These days, many of us have lost the significance of the Lord’s Supper. Tacked on to the end of the service, or hurried through because it is something we have to do, coupled with the lack of teaching in our churches on the importance of Communion, we find ourselves impoverished by our lack of understanding or appreciation for the Lord’s Supper.
It was not always that way. In the early church, the Lord’s Supper held an important place. The first part of an early Christian worship assembly was open to all, including strangers, who might be converted by the preaching. The second part of the service involved the Lord’s Supper, which only the baptized were allowed to partake, so the unbaptized departed then.
In the first century, the Lord’s Supper included not only the bread and the cup but an entire meal. As part of the meal, neighbors who had quarreled made peace again.
Early Christians continued to observe the Jewish Passover. But they did not celebrate the Passover in memory of deliverance from Egypt. Instead, they fasted to commemorate the sufferings of Jesus, the true Passover Lamb.
When worship was ended, Christians took home the consecrated bread so that those who couldn’t attend worship could partake of the Lord’s Supper. In North Africa, Christians took home the bread so they could celebrate the sacrament every day with their families. Thus, “Give us today our daily bread” carried a deeper meaning.
Pray and Read: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (Amplified Bible)
23For I received from the Lord Himself that which I passed on to you [it was given to me personally], that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was treacherously delivered up and while His betrayal was in progress took bread,
24And when He had given thanks, He broke [it] and said, Take, eat. This is My body, which is broken for you. Do this to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance.
25Similarly when supper was ended, He took the cup also, saying, This cup is the new covenant [ratified and established] in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink [it], to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance.
26For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are representing and signifying and proclaiming the fact of the Lord's death until He comes [again].
The Lord’s Supper is a memorial meal representing (“shows forth”) the atonement of Jesus Christ. He instituted it from the Passover meal at the Last Supper.
Our manner of celebration of the Supper today is quite similar to the way the Early Church celebrated it. Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.), a Christian philosopher and apologist, described the way the early church celebrated the Supper in his First Apology: “There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.”
Lord’s Supper – Communion – Eucharist eucharistos (thanksgiving)
Lord’s Table – reference to God’s holy altar (Malachi 1:7)
Key Truth: Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 to teach the Corinthian Christians that the Lord’s Supper memorialized Christ’s betrayal, broken body, shed blood, and the proclamation of his sacrifice.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the Lord’s Supper.
- His life was betrayed for you (1 Cor. 11:23)
- His body was broken for you (1 Cor. 11:24)
- His blood was poured out for you (1 Cor. 11:25)
- His death is to be proclaimed by you (1 Cor. 11:26)
Exposition: Note well,
1. HIS LIFE WAS BETRAYED FOR YOU (1 Cor. 11:23).
a. Note that Paul is not making up something new for the Corinthian Christians to do. He is passing on something directly from the Lord. We call that something an ordinance.
b. In order for an activity to be an ordinance, it must fulfill two requirements.
i. It must be an outward sign of truth of the gospel. An ordinance is first a sign pointing to Christ Jesus. It is a prophetic act demonstrating some truth of the message of the good news of Jesus.
ii. It must have been instituted by Jesus himself. Because it is initiated and ordained by Christ, it holds the authority of Christ.
c. Ordinances, however, did not start in the New Testament. The idea had been around for a long time. In Exodus 12:14, God instituted the Passover as an “ordinance forever” for the people of Israel. In 1 Corinthians 11:2, Paul picks up this idea to remind the church of its “ordinances” which it practices.
d. Authority to administer lies with the church, not with any government, judiciary, or individual, including a pastor or a bishop. Therefore the efficacy of baptism or the Lord’s Supper lies not in the character or person of the individual ordained to perform the service, but in the church, the Body of Christ. (Acts 10:46-47)
e. An ordinance is not a sacrament. There is nothing of saving grace in an ordinance. It is an outward demonstration of truth instituted by Jesus Christ. Superstitious veneration accompanied baptism and communion in the days after the early Church. The idea of sacramentalism became a powerful tool of control to wield over the people. The threat of excommunication and damnation through withholding the sacraments was the church at its worst.
f. Jesus was soon to be betrayed by Judas in the garden, but even knowing that, Jesus had his face set toward the Cross.
g. APPLICATION: Do you determine to serve Christ even when you are betrayed? Let’s be real honest. Church can be a tough place to serve, because people wear their feelings and their prejudices sometimes on their shoulders. Remember, the devil does not want Christ’s church to have a good witness in the community or advance Christ’s kingdom either. When someone rubs you the wrong way or criticizes your service or questions your sanity, do you give up your assignment and walk away? Or do you keep going, faithful to Christ because he was faithful to you?
2. HIS BODY WAS BROKEN FOR YOU (1 Cor. 11:24).
a. Despite the fact that Martin Luther famously said, “This is my body” means “This is my body,” the Lord’s Supper is a memorial meal. See verse 26? It is a proclamation of Christ’s death until he comes.
b. I want you to notice that Christ says his body was broken FOR you. He willingly gave his body to be broken for the remission of sins.
c. APPLICATION: How are you going to respond to Christ’s body being broken for you? You are not too far gone for Christ. His body was broken for you. Will you receive Him and his free gift of eternal life today?
3. HIS BLOOD WAS POURED OUT FOR YOU (1 Cor. 11:25)
a. Passover – looked forward to the redemption of Israel in the Messianic Age and to the past at God’s acts of deliverance in Exodus. So, too, the Lord’s Supper looks back at Christ’s provision for our salvation and forward to His Coming again.
b. APPLICATION: Christ’s blood was poured out for you. Will you receive His blood to cover your sins? €Have you given your life to Him? Today is a great day for giving your heart to Christ.
4. HIS DEATH IS TO BE PROCLAIMED BY YOU (1 Cor. 11:26)
a. zikkaron Heb. “memorial” – the living sensed participation with past generations in God’s historic acts. The Lord’s Supper is a unique, holy occasion for gathered church to sense participation of every member with Jesus in His death. In Lord’s Supper we are present at the Cross and testify to it. Amplified: “Affectionate remembrance.”
b. Justin Martyr (100-165): Christian philosopher and apologist: “And this food is called among us the Eucharist of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.”
c. APPLICATION: His death is proclaimed through the Supper. His resurrection life is to be proclaimed through you and the way you live.
d. Are you proclaiming his death and life at work? Are you proclaiming him in your class? Are you proclaiming him in your home? Today is the day to make a commitment in this area.