LIKE BAPTISM, the partaking of the Lord’s Supper shows His manifold wisdom regarding its effects on the life and testimony of believers. Each ordinance makes its appeal through the eye to the heart. The weekly observance, in the manner in which the Lord instituted it, is of the utmost importance. There is a twofold witness. Firstly the inward, a reminder to the participant of the person of Christ Himself, of His atoning sacrifice and His redeeming grace, with the constant re-awakening of our affection towards Him. The partaking is a matter of personal devotion to Him, of love responding to the love of His heart. All this is involved in His command, ‘This do in remembrance of me Luke 22. 19.
Secondly there is the outward witness. The gathered believers ‘proclaim the Lord’s death’, 1 Cor. 10. 26, as a testimony, to others present and to unseen powers in the spiritual realm, as to the fact, the meaning and the purpose of His death.
There is a process of enlightenment for all who fulfil the Lord’s will in the keeping of this ordinance, an increasing understanding of the teaching of the Scriptures regarding it and its effects upon the heart and life. The Apostle Paul, for instance, had taught the church at Corinth the necessity for, and the facts of, the ordinance while present with them. Yet in his first epistle to them he has much to impart concerning what he had then taught them. Little had they apprehended the nature and significance of the ordinance. He had more to say to them than the fact that the bread and the cup (i.e., its contents) were emblems of the body and the blood of Christ. How lacking had been their apprehension of what it all meant and the necessity of a life consistent with it. How lacking is ours who have the privileges and responsibilities attaching to our fuller light!
They had to learn that carnality, disunity, worldliness and self-importance are utterly inconsistent with what the Lord’s Supper sets forth, and that one who indulges in what is contrary to it is ‘guilty of the body and blood of the Lord’, i Cor. II. 27. For to act thus is a denial of the truth and value of His atoning sacrifice and constitutes identification with the world that crucified Him. Hence the believer must ‘prove’, or test, himself and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. This proving of ourselves is designed to make us conscious of being personally true and loyal to Christ and thus of having His approval. Only so can we rightly partake.
The unworthy partaking was the cause of much sickness and even premature death in die assembly at Corinth, v. 30. Sin in the midst acts detrimentally to file whole company. Private indulgence in an evil while outwardly seeking to maintain fellowship with an assembly is not only incompatible in the individual but brings the marked disapproval of God upon the gathering. The record of Achan and the effects of his sin upon Israel as a whole is provided as a warning in this respect, Joshua 7. 13.
How ultimately associated the ordinance is with the life of the believer is shown in the tenth chapter, which forms the background of the subject in the eleventh. The apostle shows how utterly incongruous it is to partake of the table of the Lord and yet have association with what is controlled by the powers of darkness. He draws a parallel between the provision made for Israel from the altar, and the provision for believers through the death of Christ, as set forth by the cup and the loaf of the Lord’s Supper, and sets in contrast the things of which the Gentiles partake. We ‘cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and die cup of demons’; we ‘cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons’, 10. 21. The powers of darkness direct the thoughts and ways of the world; for it lies ‘in the evil one’, 1 John 5. 19, R.V. As with idolatry of old so with the world today.
We must not neglect or disregard the ordinance. Not one thing commanded by the Lord can be dropped without loss to ourselves. Love that appreciates what Christ has done for us will inspire us to complete and devoted obedience.
Some Effects of the Scriptural Observance of the Lord’s Supper
WE MAY ALWAYS BE CONFIDENT that the fulfilment of the Lord’s commands will bring resulting blessing. ‘In the keeping of His commandments there is great reward.’ Accordingly there must be definite benefit derived from the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper in conformity with the instructions He gave both to the disciples on the night of His betrayal and later to the Apostle Paul as recorded in the first epistle to the Corinthians.
The very fact of gathering together to Him personally (for He is there in the midst according to His promise) and the realization of His presence, the apprehension of the true significance of the emblems He provided, together with the fact that to partake of them is to show (or rather, to proclaim) the Lord’s death, cannot fail to lead to something more than the blessedness of the immediate circumstances of the occasion.
Conformity to the Lord’s revealed will in this ordinance, not in a casual way, but regularly on the first day of the week, as set forth in the New Testament, and under the leading of the Holy Spirit, provides, by His operation in the heart, a safeguard against any teaching which denies the doctrines relating to die person and work of Christ.
How can an assembly, acting under the instruction and guidance of the Spirit of God, in the intelligent apprehension of what it means to partake of the bread and the cup in remembrance of the Lord Jesus Christ, fail to maintain the great fundamental truth of His Godhead ? It may well be expected, too, that adherence to His will in the ordinance and what it thus involves will conduce to the maintenance of the doctrine that ‘all scripture is given by inspiration of God (is God-breathed)’, 2 Tim. 3. 16.
These effects have manifestly resulted from a return to the fulfilment of the teaching of Scripture on the part of large numbers of believers during the past hundred years or more, and should afford a strong incentive to conformity to the will of God as revealed in His Word, both out of loving loyalty to His Son, and in the realization that such conformity will receive its eternal reward at the judgment-seat of Christ, instead of the solemn loss of reward as a result of departure from the truth.
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