Archive for the ‘Lord's Supper’ Category

What is the Lord’s Supper? John Knox Gives Us a Summary

In the following I offer a modernized English version of John Knox’s “Summary, According to the Holy Scriptures, of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper,” which is contained in Volume 3 of The Works of John Knox, published by The Banner of Truth Trust. The editor assigns this piece to the year 1550.

Here is briefly declared in sum, according to the Holy Scriptures, what opinion we Christians have of the Lord’s Supper, called the sacrament of the body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ.

First, we confess that it is a holy action, ordained of God, in which the Lord Jesus, by earthly and visible things set before us, lifts us up unto heavenly and invisible things. And that when he had prepared his spiritual banquet, he witnesses that he himself was the living bread, with which our souls are fed unto everlasting life.

And therefore, in setting forth bread and wine to eat and drink, he confirms and seals up to us his promise and communion (that is, that we shall be partakers with him in his kingdom); and represents unto us, and makes plain to our senses, his heavenly gifts; and also gives unto us himself, to be received with faith, and not with the mouth, nor yet by transfusion of substance. But so through the virtue (i.e., the power) of the Holy Spirit, that we, being fed with his flesh, and refreshed with his blood, may be renewed both unto true godliness and to immortality.

And also that herewith the Lord Jesus gathers us unto a visible body, so that we are members of one another, and made altogether one body, whereof Jesus Christ is the only head. And finally that by the same Sacrament, the Lord calls us to remember his Death and Passion, to stir up our hearts to praise his most holy name.

Furthermore, we acknowledge that we ought to come unto this Sacrament reverently, considering that there is exhibited and given a testimony of the wonderful society and knitting together of the Lord Jesus and of the receivers; and also, that there is included and contained in this Sacrament, that he will preserve his Church. For herein we are commanded to show the Lord’s death until he comes.

Also, we believe that it is a Confession, wherein we show what kind of doctrine we profess; and what Congregation we join ourselves unto; and likewise, that it is a band of mutual love among us. And finally, we believe that all those who come unto this holy Supper must bring with them their conversion unto the Lord, by unfeigned repentance in Faith; and in this Sacrament receive the seals and confirmation of their faith; and yet must in no way think, that for this work’s sake their sins are forgiven.

And as concerning these words, Hoc est corpus meum, “This is my body,” on which the Papists depend so much, saying, That we must believe that the bread and wine are transubstantiated into Christ’s body and blood; We acknowledge that it is no article of our faith which can save us, nor which we are bound to believe upon pain of eternal destruction. For if we should believe that his very natural body, both flesh and blood, were naturally in the bread and wine, that should not save us, seeing many believe that, and yet receive it to their damnation. For it is not his presence in the bread that can save us, but his presence in our hearts through faith in his blood, which has washed our sins, and pacified his Father’s wrath toward us. And again, if we do not believe his bodily presence in the bread and wine, that shall not damn us, but the absence of our heart through unbelief shall damn us.

Now, if you would here object, that though it be truth, that the absence out of the bread could not damn us, yet we are bound to believe it because of God’s Word, saying, “This is my body,” which truth whoever does not believe as much as lies in him, makes God a liar: and therefore, of an obstinate mind not to believe his Word, may be our damnation. To this we answer, That we believe God’s Word, and confess that it is true, but not so to be understood as the Papists affirm. For in the Sacrament we receive Jesus Christ spiritually, as did the Fathers of the Old Testament, according to St. Paul’s saying. And if men would well weigh, how Christ, ordaining this Holy Sacrament of his body and blood, spoke these words Sacramentally, doubtless they would never so grossly and foolishly understand them, contrary to all the Scriptures, and to the expositions of St. Augustine, St. Jerome, Fulgentius, Vigilius, Origin, and many other godly writers.

