The Sacredness of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians Sermon 38)
October 20, 2019 | Andrew Davis
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Baptism and the Lord's Supper
I. Centuries of Division over a Meal that Unites
I'd like to ask that you turn in your Bible to the text that Richard just read for us. As we continue in our study in 1 Corinthians, we reach 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. We come, I think, here to the second most famous part of this epistle probably superseded only by the love chapter which is coming up, God willing, in a few number of weeks before, it's 1 Corinthians 13. But if you've been in church any length of time, you've heard some of this passage again and again whenever we celebrated the Lord's Supper. Look at verses 23-25. They'll be very familiar to you. "The Lord Jesus on the night He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same way after supper, He took the cup saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this whenever you drink it in remembrance of Me.'"
This is one of the two ordinances the Lord established for the local church to do until He returned, ordinances linked to the word "ordain," something He established or set up, baptism being the one we just saw a few minutes ago. The Lord's Supper we celebrated last week. And so in this section in 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses some serious excesses and problems that the Corinthian, the dysfunctional Corinthian church, was having concerning this ordinance. But in so doing as he addresses problems they're having, he gives a timeless word that's gone out over 20 centuries now of church life of how every generation of Christian should understand and partake in the Lord's Supper. And so it's just very powerful for us this morning to look at it.
What's amazing to me is that there's been actually centuries of division and strife and conflict over a meal that was established to unite. I remember years ago, I read a book on The Lord's Supper, a doctrinal book on it, and it was entitled The Meal That Unites, but then it had a question mark in the title. So it'd be read like this: The Meal That Unites? And so, it was intended that way, but it's been very, a very divisive issue, and it's right here in the text.
Look at Verse 18. He talks about the divisions. "I hear that when you come together as a church there are divisions among you and to some extent I believe it." As we saw from the beginning of this book a long time ago, 1 Corinthians Chapter 1, this is one of the big problems that made this church dysfunctional: Factions and divisions. "I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, I follow Cephas." These divisions.
Amazingly though, division over the Lord's Supper went back to the very night it was instituted. In one of the most shameful displays among the apostles as they were gathered there for The Last Supper with Jesus, they were arguing amongst themselves as to which of them was the greatest. I can't imagine in the years that followed Christ's death and resurrection, ascension, how much they must have looked back on that with shame, arguing about which of them of the apostles was the greatest. I think this was the triggering moment that led to the washing of the feet as Jesus washed their feet to show them who the greatest was. It was Jesus, and then anyone who would act like that. And so... But in every generation in the church, there's been factions and divisions and even over the Lord's Supper. So I want to give you a little theological and historical background to some of that.
Four Views From the Time of the Reformation
It really kind of exploded around the time of the Reformation when Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door to the Wittenberg Castle, it began the Reformation, Protestant Reformation.
View #1: The Roman Catholic view: Transubstantiation
One of the battlegrounds early on between Protestants and Catholics was over the Lord's Supper, what the Roman Catholic Church called the Mass. At the center of Roman Catholic theology and Roman Catholic spirituality is the Mass, their weekly observance of the Lord's Supper, and at the center of the Mass is their view of transubstantiation. It's a big word. They actually believe that the bread and the wine become, in a mystical sense, the actual body and blood of Jesus. Now, the word transubstantiation doesn't come from theology, it doesn't come from the Bible, it comes from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who taught that everything in the universe has both a substance and an essential nature, philosophically understood, and then what they called accidents.
It's a different way than you would hear that word ordinarily, but it means the way that thing interacts with the five-sense world, namely what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it smells like, what it tastes like, what it feels like. So those are the substance and accidents. This is Aristotelian philosophy. Well, Catholic theologians that basically sat at the feet for centuries of Aristotle as saying he was the greatest human teacher, put that together with their understanding of real presence of the actual body and blood of Jesus being at the Lord's Supper, and the center of that was Jesus' statement, "This is my body." And they said, "Aristotle can give us some insights on how that could be," that what happens in the mystery of transubstantiation is the substances change of the bread and the wine, but the accidents aren't changed.
