The Gospel Applied: The Lord's Supper - A Table of Joy
Turn with me back to 1 Corinthians 11. I appreciate the music. I love the Lord’s names, I love King Jesus. He is the king. He is the king who is currently reigning. Sometimes we look at the chaos of the world and we think he is not. I want you to rest assured, he is reigning with the saints that have gone before all the believers. He currently reigns, even this earth, bringing it to its intended end. Often times in the church we think of that as destruction, when actually he is going to make, bam, everything new. So we rejoice in that. We embrace the world we live in, because we want more people of our families and friends to become apart of that eternal kingdom of Christ, which has already taken place. Hasn’t it? In your heart. It is why you are here. But it will be realized in the resurrection and in his return.
Meals, we all know this, in general are a great experience. They are a great experience of joy and community. When you think of having a meal, you think of your home and families. You probably think of particular holidays. You think of your friends. You think of church family. One of the places that I know, even for us, that we even enjoy, is having flock meals together. One particular experience as a family I remember, Val I got to tell this, some of you may know this particular story. All of my family is from the South. They always rejoiced in reunions, and that’s the way love was displayed and support and community. I don’t think she had been past Toledo very much, that was about as South as she ever went. One of our early family reunions, I’ll never forget, we were in the living room, and as most of you know, Southern people go by initials. This is happened to be one of my connected relatives RC. My dad was known, not only as CH but Uncle A. Everybody kind of went by abbreviated initials. RC in the living room, there were about 20 people in there, and Val sat next to him and starts talking about three different ways you can kill a squirrel and skin it and cook it. My dear wife hit him on his big powerful, I mean this is a guy that farmed for life he was talking business and sharing how different people could do it. She thought he was making a joke, the thought of eating squirrel. One of my memories of meals and being around family with joy.
Meals really are that way for us, aren’t they? It is a way to break ice. Even if maybe you have been in a disagreeable situation with someone. The sacrament that we are going to participate in this morning again in a fresh way, has many names. We are going to look at those names this morning. It marks for us a spiritual meal. I guess I want to begin this by helping us to understand some things, and I really think this sets the tone, so please don’t miss this. If you don’t get anything else, and I want you to get a lot, I want you to get all of this, please don’t miss this: Jesus himself, his presence being here in a special way, delights that we are going to partake. Jesus is not in some distant vague way away from us, he takes joy in his people because Jesus is the one who instituted the sacrament or the ordinance. I want that to bear in mind for you, that Christ himself has a special type of pleasure and it will help you to break some shackles of understanding in some other areas.
You look around the room, and some of us received at home. Some in the church. Some of you received Christ after searching. Some of you received Christ in your childhood, in your teenage years. Some as young adults, and I know even some as later in life. Yet inside of this, this weekly observance no matter how you came into the family of God, it forces us to ask what exactly is happening right now? What we want to do, as we want to do every week, through the lyrics of the music, through the expression of any testimony, through the preaching and teaching of God’s word, is we want to make much of Jesus and less about ourselves and perhaps little cantankerous things we want to scuttle butt around in. We want to make much of Jesus together so that what is being formulated and nurtured in our inner man as we leave this place, is that you and I produce this type of robust gospel life filled with joy. This should be going on here, and I believe it is. It is never being done enough. As mentioned to you last week, joy is never empty. Christ’s joy is boundless in his submission to us. For us to get a grip of that, we have to give ourselves to the means of grace. Because those are the things that God builds upon in us that gives us strength. That gives us the capacity to have a robust gospel. We need to think about and consider Jesus rightly. Not only through the preaching of the word, but through the table. We want to know this to begin, Jesus is taking delight and pleasure. He has gained enjoyment that you have come to participate in that regard. But beyond, perhaps how you think about your own salvation of way back when, I want to get a little more current. I want you to think about things, which I believe the table does in a fresh way always, I want you to think about this: are you trusting in Jesus now? As your Savior? Because that is what the table is designed to do. It is designed to nurture that hope. We get this little familiarity not only with the table but with our own salvation. It is almost like a “been there, done that.” My friends, there cannot be a robust gospel in our hearts and lives if we take that kind of thought. I really believe when you are looking through the Old Testament and God’s relationship to Israel, that is why He is always calling them not to forget him. The table does that. I could never forget him. The table reminds us to remember him in a special way. He want to especially bless you, nurture you, and give you strength.
