The Holy Supper
June 6th, 1965 @ 7:30 PM
THE HOLY SUPPER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-6-65 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Holy Supper. And here in this great audience tonight, and on the radio, turn in your Bible to the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Matthew chapter 26, verses 17 through 30, and let us read it out loud together, all of us. And on the radio, in the living room or the bedroom, wherever you are, turn in your Bible to Matthew 26, and we shall read together verses 17 through 30. And if your neighbor does not have his Bible, share yours with him, give it to him and you look on with somebody else. Now all of us reading out loud together, beginning at verse 17 and ending with verse 30; Matthew 26, now together:
Now the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the Passover?
And He said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at thy house with My disciples.
And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the Passover.
Now when the even was come, He sat down with the twelve.
And as they did eat, He said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me.
And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto Him, Lord, is it I?
And He answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with Me in the dish, the same shall betray Me.
The Son of Man goeth as it is written of Him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born.
Then Judas, which betrayed Him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body.
And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
For this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.
The context of that holy institution is most solemn and sacred. On the fourteenth of Nisan, the Jewish Passover lamb, the paschal lamb, was slain [Exodus 12:3-6]. And that night it was to be eaten with bitter herbs in contrition and in the redemptive purpose of God [Exodus 12:8]; ready under the hand of the great moving Spirit of Jehovah to move out and into God’s Promised Land. Their feet shod, their clothing on their backs, all of their utensils packed, ready when God said to leave out of the land of slavery and darkness and into the glorious land of promise, and they were commanded faithfully to observe that paschal meal [Exodus 12:11].
And when in times to come the children ask "What mean ye by these things?" [Exodus 12:26], they were commanded to reply, "We were bondservants, we were slaves in the land of darkness. And the Lord delivered us, and redeemed us unto Himself, and gave us these incomparable and celestial blessings" [Exodus 12:27]. And thereafter the institution of the Passover, in the centuries and the centuries that followed was faithfully observed by the people of God [Exodus 12:28].
So that night, the fourteenth of Nisan, everything is prepared and the Lord sits down with His disciples [Matthew 26:20]. And as they are seated at the table there is an altercation. There is a quarrel among them [Luke 22:24]. I would think it was precipitated by who would sit next to the Lord, for they had been quarreling in days past about who would sit on His right hand and who would sit on His left hand [Mark 10:35-37]. So in the seating arrangement at the Lord’s table that night, when they were to observe the Passover, there was a quarrel among them. Who would be next to Jesus and who would be the greatest in the kingdom?
While they were quarreling, the Lord knowing of those words, and those thoughts, and those fleshly carnal ambitions, the Lord undressed and girded Himself with a towel [John 13:2-4]. There is something about being without clothing that is humbling beyond any other thing in the world. And girding Himself with a towel, like a slave who didn’t own enough of this world’s goods even to buy clothes, as a slave girded with a towel, while those disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, He began to pour water in a basin and to wash the disciples’ feet [John 13:5]. Oh, what a rebuke of pride before God! Then after He washed their feet, He put back on His raiment and sat down [John 13:13].
And while they were eating, Simon asks John to ask Jesus who it is to betray Him [John 13:21-25]. And Jesus replied, "He it is to whom I shall give this sop" [John 13:26]. And He took bread, and sopped it, and handed it to Judas with the word, "What thou doest do quickly" [John 13:27]. And Judas arose and in haste left the table [John 13:30], and met the officers of the temple who led that motley mob [Mark 14:43], into whose hands for thirty pieces of silver he had promised to deliver the Lord [Matthew 26:14-16]. And with Judas gone, the Lord broke bread, "Take, eat; this is My body" [Matthew 26:26]. Then He blessed again the holy cup, and said, "All of you drink of it; this is My blood of the new covenant, the remission of sins, and do it" [Matthew 26:27-28], He said, "until I come again" [1 Corinthians 11:26].
A little while ago, two weeks ago, I was with some of our consecrated men, and they said to me, "Pastor, we have observed the Lord’s Supper all our lives, and you would think that we understood everything about it, knew everything about it. But just sometime, when we have the Lord’s Supper, would you preach us a sermon and remind us of its meaning? Would you?"
I said, "I shall and the sermon will be delivered at the next time we break bread together." And that’s going to be the sermon tonight. I have seven things that arise out of that institution; seven things that portray the purpose and the meaning of this holy memorial supper. And if you want to write them down, you can; seven meanings to be found in the purpose that lies back of this Lord’s Supper.