And so you actually have the real body and blood of Jesus, but it just tastes like bread and wine. But it's a mystery and it's to be accepted by faith. It's a matter of Roman Catholic dogma, and so it was unchallenged in the Western world for centuries until the Reformation. Now they taught that only an ordained Roman Catholic priest could perform this mystery, and that was the centerpiece of the Mass. He would hold the bread up and the altar boys would ring the bells. I used to be an altar boy. I was raised Roman Catholic in Eastern Massachusetts, and so I was trained to ring the bell. They never told me why.
That's a big part of the Roman Catholic Church. They don't tell you why, they just tell you what to do. And so the people for centuries really had no idea about the theology of transubstantiation. They just came when they were told and did what they were told, etcetera, and this is how they were saved, and if you turned your back on the Mass, you're turning your back on your salvation, your soul. This was essential to salvation. The worst part of this theology, however, was as the priest would hold it up, he would say, "This is my body," in Latin, never translated. Most of the people there didn't speak it, "Hoc est corpus meum." If it was said fast enough, the people out there heard something like hocus-pocus.
That's actually where that word comes from. It's like, "What did he do?" "I don't know. It's hocus-pocus." But then it is actually the change that happens and the bell gets rung. That's when it occurs. It becomes the actual body and blood of Jesus. But here's the worst part: The sacrilege of the Mass was that the priest was actually offering Jesus up to God on behalf of the people there. It was what they called a perpetual bloodless sacrifice repeated forever and ever at the Mass. And so in that way, Jesus was sacrificed again and again. I remember when I was converted to evangelical faith and started reading the Book of Hebrews and I saw that He was sacrificed once for all, I said, "What is this?" And I looked back at my experience at the Mass and repudiated it. Well, that's the center of Roman Catholic theology.
View #2: Martin Luther’s "Consubstantiation"
Along comes Martin Luther and he brings us the second view, what's generally called the Lutheran view of consubstantiation. Luther was an Augustinian monk who was trained to be a priest, and the high point of his training was the ability, once he was ordained, to perform the miracle of transubstantiation. This is before he was converted to evangelical faith, and he had such a trembling reverence over that moment that as he lifted up the cup and it became the body, or the blood of Jesus, he was literally physically trembling, and drops fell on the white table cloth and it was a shameful failure on his part. But that was the reverence he had for the Lord's Supper.
And he never lost his sense of that reverence or his belief in real presence. What he rejected was the idea that the Greek philosopher Aristotle should be brought in to help explain it. He believed in real presence fervently, he just denied transubstantiation. He just said that the body and blood of Jesus is there with and by and under and around the bread but in a mysterious way that we can never understand. That's the Lutheran view of consubstantiation.
View #3: Ulrich Zwingli’s “Bare Memorial” View
The third view came with another reformer, a Swiss reformer, a man named, Huldrych Zwingli. There'll be a quiz after worship today on all this. Huldrych Zwingli was also trained to be a priest. He was in Zurich, Switzerland almost about the same time as Luther, just began reading the Greek New Testament and started stripping away everything from the Sunday morning experience that wasn't simply clearly taught in the New Testament.
And so reformed or Zwinglian Worship was extremely austere, very simple, and he looked at the Mass, rejected it completely, rejected real presence, almost effectively rejected the Lord's Supper, reduced it to what he called a bare memorial, nothing mystical going on here. It's just helpful to help you remember. And he reduced it down to the point where it was celebrated as few as two times a year in Zurich. So that's the third view, the bare memorial view. Now in 1530, Luther and his entourage, and Zwingli and his entourage, got together at a place called Marburg, tried to work this thing through. It was a miserable failure. It was a disaster, two very strong-willed men. Luther writes the words, "This is my body" in chalk on a wooden table and keeps pounding the table, and Zwingli was not having any of it.
And it got so bad between the two men that Luther said right to his face, "You and I are of a different spirit," meaning, "I don't think you're born again." So it was really pretty tragic on the meal that unites, should have been united, but they had a very different view.
