Sermon

The Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-34)

1200px-Última_Cena_-_Da_Vinci_5
Leonardo da Vinci Last Supper (Public Domain)

Our focus in this sermon is The Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is one of two ordinances (the other being baptism) instituted by Christ for the Church. An ordinance is a decree or demand. The ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are demands from Christ for His Church to obey. The Gospels mention Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper in Matthew 26:20-30, Mark 14:17-26, Luke 22:14-30 and John 13:21-30.

What the Lord’s Supper is Not

Before we begin discussing what the Lord’s Supper is, we need to clarify what it is not. The bread is not the actual body of Jesus. The cup does not contain the actual blood of Jesus. When Jesus held up the bread and cup and said, “This is My body…this is My blood” (Matt 26:26,28), He spoke symbolically; not literally.

The Lord’s Supper is also not a sacrament. A sacrament is a sign or symbol that serves as a channel (or means) of receiving grace. In other words, a sacrament is a holy ritual in which God bestows grace upon those who partake of it. The Lord’s Supper is not a sacrament but an ordinance. To put this as simply as possible: The Lord’s Supper is not a means to receive more grace, but a testimony of the grace that we continually receive from God through Christ.

What is the Lord’s Supper?

Millard Erickson wrote that “The Lord’s Supper is a reminder of the death of Christ and of its sacrificial character in our behalf, a symbol of our vital connection with the Lord, and a testimony to His Second Coming.” It is meant for baptized Christians. The Lord’s Supper is:

A Proclamation of Christ’s Death (1 Cor 11:26)

Paul wrote that the Lord’s Supper is the proclamation of the Lord’s death. The bread symbolizes Jesus’ body which was crucified. The cup symbolizes Jesus’ blood which was spilled when He was crucified. The body and blood remind us that Jesus died. Jesus chose to institute this meal during Passover. This was intentional because Passover reminded the Jewish people of the Exodus. The destroying angel (Ex 12:23) passed over the houses that had sacrificed a lamb and brushed its blood on the doorposts. When the angel came to kill, it would see the blood and know that a death has already occurred and pass over the house. Jesus is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus’ sacrificial death is what we remember during the Lord’s Supper.

Our Participation in Christ’s Death (Luke 22:19-20)

Jesus, during the Supper, said “This is My body, which is given for you…this cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.” The Lord’s Supper is also a proclamation that Christ died for us. His death was a sacrifice for us and we share in His death and receive the benefits of it. In the Lord’s Supper we remember His death removed our sins and has granted us righteousness and peace.

Our Unity as Believers (1 Cor 10:17)

Paul wrote that “the cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing of the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?” By partaking of the Lord’s Supper together, we remember that we are unified in Christ. It is an opportunity to strive for peace with one another and forgive.

Our Pursuit of Holiness (1 Cor 11:27-32)

The Lord’s Supper is also an important reminder of our pursuit of holiness. Paul wrote of the need of self-examination when one partakes of the Lord’s Supper. We are to eat the bread and drink the cup in a manner worthy of the Lord. Failure to do so results in sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. You eat and drink judgment on yourself if you do so in an unworthy manner. We must be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16).

Our Testimony of Christ’s Return (1 Cor 11:26)

When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” We worship the Christ who has died and has risen from the dead. Christ is currently at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33) and will return for His followers. We have hope knowing that there is more than just this life. We have a glorious inheritance waiting for us in the next life.

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away,
Slain for us – and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross.
So we share in this bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King.

“Communion Hymn” – Keith & Kristyn Getty