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Five Looks at the Lord’s Table

Paul tells us in I Corinthians 11:27 that “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.” The Scriptures tells us that we eat the Lord’s Supper in a worthy/proper/careful manner by looking in five directions.[1]

First, we look back. Jesus gave this covenant meal to His church through the apostles so that we might have a way to perpetually remember and renew our faith in the gospel. He knew that we would be prone to wander, prone to forget His covenant love for His people, so He gave us a concrete, physical sign to represent and to reassure us of His substitutionary death on the cross. He instituted the Lord’s Supper at the Passover meal, the sacramental meal of the Old Covenant. The cross, you see, was a greater exodus, a greater deliverance. Moses delivered from slavery to Pharaoh; Jesus delivered from slavery to sin and Satan. And He did it by offering Himself as the Passover Lamb, the firstborn Son dying in the place of His people. Every time we share in this fellowship meal, we recall what He has done for us in taking to Himself a human nature so that He might live and die and rise again for us and for our salvation. Remember Christ, who died to forgive your sins, who suffered that you might be reconciled to God, who drank the cup of God’s wrath that you might drink the cup of God’s blessing.

Second, we look within. Paul tells us that “a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (I Corinthians 11:28). Look for sin to confess, for knowledge of Christ and of what the Lord’s Supper is all about, for faith to feed upon him, for repentance, love, and new obedience (Westminster Shorter Catechism #97). This table is not for perfect people, but for repenting sinners, “those who are displeased with themselves for their sins, yet trust that these are forgiven them, and that their remaining infirmity is covered by the suffering and death of Christ; who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to amend their life” (Heidelberg Catechism #81). We must not eat the Lord’s Supper in a flippant way, but seriously; acknowledging our sin, trusting in Jesus for forgiveness and acceptance, turning from our sin in new obedience. This meal is a way to renew your covenant with the Lord as He reassures you of His love for you.

Third, we look up. Jesus is no longer dead, He is alive, and He is seated at the right hand of God. He is the living Host of this meal. As we eat and drink, we not only remember, but we commune with Him by faith, fellowshipping with our Groom, as we feed upon His body and blood in a spiritual manner, applying unto ourselves Christ crucified and all the benefits of His death.

But our communion is not only with Jesus. We also commune with one another. And so we must look, fourthly, around. In I Corinthians 11:29, Paul calls us to “judge” (or “discern, recognize”) the body; that is, we must realize that we are have union and communion with one another, that each member is important (even the poor, cf. I Corinthians 11:20-22), and that we are called to love and serve and forgive one another, even as God in Christ has loved, served, and forgiven us. “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (I Corinthians 10:17; cf. 12:12ff). As we eat this meal with one another, we reaffirm our commitment to the body of Christ, the church.

Finally, we look forward. We proclaim the Lord’s death “until He comes.” And so we look ahead to the marriage supper of the Lamb, to which the Lord’s Supper points. One day all God’s people will be gathered together to feast with our Savior. Christ will return and all things will fully and finally be made new. We eat in hope, no matter what our circumstances are as we come to the table. Jesus reigns, and we His subjects rejoice that by grace we have a seat at the King’s table!

 

[1] I want to thank Dr. Neil Stewart, pastor of Kirk O’ the Isles Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA, for first sharing these “five looks” with me.

Preparing for the Lord’s Supper

These are questions from J. W. Alexander’s book, Remember Him, published by The Banner of Truth:

Have I seen myself to be, by nature and by practice, a lost and helpless sinner? Have I seen not only the sinfulness of particular acts and omissions, but that my heart is a seat and fountain of sin, and that in me, as unrenewed, there is no good thing? Has a view of this led me to despair of help from myself, and to see that I must be altogether indebted to Christ for salvation, and to the gracious aid of the Holy Spirit for strength and ability to perform my duty?

On what is my hope of acceptance with God founded? On my reformation? on my sorrow for sin? on  my prayers? on my tears? on my good works and religious observances? or on Christ alone, as my all in all? Has Christ ever appeared very precious to me? Have I ever felt great freedom in committing my soul to him? If I have done this, has it been not only to be delivered from the punishment due to sin, but also from the power, pollution, dominion, and very existence of sin within me?