Along with this, I want you to ask yourself this, are you living in simple obedience to Jesus as Lord? All of us can step back and say, “Man there are some areas where I am struggling.” That is why you come to the table. To be refreshed and renewed in the strength of humility, “I don’t deserve this”. Sometimes we get going in different aspects of Christianity and we almost think we are deserving of grace. Grace by definition is undeserved. There is a healthy aspect for us to ask ourselves am I living in simple obedience to Jesus as my Lord? With a follow up to that you can consider this, no religion is private. While there are introverts and extroverts here, is it evident to others that the spirit produced character traits are becoming evident where other people spot this and begin to know, “Wow yeah, they are a follower of Christ.” Is your greatest identity in life being in Christ or is it in your job or some particular thing or attribute you possess? In short, as we begin to look at these texts and begin to look at the names of the ordinance, you are going to ask yourself: am I following Jesus?
Now to begin, the first name we are going to consider, we are going to stay in 1 Corinthians 11. It is not that we are going to skip around a lot but this table, this gospel supper if you will, is found in Matthew 26, in Mark 14, in Luke 22, and then by Paul here in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. That is where it is expounded upon, in those texts. It is alluded to in John 13, where Jesus takes the Passover meal and makes it the institution of the table because he talks about the reclining and Jesus in as he approached Judas in discussion with others. So it is alluded to there, but the discussion is found in those texts, Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and of course 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. So three gospel accounts and one Epistle. Any time the supper is mentioned, in all of those texts, Jesus said to do this. It comes unto us under his authority, this sacrifice, this ordinance. But sometimes under that command, we think we missed the intent of what he wants to do. Because he wants to minister and build our lives in his grace. He wants us to take a pause to consider him freshly and to be renewed right here on the first day of the week to whatever is coming ahead for us.
The question always comes up, and certainly it has come up here, and I’m sure you have considered it from time to time. How frequent then? How frequent are we to participate at the table? I will give you this, just as we shape this, the frequency is not necessarily specified, but I think it becomes pretty clear in many regards. What is clear is that the early church observed it with every service. Now I want to give attention to that to help you understand from the text. Look at verse 17 of chapter 11. We know that the epistle that Paul writes to Corinth is correctional. So he is giving them instruction because they were doing it wrongly, but it was when you come together. Verse 17 and 18. Jump down to verse 20. There is a third time. Go to the end of the chapter and look at verse 33. Then again in verse 34. It is 5 times. It is not just vague, he uses that phrase 5 times. Furthermore, we know the church at Corinth had a chaotic church service. So in providing instruction for other aspects, to give them an orderly fashion to a service, flip over to to chapter 14. We know the phrase, “when you come together,” meant every Lord’s day. You will see this in chapter 14 verse 26. He is giving an orderly instruction for a worship service. He gives them without the New Testament being completed yet, an order of service. The point I want you to recognize here about verse 26, is when you come together. It marks for us, when the church met, and the church not only met on the Lord’s day, Sunday in bible times, but it has only ever been that since history. The Lord’s day got so popular, you read in Revelation 1 in Asia-Minor, where it was the Emperor's day Christianity took over Asia-Minor, it changed from the Emperor's day to the Lord’s day. That it was known as, not in an official way, but it became known in the church and known as the Lord’s day. Its Sunday, it is the Lord’s day. The early New Testament church, and throughout all of church history, and there even has been a resurgence in protestants churches, that the Lord’s Supper is taken in a weekly way, on the Lord’s day. It marsk for us a celebration together. The celebration is one of Christ’s death, but it is not just about Christ’s death, it is also for Matthew 26 about Jesus’ return.
