The Memorial Supper

1 Corinthians

The Memorial Supper

March 9th, 1969 @ 7:30 PM

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:
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Matthew 26:17-30

3-9-69    7:30 p.m.


If you are listening on the radio we invite you to turn in your Bible to Matthew, the First Gospel, and with us in the First Baptist Church here in Dallas, to read Matthew 26, beginning at verse 17, and we will read through verse 30.  You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the evening message.

Tonight we break bread together.  When we have the memorial of the Lord’s Supper, I always preach a message on the death of Christ or on the meaning of this holy institution.  And this passage we read out of the Gospel of Matthew is the record of the establishment of the memorial supper, Matthew 26, beginning at verse 17, reading through verse 30, and all of us reading it out loud 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.

[Matthew 26:17-30]

There is no institution in the Christian religion around which the history of the church has so largely gathered as it has around the memorial of the Lord’s Supper.  Every school child is conversant with the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.  As you know, they were seeking after the Holy Grail, which is the old English name for the cup out of which Jesus drank when He instituted this supper.

And the knight that was to find it was to be the knight of the purest heart.  And as you know, Sir Lancelot did not find it.  It was Sir Galahad.  Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in writing of that, do you remember that first stanza of the poem “Sir Galahad”?

My good blade carves the casques of men,

My tough lance thrusteth sure,

My strength is as the strength of ten,

Because my heart is pure.

[“Sir Galahad,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1842]

Sir Galahad found the Holy Grail, the cup out of which Jesus drank at the Lord’s Supper.

Then all of you who are conversant with Christian history know that this memorial supper is the center around which the great two branches of the Catholic faith are gathered, the Roman Catholic Church and its mass, and the Greek Orthodox Catholic church and its mass.  The mass is the celebration of bloodless crucifixion of Christ anew.

It was interesting to me to watch their service in Moscow in one of the old, old Orthodox churches, one of the very few that is allowed to remain open.  And across the front of the church, as you would know, in an Orthodox congregation, there is a solid wall covered with icons.  And behind that barrier the ministry officiates; and there the ritual of the mass is conducted.  Then at a certain time the door suddenly opens like a bursting out and the officiating ministers appear, and they have in their hand the holy wafer.  And the people come forward at that time, kneel and the officiating minister places in their mouth the little wafer of the broken bread.

In the story of Protestantism, in the Great Reformation, there was a meeting together at Marburg of Zwingli, who represented the Reformation in Switzerland, and Luther, who represented the Reformation in Germany.  And they met there in Marburg to see if it were possible for them to conjoin their efforts in the rejuvenation of the doctrinal teaching of the church.

And they somehow got along pretty well until they came to the Lord’s Supper.  And Zwingli, as you know, said, “It is a memorial rite, ritual, institution, ordinance.”  But Luther said, “No, it has in it” and then this is the doctrine of consubstantiation, not transubstantiation, but these elements are transferred into the actual body and blood of Jesus as is taught in the mass.  The wine becomes the actual blood of our Lord.  And the bread becomes the actual body of our Lord, transubstantiation.  It is made into the actual body of Christ.

“No,” said Luther, “But it is consubstantiated.  The Lord’s presence is in it, in the bread and in the fruit of the vine.”  And over that, as you historians remember, the Marburg conference broke up, and Zwingli went his way and Luther went his way.  And the Reformation broke up into differing parts with Calvin and the Presbyterians, with Zwingli and the Reformed, and with Luther and the Lutherans.

Now to us, what does this memorial supper mean?  As for us, of course, we read God’s Word, and this is what God’s Word means to us.  It is first of all, a memorial supper, “This do in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:24-25].  It is to bring back to our minds the memory of the sacrifice of Christ for our sins.  And as oft as you do it, whenever you do it, you are to do it “in remembrance of Me.”  It is first of all, primary of all, significantly above all, it is a memorial hour.

I lived in Mullins Hall, the single men’s dormitory, when I attended Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  And in the large parlor in Mullins Hall was a picture of the famed theologian, Edgar Young Mullins.  He was converted here in Dallas.  He was converted under Major Penn.  Mullins, the young man, was a calligrapher, and he attended the revival service by Major Penn here in Dallas, and was wonderfully saved.  He became our greatest theologian.  He was president of the seminary in Louisville.  He was president of the Baptist World Alliance.  He was a theologian, a scholar, and a teacher without fear.

