What We Believe: The Lord’s Supper
April 17th, 1974 @ 7:30 PM
WHAT WE BELIEVE: THE LORD’S SUPPER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-17-74 7:30 p.m.
Well, do you have your little white book? I thought we might read together the entire section on the ordinances; baptism and the Lord’s Supper. And for just a moment, we will review the lecture of last Wednesday night on baptism. All of us sharing our Articles of Faith just as extensively as you can, read with me now out loud the article seven on baptism and the Lord’s Supper; the two ordinances of the church. Now together:
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in
the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an
act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, the believer’s death to sin, the burial
of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection
of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.
Now, The Lord’s Supper, which is our lecture tonight:
The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and
the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer
and anticipate His second coming.
There are just two ordinances in the church: not three, not seven. There are just two; and by way of review, just a brief word about the ordinance of baptism, which was the subject of the lesson last Wednesday night. We learned last Wednesday night that the word baptizō is an ordinary Greek word, common as our word dip or immerse. It is an ordinary Greek word, and it means “to dip.”
And we looked back in ancient Greek literature and in modern Greek literature and found that there’s never an exception, but that the imagery of the word baptizō is “to dip.” It’s “to immerse.” It’s, “to put under a liquid.” And we learned that in 1611, when the King James Version of the Bible was made—when it was translated—they came to the word baptizō, b-a-p-t-i-z-o, but the Anglican Church sprinkled infants. It baptized babies by sprinkling, yet the Greek word says, “immerse, dip.”
So they took it to the king, “What shall we do?” “Shall we translate the word or not?” And the king, with the committee, finally decided not to translate the word, but to anglicize it—to take the Greek word and change the “o” ending to an “e,” English ending. So that’s where you get the word, b-a-p-t-i-z-e. That is a Greek word, and they anglicized it. They refused to translate it because of the practice of the Anglican Church. And of course King James was the head of the Anglican Church, but the word in Greek means one thing only, and that is “to immerse,” “to dip.”
Then we looked at the ordinance as it was changed and as it was practiced in some of the great historical churches. And we looked at the reason why the ordinance was changed from immersion to sprinkling. All of the ancient churches immersed; all of them.
I pointed out to you that if you ever visit St. Paul’s Church, the great basilica in Rome—there are four of those great basilicas in Rome: St. Peter’s, St. Mary’s, St. John’s, and St. Paul’s—in the St. Paul Roman Catholic Church in Rome is the most beautiful, spacious baptistry I have ever seen in my life. You could baptize a hundred fifty people in it. It’s beautifully done. And all of those great cathedrals; they were built with a sanctuary, with a tall bell tower, and with a beautiful baptistery.
Usually, the baptistery was in a round, circular, or octagonal shape. All of your ancient churches immersed. And where the Greek language is used, such as the Greek Orthodox Church, they still immerse. You couldn’t do anything else because the Greek says, “immerse.” And if you use the Greek Bible, the original Bible, you’d have to immerse. So the Greek Orthodox Church immerses. But the Latin Church got away from it; and as I told you, in England they Anglicized the word because their practice through the Latin Church had deviated from the ancient form.
Now, I said last Wednesday night that John the Baptist got that ordinance from God [John 1:24-25, 32-33]. When the Lord gave the pattern of the tabernacle to Moses, He said to Moses, “Now you be sure that you do it exactly according to the pattern that I showed thee from heaven” [Exodus 25:9]. So the Book of Exodus plainly and explicitly says that Moses built the tabernacle exactly according to the pattern shown him from God in heaven [Exodus 25:9, 40; Acts 7:44]. Moses, I do not think, realized the significance the typology of the tabernacle, but he did it faithfully, just as God showed him how to do it.
And when finally we came to know what it meant, we see that the beautiful seven-branched lampstand [Number 8:4], is a picture of Jesus, the light of the world [John 8:12]. The table of showbread [Exodus 25:23-30], is a picture of Jesus, the bread of life [John 6:35, 41, 48, 51]. And the golden altar of incense [Exodus 30:1-10], is a picture of our great Mediator and Intercessor who bears our prayers and intercessions on His heart before the throne of grace [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25]. Now had Moses not done it according to the pattern [Exodus 25:9], we would have lost the type. But he did it exactly as God showed him from heaven [Acts 7:44].
