Today is a special day at Rock Valley Bible Church. Not only will we be celebrating the Lord's Supper at the end of our service today. But, we will also be celebrating with eight people as they are baptized at Olson Lake this afternoon. Thus, we will be celebrating the two ordinances that God has given to us to follow: baptism and the Lord's Supper. I thought that it would be good for us to spend our morning thinking about these two ceremonies. And then, as we celebrate them, they will be more meaningful to us.
Now, you may not be familiar with the word, "Ordinance." The word is often used to describe a law, like a city ordinance. It is a rule for a collective group, like a city, to follow. No parking on Main Street. No skateboarding or rollerblading downtown. No jumping off the bridge. Those sorts of things. The word, "Ordinance," implies an authority behind the law that was enacted, such as city officials or governmental authorities. We obey because the authorities have made the regulation.
When used in a religious context, the word, "Ordinance," is used of a religious ceremony that a community follows. It is something that we do because of divine command. God, then, is the authority behind these things.
This morning we will look at the two ordinances that God has given to His church: Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Protestants have often used this word to describe these two events.
This word, "Ordinance," is chosen carefully. Notice that I'm not using
the word, "Sacrament." That's the word that the Roman Catholic Church uses to describe
their religious rituals. They have seven sacraments.
3. Communion (or, The Eucharist)
4. Confession (or Penance)
6. Holy Orders
7. Last Rites (or Anointing the Sick)
And they use this word, "Sacrament," intentionally. The word itself means, "sign of the sacred." One catechism says that a sacrament is "an outward sign made by Jesus Christ to give you grace. ... The sign is an act which the church does with some ceremony and in which Christ is present by His power really doing for us spiritually what the outward action indicates."  In other words, baptism is the means by which people are forgiven of their sins and given a spiritual rebirth and made children of God and heirs of heaven. Through confession of sins to a priest, and through acts of contrition, people receive forgiveness for their sins.
This is not what I mean by an "ordinance." I don't mean anything special that we do that "gives us grace." I don't mean to describe a ceremony that grants forgiveness or new birth or prepares you for entrance into heaven. Rather, I mean that we celebrate these ceremonies because of our faith. We celebrate them because they are a demonstration of our faith. We celebrate them because they symbolize the reality of what has already taken place in our hearts. We celebrate these ordinances because Jesus told us to do so.
We are going to look at the ordinances in the following order: First, baptism. Then, the Lord's Supper.
Baptism is ceremony of initiation. It is administered once in a person's life, soon after their conversion. The Lord's Supper, on the other hand, is a ceremony of remembrance. It is administered often, as we remember the one who died for us.
Through the years, there has been great controversy over these things. There has been controversy over the mode of baptism. Should it be sprinkling? Should it be by dunking? What about when there is no water? Is dousing with buckets of water permissible? There has been controversy over the age of those being baptized. Should infants be baptized? Should young children be baptized? At what age should people be baptized? There has been controversy over the meaning of baptism. Does it bring forgiveness of sins? Does it bring the new birth? Is it all symbolic?
The same is true of the Lord's Supper. Questions have abounded. What should we call it? The Lord's Supper? The Lord's Table? Communion? The Mass? What happens to the bread and wine? Do they transubstantiate into the body and blood of Jesus? Do they consubstantiate so that the body and blood of Jesus are "in, with and under" the elements (as Luther argued)? Does nothing happen? What about the presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper? Is Christ present physically? Is Christ present spiritually in a special way? Is there any special presence of Christ? What about the meaning? Does it "give grace"? Does it "give grace" in any way different than God's others means of giving grace? Or is it merely a memorial? What about the frequency? Should it be celebrated daily? Should it be celebrated weekly? Or monthly? Or yearly?
What about the number of ordinances? Should there be others? Are there seven? (like the Catholic church says) Are there three? (adding foot washing into the mix, like the Plymoth Brethren?)
These are the sorts of questions that have come about as a result of seeking to apply these practices. I'm not under the assumption that I'm going to solve all of the questions. Down through the centuries, many have come to great convictions regarding the answer to some of these questions and have died for their convictions. I'm thinking of the Anabaptists, who lived during the days of the reformation. They came to the conviction from Scripture that only believers should be baptized. And they should be baptized by immersion.