View #4: Calvin’s “Spiritual Presence” View
The fourth view, the one that I hold and I would espouse to you, was taught I think clearest at that time by a Reformer named John Calvin. Now John Calvin was a Frenchman who fled for his life from France when Lutheran and Protestant doctrine started taking hold. He was a little bit younger than Luther, came along as a second generation Reformer, ended up in Geneva, Switzerland. He rejected real presence but he had a fervent sense of the holiness of the Lord's Supper, the seriousness of it, as a matter of fact so much so that when a faction in the church called the Libertines, who lived profligate, immoral lives and were excommunicated by the church, rightly so for their sins, tried very boldly and brazenly to come and partake in the Lord's Supper, this little Frenchman, John Calvin, went out and physically stood in the way and put his arms around the elements lest they be defiled by clear unbelievers who wanted to partake in the Lord's Supper.
That's how fervently he believed, but what he taught was what I would call a spiritual presence view, a spiritual presence. And the idea is that as you partake hearing the words of Scripture, hearing the words of institution, as you partake, based on your faith in Christ, His death, His resurrection, and based on the imminent, immediate activity of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, you can have an encounter with the living God over the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, but it's just going to be in proportion to your faith. It's similar to a sermon. If by faith you hear and the Spirit's active, you can have an encounter with the living God or not. It just depends on your faith. But the Holy Spirit is there and active, and I personally expect, I expect to meet with the Lord at the Lord's Supper. I expect it. I look forward to it.
I have the privilege of sitting in a chair here while the elements are passed out and to look out over this congregation, to look in your faces and to think, "You know, I'm going to get to spend eternity with you." And I look forward to that. But meanwhile, we have this. So let's do this together. It's powerful. So for me, I think we should reject three of those views. I think the common evangelical interaction with the Lord's Supper is Zwingli's mere memorial, bare memorial view. The reason you know that it's frequently relegated to a Sunday evening service less than quarterly and you could be a member in good standing and go perhaps even years if you don't have a habit of going to the Sunday evening service, with taking the Lord's Supper. We, the elders of this church, believe that partaking in the Lord's Supper is an essential part of healthy membership of this church.
But I wanna go beyond that. I want you, when you do, to expect to meet with the living God by faith, not because the bread and the wine are actually the body and the blood. That's not needed, and it's contrary I think to Scripture. So that's some theological background.
II. The Context of the Lord’s Supper
Now, let's look at the Corinthian background and their dysfunctionality. Is it strange for us to just thank God how messed up that church was because it gave us 1 Corinthians so we could work through it? God in His wisdom allowed them to be that messed up so that Paul could remedy so many of the ills in that church because He knew that 20 centuries of Christian church would need to hear this. And so we come to the Lord's Supper. Now the context there is actually going back to the Old Covenant.
Jesus on that final night that He had with his disciples before His suffering and death, was performing a Jewish ritual, the Passover meal. And you know about this story, how the Lord in His sovereign power brought Israel out of Egypt, out of bondage to Egypt by means of a mighty hand and outstretched arm, and that was on display through the 10 plagues, the dreadful plagues that ravaged the land of Egypt, and the last one was the worst: The plague on the firstborn. And God had warned Pharaoh, "I command you... Israel is my firstborn son. I command you to let my son go but you wouldn't, so I'm going to kill your firstborn son."
And He said that right from the beginning. It's amazing. And that was the 10th plague, the plague connected with the Passover, and what God commanded the Israelites to do that night in order that their firstborn would not die, because they were sinners too, is He commanded them to be inside houses and within the houses that the Passover lamb would be slaughtered, its blood would be poured out and then it would be painted on the doorpost and the lintels by a hyssop branch, and the angel of death would see that blood and pass over that house and no one would be harmed. Again, teaching that lesson of animal sacrifice that all sin deserves the death penalty. The death penalty can be paid by a substitute. Now the substitute is only symbolically an animal.
And so Jesus gathered together because the Lord commanded through Moses that the Jews do this again and again every year and that they would remember what God had done in the past at the time of the Passover and it was a lasting ordinance. Jesus that night transformed the Passover forever. This has become for us the Christian Passover, and the reason, as Jesus said, "Take and eat, this is My body," and then took a cup of wine and gave thanks and offered it saying in Matthew 26:27-28, "Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Essential to this transformation of the Passover from the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is the change of the covenants, the fact that the Old Covenant with the death, the physical death of Jesus, has become obsolete. Never again will God accept the blood of animals. It's done, finished, as the author to Hebrews made it plain. Obsolete is the word he uses.