So this is the called the Supper. The Lord’s Supper. Therefore it is a planned meal by Jesus himself. Jesus has planned this for us, and he has planned it around us know that he takes pleasure and joy in us. It is intended to be participated with celebration, not with apprehension, not with fear. Certainly with worship, but we don’t want to miss the intent of what Jesus designed it around. Celebrating what? You might ask. A great victory has been won. Jesus has crushed the head of the serpent. Sin no longer reigns. Sin and death have been conquered. The bible says, and calls it a supper because supper has always represented a planned meal which we even enjoy in our culture which was ever a part of the biblical culture. The Lord’s supper is a planned spiritual meal, and Jesus himself is the host of a celebration and that celebration is one of victory because Christ himself has won a great victory for his people, the church.
You have probably heard it called this, and it probably doesn’t make you wiggle in a certain way, but it's called the Lord’s Table. It is called the Lord’s Table. Paul will do this in chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians where he will compare the table of idols because the had a form of worship of idolatry in various sorts, and he will call it the table of the Lord in 1 Corinthians 10. The table is the Lord’s table. What that means to us is that Christ is the table, the table belongs to Christ, and he has given it to us. He has given it to us. It is the Lord’s table because he is the one who has made all the payment for it. We contribute nothing in that regard. It is his table, given to the church, and as the payment is all on him he brings his benefits. The benefits of the table have been secured by Christ, and we the church are benefitted. Listen to me, I want you to catch this, it is as if Jesus is serving us. He is the one who presides over it. That is why he says to do this, do this in a way that you will remember me. It is the Lord’s table. The Lord’s table signifies to us that they are his benefits.
You know the benefits. Jesus shed his blood. The wine. The cup. Jesus sacrificed his body. The bread. We know this to be true. Jesus died a literal death, but church, he is not dead. He is alive! He is alive and he is reigning. But he is also here in a special way. His presence is with us through this design and here is his intent. That you will move away from this morning having been nourished. Having been strengthened. Having been encouraged. Why? Because it is his table and he is giving us, in service, his benefits to be reminded of. All the payment has been his. That is why we have been saved by grace. You and I enjoy his benefits. The table reminds us, through the bread and the cup, that we are forgiven. We are cleansed. They are reminders to us. Yet, in that, we don’t want to miss this because it is the Lord’s table and it is in our own specific instructions that it comes with his instructions, do this as it is mentioned in all of the text and it is talking about this, do this in remembrance of me.
What exactly does that mean? The table is meant for his own. God calls upon the church, believers, to participate in the table. Jesus is sending that invitation to do so. He wants us, he desires for us as he takes joy in us, to participate in the table so we are mindful of him, so that we are strengthened by him. He supplies abundantly to us for our lives. The church did that collectively on the first day of the week. It was past an isolated thought of your relationship with Christ. We were joined together. We collectively together are confessing in the participation of the table, that Jesus is Savior, that Jesus is Lord, that his death and resurrection is enough. It is enough!
We also want you to know this. The table is to speak to unbelievers. Though they are not to participate. If you are sitting there in rejection to Christ, it is wisdom on your part that you should not participate. But you must come in as a believer to participate. While the Lord’s table preaches the gospel to you, the gospel tells us, as the table does, that you can know Jesus. In reality, you can know Jesus. Yet the table is not a means of grace to those who reject God’s grace. Let the table speak to your heart that you will receive Jesus by faith, so that you are able to participate. It is the Lord’s supper. It is the Lord’s table.
Now I want to transition with you, because those two terms are terms that our church’s history is very familiar with. You are all kind of comfortable with them, they don’t make you cringe and you don’t think uncertain things. Here is what I want to encourage you. Go back to 1 Corinthians 10. The next two terms that have always been used richly in the church are biblical terms. So no matter what, perhaps, form of Christianity you may have been raised in, even if it was in an apostate church, this does not mean we are to reject these terms. I trust that you are going to see this, because it adds a richness to this. In other words we can come to just the supper and the table, and those are great terms and we embrace them. Don’t we? We embrace that this is the Lord’s supper and we embrace that this is the Lord’s table. Yet these next two terms are also biblical terms that add a richness to what you and I are about to enjoy.
