Sunday, 21 March 2010

The Lord's Supper as Communion

Today we have a communion service. In the Supper the Lord Jesus has fellowship with his people. The Supper is not merely an occasion for remembering what Jesus did, it is also an occasion for feeding on him in a spiritual way. This aspect of feeding is illustrated by the eating of bread and drinking of wine as symbols of his body and blood. The connection between Jesus and his people at the Table is brought about by the Spirit who brings believers to Christ in a spiritual and not a physical way.

This meeting between Christ and his people is to be recognised by faith. It is not their faith that brings about the encounter, but their enjoyment of it is enhanced by a spiritual understanding of what is taking place. By faith, they are to think about what is occurring at the Supper. I would mention briefly two blessings that we should receive from Jesus at the Supper – Christlikeness and assurance.

The purpose of spiritual feeding is to make us spiritually strong, to develop into mature Christians marked by Christlikeness, which is helpfully depicted by the various details listed as the fruit of the Spirit. These details are found in Christ and they are transferred to believers as they meditate on them as they were and are displayed in Jesus. As they think of his love, they become loving; as they focus on his peace, they experience his peace; as they reflect on his joy, they become happy; as they consider his gentleness, they become mild and kind.

The symbols of bread and wine point to the person and work of Christ. When we think of the bread, we should think of his humanity and not just his physical body. Think of the way he displayed love to needy sinners, think of his gentle manners as he interacted with them, think of the joy he experienced when they responded to him, think of the peace he knew in the company of his disciples. When we focus on the wine, which depicts his death, we can think of his sacrificial love, of his gentle response to the soldiers who crucified him, of his delight in rescuing the penitent thief as a picture of how he rescues all condemned sinners, and of the peace he had as he committed his spirit to God.

If our minds and hearts are active in considering Jesus at the Table, he will meet with us and give to us progress in the spiritual life. By receiving from him through this channel of grace, we will become more like him.

Some might say that these benefits will be given through other means of grace, such as preaching and prayer. In a certain sense, that is true. Yet the Lord’s Supper is the only occasion when the family of God share publicly in a means of grace that is exclusively for them. At the Supper Jesus meets with them corporately as a family and gives them the assurance that they are children of God and that he is their Elder Brother. Fresh assurance is therefore also received by taking part in the Supper.

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