And Jesus knowing that very well, established the New Covenant. "This is my blood of the covenant." This is the essence of the New Covenant, the blood of Jesus, because the author to Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 10:4, "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." It was only ever symbolic. It was all pointing ahead to that once for all final sacrifice offered by the Son of God on the cross, His blood shed for us. And so Jesus fulfilled the imagery of the Passover by His death on the cross as John the Baptist predicted, I think, when he pointed to Him and said, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." The time of the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus met with Moses and Elijah there and He was transformed before them and His face became radiant, His clothes became white, and in Luke 9:31, it says that He was talking to Moses and Elijah about the exodus He was about to work. That's the real exodus, isn't it? That's the real escape of we who are enslaved to sin out of bondage to sin into the promised land of salvation, used the word "exodus" and He paid for that exodus by His blood. Alright, so that's the Jewish backdrop.
III. The Facts of the Lord’s Supper
Now, let's look at the facts of the Lord's Supper. Look at verse 23 through 26 again, "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you. The Lord Jesus on the night He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same way, after supper He took the cup saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood, do this whenever you drink it in remembrance of Me.' For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."
So, let's just walk through this and try to understand it. He begins by saying, Paul does, that he received from the Lord what he also passed on concerning the Lord's Supper. This is very much like the direct revelation he claims in Galatians chapter 1, saying, "No one taught me the gospel, but it was revealed to me from heaven by God directly." And so Jesus wasn't there, he wasn't one of the original 12 apostles, he didn't get to see it, so the Lord gave him a special revelation of the facts of the Lord's Supper. "What I received from the Lord, I passed on to you." And he passed it on to them, this is the work of the Apostle. The apostolic work, like the work of a prophet, is a relay race of truth. And so the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, gives it to the human author of Scripture, or to the apostle, and he passes it on to the people. And so he did to the Corinthians when he preached the gospel there.
Verse 23, it says, "The Lord Jesus... " He emphasizes the lordship. Whenever you see the word "Lord" in the New Testament, associated with Jesus, it's affirming and teaching the deity of Jesus Christ. He is Lord. "The Lord Jesus", he says, "On the night He was betrayed... " This reminds us of the wicked actions of Judas Iscariot, who Jesus said, "Have I not chosen you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?" He knew exactly who Judas was, there was no doubt in His mind. But still the betrayal was powerful and genuine and real. As it said in John 13:18, Jesus said, "This is to fulfill the Scripture. He who has shared My bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me." So a sense of direct betrayal of a friendship. And this is, I think, a warning to us all. We should have an acute sense of betraying Jesus when we sin. We should have a strong sense of it. It should be very personal that we're sinning not against a law engraved in tablets of stone, but we're sinning against someone, who on Judgment Day, will look you in the eye and ask you to give an account for it. We should have a very strong sense of the personal side of sin. "On the night He was betrayed,"
Verse 24, "Took bread, and when He had given thanks... " The Greek word here for giving thanks is Eucharsteo, from which we get the word Eucharist. It's just a transliteration of the Greek word. "He gave thanks." Now this was Jesus' regular habit. At the feeding of the 5000, do you remember? He took the bread and He looked up to Heaven and gave thanks. I think this was such a known gesture that when He did it after His resurrection with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus... Remember, He shared a meal with them? And He took the bread, and He broke it, and gave thanks. They knew right away. They didn't know who He was until then, it was hidden from them. At that moment, through that gesture, they knew it was Jesus. And He looks up to His Father as if to say, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights", like James will say later. And so He took bread and He gave thanks. And so, the ultimate gift here, the body and the blood of Jesus, came down from Heaven as a gift from the Father. He gave thanks. And then He broke it. The breaking of the bread symbolizes the death of Jesus on the cross, just like the blood does, the wine does. So, the breaking there, that Jesus' body was broken on the cross.