Now God gave this ordinance to John the Baptist [John 1:24-25, 32-33]. I don’t think John realized what ultimately it meant. To John, it was a purification, it was a washing, it was cleansing. But when finally, we came to know what it meant, it meant the burial and resurrection of our Lord [Romans 6:3-5]. That was the meaning in the mind of God when He gave it to John the Baptist. It was born in the heart of heaven. It was given to John the Baptist from God our Father. And when we faithfully observe it and administer it exactly as God gave it to the great Baptist preacher [Matthew 28:19; Romans 6:3-5], it will always have that spiritual meaning that God gave it up there in glory [John 1:24-25, 32-33].
Baptism, we learned, is not for the remission of sins. “It is the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, that cleanseth us from all sin,” 1 John 1:7. So baptism presents to us a picture of the Lord’s burial, the Lord’s resurrection, our burial with Him, our resurrection with Him, and our faith that if we die and are buried in the earth, that we will be raised by the power of God from the dead [Romans 6:3-5, 8:11]. And that’s a brief summary of our lesson last Wednesday night on baptism.
We come now to the lecture on the recurring ordinance, the Lord’s Supper. There are four accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper in the Bible: one, in Matthew; one, in Mark 14; one, in Luke 22; and one, in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. There are those four accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. You will notice that John does not have an account of the institution of the Supper.
I think—now, this is just my persuasion; this is my idea—I think that the reason for that is that John wrote his Gospel in full cognizance of the other three synoptic Gospels. I think John wrote his Gospel many, many, many years, a full generation after the other three Gospels were written. Matthew, Mark, and Luke had been written thirty or forty years before John sat down to write his Gospel, the fourth one. And John wrote his Gospel in full cognizance of the other three. So there’s a great deal of material in John that you will not find in the other three, and one of them is this marvelous, incomparable address of our Lord in the synagogue at Capernaum on the bread of life [John 6:35-59].
So John does not write of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, but he does quote our Lord in a marvelous and unusual discourse on the meaning of the bread and the meaning of the cup. For example, John writes, quoting Jesus:
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood,
ye have no life in you.
Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.
He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him.
Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it?
[John 6:53-57, 60]
And I think you would have said the same thing. If a man had said that to you, you would have said, “I just never heard a man talk like that, ever! It’s difficult, and I cannot understand it.”
And the disciples murmured at Him. And then the Lord said,
Does this offend you?
It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
[John 6:60-61, 63]
Not eating actual flesh like a cannibal; not drinking actual blood like a Masai, black man in Africa—those people who live in Uganda—not actually drinking blood; not actually eating flesh; “but the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” [John 6:63].
So this bread means something, as John would have us to understand. And this fruit of the vine means something, as the Lord taught them. And that leads us to a discussion of what that Lord’s Supper actually means. What is it?
Now, there are four historical views of the Lord’s Supper. Number one: the view of the Roman Catholic Church, which is called transubstantiation, across substance. That is the doctrine that in the sacrifice of the Mass, the bloodless sacrifice, crucifixion anew, of our Lord; every time the Mass is observed, Jesus Christ is crucified again.
In the sacrifice of the Mass, the bread and the wine—and by the way, that word “wine” is never used in any of the accounts of the institution of the Supper. The word is always “the cup,” or “the fruit of the vine.” But we’ll use the word “wine” because it’s so commonly used. In the sacrifice of the Mass, according to the Roman Catholic Church, the bread and the wine become the actual body and the actual blood of Christ.
That’s why you sometimes will hear children playing and they’ll use the word “hocus-pocus, hocus-pocus.” They’re, you know, they’ve got a magic thing going on; “hocus-pocus.” Well, that comes from children going to the Roman Catholic Church and watching the priest as he will move his hands over the elements of the Lord’s Supper, and say, “Hoc est corpus meum, hoc est corpus meum, hoc est corpus meum. This is My body. Hoc est corpus meum.”
So those little old kids, seeing the priest do that little magical thing of turning that bread into the actual body of Jesus, “Hoc est corpus meum, hoc est corpus meum, hoc est corpus meum,” why, it sounded to them like, “Hocus-pocus, hocus-pocus, hocus-pocus.” So they went out—and little kids playing together, if they want to do some magic trick, they said, “Hocus-pocus, hocus-pocus.” Now that is the doctrine of transubstantiation; that those elements actually become the body and blood of our Lord.
