The Lord's Supper - "A Taste of Heaven"

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The Lord's Supper is not an occasion for boasting, arguing, or division. The Lord's Supper is a time of remembering the work of Christ by faith. His physical body is not present in or with the elements, but He is present with us always as He promised. As we remember his broken body and poured out blood by faith in the Lord's Supper, we have a taste of Heaven where we will experience the fulness of His presence forever.

If I were to ask you right now, “What are some of your favorite memories?” I’m sure it would not take long at all for vivid images to pop into your head. Visions of childhood, of family, of school-friends, of vacations, of pets, of houses, of graduations. Most of my favorite memories involve family meals. Many of the people are still living, but many have passed on. As you think of your memories, they are precious - they are sweet. Perhaps, they are so clear and wonderful that it’s as if you were still there in that moment. Yet, there is a sense in which those things gone by are only memories. We enjoy the memories, they bring a smile to our face and a feeling of warmth within, but they are a part of history, not a part of the present.
Today we are observing the Lord’s Supper. We make this a practice once a month at IBC. Typically, the first Sunday of every month. I have to be perfectly honest with you - this is January 10th, and it is not the first Sunday of the month. We were supposed to observe the Lord’s Supper last week, I even had it on my planning calendar - but amid the chaos of packing and moving and the Christmas season, I forgot...
As Christ neared the end of his ministry and prepared to leave this earth, he left the church with two ordinances.
At the onset, we have to note that these are things that Jesus left and commanded for the church to do - that is, for Christian’s to partake in. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper do not make anyone a Christian, and they don’t offer any benefits to people who are not believers. They are to be participated in by those who have come to know Christ by faith, and desire to live their life for Him.
The first, which most of you have partaken in, is Baptism. Baptism is that picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. We only participate in Baptism one time, and It is a picture of “washing” and renewal. It is commanded as an act of obedience for all believers, and it is a task specifically given to the Apostles and the church by Jesus. As a Baptist church, we practice and believe in baptizing those who have professed faith in Christ by immersion, and this is a sign to those observing that this person has trusted and is following Christ. And while the baptism is sort of a sign of the work of the New Covenant, it doesn’t have any saving power.
The Lord’s Supper, then, is very similar. But just because we believe these ordinances do not have saving power does not mean that they are meaningless or something to be ignored, rather they are vital to the live of the church.
At the onset, we must bring the Lord’s supper into context both in scripture and also in history. Historically, we need to remember something. People have both taken lives and lost lives over the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. One example - from 1555-1558, over 280 protestants - including women and children - were killed by By “bloody Mary” the Catholic queen. What was the reason for their death? It was their opposition to the Roman Catholic mass and teaching on the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper that was at the heart of the issue. Similarly, many men were killed for contradicting the established church’s views on Baptism. There was a time when blood was shed over the meaning of the Ordinances. You may say, “perhaps they took it too seriously!” Even this week an email came to me from Voice of the Martyrs about the killing of Indian Christians, and how Indian Christians are not ever recognized as real citizens of India. And you may say, “I’m glad we live in a time when no one is killing people over Christian doctrine.” Maybe we are better off for overcoming that, but maybe we have gone too far the other direction. If their fault was brutality, perhaps our fault is indifference. Even this week an email came to me from Voice of the Martyrs about the killing of Indian Christians, and how Indian Christians are not ever recognized as real citizens of India.
At the last supper, when Jesus and the disciples were eating the passover meal, Jesus gave some very specific instructions. We read those words in 1 Corinthians 11, but they come from the Gospel records.
Luke 22:19–20 ESV
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Scripturally, In doing this, Jesus attached special significance in the pictures of the bread and the wine - likening them to His body which would be given for us, and his blood which would be poured out. He said “do this in remembrance of me.” The shocking thing here is that Jesus, a Jewish man, and his disciples, Jewish men, were observing the Jewish Passover as they had done before many times - but this time, Jesus changes the ancient liturgy. Now, why would he tell them, those who were sitting with him in that moment, eating a meal with him, to take that bread and that wine and partake of it to remember Him? Of course, we know that even in that act he was predicting his own death. There would come a day when Jesus would not walk physically with His disciples on the earth, yet he would promise to be with them always.
This also would have reached back in the disciples memory banks to something Jesus said in John 6 -
John 6:45–51 ESV
It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
In John 6, Jesus gave this great image of Himself being “the bread of life.” He spoke about the manna that was given to the Israelites wandering, and said “they ate of that, and still died.” He said, “I myself am the bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”
So we have then, this image, of partaking of the provision of Christ - the bread of life - by faith. Further in John 6 Jesus says “unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Now these are controversial words - Some have taken this and stretched it to say that when we observe the Lord’s Supper, the bread and the juice actually are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus physically. This is absurd, of course. For Jesus often spoke in metaphors and figurative language. We partake of his flesh and blood, not physically or literally, rather we partake by faith. That is, we are partakers of Christ, recipients of His atoning work, placed in union with Him, by faith. Earlier in the same passage Jesus said
John 6:35 ESV
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
How do we partake of the bread and drink of Jesus that satisfies forever? By faith! We Come to Him, we believe in Him! We are nourished by Him! Like the Psalmist said in Psalm 35, “Taste and see that the Lord is Good!” We spiritually feast on Christ as our provision.
Paul understands this imagery, and he gives an explanation one chapter before ours in 1 Corinthians 10.
1 Corinthians 10:16–17 ESV
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
Paul, again, gives these images of bread and the cup, and says we are “participants in the blood and body of Christ” and in that “we who are many are one body.” This was already a familiar concept to the Corinthians - the early church was practicing the Lord’s Supper already. They knew that the bread and the cup signified the body and the blood of Christ. They were signs of the greater reality, that Christ’s body had been given and his blood spilled to make us one - one with Him, and one with each other in Him. So when he writes just a couple paragraphs later, giving this instruction about the Lord’s Supper, then this was already in the minds of his readers.
So then, what do we make of the Lord’s Supper? When we are called to remember Christ’s work, remember his body and his blood, what does that mean? We spoke about our human memories - how they are sweet and precious, but they are only a part of history. Is that the case with the Lord’s supper? Here is what I think we find.
Paul says that the church participates in the body and blood of Christ when we memorialize Him in the Supper. Jesus said that feasting on Him spiritually is our true food and true drink. Clearly, there is more to the supper than a mere historical memory. Christ's physical body is present only in Heaven, it is not omnipresent; but in a true sense He is with us always as He promised, and we are fed by Him and are nourished by Him spiritually by faith. The elements in the Supper are signs of this spiritual provision, and they are signs of the greater reality that Christ’s body and blood were given for us - that He is our true provision, and that we are united with Him forever.

