately partaking of unleavened bread and “the fruit of the vine” which symbolize or represent the body and blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • We understand that the bread and the cup do not constitute the literal body and blood of Jesus (as some erroneously believe in what is known as the doctrine of “transubstantiation”). Christ was already bodily present when He spoke these words.
  • Clearly, Jesus Christ used figurative language in keeping with the traditions of the Passover Feast that was being celebrated. Therefore, the bread and the cup are emblems of His presence… for we understand that Christ’s presence is already with His people who are filled with His Spirit.
We also discover from this text two puposes for the Lord’s Supper:

First Purpose: Verses 24-25 “This do ye, as oft as ye drink it [eat it], in remembrance of me.” The first purpose is to remember and commemorate the life and, especially, the death of Jesus Christ.
We should not only remember the fact and historical account of Christ’s death, but we should also remember the meaning of it. The Bible describes Christ’s death in several ways:
  • Redemption or Ransom (Matthew 20:28; Galatians 3:13; 1 Timothy 2:6). To redeem means to deliver by paying a price – the ransom is the price paid. Christ’s life, indeed His body and blood, was the ransom required by God’s holy law to redeem us from sin’s bondage and penalty (1 Peter 1:18;-20; Revelation 5:8-10).
  • Propitiation (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2). This means atonement, satisfaction, or appeasement – something that allows God to pardon sin without compromising His holiness and justice. Christ’s death fulfilled God’s just requirements, thus purchasing remission of sin (Matthew 26:28; John 1:29).
  • Reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11); 2 Corinthians 5:14-21). Christ the man mediates between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5). As a sinless man, Jesus removed the barrier between holy God and sinful men, restoring us to a fellowship with God.
  • Substitution (Isaiah 53:5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24). Jesus Christ took our place and suffered the penalty that we deserve for out sins. In this sense, He became the sin-bearer, the sacrifice for our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 9:28; 10:10-17).
[Reference: Bernard, D. K. (1998). Essential Doctrines of the Bible. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.]

So, we do, indeed remember the whips and the beatings, the bleeding, the crown of thorns, the nails, the crucifixion and the cross itself. But, we remember not only that He did this, but we realize the truth of why He did this… because we could not and cannot do it for ourselves.

Isaiah 53:3-6 KJV
(3) He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
(4) Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
(5) But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
(6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Romans 5:6-8 KJV
(6) For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
(7) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
(8) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

So, the first purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to remember and commemorate the life and, especially, the death of Jesus Christ.

Second Purpose: Verse 26 “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” The second purpose for the Lord’s Supper is to joyously anticipate the return of Jesus Christ in the Second Coming… to remind us that He WILL come again.

So, the Lord’s Supper is a bit of a paradox. We remember with solemn reverence the Passion (the suffering and death of Jesus Christ) and, at the same time, we look forward with great joy and hope to His glorious return.

Finally, one cannot discuss the topic of partaking of the Lord’s Supper without looking at the verses that follow (which we have already read):

(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.

What does this mean? There are a couple of valid lessons that can be taken from this passage.

Those who partake “unworthily” refer to those who have chosen not to obey the message of the Gospel by submitting to the new birth experience. Simply stated, the Gospel message is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We obey the Gospel when we repent (death), are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (burial), and receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost (resurrection).

Finally, those who partake “unworthily” surely refer to those who have rejected the Gospel after having been partakers of the new birth experience (i.e. those who are in a backslidden condition or who are currently living in sin).

Verse 28 states: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”

Therefore, Communion is a time for reflection, self-examination, and repentance. This is one reason, why we choose to partake of the Lord’s Supper during special times of the year. We celebrate as we prepare for a new beginning.

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