Do I hate all sin, and desire to be delivered from it, without any exception of a favorite lust? Do I pray much to be delivered from sin? Do I strive against it? Do I avoid temptation? Do I, in any measure, obtain the victory over sin? Have I so repented of it, that my soul is really set against it?

Have I counted the cost of following Christ, or of being truly religious? Am I ready to be detached from empty pleasures, from the indulgence of my lusts, and from a sinful conformity to the world? Can I face ridicule, contempt, and serious opposition? In the view of these things, am I willing to take up the cross, and to follow Christ wherever he shall lead me? Is it my solemn purpose, in reliance on his gracious aid, to cleave to him and to his cause and people, to the end of life?

Do I love holiness? Do I earnestly desire to be more and more conformed to God and to his holy law, to bear more and more the likeness of my Redeemer? Am I resolved, in God’s strength, to endeavor conscientiously to perform my whole duty, to God, to my neighbor, and to myself?

Do I conscientiously offer secret prayer daily? Do I ever experience delight in it? Have I a set time, and place, and order of exercises for performing this duty? Is it my purpose, as the head of a household, to maintain the worship of God in my family? Do I read a portion of the Holy Scriptures every day, and in a devout manner? Do I love the Bible? Do I ever perceive a sweetness in its truths? Do I find them suited to my necessities, and do I at times see a wonderful beauty, excellence, and glory in God’s word? Do I take it as the “man of my counsel” (Ps. 119:24), and endeavor to have both heart and life conformed to its demands?

Have I given myself away to God, solemnly and irrevocably, hoping for acceptance through Christ alone, and taking God in Christ, as the covenant God and satisfying portion of my soul? Does the glory of God appear to me the first, greatest, and best of all objects?

Have I such a love to mankind as was unknown to me before? Have I a great desire that the souls of men should be saved, by being brought to the Redeemer? Do I feel a peculiar love to God’s people, because they bear their Savior’s image? Am I at peace with every fellow Christian? If not, have I made endeavors to be reconciled? Do I, from the heart forgive all who have wronged me? Do I desire and endeavor to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ my Savior, more and more? Am I willing to sit at his feet as a little child, and to submit my understanding implicitly to his teaching, imploring his Spirit to guide me into all necessary truth, to save me from all fatal errors, to enable me to receive the truth in the love of it, and to transform me more and more into a likeness of himself?

Do I love the Lord Jesus Christ? Do I especially love him as dying for my sins? Do I desire to remember him, in this his dying love, at his table? Am I sufficiently acquainted with the nature and design of this sacrament? Have I carefully considered the history of our Lord’s sufferings, in the four Gospels? Have I diligently read the accounts of this institution, in the New Testament? Am I ready, as a sinner redeemed by this blood, to go to this ordinance? Am I desirous of communion in it with Christ’s people? Am I willing to submit myself to the government and discipline of the Church? Do I feel it to be important to adorn Christian profession by a holy, exemplary, amiable, and blameless walk? Do I fear to bring a reproach on the cause of Christ? Am I afraid of backsliding, and of being left to return to a state of carelessness and indifference in religion? Have I any sufficient reason for withholding the profession of my faith? And what is my duty, in consideration of the possibility that I may be summoned into eternity before another communion service?

SDG,
Ezra

Preparing for Worship

This coming Sunday at Grace Presbyterian Church, we’ll be celebrating the Lord’s Supper during the morning worship service. God has always given tangible, concrete signs to accompany His covenant of grace; in the Old Covenant he gave the signs of circumcision and the Passover meal, and in the New Covenant He has given the signs of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These pictures of the gospel give us assurance, for they confirm the promises of God to our weak faith. They are designed for the fact that we are embodied – our bodies are a part of our humanity – we are finite, we have five senses, we aren’t merely souls – as we see and touch and taste and smell and feel, our faith and hope and love for Christ are fanned into flame. Come to the table hungry this week; hungry for grace, hungry for God, hungry for all that God is to us in Christ.

Also, this Sunday evening we will have a congregational hymn sing and a time of Q/A – so if you have any questions, feel free to email them to me ahead of time.

