On the Lord's Supper
Topic: English Passage: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Today is a bit of a different Sunday for us. For starters, this is the first Sunday where our schedule has changed so that the children’s classes are during the second hour. We still have childcare for the younger ones, but beginning today, any child from age 5 and up will be with us during the service, and then they’ll have their class at 11:00am.
Another reason why today is different for us, is because we are going to be partaking of the Lord’s Supper. And because of that, I thought it would be good for us to take a more extended time either learning about or reminding ourselves what the Lord’s Supper really is all about.
If you grew up in a church, participating in the Lord’s Supper may not seem like such a strange custom. But for those outside the church, it’s not something that they may usually accustomed to. What exactly are we doing? And why are we doing it?
Well, for starters, we call it the Lord’s Supper because that was the term that early Christians used for it. That’s the phrase the Apostle Paul uses in First Corinthians chapter 11, verse 20. It is the Lord’s Supper. You can start turning there because we’ll be looking at it this morning.
The word “supper” refers to a meal. We are going to have a meal this morning. It’s not going a big meal, but it is a meal nonetheless. And that is a significant component.
Some of you already had breakast today. But more than likely, it wasn’t very life-changing. It was probably pretty ordinary.
But not all meals are ordinary. Part of God’s design in the Scriptures and in life today is that significant occasions are marked by a meal.
How many of you are in a Family Life Group? Raise your hand. Those are the home-based groups that meet throughout the week. Raise your hand if you went to an FLG this past week. Okay. Now, keep your hand raised if there was food there.
Looks like 100%. You might not have eaten the food, but it was there. You can put your hands down. Why was there food? Why is it than when there is some kind of special gathering of people, we have food? And if there’s no food, then something feels like it’s missing, right?
When you celebrate someone’s birthday, there’s food. When you and your wife celebrate an anniversary, there’s food. When you go to a wedding, you’re wondering: “What kind of food are they going to serve?” That’s because food has a significance.
Well, in the case of the Lord’s Supper, it’s not enough to just eat together, we need to understand what the significance is. What kind of meal is this? That’s the question I’m going to answer this morning. And to start, I want us to look at First Corinthians chapter 11.
This is a letter Paul wrote to the Christian church in the city of Corinth. That why they’re called the Corinthians. And among the many topics he addressed in the letter, in chapter 11, he speaks directly about the Lord’s Supper. And really, this is a corrective instruction. He wants to correct some problems in the church, and that includes problems with how they participate in the Lord’s Supper.
In New Testament times, it seems as if the practice was not just to take the elements, but to combine the Supper with a larger meal.
And in trying to understand what kind of supper the Lord’s Supper is, the first answer we get from First Corinthians 11 is that this is a FAMILY MEAL that points to our congregational unity. This is a family meal that points to our unity
Look down for a moment at verse 17. Again, Paul is hoping to correct something in the church. But notice how he refers to it in verses 17-20. He uses the phrase “when you come together.”
17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.
18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,
19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.
20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat.
Three different times, Paul points out that Lord’s Supper was a time for the church to come together. It is a family meal. It is supposed to be an expression of, and a contributing factor to, our unity.
Think about that for a moment. When you partake, do you act like it’s just some kind of ritual between you and God? It’s more than that. It’s not something just between you and God. It’s something between us and God, and between us and one another.
Do you partake as part of the family? What would you think if I went to a family gathering, and once dinner was ready, I took a plate, went to my room, locked the door, and then ate all by myself? What would you think?
That might be acceptable if you’re all by yourself in the house, but not at a family gathering. We are to partake in a way that contributes to our unity.
The Corinthians, on the other hand, wouldn’t do that. As we read already, they had divisions. They had cliques. And those kinds of divisions were evident even at their gatherings. Look at verse 20 once again.
20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat.
21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.
22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
The people who were wealthier arrived early and there was plenty of food. And the poorer people, who spent all day working, came later. But by the time they got there, there was no food left. There’s just a bunch of people stuffed with food and drunk with wine. There’s no love there! There’s no compassion! There’s no expression of unity!
Skip down to verse 33. This is Paul’s concluding instruction.
33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another
34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
Once again, you see two mentions of that phrase “when you come together.” If the whole point was just to have a meal, then eat at home. But that’s not the point of the Lord’s Supper. This is a family meal for the purpose of UNITY.
Now, here’s where you can have discussions with other people, either during the bread time or during your FLGs. What are some of the ways you could increase your expression of unity when you take the Lord’s Supper? How can that unity be showcased better?
Maybe that means you sit next to someone instead of sitting all by yourself. Maybe that means you make a phone call the night before and talk to someone whom you might have offended or who has offended you. That’s called reconciliation.
As a father, I think about how much it grieves me when my children fight. And if my children stopped talking to each other, it would break my heart. So, what do you think it does to God when there’s bitterness and anger between us? I know exactly what it does because Ephesians 4:30 says so. It grieves the Holy Spirit of God.
