The Lord's Supper and our Commitment to Fellowship
Jesus Christ, on the night in which he was betrayed, instituted a simple supper which the disciples as a group were to eat in remembrance of him. "Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to his disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26.26-29 and 1Corinthians 11.23-26). The cup and the bread is a sharing in the blood and body of Christ and defines the Christians who partake together as one body (1Cor 10.16-17: " 16The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.").
The Lord's Supper brings the fellowship life into focus. We are one as a church because of our common share in Christ through his sacrifice for us. A person is only a member of the church through his active share in Christ's sacrifice. This supper also brings into focus the fact that we can only access the life and power of Christ through an active share in the meaning and value of his death for us.
The Bible teaches three commitments that we must make in partaking of this supper:
- The commitment to moral purity (1Cor 5: " 1It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. 2And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
3For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
6Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-- 10not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler--not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you."
- The commitment to be joined to Jesus Christ alone to the exclusion of any other spiritual union (1Cor 10.14-22
: " 14Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
- The commitment to the unity of the church
: " 17But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18For, 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, 19for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. 21For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22What! 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.
23For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25In 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." 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. 28Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
33So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another-- 34if 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.
Only those who have placed their faith in Christ and are committed to living the Christian life should partake of this supper. Do not partake out of social pressure, for to eat and drink in a manner that is not true to the meaning of the body and blood of Christ is to eat and drink judgment to oneself (1Corinthians 11.29).
Next: A closer look at church life
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