SDG,
Ezra

Five Looks at the Lord’s Supper

This past Sunday we celebrated our Lord’s death by gathering around His table and feeding spiritually on His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. I stated that as we come to the table, we need to look in five directions (a hat tip to Pastor Neil Stewart for this “tabletalk”):

1. Within – Paul commands us to examine ourselves, and in so doing to eat of the bread and drink of the cup (I Cor. 11:28). We need to look for sin to confess, for knowledge of Christ and of what the Lord’s Supper is all about, for faith to feed upon him, for repentance, love, and new obedience. If we aren’t Christians, or if we are harboring some secret, unrepented-of sin, we should not come to the table at the present time (cf. Matt. 5:23-24).

2. Back We eat and drink in remembrance of Christ (I Cor. 11:25-26), proclaiming His death. We look to Christ, who died to forgive our sins, who suffered that we might be reconciled to God, who drank the cup of God’s wrath that we might drink the cup of God’s blessing.

3. Up – The Host of this table is Jesus Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God in glory. As we eat and drink, we are not merely remembering, we are communing with our living Savior as well. There is a present aspect of fellowship with our Groom, as we feed upon His body and blood in a spiritual manner, applying unto ourselves Christ crucified and all the benefits of His death. “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?” (I Cor. 10:16).

4. Forward – We “proclaim His death until He comes” (I Cor. 11:26). We look forward to the second coming, when we will have no longer the symbolic meal, but the real deal – we will feast at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

5. Around – We must discern or judge the body rightly, says Paul in I Cor. 11:29. That is, we must realize that we are not only in union and communion with Christ, but with one another, and are called to love and serve one another and forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven us. “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (I Cor. 10:17).

As you come to the table, or as you discuss with your children their coming to the table, I pray that this will aid you in coming in a manner worthy of the Lord who died to save you from your sins (I Cor. 10:27).

SDG,
Ezra


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Thomas Watson on Preparing for the Lord’s Supper

“We must come with:

1. Self-examining hearts.
2. Serious hearts.
3. Intelligent hearts.
4. Longing hearts.
5. Penitent hearts.
6. Sincere hearts.
7. Hearts fired with love to Christ.
8. Humble hearts.
9. Heavenly hearts.
10. Believing hearts.
11. Charitable hearts.
12. Praying hearts.
13. Self-denying hearts.”

Watson writes eloquently in each of these (in the Banner of Truth’s book, The Puritans on the Lord’s Supper), and he closes with these words:  “When we have prepared ourselves in the best manner we can, let us take heed of trusting our preparations. ‘When ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, “We are unprofitable servants”’ (Luke 17:10). Use duty, but do not idolize it. We ought to use duties to fit us for Christ, but we must not make a Christ of our duties. Duty is the golden path to walk in, but not a silver crutch to lean on. Alas! What are all our preparations? God can spy a hole in our best garments (Isa. 64:5)…”

SDG,
Ezra

The Innocence of Christ

We are Grace Presbyterian Church are preparing to come to the Lord’s table this coming Lord’s Day (we celebrate the Lord’s Supper the first Sunday of each month). I’ve been reading Luke’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion, and I was struck yesterday by the good doctor’s repeated emphasis upon the innocence of Christ as he stood before Pilate and the Jews.

Luke 23:2 – The Sanhedrin accuses Jesus of forbidding the people to pay taxes to Caesar, something he had clearly not done (20:25).

23:4 – Pilate declares, “I find not guilt in this man.”

23:14-15 – Again Pilate avows, “…having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.”

23:22 – When the Jews demanded that Jesus be crucified, Pilate “said to them the third time, ‘Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death.’”

23:41 – One of the criminals on the cross tells the other one, “We indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

23:47 – The centurion at the foot of the cross claims, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

23:48 – “All the crowd who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts.”

The righteous one was put to death for the unrighteous; He who knew no sin was made sin for us (and punished for our sin), so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (II Cor. 5:21). Meditate today upon the sinlessness of Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

SDG,
Ezra