However, it's important to note, as John does in his gospel, not a single one of His bones was broken, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, not a bone will be broken. And so the Passover lamb, no bones were broken, but His body is broken for us. And then Jesus' words, "This is My body which is for you, do this in remembrance of Me." This is the giving of the body. I'm giving Myself to you. The Father is giving Me for you. I think about Romans 8:32, which says, "He who did not..." He the Father, God the Father, "Did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all." I can't even begin to put words to what that means. Romans 8:32 is a measure of the Father's priorities, a sense of worth and value. There is His only begotten Son, and there's everything else in the universe, and they don't even compare in the Father's affection. The Father's love for Jesus, it's incalculably strong, powerful, and He gave up His only begotten Son for you. And Jesus gave Himself for you.
John chapter 6, He says in Verse 51, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever, This bread is My flesh which I will give for the life of the world…" Once for all, He gave of His flesh so that we might live forever. Then He says, "Do this in remembrance of Me." This is a commandment, and we who want to be obedient, this is what we do. "Do this in remembrance of Me." The words carved into the communion tables around the world in every native language, there it is. "Do this in remembrance of Me." And so we desire to be obedient and do it.
But it also says something about us, doesn't it? And that is simply, we tend to forget. We tend to forget. Look at the Jews. The Passover was established and all that, all these things were established, but then the psalmist in Psalm 78:40-43 says this, "How often they rebelled against Him in the desert and grieved Him in the wasteland. They did not remember His power, the day He redeemed them from the oppressor, the day He displayed His miraculous signs in Egypt." They didn't remember. Now, lest you Christians think you're any better than the Jews of old were, you're not. We forget too. And so, this meal was ordained so that we would not forget what Jesus did for us. "Do this in remembrance of Me."
Then Verse 25, "In the same way, after supper, He took the cup…" The second element to the Lord's Supper, established at the same time. Jesus, with His hands holding it, Jesus with His voice speaking it, His eyes looking in their eyes, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood." This new covenant alone is what saves sinners. As we sang earlier, "What can wash away my sin?" Nothing but the blood of the new covenant. Shed once for all, but by this blood we are forgiven. The blood of animals could never cleanse us from sin, but the blood of Jesus Christ poured out once for all is infinitely effective, infinitely greater than all your sins. Do not imagine you can say to Almighty God that your sins are greater than the blood that was shed by His only begotten Son. It's just not true. Your sins are small, His mercy is great by comparison.
Now, our sins are many and they are mighty, I understand that. But the provision of grace through the blood of Christ is infinite. And He said, "Do this whenever you drink it." So the drinking of the cup, like the eating of the bread, means a full participation in Jesus. The actual chewing and swallowing... The bread does you no nutritional benefit, I'm just talking bread in general, unless you chew it and swallow it. So also the drink does you no benefit at all if it stays outside your body. This is a metaphor of personal participation in the death of Jesus by faith.
I remember years ago, I saw a movie about the life of Jesus, called Jesus of Nazareth. Been one of my favorites. And it's about six hours long, dear friends. That's why they show it on the networks on two nights during Easter week. You've probably seen it before, made in the 1970s. Roman Catholic director. But really, mostly, I think, faithful to the Scriptures, it stuck to the Scripture. And they zero in on the character of Mary Magdalene, and she is a woman with a past, a sinful past. And she's hopeless, she's crushed by her sin, feels totally guilty, but then hears about Jesus and little by little is drawn into His ministry, into His life. And she's portrayed in the movie as actually partaking in the feeding of the 5000. And she's quite distant from Jesus, but she can see Him. And then little by little, as everyone around is just hungry and people are... No one's going anywhere, it's hot, and she doesn't know why they're there. And then suddenly in her hands is some fresh, delicious, bread. I always picture it as hot, like fresh from the baker's oven, as only Jesus could do. Like when He changed the water to wine, it's like this is high quality wine. Read about it in John 2.
So this is excellent bread. And in the movie as she holds it and begins to chew it, she just starts to weep. "There is someone for me. There's a savior for me. There's a possibility of forgiveness for me", as she's chewing and swallowing, So no, I don't believe in real presence, but I believe in that kind of an idea that comes as you're chewing and swallowing, as you're drinking the cup. It's like I am personally connected with Jesus in His death and His resurrection. And He said, "Do it in remembrance of Me." So it goes to that memory, again. We have to think back, we have to look back at the history and know that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." So as you look at that at the grape juice that we use, and it's sparkling, and it's roughly the color of blood, and you look down and it's like, "The cost was infinite, the cost was high for my salvation." So we think of the painful death of Jesus, the Son of God, for us. And I think we should be moved, perhaps, even to tears by this. Feel it, feel what it costs. Because the more you meditate on that I think you will grow in your hatred of sin, your desire to be pure and holy, to keep the baptismal promise that you heard Bethany make, that we all made. That, "I promise, by the Holy Spirit, to walk in holiness and newness of life."
