Today, we’re looking at the importance of THE LORD’S SUPPER or COMMUNION. Is it really that important?
Jesus gave TWO ORDINANCES for His Church – baptism and breaking bread. In one we commemorate our death with Him. In the other we demonstrate His death for us. The devil has attacked both of those ordinances by getting Christians to do two things:
#1 – Marginalize the one: “I don’t really need to be baptized.”
#2 – Minimize the other: “The Lord’s Supper isn’t that big a deal.”
In 1 Corinthians 1:11-17, its pretty obvious they were fighting about baptism. They were bragging about who baptized them. Its almost as if they were saying, “Baptism isn’t important. It’s who did it.” So, in verses 13-15, Paul rebukes them: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you … except Crispus and Gaius, so that none of you can say that you were baptized into my name.”
They’d missed the whole point of baptism and marginalized its importance.
As a side note, even though Scripture says Jesus was baptized, there isn’t any evidence He ever baptized anyone (John 4:2).
Imagine the chaos at Corinth if one of them could’ve said, “Well, I was baptized by Jesus.”
The devil gets people to marginalize baptism (Check out the importance of BAPTISM here.) and also tries to get people to minimize the Lord’s Supper.
Celebrating the Lord’s Supper was the pattern and practice of the early church. Even though JESUS didn’t specify when or how often we were to observe this supper, He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
The first church made it a high priority. Acts 2:42-46 says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 20:7 says, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread …”
Today, many churches no longer observe The Lord’s Supper. Some do it quarterly or a couple of times a year. Others do it monthly. Our pattern and practice has always been to observe it every week when we worship.
In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Paul shows us just how big a deal The Lord’s Supper really is.
Notice first of all …
THE SADNESS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
(1 Corinthians 11:17-22)
Paul said, “I don’t have anything good to say about what’s happening there when you come to worship.”
Why? Four reasons:
1) Divisions (vs. 18)
“In the first place … there are divisions among you.” Since chapter one it had become a recurring theme. What’s really sad is when Paul said, “To some extent I believe it.” He was aware of their track record and it wasn’t good. “You come together to worship and yet, there are divisions among you.”
The devil loves that. God hates that.
The word for “divisions” is the same word we get our English word “schism” or “scissors” from. It literally means to “rip or tear apart.” When they were gathering together for worship they were tearing the Lord’s church apart.
2) Differences (vs. 19)
The second thing Paul pointed out was their differences. He noted the distinction between destructive divisions and instructive ones. He acknowledged the strife and division exhibited by some actually helped to highlight the harmony, unity and spirituality of those who had been approved by God.
The word used for “recognized” or “approval” was the word used of precious metals that had been tried in the fire and proven to be pure.
3) Distractions (vs. 20-21)
Paul said, “When you come together for the Lord’s Supper, you’re missing the whole point.” Apparently, some would come and start without waiting on others. Most scholars say it was the wealthy believers not waiting on the poorer believers, many of whom left the love feast and the Lord’s Supper still hungry – physically as well as spiritually.
One commentator said, “Those who brought food and drink gorged themselves and became drunk. They mocked the very purpose of the occasion, which was to bring harmony and unity among those who belonged to Christ, as they remembered His sacrifice to make them one in Him.”
4) Decisions (vs. 22)
Paul was saying, “You need to decide what you want to do and who you want to be.” In other words, “you have some decisions to make. If you’re just wanting a meal, then eat in your own home. If you’re going to despise God’s church and ignore God’s purposes, stay home. If you’re going to humiliate those who came to honor God in worship, definitely stay home.”
He essentially said, “Decide which is it going to be. And if you’re looking for me to agree with anything you’re doing, look someplace else. I don’t agree with anything you’re doing."
It was a strong rebuke from the man who had started their church.
Then, he talked about …
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
Dr. John MacArthur said, “These verses are like a diamond dropped in a muddy road. One of the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture is given in the middle of a strong rebuke of worldly, carnal, selfish, and insensitive attitudes and behavior. The rebuke, in fact, is of Christians who have perverted the very ceremony that these verses so movingly describe.”
In his masterful explanation, Paul said The Lord’s Supper has …
A DIVINE ORIGIN (vs. 23)
This was God’s idea. (Paul received this truth directly from the Lord – Gal. 1:11-12). And he begins with these words: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed … ”
It’s important for us to understand …
The HISTORY of it.
The Lord instituted this supper on the most solemn night of His life. The storm clouds were gathering on the horizon. The soldiers were lacing up their boots and strapping on their swords.
The MAJESTY of it.
