Sunday Sermon: ‘Communion, What’s It All About?’

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As many of you know, next week, instead of two services, we are going to meet in the middle and have one service at 10:00 am. We’re calling these combined services ‘The Gathering.’ We’re calling it The Gathering because it’s when all of Twin Oaks gathers together to worship. In our gathering next week, we going to be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. It’s going to be a very special service.

In almost every Communion service we observe, I read this portion of scripture –

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus – the same night in which he was betrayed – took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

In these verses Paul is helping us to understand what a Communion service is about. It’s a memorial of the sacrificial death of our Savior. But Paul had even more to say about a Communion Service.

27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

Because the Lord’s Supper is so sacred and special, we should take time to prepare ourselves to participate. Paul tells us that we should first examine ourselves to make sure that we are doing so in a worthy manner. It is because of these verses that I thought that it would be appropriate for me to preach on the subject of Communion the week before we observe it. So, what is a Communion Service about?

I. The Lord’s Supper

A. The “Lord’s Supper”

One of the most common terms used to describe this sacred celebration is ‘the Lord’s Supper.’ We use that term because Paul used that term. Why is it the Lord’s Supper?

1. Because it was initiated by the Lord

Paul says –

“…the Lord Jesus – the same night in which he was betrayed – took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you…”

When did Jesus do this? On the same night He was betrayed and later arrested and the next day crucified. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all give us an account of this event. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper today because our Lord gave it to us 2,000 years ago.

2. Because it focuses upon the Lord

The bread and the cup is all about Jesus. It is a sacred memorial of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for our sins. Paul says –

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.      

Every time we celebrate Communion, we are proclaiming our faith in Christ’s sacrificial death for our sins.

3. Because Christ is very passionate about this sacred meal

I also think that there’s a third reason why we should call this the Lord’s Supper. The gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus began this evening by saying – “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15) Literally our Lord say, ‘I have had a burning desire to eat this particular Passover with you.’ Jesus was very passionate about eating this Passover with His disciples and I believe that He is still passionate about it. This is ‘the Lord’s Table.’ This is ‘the Lord’s Supper.’ Communion is all about Jesus.

B. The Passover

We should note also that Jesus initiated this sacred supper on the night that He was celebrating the Passover with His disciples. It is from the Jewish Passover that we have received the Lord’s Supper. What is Passover?

On the night that Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, God told the people to celebrate a service that He called Passover.

Exodus 12:7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it… 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. 13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you…

The term Passover comes from vs. 13 – “when I see the blood, I will pass over you…” On the night of the first Passover, God sent an angel throughout the land of Egypt to strike down every firstborn in every household. Only the homes that were marked with the blood of a sacrificial lamb were spared. God told them to make the lintel over their door and the two side posts. Many have viewed this as a perfect illustration of the cross of Jesus.

The Passover was pointing to the day when God would sent His Son, the Lord Jesus, to come and be the ‘Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world.’ (John 1:29)

Paul writes – “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7) The Jews celebrated Passover, looking forward to the time when the Lamb of God would die for our sins, and today we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, looking back at that same sacrifice. Both events point to the cross of Jesus.

II. The Lord’s Sacrifice

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus – the same night in which he was betrayed – took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken – for you: this do in remembrance of me.

The Jews were not only to take the blood of the sacrificial lamb and mark their house, they were to roast the lamb with fire and eat it. By eating the lamb they were saying that they were identifying themselves with what this lamb represented.

When we eat the broken bread and drink of the cup, we are saying that we identify ourselves with Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.

A. Christ’s Broken Body

“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken – for you: this do in remembrance of me.” vs. 24

In order for Jesus to die for our sins, He had to receive a human body. It wasn’t a spirit that died on the cross. It was a man – the perfect man called Jesus.

Concerning His body Jesus said – “A body thou hast prepared Me” (Hebrews 10:5) Jesus was born of the virgin Mary for the specific purpose of receiving a human body so that with this body He could offer His life for our sins.

B. Christ’s Shed Blood     

1 Corinthians 11:25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

The shedding of Christ’s blood symbolizes the pouring out of His life. Jews were forbidden to eat blood because scripture says – ‘the life of the flesh is in the blood.’ (see Leviticus 17:11) It is our blood that keeps our body alive. If you put a tourniquet upon a limb of your body and leave that tourniquet there, cutting off the supply of blood to that limb, the limb in a matter of time will die. It is our blood that carries to the various parts of our body the oxygen and nutrients that we need to survive. Therefore the pouring out of Christ’s blood was a symbol of Him giving His life. Whenever you read of the shedding of Christ’s blood, it refers to a gushing out, a pouring out in large measure. The cross of Jesus was very bloody.