When he died, they built that very, very large and beautifully effective dormitory complex, and they named it for Dr. Mullins, Mullins Hall, the single men’s dormitory.  And at that time, I presume because we were poor or something else, there were very few married students who entered the seminary.  Practically all of us were single.  It was the finest ground for a young [man] to find a wife in all of this earth.  There was nothing like it, Mullins Hall at the seminary.

In the large and spacious parlor there was a picture of Dr. Mullins.  There was a table before the very large picture and on the table was a lamp that burned.  It burned all day, and it burned all night.  Well, one of the young students in the seminary, seeing that lamp burning in the daytime in the bright sunlight, turned it off.  And, of course, somebody came back and turned it on.  And the next day that same student turned it off.  Then when it was turned on the next day, he turned it off.  He had the LBJ complex of saving electricity.  He was turning off the lights.

Well, he thought he was doing good of course, and in his way I know he was.  But I remember that upon a day when all of us were in Mullins Hall eating dinner together, a representative of the faculty stood up and he said, “Young men, it has been brought to our attention that one of your number turns off the light under Dr. Mullins picture in the spacious parlor.  Now, we want to tell you that you must not do that because the widow of Dr. Mullins, Mrs. Mullins, has left with the seminary an endowment fund to pay for the burning of that light as long as time shall last.  So let it burn day and night, the lamp, the light is a memorial to Dr. Mullins; there under his picture, calling attention to the life and scholarly ministry of the great president.”

Now these memorials are beautiful wherever they are if they represent a noble and wonderful man.  The great spire, the pyramid, the obelisk in Washington, the Washington Monument, the highest of anything in the city; when you go to Washington, the capital, you cannot help but be impressed by that splendid monument, a memorial to our first president.  Or go down the Mall and there is the Lincoln Memorial.

Ah, in how many ways and in how many expressions do you find it, a memorial boulevard, a memorial church?  This is our Lord’s memorial [Matthew 26:26-30; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30].  He instituted the Supper that whenever we ate, and whenever we drank it would bring back to our minds the memory of the sacrifice of Christ for our sins.

It is not only a memorial, it is also a fellowship.  It is a koinōnia, and there is not a more beautiful word or meaningful word in the Bible than that word koinōnia, translated sometimes “communion,” translated sometimes “fellowship.”  Now in the King James Version out of which I always preach and in this passage I read in the tenth [chapter] of 1 Corinthians, the word will be translated communion:

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion, the koinōnia of the blood of Christ?  And the bread which we break, is it not the koinōnia, the communion, the fellowship of the body of Christ?

For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

[1 Corinthians 10:16-17]

Now there are great segments in our Baptist Zion who say that when we have the Lord’s Supper we do not commune with one another, but our fellowship is with the Lord. I have no quarrel with that interpretation or that doctrine.  We do do it in the church, which sort of begs the question to me; for us it is a church ordinance, as we are going to see.  And it is when the people are gathered together in their fellowship, in their koinōnia, in their communion, that we observe the Lord’s Supper.

But there is no doubt but that the emphasis is not between us, but the emphasis is between us and our Lord.  “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the fellowship, the communion, the koinōnia, of the blood of Christ?  And the bread which we break, is it not the koinōnia, the fellowship, the communion of the body of Christ” [1 Corinthians 10:16], personalizing to us the Lord’s love and grace and mercy?  This He did for me.  And were there no one else in the world, were there no other sinner who ever lived, Christ still would have come and would have died for me.  And the koinōnia, the fellowship, we have with our Lord in this holy Memorial Supper.

