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? (I Corinthians 10:16)
Neglect of the Lord’s Supper is one of the great neglects of our age. I don’t believe we can rightly estimate the damage it does, both to churches and to individual Christians, that we neglect the Lord’s Table. Since we have been discussing off and on the subject of enjoying God, I thought it would be helpful to point out that God has ordained a very specific way believers are to enjoy Him – and that is through the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.
Before I dig into the topic, let me acknowledge that in general, Christians don’t have control over the frequency of their Lord’s Supper celebrations. That is a church decision. And, as Paul says, it is the “communion of the body of Christ.” Thus, a believer’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper will depend on his church’s celebration of it.
Paul speaks of the Lord’s Supper as “the communion of the blood and body of Christ.” I believe Paul intentionally leads off with the communion of the blood of Christ as a reference to the saving act that brings a believer into communion with Christ. The communion of the blood of Christ refers to our salvation; the communion of the body of Christ refers to our position in our local church. Believers partake of communion as members of their local church, and I do not see any place in Scripture that would allow for extending the Lord’s Supper to those who are not in a covenant relationship with the visible body of Christ. If you are not in the body of Christ, you have no communion with the body of Christ.
Our culture has awakened to the fact that the absence of a loving father in the home does a great deal of damage to the family unit as well as to the fatherless children. We cannot put a true estimate on the amount of damage fatherlessness creates in our culture. In every case when I have tried to help a young person who struggles with suicide, they have also had a struggle with dad. Either he isn’t there, or else he is there and they wish he wasn’t. I mention this as an example of the way we might overlook a neglect and not realize the damage it is doing.
In our spiritual lives, I believe that neglect of the Lord’s Supper causes unspeakable damage. There are a handful of ways we might neglect the Lord’s Supper. Not observing it at all would be the most obvious neglect. Abusing it as the Corinthians did would be another – making it about self instead of about communion with Christ. Observing it without celebrating it – turning the Lord’s Table into a place of mourning instead of a place of rejoicing – makes the Lord’s Supper oppressive. And, celebrating the Lord’s Supper on Sunday and then forgetting to live in reference to it throughout the week would be a great neglect as well. Perhaps the greatest.
The Lord’s Supper is more than a custom in the church, tacked on at the end of the occasional church service. Our text refers to it as blessing – “the cup of blessing which we bless.” In the next chapter, Paul reminds us of the words of Jesus: “this do in remembrance of me.” The Lord’s Supper is not a formality, it is a remembrance. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, as Paul reminds us, “Ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”
The Lord’s Table is rich with meaning and importance to the believer. It is the central practice of the church – remembering Christ’s self-sacrifice and showing His death. I hope you will hear me on this — everything we do during the week should be preparation for the time when we will gather as a church to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Our walk with the Lord during the week, our efforts to confess sin and keep short accounts with God, the way we bear one another’s burdens and care for one another, our efforts to reach the lost… all the effort of daily Christian living prepares us for the time when we gather around the Table and enjoy communion with Christ and His people. I believe God intended this for His Supper.
And when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, that should prepare us for everything we do during the week. It should remind us that we are God’s people, bought and paid for with the blood of Christ. It should set the Lord before our eyes, not only at the table but throughout the week. It should motivate us for our work and service to God. And it should cheer us and warm our hearts throughout the week.
The Lord’s Supper is the foundation of our church and worship, even of our daily lives. Our concern in this little series has been with our joy and delight in the Lord. We have been striving to answer the question, “Why don’t I enjoy God?” So far, we have looked at a variety of reasons, including our salvation, sin, knowledge of God, and unscriptural expectations. Now, I want to zero in on the way a neglect of the Lord’s Supper impacts our joy.
God gave us the Lord’s Supper as a place where we rejoice in the Lord. We might go so far as to say that it is the official place, formally provided by God Himself, for Christians to enjoy communion with Christ. Jesus Christ Himself provided this place as the place for us to meet Him. Certainly, in our communion with Christ, we find our highest purpose and deepest joy and satisfaction in the Lord. And since the Lord’s Supper is central to the life of the church, we should consider the way its neglect makes it difficult for us to enjoy God.
