Holy Ordinance

1 Corinthians

Holy Ordinance

March 20th, 1955 @ 10:50 AM

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

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: 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. 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. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
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HOLY ORDINANCE

W.A. Criswell

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

3-20-55     10:50 a.m.

 

           

You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message on Church Covenant Day.  We are preaching through the Book of 1 Corinthians in our reaching out for the truth of God revealed in His Word. And I thought this morning I would take the admonition of Paul concerning the holy ordinance that we always observe upon this high and special occasion.  Paul begins his letter, “Paul, a called apostle unto the church of God which is at Corinth” [1 Corinthians 1:1-2].  Then in the eleventh chapter of his book, he writes, “Keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” [1 Corinthians 11:2].

            To us, a church is far different from just a convocation of Christian people.  A church is a group, a band of baptized believers, who have committed themselves to Christ, who have voluntarily joined themselves together in a common determination to preach the gospel in the earth, to teach the Word of God, to convert the lost, and to keep inviolate and holy the sacred ordinances committed to their care.

            The admonition of the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth, “Keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” [1 Corinthians 11:2].  And the ordinance that he speaks of in the eleventh chapter of his first Corinthian letter is the sacred holy ordinance of the breaking of bread and the sharing of the cup.

For I have received of the Lord Jesus that which also I delivered unto you, That 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: this do in remembrance of Me.

After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till He come.

[1 Corinthians 11:23-26]

                                                                                                                                                                    

            I speak first therefore of the solemnity of the occasion upon which this holy ordinance was instituted, “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” [1 Corinthians 11:23].  Our memorial hearkens back to that holy and sacred hour when the disciples and the Lord sat down together for the memorial of the Passover Feast.  It was a night that had been observed in Israel for generations and for centuries.   And that night, while they were observing the Passover Feast, the Lord made an announcement to His disciples,  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, one of you shall betray Me this night“ [Matthew  26:21]. 

            And the disciples searchingly, heart-brokenly looking into the face of their Master said: Lord, could it be I? Is it I? Is it I?  Each one of them asked and Judas asked, “Lord, is it I?” [Matthew 26:22, 25].  He asked it contemptuously; he asked it facetiously; he asked it in irony. “You think it is I?” 

            Simon Peter said to John, Simon seated here and John seated here, leaning as they did in Oriental fashion on their left arm, his head next to the bosom of our the Lord Jesus, Simon whispered to John, saying, “Ask Him who it is” [John 13:23-25].  And John asked and Jesus said, “He it is, to whom I shall give the sop, after I dip it in the dish” [John 13:26].   He took a piece of bread, dipped it in the dish, and handed it to Judas Iscariot, the only disciple from Judea; the rest were all Galileans, saying, “What thou doest, do quickly” [John 13:27]. 

            “And he went out: and it was night” [John 13:30].  Isn’t that strange? “And it was night,” John would say, “and it was night…and he went out”; the other disciples thought that he had gone out to buy bread [John 13:29].  Some of them thought he had gone out to do something for the poor.  John and Peter knew he had gone out to keep his bargain.  He had treacherously agreed to sell the Savior’s life for thirty pieces of silver [Matthew 26:14-15]

            The Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, that night the Lord Jesus entered Gethsemane.  That night, Judas kissed Him [Matthew 26:47-49].  That night, He was arraigned before Caiaphas, Annas, the Sanhedrin, and Pontius Pilate [John 18:12-38].  And the next morning, He was raised between the earth and the sky [John 19:16-34] and made a propitiation for our sins [1 John 2:2, 4:10].  “That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed”: while they were eating supper, “He took bread, and blessed it” [1 Corinthians 11:23-24]

            And now I speak of the deep significance of the elements of this memorial table.  He took bread and consecrated it.  He set it aside in prayer.  It is called the Eucharist because of the Greek word that means “the blessing, the consecration, the prayer.”  The Greek word is eucharist; it is the Eucharist.   He took bread and consecrated it. He took bread and gave it a meaning, set it aside.  This is not just bread any longer.  This is bread with a meaning, with a deep and eternal significance.

            This is just not the pressed fruit of the vine, but this in its consecration has another significance and another meaning.  He took bread, and when He had blessed it, consecrated it, He brake it and said, “This is My body” [1 Corinthians 11:24].  And He took the cup after He Himself had supped saying, “This is My blood.  All of you drink of it.  This do in remembrance of Me” [Matthew 26:27; 1 Corinthians 11:25].

            The bread that we break is the body of Christ, and the fruit of the vine that we share is the blood of Christ [1 Corinthians 11:24-25]; the memorial of that day when our sins were paid for [1 John 2:2], when the blood of Christ was offered as a libation before God, when it was spilled out on the ground, and when His hands, His feet, and His side were riven, and the Savior died [John 19:16-34].  “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.” [John 6:53].  The eternal significance of these elements, they point to the crucifixion of the Son of God who died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3].

