THE NATURE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

The central ordinance of Christianity is the Lord’s Supper, standing in a metaphor as a summary of the whole Christian religion: “Except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man ye have no life in you” (John 6:53).

The nature of this precious rite is discerned in seven words, as follows:

Retrospective.

It looks back to Calvary, bringing to the worshiper’s mind the night of betrayal, agony, blood and tears, and the awful scenes of the crucifixion itself. Christians who have been “baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3) find in this solemn ceremony a recurring participation in Christ’s death.

Upon that fixed interval recurring every Lord’s Day, the child of God turns his thoughts and meditations back to the cross, in his heart living with the Saviour those awful events of his Passion, reviewing over and over again the scenes and circumstances which marked the Lord’s supreme act of atonement for the sins of the whole world. Christ died for our sins; and it is that historical event which anchors and perpetuates the Lord’s Supper; and thus the historicity of Christ’s death and resurrection is demonstrated and proved throughout all times and places by this sacred rite.

Prospective.

The ancient pagan god of war was the two-faced Janus (from whence the name of the month January), facing in both directions, forward and backward. In a far more wonderful manner, the Lord’s Supper faces toward Calvary in retrospect, and also toward the Second Advent, prospectively.

When the Manhattan Church of Christ constructed a new building in New York City, the custom of writing the words, “Do this in remembrance of me” on the Lord’s table, was expanded by adding the words, “This do ye until I come.” Thus, the essential expectation inherent in the holy supper was Scripturally recognized.

Unless Christ is coming again, all true meaning of the Lord’s Supper disappears; for there is in every proper observance of it the conviction of that time when the skies will be bright with the coming of the Son of God the second time apart from sin to reward the righteous and to bring about the summation of all things.

Introspective.

In Paul’s writings in this chapter, the necessity of every man’s examining himself is affirmed (1 Corinthians 11:28). It is in that rigorous self-examination which should mark every man’s participation in the Lord’s Supper that the introspective nature of it is seen.

One’s life, his sincerity, his devotion, dedication and love for the Lord who redeemed him at such awful cost should all appear within the thoughts of the participant. How can any wickedness bear the light of such an introspective searching?

Commemorative.

“In remembrance of me,” Jesus said (1 Corinthians 11:25). The Lord’s Supper is one of the great memorials to the event of the Dayspring’s visitation from on high, the Lord’s baptism and the Lord’s day being two others.

What a memorial is this! No tower of stone or marble palace, no tablet or inscription, no name conferred on cities or places, no granite obelisk or shining monument could ever have a fraction of the effectiveness of this worldwide memorial of the Lord’s Supper.

It has now been observed by Christians on more than 100,000 successive Lord’s Days; nor is there any possibility that there will ever be a single Sunday until the end of time when it will not be observed by people who love the Lord and await his Second Advent. Under Judaism, people remembered their sins; in Christ they remember their Redeemer who has forgiven their sins (Jeremiah 31:31-35).

Instructive.

“Ye proclaim the Lord’s death until he come.” If one wishes to preach a sermon of redemption to a dying world, let him faithfully observe this sacred supper.

Jesus himself identified it as a proclamation. If one would instruct dying people to turn their hearts to the cross of Christ, the way to do it is to exhibit unvarying fidelity to this Christian duty.

Books are cast aside, sermons forgotten, solicitous words ignored; but no man can ignore the example of a faithful life with regard to the Holy Communion of the body and the blood of Christ.

The weakness of churches in this generation may not so much be attributed to weak preaching (although there is plenty of that), but to weak living on the part of her members. The man who neglects or abandons the Lord’s Supper has hidden his light, stifled the message of salvation and denied his Lord.

Corrective.

Implicit in the self-examination mentioned under 3 above, is the requirement that elements of personal life out of harmony with the high professions of Christianity will be recognized and corrected.

This is inherent in the meaning of “Let a man prove himself.” Faithful adherence to the duty of observing the Lord’s Supper will either remove one’s sins, or one’s sins will remove him from frequenting the Lord’s table.

Separative.

This ordinance, more than any other, reveals who is saved and who is not saved.

Here is the spiritual device of the Lord himself which separates the wheat from the chaff. Christ himself said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves” (John 6:53); and men may scream about this if they please, but it is the truth. Go to church.

The saints and the sinners alike sing the hymns; the believer and the infidel alike hear the sermon respectfully; the sons of light and the sons of darkness give of their money; the saved and the lost bow their heads for the prayers; but when the emblems of the Lord’s Supper appear, a separation is made.

The New Testament reveals that here is an ordinance so important that the whole world is polarized by it, Christians being quite properly identified as those who faithfully observe it, and non-Christians identified as those who take it not. Oh yes, to be sure, this ordinance ALONE is not the terminator; but the importance of it is such that Christ himself used it as a metaphor of the whole Christian religion. “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54).

If the Lord’s Supper is a normal and conspicuous element of Christianity, designed to be partaken of by the whole body of the redeemed of all ages and to be continued until the second advent of the Son of God; and, if the Lord’s Supper is the only ceremonial ordinance commanded to be observed repeatedly throughout the full lifetime of every Christian, is it not therefore absolutely true that the saved and lost of all ages may be accurately identified as those who do, or who do not, observe it?

Of course it is. The trouble with the commentators is that, so long they have construed salvation by faith as meaning “by faith only,” that they similarly interpret the obvious reference to the Lord’s Supper here as “Lord’s Supper only.”

However, the reference to the Lord’s Supper in this place, which is stoutly affirmed by this writer, is not to the supper ONLY, but to the entire system of Christianity for which it (by metonymy) stands.

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