Now the second historical view of the Lord’s Supper is what is called consubstantiation. And this is the Lutheran view. This is the view of Martin Luther, who, himself, of course, was a monk in the church and came out of the church and brought with him a great many things of the Roman Church. Now he broke away somewhat from the doctrine of the Roman Church on the Lord’s Supper, but he still held to a part of it. And that kind of compromised view of the Lord’s Supper, on the part of Martin Luther, is called consubstantiation; that is, with substance. And the doctrine is that the body and the blood of Jesus are present with the elements. They don’t actually become the body and blood of our Lord, as the Catholics believe, but that the presence of the body and the blood of the Lord is with the elements.
Now the third view of the Lord’s Supper is that it is a channel, a mediation of God’s grace to us. Grace is present with the elements. That is, the partaker receives grace, which is not available in any other way. You can’t get that kind of grace by praying, or by loving God, or serving the Lord, or repentance, or any other thing. There’s only one way that particular kind of grace can be mediated to us, and that is in the Lord’s Supper. Now that’s the third view.
Now, the fourth view is the view of our Baptist people. And I think, of course, it is the teaching of the Word of God. The fourth view of the Lord’s Supper is that it is symbolic. The bread is symbolic of the torn body of Christ [Matthew 26:26; 1 Corinthians 11:23-24], and the cup is symbolic of the spilled blood of our Lord [Matthew 26:26 1 Corinthians 11:25]. It is a dramatic setting forth of the memorial of His sacrificial death.
Believing that the Lord’s Supper is symbolical in meaning, it could never be for us a sacrament—never. To use the word “sacrament” to refer to the Lord’s Supper is a grievous misnomer. A sacrament is a channel or instrument by which, or through which, Christ and the benefits of His sacrificial death are bestowed upon, or applied to, the recipient of the sacrament. It would be wonderful for the Catholic Church to call it a sacrament, but it would be altogether out of order for us to refer to it as a sacrament.
When you say that this is a sacrament, and that it is through this observance that God channels His grace down to you—when you believe that—you place in the hands of the priest, of those empowered by ecclesiastical authority to administer the sacrament, a terrifying power over the ignorant and the superstitious. If you can ever get people to believe that that priest has the power to change this into the actual body and blood of Jesus, and that in that sacrament God’s grace is mediated to you, all the priest has to do is to say, “I withdraw it from you,” and it terrifies one who is thus taught to believe that the priest has that power.
No! He does not have that power, nor is there any sacrificial efficacy in the Lord’s Supper. It is altogether a symbolic portrayal of the suffering and death of our Lord.
So, we come now to the true meaning of the Supper. First and foremost: it is a memorial of the death of our Savior; plainly so. He said so: 1 Corinthians 11:26, “For as oft as ye drink this cup, and eat this bread, ye do set forth—you dramatize, you exhibit, you proclaim, you publish—the Lord’s death until He come.” It is a memorial. It brings back to us and publishes to the world the fact of the atoning death of our Lord [Matthew 27:32-50; Romans 5:11]. So, we do it in memory of our Savior, in grateful memory; Eucharisteo, in thanksgiving to God, memory, for the death of our Savior for us [1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. Now it was a memorial, the Passover. There, when the people gathered together, they remembered God’s deliverance out of Egypt [Exodus 12:3-14, 23].
Our Fourth of July is a memorial. There we remember the sacrifice of our revolutionary forefathers who laid down their lives for our liberty and for our independence. And we observe the Fourth of July to keep before our people the memory of those days of bloodshed and war that brought to us our independence. Now, the same kind of a thing is found in the memorial of the Lord’s Supper. It keeps before us the remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus for us <<.
Will you look at a second thing in the true meaning of the Supper? Will you notice that there is a double symbol to portray His violent death. He did not die just as a man might expire in old age or because of an illness, but He died violently. He died by the coercive hatred of men [Matthew 27:32-50]. So, in the Lord’s Supper, you have a double symbol to portray the death of our Lord. There is both bread that is broken, and there is also the fruit of the vine that is crushed—both of the symbols. Notice also that in that double symbol, the body is separated from the blood. “This is the body, the bread [Matthew 26:26]. This is the blood, the cup” [Matthew 26:26-28]. His violent death is further emphasized in the breaking of the bread. The whole Supper, the way it’s put together, though very simple, yet, very dramatically did God employ it to keep before our minds the agonizing suffering, violent crucifixion of our Lord.
