Welcome back to the Commands of Christ blog series where we are examining together the nine foundational commands given by Jesus and which are essential for new disciples to understand and obey. If you missed the first six posts in this series you can find them by clicking Repent and Believe, Be Baptized, Pray, Make Disciples,Love, and Worship.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In this post, we will look at the seventh of nine foundational commands that Christ gave for disciples to obey. This command is to observe the Lord’s Supper and is found in Luke 22:7-20.
“And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
So Jesus made it clear that the disciples were to participate in this kind of ceremonial meal as a remembrance of Him, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” This is the command. But there are probably questions that arise from this command, perhaps even among Christians who have been observing the Lord’s supper in a fellowship. We are going to look at some of those questions and hopefully bring some clarity and understanding to the practice.
What is the Lord’s Supper?
It is significant that Jesus makes the connection to the Passover celebration. The Passover took place when the Jews were slaves in Egypt and God, through Moses, brought about the deliverance of His people after the plagues were unleashed against the Egyptians. The tenth plague was the one resulting in the death of every firstborn. And God gave very specific instructions to His people so that they might avoid having their firstborn killed.
The instructions were very clear; they were to take a lamb for the household. The lamb had to be without blemish, a male a year old, taken from the sheep or the goats, and the lamb would be killed at twilight. Then some of the blood of the lamb was to be put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the house in which they ate it. The blood would be a sign for them, on the houses where they were. And when God saw the blood on the doorposts and lintel, He would ‘pass over’ them and the plague would not befall them to destroy them when God struck the land of Egypt.
This celebration was a regular part of the Hebrew calendar on the fifteenth day of Nisan, which usually falls in March or April in our calendar. It is this celebration that Jesus was anxious to celebrate with His disciples. But they had no idea that this was going to be the institution of the new covenant. And this new covenant was something that the Jews had been anticipating for a long time.
“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My rules and obey them. And they shall be My people, and I will be their God,” (Ezekiel 11:19-20). (Ezekiel 36:26, Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10)
Why do we observe the Lord’s Supper?
The most straightforward reason we observe the Lord’s Supper is because we are commanded to do so. “Do this in remembrance of Me,” (1Cor 11:24-25). We are commanded, so we obey.
But there are other reasons tied up in the command as well.
The observance of the Lord’s Supper serves as a reminder of Jesus and what He accomplished for us in establishing the New Covenant. Jesus has become our Passover lamb, without blemish, at whose blood we are spared from the judgement. If this isn’t an event worth celebrating, I don’t know what is.
Observance of the Lord’s Supper also serves to proclaim the Lord’s death until He returns, (1 Corinthians 11:26).
It also serves to remind us that His body was broken and His blood was shed to secure our salvation.
And observing the Lord’s Supper also indicates loyalty to Christ and not to idols. There can be no compromise. “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake at the table of the Lord and the table of demons,” (1 Corinthians 10:21-22). To eat at Jesus’ table is to be committed to Him, identified with His people, and dedicated to the service of His cause in the world.
How do we receive the Lord’s Supper?
This question of how and the next one of who are closely related to each other. When considering how we are to receive the Lord’s Supper, we need to look into 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. It is here that Paul makes it clear. We must receive the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner.
Paul first says that whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup in an unworthy manner is guilty concerning the body and the blood of the Lord. This is serious business with serious consequences. Verse 30 tells us that there were those who did eat and drink in an unworthy manner who died as a result. To come to the table, holding onto one’s sin does not only dishonour the ceremony, but it also dishonours His body and blood, treating lightly the sacrifice of Jesus for us. Doing so mocks the sacrifice for sin by holding on to sin.
So Paul tells us that one must examine oneself before partaking of the Lord’s table and if there is unconfessed sin, one must make confession with a repentant heart. If the sin involves a brother or sister, one must seek forgiveness from the offended person. In this way we are able to ensure that the Lord’s Supper is observed in a manner worthy of the sacrifice.
Who should receive the Lord’s Supper?
It should be clear that only those who have been born again may receive the Lord’s Supper without fear. Only those who have been born again and have made sure that there is no unconfessed sin that remains.
This is a command that we need to observe if we are to be disciples of Jesus. So how are you doing? Do you observe the Lord’s Supper? How have you been doing so during the lockdown? How often do you celebrate the Lord’s Supper?
If you haven’t been doing this, when will you begin?