Well, they did so in the midst of a world of Christianity that believed in infant baptism by sprinkling. So, they believed that someone baptized as a child (apart from their own faith) should be baptized again. Thus, the name, "Ana-Baptists" -- "Re-baptizers."
In their baptism, they declared the others to be wrong. They were charged with heresy and sentenced to death by drowning. "If you want to be re-baptized, we will re-baptize you a third time." And so, they tied weights to their victims and threw them into the water. Or, they tied them on posts and let the tide role in over their heads.
Blood has also been shed over matters of the Lord's Supper as well. Untold numbers of Lollards (of the 14th century) died at the hand of the church because of their denial of the mass. At the Council of Trent (on September 17, 1526) at session 22, canon #1: "If any one saith, that in the Mass a true and real Sacrifice is not offered to God; or that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema." Ridley and Latimer were burned at the stake, in part because of their denial of the mass.
I'm not interested in shedding blood this morning. Nor am I particularly interested in putting forth controversy. I merely want to spend some time in the Scripture, looking at two events in the gospel of Luke that put forth baptism and the Lord's Supper.
So, open your Bibles to the book of Luke, chapter 3.
Let's begin with ...
1. Baptism (Luke 3:1-14).
We are going to look at the baptism of John. We will look at John's baptism because his baptism was a prototype of the baptism of the early church. When Jesus told his disciples to "Go ... and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19), they would have done much the same thing that John the Baptist did. In several places, the book of John places the baptism of John right alongside the baptism of the disciples. "After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing" (John 3:22). "John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim" (John 3:23). "Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were)" (John 4:1-2). John and Jesus' disciples were doing the same thing in their baptism.
And so, in this way, John's baptism becomes a prototype of the baptism of the early church. When the early church begins to baptize people in the name of Christ, we see the same elements that we see in John's baptism.
Let's begin in Luke 3, ...
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;
In verses 1 and 2, we see a reference to time. During the days of the Bible, they didn't have numbers for years like we do -- this is 2012. Rather, everything was measured in terms of when the kings reigned. And that's what we have in verse 1. Luke mentions Tiberius, ruler over the Roman empire. Luke mentions Pilate, ruler of Judea in the south. Luke mentions Herod, ruler of Galilee in the north, along with two other tetrarchs (Philip and Lysanias).
In verse 2, Luke also mentions the names of the high priests during this time: Annas and Caiaphas. Annas was the high priest from 6 A. D. until 15 A. D., at which time his son, Eleazar took over for two years (16-17 A. D.) Then, his son-in-law, Caiaphas was high priest for 20 years (from 18 A.D. until 37 A. D.). Annas is mentioned here because he still held much power, even though he was technically not the high priest at this time (John 18:13-27). Luke mentions that these things took place In the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, which puts it something like 28, 29 A. D..
During these days, John the Baptist arrived on the scene. He spent his days along the Jordan River, preaching. Verse 3 describes his preaching -- it was "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."
Now, John is down by the river for a reason. In order to baptize, you need water. Really, in order to "baptize," you need lots of water. The word, "baptism" means, "immersion" it means "dunked." Ships that have been sunk are described as being "baptized." Animals that have drowned are described as being "baptized." When objects were found floating on top of the water after a flood, they were "not baptized." That's why you need lots of water. John's gospel said of John that he was "baptizing in Aeneon near Salim, because there was much water there" (John 3:23).
John's baptism was a "baptism of repentance." In other words, John was baptizing those people who had repented of their sins. Then, they were baptized. Matthew's gospel describes the baptism of John like this, "They were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins" (Matthew 3:6). That's what repentance is. It's confessing your sins. It's turning from your sins. And as people were doing that, John was baptizing them, thereby symbolizing the forgiveness of sins.
John's baptism was a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (verse 3). It's not that the baptism gave forgiveness. It's that the baptism symbolized forgiveness. You are surrounded by water. You are immersed in the water. You come up out of the water soaking wet and clean.