First: it is commemorative. It is commemorative. "For," He said, "this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come" [1 Corinthians 11:25, 26]. So it is first a commemorative supper. It is a memorial. We do it in remembrance of the sacrifice of our Lord. Just think of how many things the Lord rightly, and justly, and beautifully, and importantly, and vitally could have asked to be especially remembered in His ministry in the days of His flesh. Why, think of His miracles. Oh, the marvelous works of the Son of God. But it is not His miracles.
I think of His incomparable words of wisdom. Never a man spake like that Man [John 7:46], as never a man did like that Man [Matthew 9:33]. But it’s not His marvelous words of wisdom He asks us especially to remember. I think of His spotless life, His pure character [1 Peter 1:19]. He was the only man who ever lived without sin [Hebrews 4:15]. Yet it is not His faultless character that He asks us especially to remember. Out of all of the things that could be said of the incomparable, noble, heavenly, celestial life and ministry of our Lord, He chose this: remember the sacrifice of the cross, the broken bread. "This is My body," and the red fruit of the vine, the cup, "This is My blood, drink in remembrance, eat in remembrance of Me. For as often as you do it, ye show forth the Lord’s death, until He come" [1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. It is commemorative in remembrance of the sacrifice of our Lord. This He did for me. As though no other one in the world might have sinned, Christ died for me. And I am ever to remember the sufferings, the passion, the tears, the sobs, the agony, the blood, the pouring out of His life unto death for me [Matthew 27:32-50]. It is first commemorative.
Second: it is representative. It is representative. "This is My body, given for you [Matthew 26:26]. This is My blood shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:28]. It is representative. This bread represents the body of our Lord [Matthew 26:26], and this fruit of the vine represents the blood of our Savior [Matthew 26:27-28]. Most of Christendom is in another communion, another denomination. The great vast millions of the world are. And that communion believes that they are able to transform this bread into the actual body of Jesus and this fruit of the vine into the actual blood of our Savior.
And when the Reformation came, one of the bitterest of all of the arguments took place between Martin Luther, and Zwingli. Zwingli of Zurich, Switzerland believed that these elements were symbolic, that they were representative; that this bread represented the body of our Lord and this blood represented the blood of our Lord. But Martin Luther, who had come out of the communion that believed in transubstantiation, that they were able to transfer it into the actual body and blood of our Lord, when Martin Luther came out, he gave up that ultimate belief. But he also carried with him a halfway mark in it; a halfway persuasion. Your history book will call it consubstantiation. He believed though it was not the actual body of our Lord and the actual blood of our Lord, he believed that it had in it, that the presence of our Lord, His body and His blood, were in these elements.
And in those talks between those reformers, one of the most vital and one of the most vigorous was between Martin Luther and Zwingli as they argued over the meaning of the bread and the wine. So when Zwingli said, "But Martin Luther, when it says ‘This is My body,’ it means ‘this represents My body.’ And when it says, ‘This is My blood,’ it means ‘it represents My blood.’" Martin Luther, big and heavy, a course voice German, turned to Zwingli and said, "Where does it ever say that in the Bible? Where does it ever say that in the Bible? That this is that or the other is that?" And Zwingli turned to the Book of Genesis, and the forty-first chapter. And he read to Martin Luther the story of the translation of the king of Pharaoh into God’s purpose for Egypt. And the dream Pharaoh had was there were seven cattle fat and then they were followed by seven cattle lean. And the lean cattle ate the fat cattle. And Pharaoh woke up disturbed [Genesis 41:1-4]. Then he went back to sleep and he dreamed again. Seven fat ears of corn, and then seven lean ears of corn; and the seven lean ears ate the seven fat ears. And Pharaoh awoke [Genesis 41:5-7]. No magician could tell him the meaning of the dream [Genesis 41:8]. Then it was Joseph was introduced and taken out of prison [Genesis 41:14]. And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, "The dream of Pharaoh is one. God hath showed Pharaoh what He is about to do. The seven good cattle are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one" [from Genesis 41:25-26]. And Zwingli read that to Martin Luther. "What does that ‘are’ mean? ‘The seven good cows are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years’ [Genesis 41:26]. Why, you know what it means. The seven good cattle represent seven fine years and the seven lean cattle represent seven years of famine. And the seven full ears represent seven years of fullness; and the seven lean ears represent, represent seven years of drought." Then Zwingli turned to the Word of God and said, "This is the same thing in the holy supper; ‘This is My body, It represents My body. ‘This is My blood,’ ‘It represents My blood’ [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25]. It is representative." We must hasten.