Verse 26, "Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death." There is a preaching element to this acted out ordinance. I think the words have to be spoken, which I'm doing right now, the words of institution read. There's a basic explanation. I'm going much more in detail now than usual. But whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death. So unbelievers coming from the outside in, if they understand what's going on, if they get an explanation, they will see acted out the Gospel. And then He says, "Until He comes." So there's a forward-looking aspect here. We're going to do this until the second coming of Jesus. So we're looking ahead to the coming kingdom when you are going to sit... If you're a believer in Jesus Christ, you're going to sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and a multitude greater than anyone could count from every tribe, language, people, and nation. You're going to sit in fellowship with brothers and sisters.
You're going to look them in the eye, and you're going to say, "How great is the Lord in His mercy to us?" And you're going to enjoy that fellowship. And what will you ask Abraham? What questions do you have for him? "What was it like when... " Something like that. But what an incredible time of fellowship. And Jesus was thinking about it because He said, "I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine again until that day I drink it anew with you in my Father's Kingdom." The mysteries, the physical supernatural mysteries of that, are beyond my ability to comprehend. I don't know what "drink it anew with you" means, but it's going to be awesome. So we look ahead to that.
IV. The Abuse of the Lord’s Supper
Alright, that's the doctrine that comes through it. Now, let's talk, sadly, about the abuse. What were the Corinthians doing that needed such correction? Look at verse 27. He says, "Therefore whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord." The Corinthian Church, the Corinthians, some Corinthians, were sinning greatly against this ordinance. They were actually guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. So you see the sacredness and the seriousness by what Paul's saying here. Well, how were they abusing it? Well, certainly there are factions and divisions. The fact that they were not one with each other, they didn't seem to love each other. Their prideful arrogance was harming them. We're going to see in the next few chapters on spiritual gifts that they were very arrogant about their spiritual gifts, and they were vaunting themselves over the others, and saying, "I don't need you," and all this kind of thing. So there was that kind of pride.
And Paul says, "Look, there have to be differences and distinctions among you. We're not all the same. There are different gifts, there are different genders." We just talked about that the last two weeks. Men and women have different roles in the life of the church. There have to be differences among you. But not like this, not the factions and divisions and strife and conflict. But they were going so far in their prideful demeanor toward each other they were actually gouging themselves on communion bread and getting drunk... Some of them were getting drunk on communion wine. Look at verse 20 and 21. "When you come together it's not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk." Paul says, "You don't seem to understand what this is for. Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Don't you have a good dinner when you get home from church? You're not here to fill your bellies." And it seems some of the bullies and the dominant ones were wealthy and privileged, maybe, in the community. And so they were jockeying for position and gorging themselves and leaving nothing for the poorer members of the church.
So Paul gives a shocking revelation here of the Lord's discipline, something that I think they would not have any way of knowing if Paul didn't tell them. Look at Verse 27. "Therefore, whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord." Verse 28-30. "A person ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord, eats and drinks judgment on himself." Judgment. Verse 30. "That is why many among you are weak, and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep…" That means been killed by the Lord. Because he says, "That is why you have fallen asleep." There's a connection. Some of you have died. So if anyone eats the Lord's Supper arrogantly, or flippantly, or irreverently, or even perhaps as an unbeliever, they're guilty of sinning against the body and blood of Christ, and they're liable for judgment, which God may or may not pour out. He is merciful, gracious, and patient. But in this context, some of the Corinthians had died.
Now, I don't know that they knew why they died, but now they did once Paul said it, and he doesn't say who it is. This teaches us something about the Lord's discipline. Hebrews 12 says that the Lord disciplines everyone He accepts as a son or daughter. And if He doesn't discipline, you're actually not one of His children. And that discipline can go so far as to remove you out of this world. But it also could include before that being weak and sick. And here it's tied to the Lord's Supper, but it's actually connected to all aspects of discipline. So the fact that the Lord does that in connection with the Lord's Supper ought to move us to see how sacred and serious the Lord's Supper is.
