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.
Continue reading “The Lord’s Table As the Central Act of Enjoying God”
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.