In their abuse of the Lord’s Table, the Corinthians delighted in self instead of delighting in the Lord. Whenever we place our own self-interest before God, we will find that we cannot enjoy God. We need the Lord’s Table because it draws our hearts away from ourselves and teaches us to delight in the crucified Christ. God established the Lord’s Table for this purpose – to re-focus our hearts and minds on Christ.
God intended that the Lord’s Table should be central to the life of the church. It is our place of revival. Every time we observe the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded to turn our gaze to the Lord – “this do in remembrance of me.” We might call it a revival service – for the Lord’s Supper is meant to renew our focus on and attention to the crucified Christ. But because our modern churches neglect this God-ordained means of renewal and revival, we have invented all kinds of other means for stirring up the activity and whipping up the emotions of our people.
In his commentary on the book of Judges, Dale Ralph Davis makes an important observation. Commenting on Gideon’s homemade ephod, Davis points out the way modern-day churches have adopted their own substitute ephods while neglecting the ephod God provided.
I would even suggest we go ephod-making in the way we ignore God’s provision of the Lord’s covenant meal as the means of Christian renewal. We plan, organize, and concoct ‘revivals,’ seminars, retreats, or encounters, or we pressure congregations to come forward and rededicate their lives to Christ. All the while we neglect what God has provided: the Lord’s Supper.
We don’t need another program. We need to get back to what God provided for His church. I am amazed at the way churches neglect God’s provision as outlined in the Word of God in favor of some crafty new method. Trap sets and drama teams and coffee shops and “revival meetings” and celebrity preachers make a poor substitute for the Lord’s Table.
But in order for the Lord’s Table to be a place of revival, we must use it the right way. God doesn’t want us brooding over His table. In our observations of the Lord’s Table, we show His death; we do not need to mourn His death. We do not need to mourn for our sins at the Lord’s Table, because the Lord’s Supper reminds us that those sins are paid for. The Lord’s Table should be a celebration, and we need to learn how to celebrate.
With that in mind, let me point out the joy of the Lord’s Supper, and then I want to show how a faithful celebration of Communion will enable you to enjoy God.
First, the joy of the Lord’s Supper
Paul calls it the cup of blessing. The communion with Christ that takes place at the Lord’s Table is a great blessing. What a special privilege it is for us as the people of God that our Savior has made Himself so accessible to us. Spurgeon pointed out that every false religion has this one common feature – that the “dear leader” is always very aloof and unapproachable. I have found this to be true among big-shot preachers, the “movers and shakers” among God’s people. It is a great compliment to a powerful leader when people say he is approachable and accessible. It is also rare.
But not so with our Savior. In fact, communion is the point of the Lord’s Supper. And this communion is the foundation of our joy: “at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”
There is the joy of communion with God’s people. The Lord’s Table is not limited to communion with Christ. We partake of the Supper together, and God intends that the unity we have around the Table should be like the rest of the celebration. In other words, everything flows into the Lord’s Table, and everything flows out of it. The unity we have in Christ is displayed at the Table, and carries over into the rest of life. And we have the fullest experience of Christian communion when we can “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
There is the joy of remembrance. Remembering is a pleasant thing, and when we remember that our sins have been paid for and we have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, that is an especially blessed memory. At the Lord’s Table, we have the joy of remembering the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. It may seem strange to some that we would celebrate the murder of our Savior and Lord. Spurgeon always had a problem with people displaying the cross, especially with those who wore it on a necklace. I think we have to remember that Baptists in his day were still smarting from the persecution they faced at the hands of Rome and of the Protestant Reformation. Spurgeon opposed ever wearing a cross. He asked, if someone used a hatchet to hack your mother in pieces, would you wear it around your neck? He felt that the instrument of Christ’s torture and murder should not be an ornament.
Whether you agree with him or not, it is an oddity of the Christian church that we glory in the cross. But we must remember that the crucifixion was so much more than a simple murder. The Bible tells us that it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. Jesus Himself embraced His own death, and “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” And so, our remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus, of His broken body and shed blood, is a pleasant remembrance. We rejoice and shout for joy.
