Sunday, 1 December 2013

The purpose of the Lord's Supper

What is the point of the Lord's Supper? As a congregation we had our quarterly celebration this evening. 

It is clear from the Bible that the Lord's Supper should not be participated in unthoughtfully. We can see this from Paul's instruction that all intending to take part in the Lord's Supper should examine themselves beforehand. Why should they examine themselves? The main reason is to assess the state of their current devotion to Jesus. How warm are their affections for him? How delighted are they in his forgiveness of their sins? How determined are they to serve him in their daily lives? Self-examination should not be used as a reason for not taking part in the Lord's Supper. If I discover defects in my heart, the proper response is to confess them to God and thank him that the Lord's Supper is for penitent sinners.

Moreover, it is very important to realise that the Lord's Supper is communion. The communion is twofold: through the enabling of the Holy Spirit we have communion with Jesus (which means that we speak to him in our hearts and he speaks to us from his Word, mainly via his promises) and through the Holy Spirit we have communion with one another (which is why we should have our eyes open at the Lord's supper and is also why we sing words that exhort one another). The Lord's Supper is not a private meeting between Jesus and me! Instead it is a communion involving Jesus and us.

Another feature of the Lord's Supper is that it is a time of consumption. We have heard many times that it is a feast, and one reason for a feast is for the participants to enjoy plenty provision given by the host. It can be an insult to a host for a person to nibble when he should be eating plenty. What would cause a person not to eat plenty at a feast? One reason would be ill health and loss of appetite, another reason would be that the individual had filled himself with other food. We can easily see how those reasons illustrate spiritual problems. I can create a loss of spiritual appetite by not engaging in the regular activities that provide spiritual health, such as prayer and Bible reading. I can also fill my inner life with other things, which may be all right in moderation, but if pursued too much they replace Jesus in my heart. It is best to come to the Lord's Supper having prepared by prayer and Bible reading and having refused to fill our minds and hearts with other things. When we do so, we will discover that we can consume a great amount at the King's table.

The Lord's Supper is also a time for consecration. Like all the other means of grace, the Lord's Supper brings potential for the future. In ordinary life, eating a good meal gives strength for the activities we need to do. Similarly the Lord's Supper strengthens our souls, especially with regard to our affections. The outcome of participating in the Supper is that we should love Jesus more and love one another more. We know that the proof of eating a good meal is the strength we have for the tasks at hand. But in doing the tasks we don't think about the strength. Instead we just do them. If we spent the time thinking about where the strength would come from, others would think that we had forgotten we had eaten the meal that provides the strength. We should come away from today's remembrance meal strengthened for serving Jesus. This does not mean that we can ignore the daily sustenance we get from Bible reading and other means of grace. But the Lord's Supper does strengthen us for service.

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