LORD’S DAY MORNING SERVICE, 1 September 2019
Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
Sermon Audio: Click HERE to listen
I. The significance of the Lord’s Supper
II. The shabbiness of the Lord’s Supper
III. The blessing of the Lord’s Supper
I’d like to begin with the history of the 16th C England. Between 1553 and 58, under the reign of the queen Mary, over 275 Christians were martyred in England. She was a Catholic and wanted to return her country from the Protestant faith back to the Roman Catholicism. Chief among those martyrs was Thomas Cranmer who had given the English the Great Bible which is the first authorised edition of the English Bible, and along with it, the Prayer Book for worship and the Forty-Two Articles which was the basis of the Thirty-nine Articles, the creed of the Anglican Church. Along with him, people like Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley and many more were burnt or beheaded. Many Protestant leaders were forced to flee to places like Geneva and Frankfort in the Continent.
When Thomas Cranmer faced the Queen Mary and the persecuting Catholic authority, he recanted – he denied his Protestant faith and went back to the Catholicism. But later on, he recanted his previous recantation and became a martyr. History tells us that, when he was burnt, he put his hand which had signed that recantation into the fire until it burned.
It is also known that, at the stake, as the fire was lit, Bishop Latimer said to Bishop Ridley, ‘Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.’
It was a time of English reformation and, in such a way, Christ’s church was renewed on that land. What really happened was that people believed in the Bible and even death by burning could not make them abandon the truth. Their Protestant, Bible-believing, Reformed faith was worth keeping at the expense of their lives.
I. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
One of the beliefs they wanted to preserve by even the cost of their life was the significance of the Lord’s Supper. While the Roman Church viewed that the elements of the Lord’s Supper – that is, the bread and wine – became the ‘real’ body and blood of Jesus as a priest consecrated them, the Protestants – especially Reformed Christians – believed that Christ is ‘really, but spiritually present’ with the elements. So, when a believer receives the bread and wine, he feeds upon Christ, that is, receiving not His ‘real’ flesh and blood, but all the benefits of Christ’s stoning death. The 16th C English martyrs like Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley wanted to reject the Roman view and preserve the Protestant teaching on this Sacrament the Lord Jesus instituted for His Church.
Hearing this, someone might question in his mind and say, ‘What was that all about? Why couldn’t people allow others just do whatever they like to believe? What’s the difference between receiving the bread and wine as the ‘real’ flesh and blood of Christ and as Christ’s ‘spiritual presence’ with them? What’s the big deal here?’
The big deal is the spiritual implication each view leaves on believer’s faith and life in the Lord Jesus. The Catholic Church means that the attendees in Catholic mass eat and drink Jesus’ ‘real’ body and blood every time a Catholic priest consecrates the elements because that would make the bread and wine turn into Jesus’ real flesh and blood. It means that Jesus is sacrificed again and again and again to forgive and justify the sins of the people; His body is continually torn and blood shed to forgive people’s sins over two thousand years and who knows for how long it would continue until the Lord’s return? Its spiritual implication is that Jesus’ body is still being torn and blood shed, although He is in heaven. How absurd it is! This teaching contradicts the Bible and Jesus’ humanity which means He is next to the Father in heaven. Moreover, this view alters, if not denies, the biblical teaching on the nature of Jesus’ death.
But the Bible is clear about Jesus’ death as the ‘once for all’ offering for the justification of the sinners. Heb. 7:27 explains this, “[Christ] has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since [Jesus] did this once for all when He offered up Himself.” Heb. 9:26 adds more light to it by saying that, by His own blood, Jesus secured our eternal redemption. So, we do not need to offer Him by tearing His body and shedding His blood again and again in every Lord’s Supper. This means, Christ with all the benefits of His atoning death is really, yet spiritually, present with the believers who receive the bread and wine.
The spiritual implication is that, if a believer follows the Catholic view, he denies the true meaning of the Lord’s Supper and, if he receives the bread and wine from the Lord’s table, considering them as the ‘real’ flesh and blood of Jesus, then, he violates what the Scripture – such as 1 Cor. 11:27 – warns against, and is guilty of eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord in an ‘unworthy manner.’ That is to say, eating and drinking judgment on himself.
Do you see now why Christians like Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley were so eager to preserve this doctrine at the expense of their life? People like them were and still are serious about what the Lord Jesus points out in Lk. 11:28 in these words, “Blessed … are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
II. THE SHABBINESS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
Sadly, however, the question often raised for this generation is whether Latimer was right when he said to Ridley, standing on a burning stake, ‘Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, … we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.’ Is that candle light he and Ridley alongside many other martyrs lit, not put out but still burning?
I believe it’s still burning and far from being put out. However, it has been both weakened in strength and discoloured in taste. In its change, no longer do Christians risk their lives for keeping doctrinal purity of the Lord’s Supper; no longer are believers sensitive toward any attempt to alter its meaning or practice. An unorthodox view on involving children in the Lord’s Supper is getting more attention nowadays. It is usually referred to as ‘paedocommunion’ which has never been the understanding of the Church since the apostle’s time.