As we remember the Lord’s broken body and poured-out blood in the Supper by faith, we have a taste of glory - fellowship with our fellow believers, and union with Christ forever.

Now, that was a long introduction, so we will jump in to 1 Corinthians 11 may we gain some brief yet valuable insights into this teaching.

What The Supper is Not About - 17-22

The passage starts with a rebuke - “I do not commend you in this.” If you were to back up to the beginning of the chapter, Paul was commending the Corinthians for following his teaching and example - but that is not the case here. He says, “when you come together it is not for the better, but for the worse!”
That is a strong statement - that these people were gathering in such a way that it would have been better for them not to gather at all, and in the context of this teaching, it would have been better for them to not observe the Lord’s Supper at all.
Why? Because they were a divided church. In their culture, there was social division between the free and the slave, the rich and the poor - and that was showing up in their gatherings.
Paul says, “there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine may be recognized.” I truly believe Paul is using irony and even sarcasm here - saying, “of course you have made divisions, how else would you get the praise for being in the higher class of people?”
20-21 - Paul says, “they way you are conducting yourselves makes your observance of the Lord’s Supper null and void. You’ve made it nothing more than a social party.”
Now we should understand that in the early church, there were gatherings that became known as “love feasts.” These were great celebrations and feasts where all the participants would celebrate the love they had recieved from Christ and share in their blessings with their brothers and sisters. Often times these feasts would conclude with observing the Lord’s Supper. That seems to be the case here in Corinth, only in this case, it was only the Rich who were actually able to partake. “each one goes ahead with his own meal, one goes hungry, another gets drunk.” They had turned the Lord’s Supper into another chance to flaunt their social status and oppress the poor and the slave, even though the poor and the slave were their brother in Christ.
James speaks of something similar.
James 2:1–4 ESV
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
James denounces a very similar practice - that is the practice of respect of persons. Respect of social classes above our union with Christ.
So what is the Supper not about?