            These elements have one other eternal significance.  “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26].   Then beyond death, beyond the grave, we believe in life, in resurrection, in triumph, in victory [1 John 5:4].  We observe this memorial until He come.  Then we will not observe it anymore, for death has died and the grave is put away, and all that is left is the triump, and the victory, and the glory, and the reality, and the presence of the living Lord, Christ Jesus our Savior, and we, living with Him [John 14:3]. The memorial points back to the day when the Savior died [1 Corinthians 11:26].  It looks forward to the glorious hour of triumph when He comes to be the reigning Lord and King of the quick and the dead [Revelation 11:15].

            I am now to speak of the institution that keeps inviolate the ordinance: Paul the apostle of Christ to the church of God at Corinth [1 Corinthians 1:1-2], “Keep the ordinances, as I delivered them unto you” [1 Corinthians 11:2].  This is an ordinance that is to be kept inviolate, not by the senate of the United States, not by the legislature of Texas, not by the parliament of England, not by the council of religious education, not by the civic fraternities of our town, not by any other group, but by the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a church ordinance.  It is placed in the heart of the church.  To the church of Corinth, “Keep the ordinances, as I delivered them unto you” [1 Corinthians 11:2].  And that is the reason that sometimes we are spoken of as closed communionists.  To us, this is our commitment to the Word of God.

            Jesus came and spake unto them saying,

All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.

Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all of the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: 

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:  and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age.

[Matthew 28:18-20]

           

            So our Lord says one, two, three, “All authority is given unto Me” [Matthew 28:18].  Therefore, on the basis of His Lordship He has the right to command.  “Therefore, go ye and make disciples of all the nations” [Matthew 28:19].  That is first.  We are to be Christians, we are to be saved, that is first.   Second: we are to be baptized, “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28:19].  Third: we are then to observe the things Christ hath command us to keep, one of which is the ordinance of the breaking of bread [Matthew 28:20].

            Now to us, those three things are as inspired in their order as they are in their content. We believe that the content of the Great Commission is inspired, that it came from the lips of Jesus our Lord Himself.  We also believe that the order is inspired.  We believe that the order is as inspired as the content itself. 

  • First, we are to be saved.  We are to be Christians.  We are to give ourselves to God.  We are consciously to take the Lord Jesus as our Savior in forgiveness of sins.   First, we are to become a disciple of the Lord Jesus [Matthew 28:19]
  • Second, we are to be baptized, “Buried with the Lord in the likeness of His death, and raised in the likeness of His resurrection” [Romans 6:3-5].  We are, second, to be baptized [Matthew 28:19]
  • And third, we are then to partake of the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 28:20].

 

And if we are true to the Bible, we will faithfully observe those things in that order. 

  • First, we are to be saved.  We are to give our hearts to Christ [Acts 4:12]
  • Second, we are to be baptized in obedience to His command, upon that confession of faith, “What doth hinder me to be baptized?”   “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.  I believe.  And he commanded the chariot to stand still:  and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him” [Acts 8:36-38].  Buried in the likeness of His death, raised in the likeness of His resurrection [Romans 6:3-5]
  • Then after our baptism, we become a part of the body of Christ, of the fellowship of Jesus, in the church of the living God [1 Corinthians 12:13].  And in that church is this holy and sacred ordinance [1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. These three things, and that is why they say you are “Closed communionists.”

 

            Well, we don’t mind what people might say.  What we mind to do is this; how is it written in this Book?  How is it that God said it?  What is the Word?   If you will tell me what God has said, as He is my helper, I shall faithfully try to obey.  And that is it.  And that is all of it.

            I am now to speak of those who are to come, who dares to share in this cup and break this bread.  “Whosoever therefore shall eat this bread,” I Corinthians 11:27-29:

 

Whosoever therefore shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 

For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

[1 Corinthians 11:27-30]

           

            I have had deacons that I did not notice it, but other people came to me and said, “Did you know that the deacon does not take the Lord’s Supper himself.  He will serve it to others, but himself, he will not partake.”   In this church, I have had people come to me, saying, “Did you know my husband does not take the Lord’s Supper in the church?”  Then when I ask why, it is always this passage, he says he is not worthy; he is not worthy, and he refuses to partake because it says “if one is not worthy, then he drinks and he eats to the damnation of his soul” [1 Corinthians 11:27-29].

            Well, if that were true, if that were true, if that is what God said, then we would not be observing it here, for no one of us is worthy.  Who could come and say, “I am worth the blood, and the body, and the suffering, and the crucifixion, and the death of the Son of God?”  Who could say that he was?  Not any of us.  Not any of us.  We would not observe it.  We would not be worthy, nor any of us to partake.  But, it is too bad that we don’t read the Scriptures, rightly dividing the Word of truth with an understanding heart, just looking at the language of it if nothing else.

 

Whosoever therefore shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of Jesus. 

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat and drink.

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh condemnation, judgment to himself.

[1 Corinthians 11:27-29]

 

            Now, that is an adverb.  There is no such thing as an adjective that I can remember that ends in an “ly.”  It is the mark of an adverb. All of your words that end in “ly” are adverbs.  Adverbs do not modify substantives, they modify verbs; adjectives modify nouns and substantives, adverbs modify verbs.  What this says here is, “Whosoever drinks, whosoever eats unworthily,” it modifies the verb.  That is, when you do it in an unworthy manner, in an unworthy way, when you do the thing unworthily.  It is easy to see what was the matter here.  Over here in this Corinthian church in the eleventh chapter of the first Corinthians letter, the twenty-first verse, 

 

When you come together you cannot take the Lord’s Supper.