There is also the joy of showing the Lord’s death until He come. The gospel is the good news that God has provided for sinners so that our sin could be punished and we could be pardoned. It is a high honor and should be a delight to us to tell others this good news. God has sent us out to be joyful ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Second, how faithful celebration builds joy
Paul referred to communion with Christ and His people as “the cup of blessing.” So our celebrations of the Lord’s Supper are full of blessing.
The Lord’s Supper is the central ordinance of God’s church. Baptism is the gateway into the church: the Lord’s Supper is foundational to the church — it is central to everything that we do as a church family. The reasons for this should be obvious enough — without the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ, we have no place in the kingdom of God. Through the broken body and shed blood of our Savior, we are reconciled to God so that we have peace with Him. We have a place in His body – the church – and a purpose to fulfill.
Our purpose is to worship, and when we worship God properly, the central thing we do is to preach Christ crucified – His body broken, His blood shed. Worship is a weekly remembrance of these things, which is why Berean Baptist Church celebrates the Lord’s Supper regularly. Since the Bible doesn’t tell us how often we should celebrate, I believe each church is responsible to establish the frequency of the celebration. At a minimum the church ought to celebrate the Lord’s Supper annually. Preferably, a church would celebrate the Lord’s Supper frequently — recognizing that the Bible does not put a cap on how often we should observe the Table. The Lord’s Supper commemorates the communion that we enjoy with Jesus Christ, renews our covenants with Him as our Risen Lord, reminds us of our place in His body, and as often as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we do show the Lord’s death until He come. As for our church, we desire to show His death often.
When the Lord’s Supper is central to our worship, everything leads up to it, and then everything flows out of it. Everything we do in preparation for worship – whether privately or publicly – prepares us to take the Lord’s Supper — all our devotions, all our praises, all our songs and singing, all our prayers, all our giving, all our confession of sin and repentance. All these things prepare us for that central act of joining in communion with Christ and His people.
And when I am in communion with Christ and His people, then I am prepared to work, to witness, to minister, to strive together for the faith of the gospel. Communion with Christ and His people prepares me to be a good husband and father, to be a good neighbor, to be a pastor. It prepares me for the work that God has for me to do. When I approach the Lord’s Table with the right seriousness and diligence, the Lord’s Supper does something else for me — it straightens out whatever has gotten out of alignment. The Lord’s Supper is the great adjuster – the great re-aligner. Whatever has gotten out of alignment, the Lord’s Supper helps to bring it back into place.
This is so because at the Lord’s Table, I am remembering His death. As we regularly celebrate the Lord’s Supper, His death is brought more readily to mind. We are forgetful people. We easily get caught up in the affairs of this life and forget about these things. It is good when we regularly celebrate, because it keeps us in mind of Christ’s sacrifice.
The more readily that sacrifice comes to mind, the more we are able to see the connections between the death of Christ and all the rest of the Christian life. Husbands are reminded to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. Parents are reminded to give themselves in self-giving, agape love for their children.
But most of all, we have joy, because we are always mindful of the death of the Lord Jesus and of the wonderful results in our own lives. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we share in the joy of Jesus Christ. Remember that the Bible describes the cross as “the joy that was set before Him.” Our joy is made full when we enjoy the very joy of God.
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)
Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: (1 Peter 1:8)
At the Lord’s Table, we are invited to partake, not only of His suffering and death, but also of His deeper joy in providing salvation to sinners. When we do this faithfully, then we are faithfully enjoying the very joy of the Lord.
We can only celebrate the Lord’s Supper as often as our own local church does — and for the most part, we do not have control of that. When we celebrate though, we must beware of pursuing our own self-interest at the Table instead of sharing in the self-sacrifice of the Lord. The Apostle Paul effectively smashed the Corinthian abuse of the Lord’s Table. But that doesn’t prevent some from making it all about themselves. When we make it about ourselves, we lose our joy in the Lord.
But the most common neglect of the Lord’s Supper comes from observing it without joy. Rejoice at the Lord’s Table. And whether we celebrate the Lord’s Supper on Sunday or not, we must always have it in mind in our daily lives. Live every day in preparation for the next time.