This is a FAMILY meal for the purpose of unity, so you need to keep that in mind when you partake. That’s also why our general preference is to have the Supper on Sunday nights. Because that’s when our whole church is gathered together, English and Spanish services.
If you can make it to those services, and you choose not to come, it’s like deciding not to be there at a family reunion. It hurts our unity, because we want you here.
Now, since this is a family meal, our church’s custom is to ask that if you have not been baptized by immersion as a profession of your faith, that you abstain. Why do we do that?
Because this is a meal for the family of God. And the way a local church recognizes someone as being born again into the family of God is baptism. You don’t have to be baptized at our church to partake, but you should have taken that step of obedience. That’s how a church recognizes you as part of its family. And if you haven’t publicly been declared as part of the family, then it’s not time for you, right now, to partake of the family meal.
That is our first point for today, this is a family meal pointing to our unity. I have four more points for us this morning, but don’t worry. We won’t spend too much time on the remaining ones, though they are important.
Secondly, not only is the Lord’s Supper a family meal. It’s also a MANDATORY meal pointing to our ongoing obedience. It’s a mandatory meal pointing to our obedience.
Look with me at verses 23-25. And for now, I just want to draw your attention on the words of Jesus.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,
24 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.”
25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
What you have there is not just a description of the Supper. There’s a command. What’s the command in those verses? Jesus says, “Do this.” Do this, as often as you do.
The Bible doesn’t mandate how often we’re supposed to do it. But still the command is there. Do it. Which means that if you, as a believer, fail to routinely observe the Supper for a prolonged period of time, you’re sinning. You’re not obeying the command of Christ and the New Testament pattern for the church.
As a family meal, the Lord’s Supper is an expression of our unity. And as a mandatory meal, the Lord’s Supper is an expression of our obedience.
But why is it commanded? This brings us to our next point. And now, we’re getting to the heart of the Supper. Point number three: The Lord’s Supper is a MEMORIAL meal pointing to our crucified Redeemer.
A memorial is something connected to our memory. That’s why when someone passes away, we have a memorial service. It’s a time to remember them.
Well, what exactly are we, as an obedient family, supposed to be remembering. The verses we just read told us. The bread points us to the body of Christ, and the cup points us to the blood of Christ. Those are reminders about the cross—reminders about what Jesus did.
Jesus died in our place. We are unworthy sinners before a holy God. We deserve death and judgment. But God sent Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb to die in our place. He took the punishment we deserve. He passed through death and judgment in our place. He was our substitute. That’s the heart of the gospel.
We have been spared by God and from God. That’s so critical to understand. The holy majesty of God requires our eternal death in hell. But, what happened?
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. We’re not saved from hell because we’re good enough. We’re saved by grace, through faith, in the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Listen, there’s no special magic in taking the Lord’s Supper. We’re not recreating the sacrifice of Jesus. That would be blasphemy. We are remembering the once-for-all sacrifice of our Redeemer. When Jesus died, He said: “It is finished.”
Like I said, that’s the heart of the gospel, but we’re so easily moved away from that. We’re so easily swayed into thinking that salvation is determined by performance rather than by the sacrifice of Jesus. That’s what happened with the Galatians in the opening Scriptures we read.
And the Lord’s Supper is intended to be a reminder. “Do this in,” what? “In remembrance of Me… Do this in remembrance of Me.”
We all need reminders. My wife has to remind me to take out the trash. Your teachers remind you about assignments. Your parents remind you about what it means to honor God. And we all need the reminder to focus on Jesus Christ.
Psalm 103 says: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and don’t forget any of His benefits.” Why does it say that? Because we forget!
As a memorial/commemorative meal, the Lord’s Supper points to our Savior, our Redeemer. He gave His life for ours. Does that mean anything to you? Does that affect your life? It should.
If you were trapped in a fire, knowing you would die alone in agony. And then without any warning, a neighbor of yours breaks down a wall and recues you, how would you respond to him? Could you ever see him in the same way? You would owe Him your life! We who have been rescued by Jesus, and received the gift of salvation owe Jesus our lives.
And having received the love of Jesus, how do we respond? … With love back to Him. The Apostle John said it like this “We love because He first loved us.”
And loving God includes loving others, and it includes keeping His commandments. “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.”
Taking the Lord’s Supper is an expression of obedience, but loving and serving Jesus Christ is much more than that. The Lord’s Supper, then, is a time to examine ourselves.
This is point number 4. The Lord’s Supper is a CONTEMPLATIVE meal pointing to our personal repentance. It’s a contemplative meal pointing to our repentance. That means that we are to pause and examine our own lives—think about where we stand with Jesus. Are we living for His glory or not?