1. It is not about eating.

Paul denounces them in verse 22 by saying, “don’t you have houses to eat and drink in?” He says by making the Lord’s Supper just another feast of drunkeness and gluttony, they have despised the church of God. Now, they probably were meeting in someone’s house, but it is clear from this passage that even in that context there was a place that was set apart for the worship and fellowship of the saints, not just a common area in which they could do as they pleased. They had made the Lord’s Supper and the memorial of his death a feast only about eating physically, not about being nourished spiritually.

2. It is not about drinking.

While wine is often pictured as an image of joy and merriment in the Bible, when it comes to the Lord’s Supper, the cup is a solemn one. It is not a time of physical rejoicing and frivolity, but rather one of reverent memorial as the red of the wine pictured the blood of out Savior. Those who could afford it were using this occasion as another to get drunk - to overindulge to the point of inebriation. How could their mind be focused on the work of Christ in such a state? And still others went without any at all, for the rich consumed it all before the poor could even get a chance.

3. It is not about us.

In flaunting their social classes, they had made the Lord’s Supper an individualistic exercise. They showed no care or deference to their fellow believers, especially the poor. Rather than being united by the common experience of remembering the work of Christ, it was another place of division. Rather than glorying in and exulting in the work of Christ, it became a time of personal indulgence.
Paul said that the wealthy Corinthians were despising the church of God. What does that mean? If you had asked them, they probably would have said, “I love going to church! I love our feasts, and our fellowship, and our gatherings!” But yet, they despised some of the people of the church. They were making the church much less than it really is - they were viewing it in light of their own interests, their own social class, their own “favoritism”, not in light of what it truly is - the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the household of God.

What The Supper is About - 23-26

Paul goes on to say “I received from the Lord and delivered to you.” This is the language of transmitting authoritative teaching. Paul is exerting his authority as an apostle, yes, but more importantly the authority of God.
Paul gives the supper an extremely high view, a solemn appreciation, and the utmost respect. He goes back to the records in the Gospel of that last supper we spoke about, and Jesus instructions. When talking about Jesus betrayal, Paul borrows language from the Greek translation of Isaiah 53. Earlier in 1 Corinthians in chapter 5, Paul sees Christ as the passover Lamb. Paul’s vision of Christ as the suffering Servant, and the Passover lamb make it clear in His thinking that Christ’s death, and therefore the celebration of the Supper, are the true and better passover.
What is the supper about?

1. It is about remembering Christ’s Death

Both the body given and the blood shed are images of the death of Christ. Again, He is the true sacrificial lamb. The true payment for sin. His sacrifice was not one of a small gift, but that of the ultimate gift - his very life.
In celebrating the supper, we give a visible and tangible picture of the Gospel - we proclaim His death until He comes.

2. It is about remembering substitution

Christ’s body was given “for you.” for us. That is, for those who believe. We cannot partake of the bread and the cup without remembering that it should have been us receiving the wrath of God for our sin, but rather it was Christ.

3. It is about remembering Covenant

This ties in beautifully with what we have seen the last two weeks in Isaiah. In the Last Supper, Christ introduced the New Covenant to His disciples, and in Christ’s death, He inaugurated the New Covenant - the new promise. The Old Covenant was law written on Tablets of stone and given to fleshly people, but the New Covenant purchased by Christ’s blood is eternal and spiritual, written on the hearts of the believers. We are partakers in that covenant because of his shed blood. It is the everlasting covenant, the one that is upheld by Christ alone.