Concerning practice of the Lord’s Supper, let me give you some examples to help you see how far we have moved away from the biblical teaching. In a class I attended many years ago, a student who introduced himself as a pastor of a local church presented his study on the Lord’s Supper to the class. Explaining the historical background of the elements, he suggested that the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper could be substituted by some other ‘modern’ materials. His suggestion was the chocolate and coke instead of the bread and wine. His argument was that, as the bread and wine had been the common dietary of the 1st century Jews, chocolate and coke could be used as those were so common to this generation. He also told the class that he had already practiced that and administered the chocolate and coke in the Lord’s Supper at his church. In another case, I was invited to a church as a guest to that church’s special service. Its pastor administered the Lord’s Supper. Then, the pastor invited all to come to the front and share the bread and wine of the Lord. And the invitation was for all, including children and even unbelievers – everyone who happened to be there was invited to come and eat and drink. I could not see that as the Lord’s Supper I knew from the Bible; it was a different one. Like these cases, the Lord’s Supper has become shabby; it seems old and insignificant because of being practiced for a long time and not being cared for.
By God’s grace, however, we don’t agree with any of these examples; we prayerfully follow the way of the Bible when we administer and participate in the Lord’s Supper. We announce a week earlier the upcoming Communion, reminding and urging all worshippers to prepare for this Sacrament of the Lord through repentance and faith. When we have the Supper, we thank the Lord and remember Jesus’ death and its benefits; we renew our hearts and recommit ourselves to His service. We always hear the word of the institution written for us in 1 Cor. 11. We’re doing fine in this sense, aren’t we?
But, we’re not totally free from any guilt of violating the Lord’s teaching on this Sacrament. It is like the comments in Rev. 2-3 given to some churches: “I know your works, your toils and your patient endurance … But I have this against you.” We’re fine with our understanding of the Lord’s Supper; we do exactly what is recorded in the Bible. But, we often, if not always, forget how weighty and important this Sacrament is for our spirit. Coming to the Lord’s table, we frequently forget about the urgent call for repentance – not in words or outward appearance, but in heart and inward contrition. In our preparation, our mind seldom remains calm and shivers with the weight of sin that nailed the Lord Jesus to the cross and still causes the indwelling Holy Spirit to groan and grieve. Then, when we come and participate in the Communion, we don’t always receive these elements with full excitement. What I mean is that our heart and soul are not fully occupied with a mixed feeling of both grieving over our sinfulness and rejoicing in Jesus’ atonement. Because we’ve been doing it, eating the bread and drinking the wine so often, it has become too familiar or somewhat ‘automatic.’ There’s no more acute sensation about the Supper; it’s simply the ‘time’ for another ‘chore.’ In this sense, the Lord’s Supper has become shabby.
III. THE BLESSING OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
Then, how can this Lord’s Supper be observed and truly enjoyed? What is the point we must always remember at the Lord’s table?
The answer is that we must remember that this Sacrament is the Lord’s ‘blessing’ for us, His people. The apostle Paul points this out in our text, especially in the beginning of v. 16, saying, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” He points out the cup of the Lord is of ‘blessing’ that we – all participants – ‘bless.’ The Greek word used here and translated into English as ‘blessing’ and ‘bless’ is ‘eulogia’ and it also means ‘generous gift.’ Today is Father’s Day and giving a present to dads is common for a day like today. And what does a gift do? What if it’s a ‘generous’ or ‘more than expected’ gift? It cheers the receiver, and by seeing the receiver’s joy, the giver is happy also. So, this ‘blessing’ is a blessing with many layers – you peel one layer and enjoy what it brings, and the next layer doubles and triples your joy – it’s that kind of blessing. And the Lord’s Supper is a multi-layered generous gift to us.
Obviously, its first blessing is Jesus’ free saving grace. Receiving the bread and wine reminds us of our Lord’s death in order to give us His everlasting life. Then, the second blessing is our oneness with Jesus. He purchased us, thus, we belong to Him now and He to us. This is truly a mystery. How could a mere human being become one with God? Moreover, how could he claim God his? Taking the bread and wine reminds us of this blessed mystery, an extremely generous gift to us! The third blessing is our oneness with each other in Jesus. I mean, we are now brothers and sisters to each other because of Jesus. This is a fact and none can alter it. I’m stuck with you and you with me for eternity. It’s not only for us gathered together here, but also for all true Christians in the whole world. That’s not all; we’re family members with all true believers of all times since Adam to the very last believer after us. We’ll never meet all of them while we live in this life; if we meet some, there’s no guarantee for free communication because we don’t speak the same language. But, we know clearly that we’re one to another siblings in eternity! What a blessing this is! By taking the elements of the Supper, we’re reminded of this ‘generous’ gift again and again and again!
So, when you come to the Communion, remember what the bread and wine of the Lord reminds you of. It’s a pure form of blessing that comes down from the Lord directly. This is why the Lord’s Supper is regarded as a means of grace together with the Word, Baptism and Prayer. So, if anyone misses any of these layers of blessings, he misses its true joy and happiness.
So, coming to the Lord’s table, you and I must ‘repent,’ that is to say, check how close we’ve been to the Lord first, then, to our fellow members of Christ’s church. Say ‘sorry’ to the Lord first, then, to any of your brothers and sisters you have not been getting along with. And when you say, ‘sorry,’ you should mean it! By this, we ‘remember’ the Lord Jesus.
Then, you and I must recommit our life to Jesus. By recommitting to the Lord, we pledge our faithfulness to the Lord and our fellowship with one another in Christ’s church here and beyond. Let me assure you that this will brighten your spiritual eyes and enable you to find more and greater blessings of the Lord. This is the Lord’s Supper we’ve been participating and will do once more shortly this morning.
May the Lord bless us as we hear the word spoken to us by His apostle in this verse, “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.” ***