All right, third, the meaning of the Lord’s Supper: it is a communion on our part; a participation on our part; a koinōnia on our part with and in Christ. For example, the apostle Paul will write, in the tenth chapter of the Book of 1 Corinthians, he will write—verses 16 and 17:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the koinōnia, [communion], of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the koinōnia, [communion], of the body of Christ?
For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers—we are all participants—of that one bread.
[1 Corinthians 10:16-17]
So the Lord’s Supper is a participation of us in the body and blood, in the atoning death of our Lord. It is a communion. It is a fellowship between us and our Lord [John 6:56].
This is Christ, and we are a part of Him. And that death is our death, and that resurrection is our resurrection, and that atonement is our atonement [Romans 6:3-5]. We are identified with Him, a koinōnia; we are like that with our Lord.
And this of course is God’s great, infinite, and immeasurable loving gift to us [John 3:16]. Do we sin? It’s been paid for. That’s our death [Romans 6:3]. Is there judgment upon our iniquity? That’s the judgment upon our iniquity, that death [1 Peter 2:24]. Are we raised with our Lord in glory? We are. That was my sermon last Sunday morning. We are planted together with Him and raised in the likeness of His glorious resurrection [Romans 6:5]. So the Lord’s Supper is for us a koinōnia, a participation, a communion with our Savior [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-27]. And if anybody wants to call the Lord’s Supper a communion, it is certainly correct according to the Bible, if you mean by it a communion with our Lord, a participation with our Savior.
Now, what does it mean? What does the Lord’s Supper mean? In the fourth place: it symbolizes our continuous dependence upon Christ for all our spiritual life. He is the bread of life, and that was the great, beautiful message of our Lord in the synagogue in Capernaum that John writes, quotes, in John chapter 6 [John 6:35-59]. Day by day, we feed upon our Lord. And this is a sign and a symbol of our dependence upon Christ. He is to us the sustenance of all of our spiritual life [Colossians 2:13].
So, it is a repeated ordinance [1 Corinthians 11:24-25]. It is an avowal, we do it again and again. It is an avowal of our constant dependence upon Christ. As baptism is a sign of the beginning of the new life, “This is our conversion; we died to the world, and we are raised to Him”—that is the beginning of our life [Romans 6:3-5]—so the Lord’s Supper is a sign of the sustenance, the continuation of that life [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-27]. As Christ was baptized at the beginning of His ministry [Matthew 3: 13-17], He established the Lord’s Supper at the close of it [Matthew 26:20-29]. So our beginning life is symbolized in our baptism; we’ve been resurrected out from among the dead to a new life in Jesus Christ” [Romans 6:3-5]. Now its sustenance is continued and mediated to us as we depend upon our blessed Lord.
All right, number five: what is the meaning of the Lord’s Supper? It is a proclaiming, it is a teaching ordinance, it is a means of confessing Christ. It is a means of testifying to our faith in Him [1 Corinthians 11:26]. We also publish abroad the fact of His sacrificial death to the whole world. The Lord’s Supper is a witness to the world that Christ died for our sin, and lives for our salvation [Romans 5:10]. The Lord’s Supper is a magnificent instrument for that proclamation and for that preaching.
There’s not a child that could ever come to a service and watch you observe the Lord’s Supper and it not make an indelible impression upon his mind. He’ll ask you questions about it. He’ll just do lots of things about it. And you need to teach the child, just exactly as the ancient Hebrews, you know, took stones and put them there: “And, the Lord said, It shall come to pass in times to come that your children will ask you, What mean you by these stones? Why, you will say. . .” [Joshua 4:6-7] and then describe the marvelous deliverance [Joshua 4:7-18].
That’s the same thing that you find in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus in the Passover: “It shall come to pass in days to come, when your children ask you, What do you mean by this? That you will say to them, ‘We were slaves in Egypt, and the Lord delivered us out with a mighty hand’” [Exodus 12:26-27]. Well, the Lord’s Supper does that. It is a marvelous teaching ordinance, and it proclaims to the world our faith in the atoning grace and death of our Lord [1 Corinthians 11:26].