The first, of those two terms, is communion. It is communion. Perhaps you may be thinking, “I’ve always embraced the Lord’s supper and it can also be known as holy communion and it doesn’t cause me to cringe.” Well I can tell you this, in my lifetime as a Christian that wasn’t always true. It was kind of taught that you couldn’t say holy communion. I would always get the heeby jeebies when I would hear that. Not understanding exactly everything about that. What I want you to get out of this is that it is called communion because it is a bible term. It is okay. So everybody can go, “whew.” It is okay. 1 Corinthians 10:16. This word participation in the ESV is where we get the concept that churches have used for the word communion. Your translation may say sharing. So that communion is being used, participation and sharing conveys two thoughts that are essential. They are things that you not only want to contemplate, but you want to embrace. You want to say yes this is a table of communion.
Here friends is why, not because I say so, but because of what they mean. Participation means that we have a union with Christ. That is why he says the cup of blessing that we bless is not a participation in the blood of Christ. What is he talking about? Believers, his church. Have a union with Christ. We have this union that you know about, undoubtedly, where the spirit of God baptizes you into the body of Christ, Romans 8. It is real that you are connected to Christ. You are in union with him. You have this intimacy that is a communion between you and Christ. That we have not only with Christ, that identifies to us in doing communion that we are united with one another. The table is not just simply to be expressed in isolation and everybody goes their own way and go home, no we are united in Christ and we have this communion of intimacy with him that also manifests itself among the body. You and I as a part of the body of Christ are united to each other. We are to be in communion of each other because God has made it so. Christ is the head, the church is his body (v17).
You know these one another concepts. Well part of the one another concepts is tied to the table. We have a union with Christ, we enjoy a communion with him, and yet it is not just isolated and private, it also united as a church. We are in communion with each other. We are members with one another. A bond has been made. A pledge has been made that runs deeper than blood. We have a union with Jesus. We have a communion with each other. Christ is, for each of us, our common denominator. One bread, one body, we are one in Christ. What does that mean? That has implications. If we are in communion, in union with Christ in God, and you know you are because you enjoy this intimacy with God and that’s moment to moment of everyday. There is this expectation because of this union with Christ that we live in communion with each other, not only with God because we have been united to Christ is that table screams that we are to love each other. That Jesus’ love should be invoked in your heart to want to love your brothers and sisters in Christ. So that we can’t just come to the table and say, “I can’t stand that person across the room.” Or “I’m thinking this or that.” No, in your heart and mind, you want to walk in unity in love, not because you have conjured it up, but because Jesus’ love has been invoked in you. Because you are connected to him. That is your reality, if you are a follower of Jesus. This type of unity tells us that division cannot set here. That is how Christ presides over this. It cannot set here. That is a good healthy instruction to remember. Why? Because I am in union with Christ. That is the most pleasant thought for me. My identity is in Jesus. Don’t take this wrong, it is not because I am a pastor. I am thankful to be a pastor. I am thankful that God called that upon my life. It was something he did to me, but I want you to know something my identity is in Christ. Not that we get this point of view that I am a boss, Christ is presiding over this. I am a messenger. I am a messenger. That is my only place. Christ is the head, we are the church. We are his body. He expects us to live in unity. He expects us, as we participate, as we come together in his presence.
Unity teaches us that communion is a tangible witness. That I love my brothers and sisters. That we are collectively confessing that Jesus is Lord. So everything at this table, and Paul will talk about this in other aspects of Christianity, everything is set aside. There is no rich. There is no poor. There is no highly intelligent. There is no least educated. There is no man and woman. All race is set aside at the table of Christ. Because Jesus is presiding over it. Let me tell you another reason why. In the new creation we will be made together as the new and final race. Born of the second Adam, Jesus. That reigns supreme over all. The table speaks to that. Turn to Revelation 7. The body of Christ recognizes its union with Jesus. We, not only enjoy a communion with him, but we are enjoying communion with each other because we want to walk in unity with one another because Jesus’ love invokes in us this unity. You and I as members of the new and final race, in the resurrection, born of the second Adam of Jesus, this reflects this base as you come to the table that everything has been set aside. Rich, poor, the intelligent, least educated, man, woman, all race. Everything has been set aside and you can see this in a lot of parts in scripture. But I want you to notice this, this supper and this table and this communion is just a picture, it is a signpost of what is going to take place later. There is going to be a full supper enjoyed in the presence of Christ in a face to face glorified body way. You can read that in Isaiah 25:6-8. Look at this in Revelation 7:9. There is this praise that is offered in worship, glorifying the lamb. It continues on in verse 12. It is almost as if John as a writer cannot give enough superlatives towards this beautiful Savior that we enjoy. It will be, as it is. Because it is going to be on earth as it is in heaven. You and I are the new creation in Christ, as the church and his body, this picture of this beautiful mosaic that he has created from every nation, every tribe, every people, every language. I like communion. It is a beautiful word. It is a joyous term.
