In the typical Baptist church, the Lord’s Supper is typically met with one of three reactions:
1. Overly Cautious, these understand the reverent nature that should accompany the Supper, and in order to not even approach the line of blasphemy, even whispering is forbidden and will be met with either a sharp glance and a gasp, or a swift thump to the back of your head, depending on your age. It is a most somber occasion and any outburst of joy will be frowned upon.
2. Excitement, even if they don’t completely understand what is taking place. They know that there is part mystery and part memorial, and they don’t have it all figured out yet, but they are thrilled to be a part of the service.
3. Excessive Fear, this group reads words in this passage such as “damnation” and “sleep” and are so afraid of themselves or someone else falling into judgement, that they refrain from taking or serving the supper whenever possible.
Though many try to limit the Church’s participation in the Supper, we cannot completely recuse ourselves from it. Jesus, after all, did establish this as one of the ordinances of the Church. Scripture and history both teach us that the Lord’s Supper is to be observed far more often than most Churches would allow. Again, the infrequency of our taking the Supper is normally due to one of the previously mentioned categories.
This morning, our aim, from the text, is to try and understand how we should approach the Lord in His Supper. That ought to be our starting point shouldn’t it? Being reminded that we are not just eating some stale tasting bread, and since we’re Baptists, sipping some overly tart grape juice, but that we are coming into the presence of God. There is no mystical transformation that takes place in the bread and wine; the transformation takes place by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
As we examine the opening verses of our text, Paul is saying that he is not pleased and he does not praise the church for their conduct in the Lord’s Supper. When they come, they are approaching the Supper in the same way that Baptist approach a dinner on the grounds. There are those that rush to the front of the line, get a plate that requires sideboards, and drink way more than their fill. Everyone else is going hungry and thirsty. Paul’s point is that even though “supper” is in the name of the ordinance, it is not to be treated like your average, nightly supper. This is not a tacked on observance. This is not a nonchalant feast. This is the commemoration of the death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So while there are those who err on the side of caution and think that breathing too heavy is a sign of irreverence, at least they are heading in the right direction. Jesus didn’t die so you could get hammered after service. However, Jesus did use wine to show that He is the source of all joy. Our formal ceremonies should never silence our zeal.
Verse 26 helps us to find the balance between the overly cautious and the uber excited. Notice what Paul is saying. Every time we take the Lord’s Supper we are publicly proclaiming the death of Christ. Let that sink in for a moment. Whenever we partake of the Supper, we are doing more than just reminding ourselves of what Christ has done for us, we proclaim what He has done for the world. Each time we gather at the Table, we are giving a resounding testimony to the promises of Scripture.
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
Romans 9:24-26 “Even us whom He has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed He says in Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people I will call my people, and her who was not beloved I will call beloved.’ And in every place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people, they will be called the sons of the living God.’”
Ephesians 2:11-13 “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands, remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were afar off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Habbakuk 2:14 “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”
Psalm 72:8-11, 18-19 “May He have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! May desert tribes bow down before Him, and His enemies lick the dust! May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render Him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before Him, all nations serve Him. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be His glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory.”
As churches all over the face of the globe gather and take communion, they are proclaiming the biblical truth that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all nations, tribes, and tongues. They proclaim that there will come a day when every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father. It proclaims the glorious truth that, as Paul says, Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Taking Communion isn’t just a symbol to those who claim to be saved, it is a sign of hope to those who need to be saved. Well, that certainly sounds like something we should only be doing during a holiday doesn’t it? One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn as a Pastor, or as a Christian in general, is that tradition does not necessarily equate truth.
In the children’s song “This Little Light of Mine” it is said that we will not hide the light of the gospel under a bushel. When it comes to the light of the gospel as seen in the Lord’s Supper, we have hidden it in our formalities, our reluctance, and our insincerity.
(Let me clarify though, only those who are within the Church are allowed to take communion. Yes it is a sign to those who are outside of the Church of the hope of the gospel, but to those who have never repented and believed the gospel, it is forbidden. They have no right take what isn’t theirs.)
Lastly, we come to those words which strike fear in the hearts of those who present the Supper and those who partake of it. Words like “unworthily”, “damnation”, “death”, and “judgment”. These words drive us to fear even taking the cup or eating the bread.
It has been taught that if we approach the Lord’s Supper and have any sin in our lives, then we are unworthy to take it and should refrain. But that makes absolutely no sense! It is precisely because we still suffer the effects of lingering sin that we should run to the Table that God has prepared for us in Christ. Where else are we going to find forgiveness? Where else are we going to find peace? If the Holy Spirit shows us unconfessed and unrepented of sin in our lives, then, instead of hiding and refusing to commune with Christ, we should confess our sin, repent of our sin, and receive communion with a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving that God is gracious and forgiving.
The word “unworthily” here doesn’t mean sinless, it means careless and ties back into the first part of Paul’s argument. The Lord’s Supper isn’t a nonchalant social gathering. It isn’t a place to stuff your face and get tipsy. God had visited the Corinthian church in judgment as verse 30 says, but it does not mean that Christians lost their salvation and were doomed to an eternity in Hell. Scripture clearly teaches us that God chastises those that are His. There is punishment waiting for those who are careless with the Supper, who presume upon the grace offered, who fail to realize just how desperately they need the grace and mercy offered to them in Christ. There is judgment for those who treat the sacrifice of Christ with little to no reverence, just as there is for those who treat the Supper with little to no importance. May it never be a tacked on addition to our service, and may it forever be a regular part of our service.
Again, we proclaim His death each time we take Communion. It drives us to repentance, faith, joy, and peace.
Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”