This is what John the Baptist was doing. This is what the early church did. The same elements were always present -- repentance, forgiveness, immersion. When people repented of their sin and came to faith in Christ, they were immersed in the water. Not to gain forgiveness. But, as a sign of their forgiveness.
Time after time after time, you can see this same thing happen. People come to faith, and they are baptized as an expression of their faith. In the book of Acts, you see this on the day of Pentecost, when 3,000 people repented of their sins and believed and were baptized (Acts 2:41). You see this with the Ethiopian Eunuch. When the eunuch believed in Jesus, he was immersed in water (Acts 8:35-37). When the apostle Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus and spent several days praying, he repented of his former life, believed in Jesus and was baptized (Acts 9:18-22).
And this is what we will celebrate at Olson Lake this afternoon. Those being baptized will give their testimony of how they came to faith in Christ. They will speak of their sins and confess their sinful ways. But, they will also speak of the forgiveness that they found in Christ. They will tell of the fruit that Christ has worked in their life.
John's baptism was a precursor to Christian baptism today. In so doing, he was preparing the way for the Messiah. That's what verses 4-6 say, ...
as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
'Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight.
Every ravine will be filled,
And every mountain and hill will be brought low;
The crooked will become straight,
And the rough roads smooth;
And all flesh will see the salvation of God.'"
John was the forerunner to the Messiah. He was smoothing the way for Jesus to come. As people repented of their sins, they were prepared to embrace the Messiah. But, not all were being prepared. Not all were being baptized by John. Look at verse 7, ...
So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, ...
This isn't a particularly soft, easy message that John was preaching. He was preaching sin ("you brood of vipers" - verse 7). He was preaching wrath ("who warned you to flee from the wrath to come" - verse 7). He was preaching repentance (verse 8). Because, there were some who were going out to John to be baptized by Him, who weren't repentant.
Can you picture it? Crowds and crowds of people are coming to John to be baptized by Him. As Matthew wrote, "Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan" (Matt. 3:5). Many were being baptized. And I believe that many were going along with the crowd. They were going out to be baptized because they saw it was the thing to do. It was the religious experience to be had.
But, John knew that not everyone was truly repentant. Thus the warnings to people. And John didn't baptize them.
It appears that some were trusting in their heritage, particularly the Pharisees and Sadducees (see Matthew 3:7-9). "We are Jews! We are Abraham's descendents! We are God's children! We are fine!" To this, John gives the warning, ...
... and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
In other words, don't trust your religious heritage. God can very well cut you down. Just because your parents are believers, or you go to a good church, doesn't mean you are saved. And so, repent!
I love the questions that come to John, beginning in verse 10. They show us what repentance looks like.
And the crowds were questioning him, saying, "Then what shall we do?" And he would answer and say to them, "The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise." And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Collect no more than what you have been ordered to." Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, "And what about us, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages."
This is repentance. No longer looking to yourself. But rather, looking to others. It is sharing your resources with those in need (verse 11). It is operating a fair business (verse 13). It is using your authority appropriately (verse 14). It is being content with that you have (verse 14).
Such things are appropriate fruits of repentance. For those who bore such fruit, I'm sure that John baptized them. But, for those who didn't, I'm sure that John refused to baptize them.
Turn over to Luke 7. Jesus speaks about John the Baptist here.
When the messengers of John had left, He began to speak to the crowds about John, "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,
'Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
Who will prepare Your way before You.'
I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God's justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.
Well, there is the baptism of John. Those who were sinners, and knew that they were sinners, were baptized. But, those who were righteous in their own eyes were not. They didn't need John's baptism. They didn't need repentance. They were already good enough. Therefore, they didn't identify with the forerunner, and they missed their Messiah.
Let me say this. Matthew 28:18-20 is a command to all. You have need to be baptized. You have need to recognize your sin. You have need to identify with Christ. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, but haven't been baptized, I would encourage you to do so today at the beach at 3pm.
Well, let's look next at ...
2. The Lord's Supper (Luke 22:14-23)
Turn in your Bibles to Luke, chapter 22. Here we have Luke's account of
when the Lord's Supper was inaugurated. This was the last meal that Jesus would have
upon the earth. Jesus knew that it would be His last meal as He told His disciples, "I
say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God"
(22:16). "I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the
kingdom of God comes" (22:18).