And sixth: the Lord’s Supper is a marvelous symbol of the coming joy with Christ in the consummation of the kingdom. That is very explicitly stated in the Bible. It is emphatically presented, and you can’t read the institution of the Lord’s Supper and fail to see that. In Matthew 26:29 Jesus said, “Verily, I say unto you, 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.” That refers to Revelation 19:9.
The Lord’s Supper points forward to the great festival of the marriage supper of the Lamb. The next time the Lord sits down with us is going to be at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and we shall drink and we shall eat at the table of our Lord. And the Lord’s Supper is an earnest and a harbinger of that great koinōnia, that participation with our Savior in heaven, at the consummation of the age [Revelation 19:7-9].
And isn’t that what you read also in 1 Corinthians 11:26? The Lord’s Supper is a glorious announcement of our faith in our coming Redeemer, “For as oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death ‘till He come.”
So the Lord’s Supper does three things. First: it looks backward to the death of Christ. It is a memorial of the sacrifice of our Lord. The Lord’s Supper looks outward at the believer’s confession of a new life in His atoning, vicarious death. And that’s why, looking outward, you’ll find in the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, we are to look at ourselves carefully, that we observe it in deepest solemnity and sobriety and spiritual meaning [1 Corinthians 11:28-29]. So it looks outward; and then it looks forward to His glorious return, “when the dead shall hear His voice and live again” [John 5:25]. So the Supper looks back; it looks outward; it looks forward.
We discuss now who is to observe the Lord’s Supper? Who is to sit at the table of the Savior? Number one: the Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated by the assembled church. The Bible so emphatically emphasizes that. The Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance. It does not belong to the legislature. It does not belong to the civic club, or the Rotary Club, or the Lion’s Club, or the Kiawanis Club. It does not belong to the Masonic Lodge, or to the Oddfellow’s Lodge, or the Elk’s Lodge. It does not belong to the Parent-Teacher’s Association. It does not belong to United Fund. It does not belong to the courts. It does not belong to the school system. The Lord’s Supper belongs to the church.
It is distinctly, emphatically, and explicitly a church ordinance. And as such, in the New Testament, it was always observed by the assembled church, never in any other way, or at any other time. It was a church ordinance. In Acts 20:7 it says, “. . . and when the church was gathered together to break bread. . . to observe the Lord’s Supper.” In 1 Corinthians 11, verses 18, 20, 33, 34—we won’t take time to look at these things—always it is with that word, that it is when the church is assembled together [1 Corinthians 11:18, 20, 33, 34]. He starts off, “For first of all, when you come together in the church [1 Corinthians 11:18]. . .” That’s the way he begins the passage on his discussion of the Lord’s Supper. “When ye come together in the church . . .”—and always it is like that.
Did you know, in my studying, I came across something that I never had even heard of before. In the second chapter of the Book of Acts, it says—after these three thousand were baptized and added to the church [Acts 2:41], it says; “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” [Acts 2:46]. Now that expression “breaking bread” in the New Testament, always refers to the Lord’s Supper. So, it was pointed out in my studying for this lecture tonight, it was pointed out that the word there is not oikia, “house”—that is “house” in the sense of your private dwelling. But the word is oikos, which means—so these men would point out, though it would be subject to discussion—oikos, a worship house, a worship room. So, “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread in various worship rooms. . .” or, “from worship room to worship room” [Acts 2:46]. The breaking of the bread was a worshipful act on the part of the church.
Now here’s another thing that I stumbled into. Oftentimes, in my reading in these years past, I had read where men said that at the beginning they thought that the first Christians closed every meal with the Lord’s Supper, three times a day—if they ate three times a day—they would close each meal with the Lord’s Supper. They’d take a piece of bread, and bless it, and eat in remembrance of the Lord. They’d take a cup of the fruit of the vine, bless it, and drink it in the remembrance of the Lord. Now I had come across that many times, and I took it for granted—never entered my mind to look at it closely—it’s just like so many of the things that we accept. If a fellow says it often enough, why, you just take it for granted. You believe it.