For in eating every one taketh before his own supper: and one is hungry and another is drunken.

What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not?  What shall I say to you?  shall I praise you in this?  I praise ye not.

[1 Corinthians 11:20-22]

                                                                                                                                                                    

            In that first church, people gathered together, and they had what you would call a covered dish luncheon.  That is what you would call it today. The people brought food, and they had an agapē, that is the Greek for it; a love feast.  When people say they do not believe in eating at the church, it is the funniest thing to me in the world because that is about all they did do in the church; they gathered together and ate together [Acts 2:41-42, 46].  And it is good for you to eat together.  People who eat together like one another.  It is a fine fellowship.  If there is a family you especially love, a member of your group, chances are you will have them out to dinner, and they will invite you. That has been true ever since God made the world. The first sacrifice was a communal meal between God and the people who worshipped Him. When the first Christians gathered together, they ate together.  And at the end of the meal, they observed the Lord’s Supper. 

So they gathered there, and they came out of idolatry.  They were untaught people.  They were new Christians, and they would bring their food, and the poor man would hardly bring anything, and a well-to-do man would bring a repast.  And when the signal was given for them to eat, brother, they dived in.  And the man that brought his own food, why, he ate his own food, he and his family and his group.  And the poor people who didn’t bring anything or couldn’t bring anything or much of anything, they went away, and they were hungry, and didn’t get anything to eat.  And some of them were drunken on it [1 Corinthians 11:17-21].  They just gourmandized, and it was a first-class mess! 

And Paul said for you to gather together in the church for the observance of the Lord’s Supper and do a thing like that is an affront to God: “Whosoever shall come and drink and eat unworthily in a manner like that shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” [1 Corinthians 11:27]. That is, sin crucified the Lord Jesus, and that sin, to come to this sacred holy hour without a deep discerning of the Lord’s body, is an affront to God.

            Now when you come, examine your motive [1 Corinthians 11:28].  Are you reverent?  Are you obedient?  Are you humble, in the right heart and in the right spirit?   Are you partaking of the bread and of the cup?  If you are, then partake.  If you are light, trippingly indifferent, if it is nothing, then don’t. But doing it worthily, in a worthy, worthy manner, then it can be meaningful and ought to be.

            And now, I speak last of that ultimate meaning.  What is ultimately its meaning?  “The cup of blessing which we bless,” 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?”

            “I come to the Lord’s Table.  I am going to commune with my mother.  I am going to commune with my husband.  I am going to commune with my friends and my relatives and my neighbors.”   No, we have a Mother’s Day for our mothers.  We have a Baby Day for our children.  We have a Father’s Day for our fathers.  We have a homecoming day maybe for our friends and neighbors.  But in the Lord’s Supper, in the Lord’s Table, our communion is with Christ.  This bread is of Him.  I am communing with the body of Christ.  This blood is of Him.  I am communing with the blood of Christ.  This is something between you and Christ.  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? [1 Corinthians 10:16].  This is something between you and Him.  Insofar as we can, we are to blot out now all the rest of this world.  Our communion is between us and Him.

            Now, who is to come?  Sinners, sinners.  If you are not a sinner, then no need.  “This is My blood, which is shed for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:28].  If you are not lost and need God, if you are not poor and need Him, if you are not weak and need strength, if you are all-sufficient and all-adequate in yourself, then you don’t need to come.  You are just in yourself.  You can solve all your own problems.  You can forgive your own sins.  You can raise your own self from the dead. You can present yourself in heaven.  You don’t need Him, so there is no need for you to come.

            But if you have sinned and need a Savior, if you have fallen short and need God, if you are lost and need  find the way, if you grow old and face death, if the pale horseman comes and you are not equal, then you come.  He died for you [1 Corinthians 15:3].  He was raised for you [Romans 4:25].  He is your Savior.  You come.  This is an expression of our need of Him [1 Corinthians 11:23-29].

           

What can wash away my sins?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus;

What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

[“Nothing But the Blood,” by Robert Lowry]

 

Could my tears forever flow?

Could my zeal no languor know?

These for sin could not atone.

Thou must save, and Thou alone.

In my hand no price I bring.

Simply to Thy cross I cling.

[“Rock of Ages,” by Augustus M. Toplady]

 

There is a fountain filled with blood,

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains:

 [“There is a Fountain,” by William Cowper]

           

It’s for you, if you are a sinner.  It’s for you, if you need a Savior.  It’s for you, if you want to come to God.

            Now, I am going to change our invitation hymn.  We are going to sing number 48, number 48, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” number 48.  And while we sing it and the pastor is here, somebody you, give his heart to Jesus.  Somebody you, come into the fellowship of His church.  While we sing this appeal, you come and stand by me.  “Pastor, today, I give my heart to Christ,” or “Today, we place our lives in the fellowship of His church.”   While we make appeal, you come, as we stand and sing.