It was a Passover meal.
Though this was His last meal on earth, He was greatly anticipating this meal. He said, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (22:15). Let's read the full account:
And when the hour had come He reclined [at the 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 say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And when He had taken a cup [and] given thanks, He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." And when He had taken [some] bread [and] 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 in the same way [He took] the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
It is no accident that this meal was chosen as His last. Jesus knew that He was going to die. All of the gospel accounts tell us that Jesus repeatedly telling His disciples that He was going to Jerusalem, where He was going to be handed up to the religious leaders of the day, and be killed. For instance, in Luke 9:22, we read, "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day." The turning point in the gospel of Luke is found in 9:51, where Luke writes, "And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem." He was going to Jerusalem to die.
Jesus knew that the time of His death was upon Him. And our Lord went through great pains to see that He might eat of this meal with His disciples.
a. Preparation for the Passover (Luke 22:14)
This hour was not the hour of His death. This hour was the hour of the Passover meal, for which Jesus went through great lengths to prepare. Look back at verses 7-13 to see how carefully Jesus planned His last meal.
Then came the [first] day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover [lamb] had to be sacrificed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it." And they said to Him, "Where do You want us to prepare it?" And He said to them, "Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters. And you shall say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' And he will show you a large, furnished, upper room; prepare it there." And they departed and found [everything] just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
He told Peter and John to go ahead of the rest of the apostles and prepare it. He gave them very specific directions. Go to Jerusalem. Find a man carrying a pitcher of water. Speak to him. He will show you the room we will use. Prepare the meal there.
As you women know, who have others in your home for meals. It takes much preparation to serve a meal, especially for two men, who aren't used to such preparations. Peter and John would have set the table for 13 (the 12 disciples and Jesus). They would have made sure that they had at least three ingredients (as required in Exodus 12): a Lamb (for a sacrifice) (Exodus 12:3-8), unleavened bread (because the Lord's people left in haste) (Exodus 12:8), and bitter herbs (because their time in Egypt was a difficult time) (Exodus 12:8).
We also know that they prepared drinks for the meal. For, we see Jesus, during the meal (in verses 18, 20), taking "the fruit of the vine," the common drink of the day. On top of the basic Biblical requirements for the meal, they probably prepared other things (like the Jews do today). They probably prepared the karpas (green vegetables) and the haroset (the sweet mixture of apples, nuts, and cinnamon).
The traditions of the Passover meal are rich and interesting. We save it for another time to look more extensively into the current Jewish practice, which points to Jesus Christ as Messiah in an unbelievably clear way. But here, I have given you just enough to give you a taste of what transpired in the setting up of the place for the Passover.
Jesus had certainly eaten this meal before with the disciples. They had been together in ministry for over three years. The Passover was the biggest Jewish holiday of the year. But, there was something special about this particular Passover, which Jesus anticipated with great delight.
b. Anticipation of the Passover (Luke 22:15-18)
Look at what Jesus said in verse 15, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." The KJV gives you the sense of the Greek, "With desire I have desired to eat this Passover." This is a common Hebrew way of saying something with great force, emotion, and surety. For instance, in Genesis 3:16, God spoke to Adam and said, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely (or, more literally to get the sense of the idiom, 'eating you may eat'); but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die (or, 'dying you shall die')." Notice how we have translated this idiom. "You may eat freely." "You shall surely die."
Here in Luke 22we see Him say, "I have earnestly desired to eat." Jesus tells the disciples here that He is greatly, greatly, greatly, greatly, desiring to eat this meal with them. Perhaps we can compare this to the desire of our own precious children, who greatly desire to eat breakfast on Christmas morning, because they know that after breakfast, they get to open their presents! The question that naturally comes to my mind when Jesus says this is, "why did He so desire to eat the meal?"
Let me give three reasons for Jesus' desire. I give credit to Albert Barnes, the commentator, for giving seed to these reasons.
1. He loved the Passover Holiday.
The Passover holiday, like the Sabbath, was instituted by God to be a blessing for His people. Passover was established to help Israel remember God's great work of redemption in delivering Israel from under the tyranny of the Egyptians. It was a time in which the entire nation would reflect upon the goodness and greatness of God to Israel. It was usually a time of great fellowship with others.