4. It is about remembering Union

When believers partake of the elements of the Lord’s supper together, it is a grand picture of this phrase - “the ground is level at the foot of the Cross.” This whole teaching is a great reminder to the socially-divided Corinthians that they are to be united with each other, not divided - for they are united together to Christ. Christ promised to be with his people always, and He is! He is present with us in His Divine nature. When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we celebrate together the oneness of the body of Christ because of His Work, and the fellowship that we will experience with Him together forever.

What We Should Do About It - 27-34

This portion of the passage can seem frightening and strange, even - but remember, Paul is dealing specifically with people who were clearly perverting the Lord’s supper. Paul’s attitude is that the conduct and reverence around the Supper should fit the message of what is displayed - the death of Christ, the New Covenant purchased by His blood. Anything less than that is an abomination.
It is also needful to remember that when Paul uses the word “judgment” in this passage, that is not synonymous with condemnation, rather it is more akin to Discipline. Paul goes so far as to say that some of these Corinthians were so profaning and disrespecting the Lord’s Supper that they had recieved severe measures of discipline by the Lord, some even to the very sever degrees of sickness and death.
So when he tells the Corinthians, and us by implication, to examine ourselves before eating the bread and drinking the cup, He is saying, “this is a matter that is worth your utmost respect and consideration.” He uses the word judgment as a play on words, he says “if you were to judge yourself, you would not be judged.” The word for judge and judgment he is using over and over again in its simplest meaning means to separate, or to discern. These Corinthians had become experts at separating themselves into social classes and to cast judgment on those lower than them. Paul says, “God has separated some of you out in discipline.” Again, substitute the word discipline there - “If you would have disciplined yourself in this area, you would not need to be separated for discipline by the Lord.” So this portion of the passage, what could seem like a message of condemnation, is actually a loving yet stern reminder that this is not about us, it’s about Christ.
When Paul says “to eat the bread and drink the cup in an unworthy manner is to be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” Very simply put, Paul says it is absolutely a sin against God to treat the Lord’s Supper in the way that the Corinthians were. It is a sin against God to profane the body of Christ, the church - to oppress our fellow believers in our fellowship - to have respect of persons and show favoritism, and then to pretend that we are solemnly celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
So what should we do?

1. We should Examine ourselves.

This is not some mystical self-awareness. This is just honesty. As ourselves - are we gathering in this fellowship with sinful motives? Are we gathering in such a way that despises the unity bought for us by Christ? Are we neglecting to confess our sins and faults to Christ?

2. We should Rejoice in the patience and Grace of God.

While some Corinthians experienced the discipline of the Lord for their outrageous profaning of the Lord’s Supper, we are quickly reminded that that is not the norm - this is not a common experience, and we are blessed each day with the mercy and patience of the Lord. He desires for us to see Him in the Supper - to see his work, to remember his presence as we partake of Him, our provision, by faith.
Romans 8:1 ESV
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

3. We should observe the Supper with reverence.

While Christ’s death brings us joy, and expressions of joy are not irreverent, we must remember that we cannot turn this into a celebration about ourselves - it is a solemn reminder of what Christ has done. There is certainly a sense in which you can go too far - again, some sects of Christianity pervert the supper by teaching that the bread and the cup are actually the body and blood of Jesus. But you can go too far in the other way. There is a tendency these days to want to say, “Lets just get some chips and soda and have communion in our pajamas in the living room.” In that case we must remember,This isn’t a celebration of a mere historic memory as if we are remembering a friend who passed away, this is the memorial of Christ who died, but lives forever! He attached significance to the celebration because of what it signifies - there are eternal realities in view in the supper!
Dear ones, think of it this way. The Lord’s Supper is not an occasion for boasting, for pride, for arguing, or division. We are all made one body by Christ’s blood in the New Covenant. When we partake of the elements by faith, we are remembering and also proclaiming the true fellowship that we have with each other, because of the true union we have with Christ. This is a great lesson for the church - we as believers will dwell together in all eternity, worshiping and adoring Christ forever.

As we remember the Lord’s broken body and poured-out blood in the Supper by faith, we have a taste of glory - fellowship with our fellow believers, and union with Christ forever.

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