The Bible also says that blood is necessary to cover our sins. (see Leviticus 17:11) We should note that the word ‘atone’ or ‘atonement’ means to cover.

Each year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal on what was known as the Mercy Seat. The Mercy Seat was a golden lid that cover the ark that contained the law of God.

Above the Mercy Seat was the Shekinah glory of God. Below the Mercy Seat was the Law. When the priest sprinkled the blood on the Mercy Seat, he was providing a covering over our disobedience to the Law. As God said to Moses on the night of the Passover – “When I see the blood I will pass over you.”

But there is also something else very important about the sacrificial blood. The sacrificial blood was also used as a symbol of the securing of a covenant.

Often times in ancient days, when two men would form a covenant, they would sacrifice an animal and divide it into two parts. (see Genesis 15) Then the two men would pass between the two halves of the slain animal. This ceremony revealed the surety of their agreement. Life had been taken in order to initiate the covenant and life would be taken (their life) if it was broken.

1. The First (Old) Covenant

We read from Exodus 24 and Hebrews 9 that when Moses initiated the first covenant, three things happened:

a. Moses read all the conditions of the covenant to the people

b. The people promised to obey

c. Moses slayed an animal and sprinkled its blood upon the Law and upon the people, thus signifying the sacredness and sealing of the covenant.

B. The New Covenant

1 Corinthians 11:25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

Scripture teaches us that the people couldn’t fulfill their part of the first covenant. Therefore God needed to establish a new covenant. (see Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Here is something very important to note: the first covenant contained the word ‘if.’ God said, “If you will obey my Laws, I will bless you.” But the second covenant didn’t. In the second covenant, or the New Covenant, God simply said, “I will.”

The old covenant was a conditional covenant based upon man’s goodness. The new covenant is an unconditional covenant based solely upon God’s willingness to be gracious.

When we eat of the bread and drink of the cup, we are saying that we have entered into a covenant relationship with God through our faith in the sacrificial death of His Son, the Lord Jesus.

III. The Lord’s Servants

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 27 Wherefore (therefore) whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

Paul used several terms to describe the Lord’s Supper. He called it the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20), the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 10:20), and Communion. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

The word ‘communion’ is most often translated in the Bible as ‘fellowship.’ Perhaps some of you are familiar with the Greek word – Koinonia. Koinonia means: fellowship, association, or participation. Koinonia refers to a deep relationship.

A. Communion with Christ

 Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” (vs. 24, 25) Whenever we eat of the bread or drink of the cup, we are to take time to reflect  upon our intimate relationship with Christ as our Savior. The eating of the bread and the drinking of the cup are symbols of our communion with Christ.

27 Wherefore (therefore) whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

How can we commune in an unworthy manner? We do so when we partake of the bread and cup with unrepentant sin in our lives.

1 Corinthians 10:21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

That’s strong language but it says clearly what needs to be said. We can’t walk in fellowship with God and the world at the same time. John writes to us –

1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship (communion / koinonia) with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship (communion / koinonia) with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

None of us are worthy to participate in this sacred supper. None of us are perfect and that’s why Christ had to die for our sins. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being clean. It’s about walking in the light as He is in the light. It’s about confessing our sins and finding His forgiveness.

Therefore, I would encourage each of us to examine ourselves during this upcoming week to make sure that all of our sins are under the blood. Paul says, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”

B. Communion with the Body of Christ

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

If we had time to study through the entire book of 1 Corinthians, we would see that this teaching on the Lord’s Supper is a part of a bigger issue. The Christians at Corinth were known, not for their unity, but for their disunity.

1 Corinthians 11:17 Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

The Corinthian church was a very divided church. They were divided into cliques. They were divided over what food and drink. They were divided over spiritual gifts. And they were even divided during the Lord’s Supper. In this very chapter Paul had to scold some of them for coming to the Lord’s Table to get fat and drunk. Many believe that the early church celebrated a meal along with the Communion Service. Jude refers to this meal as a Love Feast or Agape Feast. It was a meal meant to foster their fellowship.But instead, some of the affluent Christians used it as a time to flaunt their wealth and to party.

Therefore, when Paul referred to participating in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, he was thinking not only about being out of fellowship with the Lord, but also about being out of fellowship with their fellow believers.

Go with me for a moment to that night when Jesus initiated this sacred meal with His disciples.

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus – the same night in which he was betrayed – took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

Each disciple’s piece of bread came from the same loaf. All the disciples drank from the same cup. Though we today do not physically break pieces of bread off of one loaf, nor drink out of the same cup, we should all have that mindset. We’re not all doing our own individual thing. We are a body – the body of Christ.

I close with these verses from the book of Ephesians –

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

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