As Jesus walked the earth in His humanity, what more would Jesus love than the earthly blessings and benefits of the gathering of His closest companions to celebrate God's redeeming work?
This past week, we were able to celebrate the 4th of July. It is a day in which we, as a nation, celebrate our Independence from the tyranny of England's taxation. This day has been established, as most holidays are, to be a blessing for us. We get a day off work. There are fireworks at the end of the day. Likewise, the Passover was established to be a blessing and rest to Israel. Even today, the Orthodox Jews do no work during the previous week leading up to the Passover celebration.
2. He loved His disciples.
Jesus knew that this was the last time that He would celebrate this holiday with them (verses 16 and 18). After this meal, they would depart from one another. This Passover was the last opportunity He had to prepare them for His death and departure. Not only would He suffer and die, but the apostles also would suffer greatly for following Christ.
During and after the Passover, Jesus warns the apostles on several occasions of the danger that awaits them. Within hours of celebrating the Passover, Jesus told Peter, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31,32).
During His prayer in Gethsemane, He warned his sleepy disciples, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation" (Luke 22:40). When Jesus found them asleep, He said, "Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation" (Luke 22:46).
Tradition has it that all but one of the apostles suffered martyrdom for their faith in Christ Jesus. Jesus had one last opportunity to prepare His disciples for the difficulties that would soon follow.
3. He loved the holiday, the disciples, and the church.
At this particular Passover meal, Jesus was to institute an ordinance, which would be for the edification of all Christians, who would ever live. For followers of Christ, no longer would this event be known as the Passover, but it would be known as the Lord's Supper, which Jesus told us to do (verse 19, "this do in remembrance of Me"). The celebration of the Passover was established as a reminder to the Jewish people of the last meal eaten while they were in bondage in Egypt. God gave the Passover to remember Israel's redemption when the angel of death passed over the homes where the blood of a lamb had been applied to the lintels of the doors.
But Jesus was going to change all of this and point the Passover to the True Passover Lamb -- Himself! This would edify Christians for all time to come.
c. Transformation of the Passover (Luke 22:19-22)
The key comes in verse 19, "And when He had taken some bread and 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.'" This certainly would have startled the apostles, who first heard these words. God had created the Passover feast to be celebrated as a remembrance of the Lord's deliverance of the sons of Israel from Egypt. He had instructed the Israelites to perform this ordinance "for you and your children forever" (Exodus 12:24). For 1500 years, Israel had done so. They had remembered how the LORDredeemed Israel from the bondage of slavery.
Today, the Jewish people have developed an elaborate ritual of words to say at the Passover feast. There is a book, called the Hagadah (which means, "the telling"), which details the ritual surrounding the Passover feast. We don't know exactly how long the Jewish people have been following this exact ritual, but by the time of Christ, there were certainly some customary words that were spoken at every Passover meal -- words which the disciples would have known quite well.
But now in the midst of the meal, Jesus says something that had never been said before at a Passover meal. Jesus says, "Do this in remembrance of Me!" Jesus was transforming this holiday away from a celebration of God's redemption in Israel to a celebration of Himself! When the apostles heard Jesus speak these words, their ears must have perked up. For years, they had participated in the feast of the Passover, which always pointed back to God's redemption of Israel. But now, Jesus points the Passover celebration to Himself.
The disciples would have noticed what change Jesus was making. For instance, suppose that I quoted for you the following verse of Scripture like this, "For God so loved the world, that He gave me, that whoever believes in me shall not perish, but have eternal life." (sort of John 3:16). You hear that and you protest, "That's not right!" It's not believing in you! It's believing in Jesus!
Perhaps they might have protested in their minds what Jesus just said. God had established the ritual 1500 years prior, would have been a tremendous shock to the apostles with Him at the dinner table that night, as they were not fully understanding the implications of Jesus' upcoming death. But, Jesus changed the Passover forever.
Praise the Lord that Jesus changed this holiday! It has been a great edification to the church down through the ages. How quickly we can "forget" Jesus. How quickly we can involve ourselves in other things. But this morning as we celebrate the Lord's Supper, we come to "Remember Jesus."