Third: it is "covenantive." Now there’s no such word, except right now. So you write it down. This is a Criswellian word; it is "covenantive." "This is My blood of the new covenant," hē kaine diathēkē [Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:25]. On my Greek testament and on every Greek testament, that is written; hē kaine diathēkē, "The new covenant." What was the old covenant? "Do this," said the old covenant, "and thou shalt live [Deuteronomy 4:1]. Obey My law, keep My commandments, and you will be saved."
But there wasn’t a man who ever lived who could keep the law and the commandments of God. All of us sinned and came short of the expectation and the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. So the old covenant couldn’t save us. And we all were lost in our sins [Romans 6:23]. And the Lord in His mercy, looked down upon us in our inability to keep the old covenant and be saved. And God came and made a new covenant for us. The old covenant is "Do this and thou shalt be saved" [Deuteronomy 4:1]. The new covenant is: "Believe, and thou shalt be saved." And the Lord illustrated it; "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That whosoever looks to Him, believes in Him, casts himself upon the mercies of God, he will be saved; he will be saved" [John 3:14-15]. "This is the new covenant in My blood" [Luke 22:20]; the new hope and the new promise, the new gift. If we will trust in Jesus, His blood will wash our sins away [Revelation 1:5].
All right turn the page over here or you may not be following me in the Bible. You know I forgot to tell you where I was preaching out of – of all things, 1 Corinthians chapter 11. Now I want you to turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 10, 1 Corinthians chapter 10. It is commemorative [1 Corinthians 11:25, 26]. It is representative [1 Corinthians 11:24]. It is covenantive [Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:25]. Now number four: it is communicative. First Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 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?" [1 Corinthians 10:16]. It is communicative. A koinōnia it is a fellowship between my Lord and my soul. The blood of Jesus, the body of Jesus; a communion between us and our Lord – – it is communicative.
Now the next verse there: it is associative. It is participative. "For we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread." Then he speaks of Israel after the flesh, "Are not they which eat of the sacrifices, koinonia, partakers of the altar?" [1 Corinthians 10:18]. What our great apostle there is saying is this: that in the Lord’s Supper, there is a fellowship, a communion between us and God. And he illustrates it by those who sacrificed in the days of the tabernacle and the temple. A sacrifice was a joy meal. Isn’t that a strange thing?
I have remarked upon this so many times. People object to eating at the church. I have had families leave the church because we ate down here at the church. I have never in my life been able to understand that. From the beginning, from the beginning, worship with God was a shared meal. That was what sacrifice was. Once in a while, it would be unusually devoted and all of it burned. But that was unusual. Practically all of the sacrifices, all of them, were shared meals. And the idea that lay back of it was this: here was the man who brought his offering. He brought his sacrifice, and he dedicated it to God [Leviticus 4:2]. And of course it had many other meanings such as his putting his hands on the head of the sacrifice and confessing his sins [Leviticus 4:27-31]. And when the victim was slain it was representative, representative. It was not actual. It was representative for the blood of bulls and goats could never wash our sins away [Hebrews 10:4]. It was representative, when the animal was slain, of the sacrifice and penalty of death being made in behalf of the one who had erred and transgressed.
But then the body was carefully arranged and it was offered on the altar [Leviticus 4:8-10]. Some of it was boiled. It was cooked. It was barbequed over an open grate and the priests ate some of it. Some of it was for the priests. That is how the priesthood was sustained [Leviticus 6:29, 7:6-7]. But most of it was shared by the family and the man might have friends that he’d bring along with him [Leviticus 7:19-20]. And the idea that lay back of that sacrifice was that this is a communion between us and our great High God. Part of it was burned up and that part belonged to God [Leviticus 7:5]. Part of it was eaten by the priest and part of it was eaten by the family [Leviticus 7:6, 19-20]. And the idea was we are sharing the sacrifice, this offering, this meal with God. And it was a communion between the worker and his God.
And that’s what Paul is saying here, "The cup which we bless, is it not a communion between us and our Lord? And the bread which we break, is it not a communion between us and our Lord?" [1 Corinthians 10:16]. Then, he says another thing, "But," he says, "we are many, but one, for we are all partakers of that one bread" [1 Corinthians 10:17]. It is also associative I have said. It is participative I have said [1 Corinthians 10:17, 18]. And what Paul means here when he says, "one bread representing one body, and we are all partakers of it [1 Corinthians 10:17], we are all part of it," he’s thinking about the breaking of the bread, the breaking of the bread. And this is a piece, and this is a piece, and this is a piece, and this is a piece. And so we are associated in the body in the one loaf of our Lord. You are a part, and you are a part, and you are a part, and you are a part. And when that is uncovered and you see that tray of bread it will be many broken little pieces, "all from one loaf," Paul says, "but all of us one individual in it." And breaking the bread represents, Paul says, the association of God’s people in to that one body.