I’m trying to trying to think, and I can’t think of it. For years and years and years there was a fellow who wrote an article about cow’s teeth. Now what did he say—that the cow had teeth all the way around, up and down? Now, that was my remembrance of the article. And after a thousand years, somebody stuck his hand in a cow’s mouth and found out—now, I don’t know what he found out! But the cow doesn’t have teeth all the way around, up and down. Isn’t that right? Or—is that correct?
Well, I got an old cowpoke over here. They have teeth, just underneath? Is that right? Well, they’re not . . . well, well, that’s what I—that’s what I read—just down here. Well, it shows you how that you can say something, and if the next guy says it, and the next guy says it, just repeated—just ad infinitum, everybody just takes it for granted. And, upon a time, this fellow just happened to stick his hand in a cow’s mouth just to see if that is true, and found out it’s not true.
Well, that’s exactly the way I was about the Lord’s Supper. I had read, and read, and read, and read that, to begin with, that doubtless the first Christians closed every meal with breaking bread, blessing it—you know—and taking the Lord’s Supper. Well, here’s what I found out: 1 Corinthians 11:22, 1 Corinthians 11:22 and 1 Corinthians 11:33-34 show expressly that that was not so.
First Corinthians 11:22 reads: “What? Have you not houses to eat and to drink in?” And verses 33 and 34: “Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation” [1 Corinthians 11:33-34]. Well, that shows you that at home they did not take the Lord’s Supper. Paul is saying that you appease your hunger at home, so that when you come together in the church and observe the Lord’s Supper, this is a communion, a participation on the part of the church with the body and blood of our Lord.
What? Now, I’m talking after Pentecost—after Pentecost; the first Christians, after Pentecost, that they observed it—you know—in their homes after every meal. No. Paul is pointing out here very decidedly and decisively that at home they ate to appease their hunger, but when they came together in the church, that’s when they observed the Lord’s Supper [1 Corinthians 11:33-34]. Now, who is to observe the Lord’s Supper? It is observed by the church, always by the assembled church.
Number two: it is to observe only by those who have hope in Christ and in His death for our sins. There’s no place at the Lord’s Table for unbelievers. There’s no place for hypocrites who make a fair show in the flesh but whose hearts are full of iniquity. There is no place for shallow, willful despisers of the grace of Christ, men who hear the call of God in their hearts but who refuse to obey. There is no place for the worldling who loves the bread of self-indulgences and the cup of sinful pleasure. And there is no place for the unthinking, the unknowing, who do not understand what it means.
Now that means, of course, that those who partake of the Lord’s Supper are to be those who understand its deep spiritual significance. And if they do not understand that deep spiritual significance, they ought not to partake. And, of course, as Paul says, we are to examine ourselves and so partake of the Supper [1 Corinthians 11:28-29].
Now third: who is to observe the Lord’s Supper? It is to be observed by baptized believers. This is the order in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. We’re to make disciples—that’s first—we’re to believe in the Lord, first. We’re to baptize them in the name of the triune God. Then we are to teach the people to observe the things that He has given us to observe, one of which is the observance of the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 28:19-20]. This is the order presented by our Lord, and this is the order practiced by the apostles. There’s no exception to that.
First: they are converted, saved. Second: on that confession of faith, they are baptized. I noticed that my compatriots—both Brother Jimmy Draper and Mel Carter—when they baptize, they say to the candidate, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?” And the candidate answers, “I do, yes.” Then they say, “Upon this confession of faith, I baptize you, my brother—or my sister—in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” That’s very fine, what you men do. That’s very biblical. I’m very glad that what you do is fine and is biblical. That pleases all of us, and it is certainly in order. And that is certainly the order of the New Testament, without exception. First, they are saved; second, they are baptized; and third, they observe the Lord’s Supper. And that order: one, two, three is as inspired as the content, the substance itself. One, two, three—that is the order of God. Just as much as what is said is the inspired Word of God, so the order is the inspired Word of God: one, we’re to be saved; second, we’re to be baptized; third, we’re to take the Lord’s Supper.
Now, had men not meddled with the ordinance of baptism, you would never have had any trouble with the Lord’s Supper, never at all. But when men meddle with the ordinance of baptism and change it around, you’ve got all kinds of doctrinal troubles in every area of church life, and you certainly have it with the Lord’s Supper.