We remember Jesus, the great Author and Perfecter of faith (Heb. 12:2). We remember Jesus, the one who will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). We remember Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). We remember Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). We remember Jesus, the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation (Col. 1:14). We remember Jesus, the Head of the church (Col. 1:18). We remember Jesus, who is pre-eminent - has the first place in everything (Col. 1:19).
If somebody had set about to write a religious fiction novel, I'm not sure that they ever could have dreamed up the incredible imagery, which God worked about in actual history. As the Passover was initiated on the evening before the redemption of Israel, so was the Lord's Supper initiated on the evening before the redemption of God's people from their sins. It was necessary that the blood of the Passover Lamb was shed, so the blood of Jesus was shed for our sins. The Passover Lamb was unblemished and spotless, so Jesus Christ was sinless and undefiled. The blood was sprinkled on the doorposts for protection, so the blood of Jesus Christ is our precious blood that protects us. ("When I see the blood I will pass over you" (Ex. 12:13).) The angel of death was upon those without the blood, so the wrath of God is upon anyone apart from the blood of Jesus Christ. These parallels are so secure that Paul calls Christ "our Passover [who] has been sacrificed" (1 Cor. 5:7).
Jesus radically transformed the Passover. No longer is it to be done in
remembrance of God's redemptive work in Israel.
Jesus changed the course of history, when he spoke these words, "Do this in remembrance of Me."
Let's focus our hearts upon the ...
d. Celebration of the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-29)
It is really quite simple. As Luke records for us here, Jesus took bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples to eat. Jesus took the cup, blessed it and everyone drank. Yet, as simple as it is, Paul, in 1 Corinthians gives us some warnings in participating in the Lord's Supper. Turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians, chapter 11.
We won't exposit these verses fully now. But I want to have us look at a few verses. In 1 verses 23-25, Paul gives the account of what Jesus did on the evening of the Passover. In verses 26 and following, Paul gives an interpretation of our practice today. "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (1 Cor. 11:26).
As we share this meal together, we are making a proclamation. We are proclaiming the death of Jesus Christ. Particularly, by eating, we are proclaiming our faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ. With this proclamation comes a responsibility: we need to be sure that we proclaim it rightly. Look at the next few verses.
1 Corinthians 11:27-29
Therefore 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. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.
You can come here this morning and go through the motions of this supper and actually bring judgment upon yourself (verse 29). You will bring this judgment if you eat in "an unworthy manner" (verse 27). The question becomes, what is it to participate in this supper in an unworthy manner?
Let me give you a few ways in which this supper may be taken in an unworthy manner.
First, you participate in an unworthy manner if you take the supper yet are not a believer in Jesus Christ. In participating, you are saying, "I am of Jesus Christ and it is in His blood alone that I place my faith and trust." As the hymn writer says, "Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling." Eating this meal doesn't save you. Eating this meal is an expression of your faith in Jesus alone to save. If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, eating this supper is eating in an unworthy manner.
Second, you participate in an unworthy manner if you take the supper yet are unrepentant of some particular sin. In participating of this meal, you are saying, "I have repented of my sins." You are saying, "Jesus has all of me." Sure, there is sin you struggle with - that's the sanctification process. But, there ought not to be sin you are engaged in that you are determined to keep. There ought not to be any sin which you are refusing to release.
Perhaps there are things you are reading of which you need to repent. Perhaps you are watching things God hates. Perhaps you hold a grudge against another person, whom you simply won't forgive. These all are sins which need to be confessed. To remain unrepentant and yet still eat the bread and drink from the cup in this supper is to do so in an unworthy manner.
If either of these cases represent you today, I give you two options.
Cry out to God now and repent of your sin. Pledge before God to hate your sin and seek His help in overcoming it. "Lord, Help my unbelief".
Or if you remain unrepentant, simply let the bread and the cup pass by you. Please do not take. For your own soul, do not eat or drink.
Finally, Paul says, "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup" (1 Cor. 11:28). Examine yourself now and then we will participate in this glorious supper together.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
July 8, 2012 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.