The Lord's Supper

Volumes have been written on the Lord’s Supper, so what I have offer today should simply be seen as “cliff notes”.  To fully understand the Lord’s Supper we must first understand what a Sacrament is. Working from the Westminster Confession of Faith, Shorter Catechism question 92,  “A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers” (Gen. 17:7,10; Exod. 12:throughout; 1 Cor. 11:23,26).  Though the Roman Catholic believes there are 7 sacraments, the Scripture teaches that Christ only gave the church two, Baptism (Matt. 28:19) and the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26-28).

Seeing the Lord’s Supper as a sacrament is essential to grasping the full beauty of it being a means of grace.  It is far more than a memorial service where we remember Christ, though remembering and appreciating His work is very important, it is a precious gift given to the Church by Christ.  It is in fact a time when God’s people are both reminded that they are forgotten by the Father and are spiritually nourished for their mission in life.  Rather than our reaching up to the Father, it is His gracious stooping down to us.  Rather than a pledge we make to God, it is a sign and seal of what God does for His people.  It does not stand alone as means of grace, nor is does it offer a different grace, than come through Scripture.  It “merely adds to the effectiveness of the Word and to its measure of the grace received[i]  

There are two parts of a sacrament; one that we can we can see, feel, touch and taste (sense), the other internal and done through the power of the Holy Spirit.[ii]   I will not address the four primary theological perspectives on the Lord’s Supper at this point, but am convinced that many do not understand these two parts and therefore value of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  So as we participate in the Lord’s Supper we see, touch and eat or drink of the bread and the wine, but as we partake of them by faith we are strengthened and nourished spiritually by grace. 

Because it is a sacred event it is only for those who have believed in Jesus Christ as Savior.  In I Corinthians 11:27-30, the apostle Paul that the Lord’s Supper should not be taken “in an unworthy manner” (ESV).  That would be first and foremost those who do not come having their sins forgiven by the finished work of Jesus Christ, believing on Him by faith.  To eat and drink when one has rejected Christ is to make a mockery of the table and to declare judgment on oneself.   Secondly, it is a time for Believers to examine (v. 28) their lives for besetting sin, or unresolved conflict with other Believers.  This is a family meal, where each family member does not come because the deserve it, but through the body and blood of Christ.  Because it is a family meal, it must be for family members only.  Those outside the family, and those who ignore sin in their lives “eat[s] and drink[s] judgment” on themselves (ESV – v.29).  That is why the table is to be fenced and administered only by a Teaching Elder or Pastor.

The Lord’s Supper is a family meal to partaken as a family and not individually.  Just as recent studies have shown that physical families who eat regular meals together are stronger and healthier families, the Lord’s Supper brings the family or the body of Christ to the table where as one friend put it, “we are re-membered” or put back together again.  The churches I served did not practice intinction (the dipping of the bread into the wine), but we did come forward, as waiting in line and physically moving around the room forced us to see more of the family and was an important part of “re-membering” process.

Below is a basic sermon outline to help you teach your people about the Lord’s Supper.  It is not novel, but hopefully helpful.

Sample Sermon Outline:

I.     LOOKING TO THE PAST:  "Do this in remembrance of me." 
        A.    The First Passover.  (Exodus 12)
1.     The shed blood of unblemished lamb on the doorpost of the home resulted in the angel of death passing over that household.
2.     The shed blood brought about deliverance not only from death, but also from slavery.
        B.    Christ the Passover lamb. (1 Corinthians 5:7)
1.     Christ the unblemished Lamb of God shed His blood.
2.     Christ death not only delivers the believer from spiritual death, but also frees the believer from slavery to sin.

II. LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:  "I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matthew. 26:29) 
       A.    Mephibosheth - the physical cripple from the house of Saul.  All Saul's family had been slaughtered except him. He was the lame son of Jonathan who was brought to the palace to sit at the kings table to honor him for the sake of David's love for Jonathan. 
1.     2 Samuel 4:4  Mephibosheth becomes a cripple when his maid fell while running with him from the house of Saul.
2.     2 Samuel 9:11 "so mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the King's sons."
      B.    The Believer - the spiritual cripples who have no merit to sit at the kings table.  We are not at the King's final feast yet, but have been invited to the Son’s table, and through His merit are brought to the King's Table. 
1.     There is one fantastic feast that is yet to come! We are not at the King's table yet.  We will be there when we get to heaven.
2.     The Believer has a place reserved! We will not be there by our merit, but it is by the merit of the Son we are brought to the King's Table. 
3.     The One Who Invited and the One we will celebrate is the One who insures we will be there.

II.        LOOKING AT THE PRESENT:  "This is my Body.....  This is my blood."
       A.    Christ is spiritually present in the Lord's Supper. 
       B.    The Benefits – grace - in the Lord's Supper for the Believer.[iii]
1.     Strength against sin.
2.     Support in trouble.
3.     Encouragement and quickening to duty.
4.     Inspire us with love and zeal.
5.     Increase our faith and holy resolution.
6.     Bring peace of conscience.
7.     Give a comfortable hope of eternal life.

Sample Bulletin Explanation: Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist, is the family meal of Christians. We invite all committed followers of Jesus Christ to partake of this sacrament: those who are baptized members of a congregation which proclaims the gospel, who are at peace with God and with their neighbor, and who seek strength to live more faithfully for Christ. If you are not a Christian, or if you are not prepared to share in this meal, we encourage you to spend this time in prayer. We hope that this time is helpful to you as you consider your relationship with Jesus Christ and with His people, the church

[i] Louis Berkhof, Summary of Christian Doctrine, p.176
[ii] Westminster Confession of Faith: Larger Catechism, Question 163
[iii] The Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in American, Chapter 58-4

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