For example, when you sprinkle unconscious infants and call that baptism, you have lots of trouble with all of the doctrines of the New Testament and certainly with the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. But if you’ll observe that, just as God’s gave it to us, simply: one, we’re to be saved—that’s first [Acts 17:30-31]; second, we’re to be buried with the Lord and raised with the Lord—that’s second [Acts 2:38]; and third, then we’re to observe the Lord’s Table, sitting together as a church in the communion of our Lord [1 Corinthians 11:24-25].
I discuss now—and we must hasten—I discuss now how to observe the Lord’s Supper. How do we observe the Lord’s Supper? Number one: it is to be observed with both elements—both the bread and the cup [Matthew 26:26-28]. In the Roman Church, only the wafer is used, and the priest drinks the wine. Isn’t that an unusual arrangement? And does he drink it sometimes! Only the wafer is offered to the laity.
Now it’s a strange thing how the Bible is. I just don’t understand. Evidently the Holy Spirit of God could foresee the aberration in that doctrine. So in the institution of the Supper by the Lord; of the bread, He said only, “Take, eat” [Matthew 26:26]. That’s all. There’s never any word but that. “Take, eat.” But of the cup, He said, “All of you drink of it” [Matthew 26:27]. And in Mark 14:23, explicitly and expressly, the author says, “They all drank of it.” Isn’t that a strange thing? With regard to the bread, just, “Take, eat.” But when the Lord comes to discuss the cup, He expressly says, “All of you drink of it.” And the record says, “And they all did drink of it,” as though the Scripture could foresee what the Roman Church would seek to do, to take the cup away from the people and use only the wafer. So how is it to be observed? It is to be observed in both elements—both the bread and the cup.
Number two: it is to be observed sacredly, with great spiritual solemnity and significance. I have no power to change the habit of our church or of our churches—we’re all practically alike in it—of observing the Lord’s Supper, after we have our regular preaching service. But if I could, we would have a special service for the Lord’s Supper. There are several reasons for that. One is, Christ regarded His death on the cross as the very center of His mission and work. His death was no more a martyrdom but an atoning sacrifice for the putting away of our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 10:4-14]. Of all of His ministry—and you think of all the things that our Lord did—He said, “This do in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:24-25]. He placed great emphasis upon it.
All right, number two, how we observe the Lord’s Supper: with great solemnity. In 1 Corinthians 11:27-30, it presses upon us the solemnity of its ordinance. If the full meaning and integrity of the ordinance is observed, it requires proper spirit, form, and purpose. So, self-examination: in 1 Corinthians 11:28, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”
Now where that comes from is from the verse above and the verse following:
Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
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 you must look at that, for that is an adverb, “unworthily.” Adverb, adverb modifies verbs and refers to manner—how you do a thing. Adjectives modify substantives. They modify nouns. They describe a noun. Now if it were a noun, “worthy,” it would refer to us. But, “worthily,” the adverb refers to how we do it.
I had a very fine teacher, the only man teacher we had in the whole church and the whole village in which I lived. But he would never take the Lord’s Supper. So I sat down with him one time, and I said, “Your example is bad. You’re the teacher of the men in this church, and you never take the Lord’s Supper. You never have taken it. Now that is bad for the men. You ought to take the Lord’s Supper.”
And he said, “I am not worthy, for the Bible teaches that if I take the Lord’s Supper, being unworthy, I shall be guilty of the body and blood of Jesus, and I will eat and drink damnation to myself” [1 Corinthians 11:29].
Well, if his interpretation was correct, of course, we’d all just—we’d never observe it. Who is worthy to stand in the presence of the Lord? Who is worthy to take the Lord’s Supper? Why, no one of us is. No one of us is. That’s why we do it because we are sinners.
If you’re perfect, you don’t need to take the Lord’s Supper, for this is a sacrifice for sinners. It’s because we were lost, and undone, and Jesus died to save us that we come to the Lord’s Table [1 Corinthians 11:26]. We believe in His sacrifice for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], and we have trusted Him as our Savior. We who are sinners, once dead in trespasses and sins, now raised to walk in the new life and hope in the grace of God [Ephesians 2:1-5]; it is we who are sinners that are invited to the Table of the Lord. What he’s talking about is the way that we do it.