It is again an ordinance in the church.  The word ordinance comes from things that Christ has ordained.  And there are two ordinances in the church, only two.  There are not three, there are not seven.  There are two. The ordinance of baptism was commanded of our Lord [Matthew 28:19].  And the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was likewise ordained, commanded, instituted by our Lord [Matthew 26:20-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30], and it is placed in the church.  It is an institution; it is an ordinance in the church.  We’re not to observe it in the legislature.  We’re not to observe it in the Congress.  We’re not to observe it in the Rotary Club or the Kiwanis Club or the Lions Club.  We don’t observe it at the PTA.  When we have a Democratic or Republican Convention we do not observe it, nor would we observe it if we belonged to the American Party.  It is not a political, educational, economic, or civic institution.  It is peculiarly and significantly and meaningfully set in the heart of the church.

Now this gives rise to the great doctrine of our Baptist people, which they call sometimes closed communion.  We are not closed communionists more than anyone else.  All that our Baptist people do is just this; we seek to follow the word of the New Testament, of our blessed Savior, when we say there are three things in their order.  And the order of those three things is as much inspired as the thing itself.

Now, the Great Commission is as much inspired in the order of the commission as it is in the commission itself.  All of it is inspired and the order is inspired.  So the order of the Great Commission is this, and as the apostles interpreted it and as they acted upon it, they never deviated from it.  “Go ye therefore, and make disciples” [Matthew 28:19-20]. 

First: we’re to be Christian; we’re to accept the Lord as our Savior. That is always first.

Second; we’re to be baptized, baptizing them in the name of the triune God.

And third: we are to observe the things God has given us to keep.  Now if we will keep that order, you would never have fallen into the tragic pages of Christian history as we read in the textbooks of our schools.  You could never have identified the church with the state, had you observed that order.

First: you are to be saved.  You’re not born saved.  You’re not born regenerated.  You are born a citizen, but you are not born saved and a member of the church.  You must be regenerated.  You must accept Christ as your Savior.  “You must be born again” [John 3:3, 7].  There is a first birth, a natural birth, a physical birth.  There is a second birth, a spiritual birth.

Last Sunday, one of the young people, God bless that young woman, there was a young woman who came down the aisle and took my hand saying she had accepted the Lord as her Savior.  And she said, “Today is my birthday.”  Well, when I introduced her I said, “How wonderful that she has been saved today on her birthday.”

And she turned to me and said, “No, I don’t mean today is my birthday, when I was born, but today is my birthday, I have been born again today.  I have been spiritually saved today.”

Well, stupid me.  I didn’t catch it.  But I bless God for the discerning, intuitive, spiritual sensitivity of that young woman.  I hope she is here tonight.  For your second week’s birthday is today.

We must be born again [John 3:3, 7].  Now that is the first great order, to be born again, to be a Christian, to accept the Lord as our Savior.

Then the second: we are to be baptized [Matthew 28:19].  You see, you would never have the church identified with the state had there not been invented that thing of christening.  When a child was born a citizen of the state it was automatically christened into the church.  There is no teaching like that in the Word of God, nor is there anything that approaches it.  We are to be saved.  We are to be born again.  We are to be regenerated.  We are to become Christians, then upon that confession of faith we are to be baptized.

And as they went on their way, they came to a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

I want to be baptized.  And Philip answered and said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.  And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God . . .

And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went away rejoicing.

[Acts 8:36-39]

First: we are to be saved [Acts 16:31].  Then we are to be baptized [Matthew 28:19].  Then third: we are to observe the things Christ has given us to keep [Matthew 28:20].  And one of those observances, one of those ordinances, one of those institutions is the breaking of bread and the sharing of the cup [Matthew 26:20-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30].

Now that is all that our Baptist people do. That’s all we preach.  That’s all we stand for.  That’s the order that Christ has given us, and there is no deviation from it in the apostolic practice.  We’re to be saved [Acts 16:31], we’re to be baptized [Matthew 28:19]; then we’re to share in the breaking of bread [Matthew 26:20-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30].  It is an ordinance in the church, in the household of the faithful for the people of God [Matthew 28:20].

Now we must hasten.  I have one other: it is our high privilege to share in it together.  In it is a confession of our sins.  “This is My body, this is My blood for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:27-28].  It’s for sinners.  Now, if you’re not a sinner, you would be out of place, very much out of place.