V. The Sacred Observance of the Lord’s Supper
Alright, so the sacred observance of the Lord's Supper. How then should we properly partake? Well, first, make certain that you're a Christian. Make certain that you're born again. You've heard the gospel many times. Bethany did a great job, so I thank you, so now I don't need to do it. The basic facts of the gospel you've heard. All you need to do to know that your sins are forgiven is to trust in Jesus. No works will be accepted, no works welcome. We're justified, we're forgiven, by faith. Make certain that you're born again before you partake in the Lord's Supper. We also, as Baptists, believe you should testify to it by water baptism. We believe that the Lord's Supper is a church ordinance, so we would not recommend individuals... Like two good friends in Christ watching a beautiful sunset, and one of them hits the other and says, "Hey, let's do the Lord's Supper, let's... " Look, don't do that. Pray together, sing a song, but not the Lord's Supper. The Lord's supper is a local church ordinance.
And so that's why we do something called "fence the table." And what we do is we make certain to say words to the effect of, "Be certain that you're born again, that you've testified to it by water baptism," and we do it here in the context of a local church as Sunday morning worship.
Secondly, be serious about the Lord's Supper, take this seriously. But also be joyful. "Well, Pastor, how can I be seriously joyful?" Well, the whole Christian life is about serious joy. It's a serious thing, we're talking about Almighty God, we're talking about the fact that Almighty God is for you and not against you. There's your serious joy. So be serious about the Lord's Supper, come to it reverently, come to it seriously. And come to it joyfully expectantly, that God is going to bless you as you partake. Thirdly, examine yourself before you partake. Ask the Lord, say, "Show me if there's any sin in my life." "Search me, O God, and know me." Psalm 139:23-24. Do that. Before you partake, close your eyes, bow your head. Say, "Lord, show me. Is there anything that I'm not dealing with? Any sin in my life I've not addressed? Anything I've not confessed?" And resolve to address it.
Don't fail to partake. I heard a story years ago of a Scottish pastor. This is in the 1800s, and he was ministering the Lord's Supper, and he knew his flock, he knew this community. And there was a young woman there who had been in some sin and she was just broken by what was going on in her life. And she would not reach out her hand to take the Lord's Supper. And he said with the greatest tenderness, he leaned over and said quietly to her, "Take it, Lassie, it's for sinners." So all you need to do is examine yourself and resolve to put the sin to death, and then partake, because it's for sinners. But examine yourself. And then if there's a sin pattern in your life... This is a strong text here, apart from the Lord's Supper, on the Lord's discipline. If you want to avert being weak and sick or perhaps even falling asleep because of sin, that means dying. If you want to avert that, then get busy on yourself. Judge yourself.
Jesus used the metaphor of your right hand caused you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. Don't make the Lord cut off your right hand, you cut it off. Elders aren't going to do that, that's not our job. It's your job. You examine yourself. If there's a sin pattern in your life, address it. Deal with it vigorously. And if you do, the Lord won't have to do it. But if the Lord does do it and you are among those that are weak or sick, then just thank God that He's treating you like a son or daughter and He's not casting you off. Because He doesn't want you to go to hell. He doesn't want you to share in the judgment of the world, as Paul says here in the text.
And then finally, as you come to the Lord's Supper, remember your brothers and sisters as you do. We're told right in the text to wait for each other, look around, don't go ahead. I'll never forget my first Protestant Lord's Supper. It was at Grace Chapel in Lexington. And in the Catholic tradition when you go up, you go up to the priest, you get the bread, you eat it. It's linked to the transubstantiation because they don't want you to carry it back to your pew or something like that. But there I was in my first Protestant Mass, I called it, I had no idea. And along comes the bread, and what do you think I did with it as soon as I got it? The only one of a thousand people in that congregation that was done right away. It was later that I read this text where it said, "Wait for each other." I was like, "Sorry, Lord. Cover me." But we hold and we wait and we partake together. But you do that because you're mindful of the fact that you're part of a body of Christ worldwide. Close with me in prayer.