The Lord’s Supper is all about Jesus. It’s not about us or anything else. It’s to be a time when we take our eyes off ourselves and everything else in the whole world.
Not only does The Lord’s Supper have a DIVINE ORIGIN (vs. 23). It also has …
A DIVINE AUTHORITY (vs. 24)
Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
There are many things in the Christian experience people feel are “optional.” Some think they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. If they don’t feel like doing it, they’re under no obligation. Things like sharing our faith, serving others, praying, giving, etc. They don’t have to do any of them. But they still consider themselves good Christians.
Paul was clear that Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). Two times.
The Lord’s Supper has a DIVINE ORIGIN and a DIVINE AUTHORITY. It also has …
A DIVINE SIGNIFICANCE (vs. 23b-26).
Notice the TIMING.
Jesus instituted this on the night they observed the Passover feast when they celebrated how the blood of the lamb over the doorposts of every Israelite family in Egypt enabled them to escape God’s wrath.
Now, the true Passover Lamb was about to be killed and His blood shed. Redemption from a greater bondage than that of Israel in Egypt was about to be purchased for all mankind.
Notice the TAKING.
They were to take the bread, which symbolized His body. The word “broken” doesn’t appear in the earliest, most reliable manuscripts. The Romans frequently broke the legs of crucified victims to hasten their death. That didn’t happen with Jesus.
John 19:36 tells us, “These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.'”
Then, they were to take the cup, which symbolized His blood shed for our sins. It symbolized a new covenant. Jesus was changing everything. The Passover was being replaced with The Lord’s Supper. Animal sacrifices were being replaced with the “once for all” sacrifice by Jesus on the Cross. The veil in the Temple would be torn in two, symbolizing open access to God for every believer. The Priesthood was being replaced with “the priesthood of all believers.”
We no longer look back to the Red Sea and the Exodus. We look back to the Cross.
In verse 26 Paul says each time we take the Lord’s Supper “we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” In other words, we proclaim the message of the Cross and the Man of the Cross, JESUS. And we also look forward to His return.
Do you do that when you take The Lord’s Supper? You should. We all should.
“Today, many churches no longer observe The Lord’s Supper.”
THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
(1 Corinthians 11:26-33)
Not only is this a remembrance for our sake; it’s also a proclamation for the world’s sake. It’s a testimony to the world that we’re not ashamed of His death, burial and resurrection. We’re not ashamed of our Lord or of His blood. We belong to Him and are obedient to Him.
HOW SERIOUS IS THIS SUPPER?
Paul said we better do it in a worthy manner (vs. 27). None of us could ever be worthy to partake. But all of us better do it in a worthy manner. If not, we’re guilty of the worst sin – sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Making a mockery of what He did for us.
This isn’t some meaningless ritual or incidental interlude in a worship service. We should observe it seriously and reverently, taking the time and effort to remember JESUS, reflect on His sacrifice for us and recommit ourselves to Him.
Paul said we also better examine ourselves or we’ll bring judgment on ourselves (vs. 28-29). The idea here is of “chastisement” or “being disciplined.”
When someone tramples our country’s flag they aren’t just dishonoring a piece of cloth, they’re dishonoring the country it represents. When we observe the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy fashion, we’re not just dishonoring a ceremony or some symbols. We’re dishonoring the One in whose honor that ceremony is celebrated.
Here’s how serious God views the Supper instituted by His Son (vs. 30-32):
Paul said, “That is why many among you are weak and sick and a number of you have fallen asleep.” God actually put to death a number of believers at Corinth who made a mockery of the Lord’s Supper. A number of others were made sick. (Kinda’ goes against the health and wealth gospel, doesn’t it?)
In Verse 32, Paul says God disciplines us so we won’t be condemned by the world. We are kept from condemnation not only by decree but also by divine intervention. Like Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11, who were disciplined by God so they wouldn’t be condemned along with the world.
A final note from Paul (verses 33-34):
Paul encouraged them to come together for worship, but not to come together to sin. That’s simply coming together for judgment.
In verse 34 he added, “And when I come I will give further instructions.” Apparently, there were other issues pertaining to worship or the Lord’s Supper or both. Paul said he’d take care of those matters when he arrived in Corinth personally.
Why would anyone come to worship and do the exact opposite of what God says we’re supposed to do?
The Lord’s Supper is REALLY important because it’s His supper. He instituted it and said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
We need to do a better job teaching people the importance of the Lord’s Supper/communion and helping them understand there’s more to it than just a piece of bread and a cup of juice.
And then, we need to do it in a manner than honors the Lord, JESUS.
Every time we do it.
© 2017. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Today, more than 8,000 people call Crossroads their church home. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.