In a church I pastored was the teacher of the men’s Bible class.  It was a small congregation, and we had one Bible class for men.  And it was taught by a fine man.  He was very large in stature and a very fine student of the Bible.  He would just study and read and prepare his lesson.  But he and his wife would sit there, and they would never take the Lord’s Supper.

I was pastor of the church for several years, and it was very noticeable that the teacher of the class in the small congregation never took the Lord’s Supper.  So I went to his house upon a day, and I sat down with him and his wife.  And I asked him, “Why don’t you take the Lord’s Supper?  It is very noticeable.  And the men of your class, especially, are sensitive to it.  Why don’t you take the Lord’s Supper?”

And he replied, “I am not worthy.  I am not worthy.  And the Bible says that if you are not worthy, you eat and drink damnation to yourself.”  Well, he did not read the Bible correctly.  Maybe he was not a grammarian.  But the Bible says:

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

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

[1 Corinthians 11:27-29]

Now an adjective modifies a substantive, a noun, but an adverb modifies a verb, and it does not modify anything else.  An adverb modifies a verb.  It refers to a kind of action.  So when the Scriptures say, “Whosoever therefore shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily” [1 Corinthians 11:29], it is an adverb and not an adjective, therefore it does not modify who is doing it.  It does not refer to the man who is partaking, but the word is an adverb; it refers to how we do it.

Now the condition there in Corinth was, they made an orgy of it.  The people brought food, bread, and they brought wine, and they drank, and they gormandized, and it turned into an unholy feast dedicated in the name of Jesus.  And Paul was aghast, and God Himself was offended.  So Paul said, “When you come to break bread and to drink of the fruit of the vine, you are not to do it unworthily, not discerning the Lord’s body” [1 Corinthians 11:27-29], but you are to partake of the memorial in deepest reverence, deepest reverence.

And if we do not partake of it in deepest reverence, humility, we ought not to partake of it at all.  The Supper ought to be observed in the finest decorum of which we are capable and in the most spiritual manner that we could devise.  And who is to come?  Sinners.  If God said you must be worthy, who could partake?  If God were to say you are to be worthy, who could stand?  Ah, no one of us!  But if you are a sinner and if you are a confessed sinner, then come.  Jesus died for you [1 Corinthians 15:3], and the breaking of bread and the spilling out of the crimson of His life is for you.  Come.  Eat and drink [1 Corinthians 11:24-25].

Now I must close.  Not only in confession but in expectancy, in anticipation, “For as oft as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do portray, memorialize, show forth, the Lord’s death till He come, till He come, till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26].

I, as you know, I meet with our children before they are baptized.  Father and mother bring the child to me, and I talk to the child, and we pray together.  So this is one of the questions, this is the last one on that chapter, “What It Means to Take the Lord’s Supper.”  The question is: the last word in the institution of the Memorial Supper is this, “For as oft as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26], and the question, “What does that mean, ‘Till He come’?”

Now the little boy, whose father and mother brought the little fellow to me this evening, the little boy answered, “That means Jesus is coming someday to take us to heaven” [Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16].  I’ve never had a child fail to answer that question, “Jesus is coming someday.”  And I always ask, “Son, do you believe that?  Do you believe that you’ll see Jesus someday?”  And the child has never failed to answer, “I do.  Someday, I shall see Jesus face to face, when He comes to take us to heaven.”

It’s a great faith, isn’t it? It’s a great hope, isn’t it?  It’s a great assurance, isn’t it?  Jesus is coming again [Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16].  And we express that hope; commit ourselves to that faith when we break bread together, when we share the cup of our Lord, the koinōnia, the fellowship, the communion of the body and blood of Jesus [Matthew 26:20-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30].

Now we are going to sing a hymn of appeal.  And while we sing the song, you, somebody you, to give himself in faith to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8], come and stand by me.  I will be on this side of our table.  You come and give me your hand.  “Pastor, I have given my heart to God.  I give you my hand in token of that commitment of the faith.  Here I am, and here I come.”  Or a family you, or a couple you, as God shall press the appeal to your heart, come, come, on the first stanza, come.  Make the decision now, and in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming.  And the angels attend you in the way as you come.  Now may we stand and sing.