Now in the context here in the 1 Corinthians and the eleventh chapter, why, they were just riotous in it. They turned it into a Saturnalia. They turned it into a Bacchanalia. They turned it into an orgy. And that’s the way they had been accustomed to worshipping God up there on that Acrocorinthus. And some of you have been there, where they worshipped Venus in orgies. Well, that’s the way that they had been accustomed. So they brought it over to the church. And Paul says, That is tragic, for when you do that, you do that to condemnation [1 Corinthians 11:27-29].
So, we are to observe the Supper, worthily—adverb—in a deep, spiritual significant way. This word, not discerning the Lord’s body [1 Corinthians 11:29]; it means not recognizing the spiritual significance of the ordinance.
And the word in 11:29, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself,” the word is, “condemnation to himself,” not discerning the Lord’s body” [1 Corinthians 11:29], not recognizing the spiritual meaning of the ordinance. Now, the condemnation is that they have, “a great many sicknesses among you, and some of you have died” [1 Corinthians 11:30]. And that’s due to the fact of the way, he says, that they observe the Lord’s Supper. That was the judgment of God upon them; not eternal damnation, but frequent illnesses and the dead that were found among them. So when we observe the Lord’s Supper, we are to observe the Lord’s Supper with great solemnity and sobriety [1 Corinthians 11:27-30].
All right, now this may seem the opposite of that, but no, it is together. We are to observe the Lord’s Supper as a festival. It is festal in nature. It is with joy and thanksgiving. The Passover was observed like that, with gratitude to God for their deliverance [Exodus 12:8-11].
Gloom and sadness are foreign to the spirit of the Supper. It is a memorial of the death of our Lord, but it is a death by which we live. It is a memorial of the cup of the suffering of the Lord, but it is the cup that brings to us joy, and gratitude, and gladness [1 Corinthians 11:23-25]. That’s why I think it perfectly right, correct for us to call it a Eucharist— a eucharisteō, a thanksgiving. So the Supper—if I can put them both together—the Supper is to be observed with deep solemnity and sobriety [1 Corinthians 11:27-30], but at the same time, it is to be observed with gratitude and thanksgiving. It is to be festal in nature.
Now we’ve been here an hour. Does that seem to you that I’ve been talking to you an hour? It doesn’t to me either. It seemed to me just about the time that I get good and started, it’s time to go.
Now bear with me, just one other thing: how often are we to observe the Supper? In Acts 2:46, they may have observed it every day at first. In Acts 20:7—Acts, verse 7, chapter 20—we know that the church there gathered together, and on that Sunday, they observed the Lord’s Supper. How often do we observe the Lord’s Supper? First Corinthians 11:26 is the answer, “For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup”; God left it up to us.
When I was the pastor of a little village church, in a little country church, we observed it every quarter. How many of you ever belonged to a church that observed it every quarter? Hold up your hands. Well, that’s a great host of us. That was the way I grew up, as a boy. In the little church in which I grew up, and the churches that I pastored, we observed it every quarter.
When I came to this church—and this is the first church that I ever pastored where they observed it once a month—I was delighted. I loved the habit of our church of observing it every month. On the first Sunday of each month, we observe the Lord’s Supper. If we wanted to observe it every Sunday, there would be no thing to keep us from it. Observe it every Sunday. It would be all right.
The reason we don’t observe it every Sunday, as far as I’m concerned is, I observe the people who do observe it every Sunday, and they get so mechanical in it— that’s just something to get over with and get on their way from. I think it loses its deep, spiritual significance when you observe it that frequently. So God says it’s just up to you. You can observe it as often as you like, “For as oft as you do it, you are setting forth the death of our Lord” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. We could observe it on Wednesday night. You could observe it on Tuesday. You could observe it Saturday morning. But in the New Testament, we know that they observed it on Sunday [Acts 20:7]. And so for us to observe the Lord’s Supper once a month, on the Lord’s Day, is to me a beautiful way to memorialize the sacrificial death of our Lord for us.
Well, I love being with you. I already have some letters and some calls about next Wednesday’s lecture. Next Wednesday’s lecture is on “The Lord’s Day, on Sunday.” Why do we worship on Sunday? And I have several questions already given to me about Sunday. And it will be a delight to me, next Wednesday, to do my best to answer those questions and to present why it is that we worship, we gather together, on Sunday.