Now we’re going to turn back over here. It is also proclaimative, "For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come" [1 Corinthians 11:26]. It is proclaimative "till He come." Every time we gather at the Lord’s table – – that’s the sixth one: proclaimative – – every time we gather at the Lord’s Table, we are proclaiming. We are avowing. We are advertising our faith that some of these days, some glorious day the Lord is coming back again [1 Corinthians 11:26].
The last time the world saw Him was when He died on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50]. When He was raised from the dead He appeared only to His disciples [1 Corinthians 15:5-7]. But some day He shall appear with clouds. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him" [Revelation 1:7]. Isn’t that an unusual thing? John wrote that in the Apocalypse. And John stood by the side of the cross [John 19:25-26], and he saw those bitter, and ruthless, and brutal men who pressed on His brow the crown of thorns, and who nailed those great spikes through His hands and feet [Matthew 27:29-35], and who thrust that spear into His heart [John 19:31-34]. And John heard their blasphemous words as they cursed Him and despised Him [Matthew 27:39-44]. And in the Revelation, when John writes, "Behold, behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him, who crucified Him, they shall look upon Him in His glory, and the whole families of the earth shall wail because of Him" [Revelation 1:7]. Oh, oh, oh! It is proclaimative; till He come, till He come, till that final and triumphant day [1 Corinthians 11:26].
Now number seven and this is in the twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew in the story as it is told by Matthew. It is anticipative. Number seven, it is anticipative. "For this is My blood of the new covenant – the hē kaine diathēkē – which is shed for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom" [Matthew 26:28, 29]. It is anticipative. "I will not henceforth drink of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom"; anticipative.
When is it that we shall drink it new with our Lord in the kingdom of our Father? Oh, that glorious, marvelous, apocalyptic vision in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation when the Lord comes and the marriage supper of the Lamb is spread. Think of it. And the marriage supper of the Lamb is spread, and His bride has made herself ready, arrayed in all of her beautiful garments, and her white robes, the Book says, "are the righteousnesses," plural, "are the righteousnesses of the saints," and all God’s redeemed are there clothed gloriously, and are seated at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-9]. There again we’re going to eat, aren’t we? Isn’t that fine?
Think about leaving the church because we eat down here. What are you going to do when you get to heaven and you going look around and say, "But I don’t believe in eating, and I’m going to walk out those pearly gates?" Listen I never invented eating. God invented that and He must have liked it. He must have liked it. Don’t ever get into your head the idea that to be a Christian and to be in the kingdom of God is a lugubriously doleful melancholy! Man alive, you don’t know what!
I had somebody from I don’t know where all, at the Southern Baptist Convention, come up, and pump my hand, and they said to me, "You know what we like about you?" I said, "No, tell me quick." They said, they said to me as they pumped my hand, they said, "You know, you give the impression wherever you are that it’s grand, and glad, and glorious to be a Christian." And I just thank God for that. Any time you ever see me give any other impression, you just know that that’s one of my down days. That is one of the days when I ought to stay in bed. That is one of the days when I shouldn’t get out of the house. For it’s grand to be a Christian! It’s glorious to be a Christian! It’s marvelous to be a Christian!
And some of these days, said the Lord Jesus, we’re going to sit down at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the kingdom of God, and all of the saints of glory, and we’re going to eat. We’re going to eat at the marriage supper of the Lamb. And that’s what the Lord said here, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom" [Matthew 26:29]. It is anticipative. We are looking forward to the glorious consummation, the incomparable fellowship, the celestial redeemed crowd, and throng of God’s people yet to come. Oh, what a vista, and what a prospect, and what a glory! Praise His name. Bless His name.
And that’s one of the reasons I love the way we do our Lord’s supper here. "And when they had sung a hymn, they went out" [Matthew 26:30]. We have a habit in our church as you know, after the Lord’s Supper, we stand up and we hold hands and we sing, "Blessed Be the Tie that Binds." "And when they had sung an hymn, they went out."
Now before we have this holy communion with our precious Lord, associated together, one loaf in the Lord, though broken in many pieces [1 Corinthians 10:17], before we observe it; somebody you, give himself to Jesus. A family you, come into the fellowship of the church. A child, a youth, a couple, answering the call of God, however the Lord shall press the appeal to your soul, come. Make it tonight. On the first note of the first stanza, down one of these stairways, into the aisle and here to the front; "Pastor, here’s my hand. I’ve given my heart to God." Or, "Pastor, all of us are coming tonight, the whole family." As Jesus shall whisper the word of appeal, make it now. Make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.