The Bible makes it clear that God disciplines His children. Motivated by His glory and His love, and our good, He will uses temporary pain to bring us back to Himself when we stray.
And many times, that discipline is internal. Our conscience is stirred and we make changes. But if we continue to disobey, God can take some serious steps. Look at verse 27.
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.
28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.
32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
You see the command there in verse 28. “Let a person examine himself.” Think about your life. Is there sin you have not confessed and repented of? If there is, then repent right now. Confess it to the Lord, and make the necessary plans to cut that out of your life.
Do not play games with Jesus Christ. Otherwise, what will happen? We just read it. If you want to keep pursuing your sin and not obeying Christ, then the Lord’s Supper will be a judgment. If God killed His Son, who bore the sins of others, He will have no problem disciplining you for your own rebelliousness.
By taking the Supper and remembering Christ, you’re saying “I believe God is holy. I believe God hates sin.” And if you continue in sin, you’re inviting God’s judgment.
And that’s exactly what happened with the Corinthians. Some of them were physically weak. Some had gotten sick. And some had even died. Because they would not serve Christ wholeheartedly. And so, the best example they can serve to others is as an example of God’s judgment.
Don’t take the Lord’s Supper lightly. This is to be a serious time. As a contemplative meal, it’s an expression of our repentance.
If you don’t plan to repent, don’t take the Supper. Because the Supper is like the renewing of our vows with Christ.
Sometimes, there might be someone who was baptized at a younger age, like 12 or 13, and then later in life, they feel like they took a giant leap in their spiritual maturity. They never walked away from Christ, but something happened that made them see Christ differently. And they wish they could get baptized again. So that it would be more meaningful.
Well, that’s not necessary. Baptism is the initial, public expression of our commitment to Christ. And as we grow in Christ, how do we get to express that commitment once again if we’ve already been baptized? The answer is, you partake of the Lord’s Supper.
You were dunked into a body of water as an physical expression of your unity to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And now, you partake of another tangible symbol that connects you with Jesus. In a sense, to take the Lord’s Supper is to rededicate your life. You renew that commitment publicly with the rest of the church.
You’re saying: “Jesus, I repent. Jesus, forgive me. Jesus, I believe that you died. I believe that you rose again. And I give my life to serve You. I turn from my sin, and I want to walk with You.” That’s the Lord’s Supper.
We’ve got one final point for today, and then we’ll partake. The Lord’s Supper is a family meal, and that’s an expression of our unity. The Lord’s Supper is a mandatory meal, which is an expression of our obedience. It’s a memorial meal, pointing us back to our Redeemer. And it’s a contemplative meal, connected to our repentance and self-examination… Number five: The Lord’s Supper is an ANTICIPATORY meal pointing to our joyful hope. It’s an anticipatory meal.
What that means is that we’re not just looking back on our sin or on Jesus at the cross, we also need to be looking forward. When we partake, we are anticipating something that is yet to come.
The cup, Jesus said, is a reminder of His blood. And Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.”
And what you need to recognize is that the fulness of the New Covenant hasn’t come yet. We haven’t experienced it all. The New Covenant includes the forgiveness of sin, but it also includes the removal of sin in a glorified body. And it includes the restoration of Israel and the restoration of this planet. This entire world is going to be fixed.
The Holy Spirit placed inside us is a guarantee of something yet to come. God’s work in us and in this world isn’t finished. Look, finally, with me at verse 26.
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
The Lord’s Supper is a proclamation to each other and to the world, not only that Jesus died, but that He’s coming again.
This is what Jesus told His disciples, on the night when He instituted the Supper: “I will not eat this feast or drink of the fruit of the vine from now on, until it is fulfilled and the kingdom of God comes.”
That wasn’t meant just to make them somber. It was also intended to give His disciples hope and joy. And that should also mark the way we partake of the Supper. It should be a time of joy and hope. Being an anticipatory meal, the Lord’s Supper should lead us to hope and joy in Christ.
Hebrews 12 says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. And now He’s seated at the right hand of God. Well, the Lord’s Supper should be that kind of reminder. Yes, it’s somber, but it’s a reminder of the joy set before us.
This life is not the end. And Jesus is going to finish what He started. There’s another Supper that’s coming when Jesus returns. Revelation 19 calls it the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, it’s a reminder that we’ve been invited to a future Supper. And it won’t just be in remembrance of Jesus; it’ll be in His physical presence as well. And it will lead us into eternal, uninterrupted joy with our Redeemer.
That’s where the Lord’s Supper takes us. It’s a family meal pointing to our congregational unity. It’s a mandatory meal pointing to our ongoing obedience. It’s a memorial meal pointing to our crucified Redeemer. It’s a contemplative meal pointing to our personal repentance. And it’s an anticipatory meal pointing to our joyful hope.
Let’s do everything we can to keep that in mind as we partake together.