Turn to Matthew 26. We will use this last one to bring us to the table. Dear friends, please listen to this. Listen to this not based upon what I say, you can examine text for your own sake. I trust that there is a valued trustworthiness of us. Yes we are bereans, right? We compare the scriptures to the things I say and Pastor Alex. We would not present ourselves as being perfect, but I want you to rest assured what we have been doing has been only been designed to the glory and praise of Christ and for the strengthening of this body under the means of grace. Dear friends, I want you to know something, we have been robbed. I know I have. In my lifetime I have been robbed of a term. You over get robbed? I got robbed at bible college by a pastor’s kid. He stole my Converse. For those of you who don’t know what Converse are they are tennis shoes, basketball shoes. You know, it is humiliating when you get robbed. There is a sort of uneasiness. We have been robbed from terms like communion and the term I am going to give you now, Eucharist. The word has been stolen. Perhaps from some distortion of your background. I am not saying this, please hear me, I am not saying this to chasten any of you. Because we all come from various backgrounds and varied histories. That is why I talked about in the introduction how different people got saved and their backgrounds. But I do want to you to know that this is a biblical term, so that you can get free and past some things. Because they are bible terms and I believe Christ can free us over anything. I really do. If I didn’t believe that, I would not do this. I wouldn't. Because Lord knows I can’t free you from anything, but I am telling Christ can free you from anything. Here is why I want you to get your mind around this term, because it is a biblical term and as you are going to see, as communion does, it adds a richness to the table. We don’t have to live in fear and be hijacked. To be hijacked from a biblical term that Jesus used. To preside for us over the table. Here it is, it is one Greek word, but it means more just like Greek words often times do. I don’t profess to be able to read Greek, but thankfully we live in a day and age where I do understand a little bit about Greek and it helps. This is one word, the word is Eucharist, that means a real rich fuller thing that can’t really be expressed with one term in the english. Okay? What is that? Man this is like dessert. This is like dessert. Because my dear loved one, Eucharist means a giving of thanks, a blessing, and done so with an emotional joyful thankfulness. That is why we close this particular aspect of the gospel applied series, where we are reminded every week that we should be emotionally joy filled because of the Eucharist, the table. Jesus used this particular term in Matthew 26, and it is repeated. It is repeated when he says this, verse 26. That encompasses this word. The word Eucharist.
What does that mean for me? It means that the table, the Eucharist, the communion, the Lord’s supper, is not a funeral service. It is not intended to beat you up, though there is examination. It’s intention was to be received in celebration of the victory that Jesus won. So that in joyful thankfulness and gratitude, it would strengthen me and that which he has produced in my heart, which is joy. Which is joy. The Lord’s supper, the Lord’s table, it is not to be done in obligation or out of guilt. You say, has that ever happened? I have had people confess it to me that they did it that way. It hurts me to think. So don’t get stuck. Please have ears to hear. Let the words of Christ give you understanding so that it is okay. Though it may be misappropriated by other elements of labeled Christianity, whomever they might be. It is a biblical term. It helps us to consider the death of Christ, not to despair, but with joy. Why? He is presiding over this. He is serving me his benefits. Those benefits are the production of the Holy Spirit’s working in my life, with thankfulness and joy and gratitude. And yes those aren’t just words, they are emotional. They stir deep within you. The table is to do that. It is an emotional thankfulness, it is the heart of gratitude. It is a joy filled expression of celebration. This meal, the table of joy, because Jesus has crushed Satan. Because King Jesus is going to come again. Because you and I are going to enjoy a gospel supper forever. The Eucharist is your opportunity in your inner man to express to Jesus how you feel about him. I trust you will do so now as we go to prayer.