The Table of the Lord
September 12th, 1976 @ 7:30 PM
1 Corinthians 11:27-34
THE TABLE OF THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 11:27-34
9-12-76 7:30 p.m.
Once again we welcome you who are worshipping with us on KRLD and the radio station of our Bible Institute, KCBI. Tonight we are observing the memorial of the Lord’s Supper. As you have heard me say so many times, I very much like to observe the Lord’s Supper at night. In any language in the world, a “supper” is a dinner eaten at night, a meal shared at night. And to observe the Lord’s Supper at night is most appropriate.
Will you turn with me in the Word of the Lord to 1 Corinthians, chapter 11. And, we are going to read out loud together, beginning at verse 23, through verse 30. The message tonight is entitled The Table of the Lord, and it is an exposition of this passage in 1 Corinthians 11:23-30.
If on the radio, you have a Bible, read it out loud there with us in this great assembly in God’s house, 1 Corinthians 11:23-30.
Now out loud together:
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 show the Lord’s death till He come.
Wherefore whosoever 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 11:23-30]
The title of the message, The Table of the Lord: it is first a table of examination. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup [1 Corinthians 11:28]. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh condemnation—judgment—to himself. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many have died” [1 Corinthians 11:29-30].
It is hard for me to realize that, in that Corinthian church; the solemnity of the Lord’s table was so much in the mind of God, that when those who partook of it did so irreverently, that some of them died and some of them were weak and sickly [1 Corinthians 11:29-30]. We have a tendency, sort of, to overlook or disparage the commandments of our Lord. I wish I had time, and I keep thinking I’m going to take a preaching hour, and from God’s Word speak of how the Lord emphasizes the things He has given us to observe: His types in the Old Testament. Because Moses broke one of them, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land—just because in anger he broke one of the types of our Lord [Numbers 20:8-12].
In this Corinthian church, because they observed the Lord’s Supper in an irreverent and unworthy way, some of them died, some of them were weak, some of them were sickly [1 Corinthians 11:30]. It is a table of examination: “Let a man examine himself,” that he might drink of this cup and eat of this bread worthily [1 Corinthians 11:28-29].
One of the finest teachers I ever had in one of my little churches would never take the Lord’s Supper. I called on his home, and I said, “You are a teacher of the men’s Bible class in our little church. And your example is a stumbling block to the men in your class, for you never take the Lord’s Supper.”
And, he said to me, “I’m not worthy. And God’s Book says that, if you’re not worthy, you’re not to partake.”
I turned to the passage. And I said, “But, my dear brother, God never said ‘worthy.’ He said, ‘worthily’” [1 Corinthians 11:27, 29].
“Worthy” is an adjective, and it applies to me; “worthy.” But “worthily” is an adverb, and applies to how I do a thing. And God says that, if I drink of the cup and eat of the bread in an unworthy, irreverent manner, I eat and drink condemnation to myself [1 Corinthians 11:29]. I am to approach the Lord’s table in a reverent, a deeply reverent way. I am to come, having looked at my attitude in approaching this holy table. If I’m a sinner, and if I have trusted in Jesus to forgive my sins, I’m welcome. If I’m not a sinner, it has no meaning for me: “For this is My blood of the new covenant shed for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:28].
But, when I look at myself and find myself a sinner, and I find in Jesus my Savior, then the table is for me a table of examination [1 Corinthians 11:28-30]. The Lord knows of my shortcomings and my sins. My soul is “naked . . . in the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” [Hebrews 4:13]. He knows all about me. There’s not a weakness in my life, there’s not an error in my deportment, there’s not a sin I’ve ever committed but that He looked upon it and saw it. And Lord, being a sinner and needing forgiveness, I come to Thee and to Thy table reverently, Lord; lovingly, prayerfully, obediently, I come.
It is, second: a table of remembrance; “This is My body . . . eat in remembrance of Me [1 Corinthians 11:24] . . .This cup is My blood of the new covenant . . . drink in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:25].
It is a sweet and beautiful thought that we would remember each other in the Lord’s Supper, but that’s not the purpose in the mind of our Lord. It is a fellowship, a koinōnia. It is a communion. We’re here in God’s house sharing it, but our remembrance is not, sweet as it is, of one another. Our remembrance is of our Lord.
Isn’t it an unusual thing? The only thing that our Lord asked that we remember is His atoning death for us [1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. Think of how many incomparable words He spoke: “Never a man spake like that Man” [John 7:46].
I heard a great intellectual academician, a philosopher, a marvelous professor and teacher—I heard him say, “The profoundest words ever spoken by man are these, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me shall never die’” [John 11:25].
But as wonderful and marvelous as the words were that He spake, He never said, “This, remember Me.” No man ever wrought as our Lord; the miracles of our Savior were incomparable. He could speak and the dead would rise [John 11:43-44]. He could say a word and the elements, furious, were calmed [Luke 8:22-25]. But He never said, “This, in remembrance of Me.”
The beautiful miracles that astonished those who looked upon them and blessed those who were healed by them, or even the sinless life of our Lord, we are so unworthy. The purity of His life is like white, white snow, but not, “This, in remembrance of Me.” Just that: “When I suffered for thee on the cross, and when I died for thee, pouring out My blood, do drink, do eat broken bread in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:23-25]. It is a table of memorial and remembrance.
It is third: a table of testimony. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show forth,” you dramatize, “the death of our Lord” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. It is a testimony, open before the world, of the passion, of the atonement, of the death of our Savior [Matthew 27:32-50]. And one could not deny, no matter who he is, the effectiveness of this testimony.
I remember reading, and many times have I come across it, in the persecution of the Roman Empire against those early Christians, they called them cannibals. They said, “They eat their children and they eat one another. And as proof,” they said, “attend one of the services of the Christians, and you will see them gather together and say, ‘This is My blood, drink. This is My body, eat.’ They are cannibals.”
The vicious condemnation of the Romans, persecuting the Christians, seized upon this as one of the elements that brought about the death—the feeding to the lions, the burning at the stake—of those first disciples of Jesus. But as I look upon that, it comes to me, the Lord’s Table made an impression even upon the heathen.” They purposely misunderstood it. And they purposely used it as a means of bitterness against the early believers in Christ. But they noticed it. And the world notices it. It’s a testimony to our Lord, this bread and this cup. This broken body of our Lord and this spilled blood of our Savior are beautifully and effectively dramatized in the Lord’s Table.
Fourth, and last: it is a table of hope and triumph; “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, you portray—you dramatize—the Lord’s death” [1 Corinthians 11:26].
Achri hou elthe—a word of the Christians to one another. Sometimes, greeting each other, they’d say, Maranatha. Maranatha [1 Corinthians 16:22]: “The Lord comes.” And then, sometimes they’d say, Achri hou elthe: “Till He come. Till He come. Till He come”—maybe, facing death, bidding their fellow Christians goodbye: Achri hou elthe: “Till He come. Till He come.”
Oh, there’s an underlying note of hope and victory in the Christian faith that is ever there! Any time a man preaches a sermon that reflects Christ; it always has in it a triumph, a word of victory. However we may live in a world that seems so despairing and dark, there’s a light shining, there’s a dawn coming, Jesus raised [1 Corinthians 15:20].
I saw in Tahiti one of the most unusual things. There is, on a little peninsula by Papeete, the capital city—pape, basket; eete, water; Papeete means “a basket of water,” in a little harbor there. On this side of the harbor, in a peninsula, there are two effective monuments: one is to Captain Cook and two other explorers who discovered those Tahitian islands; and there is a monument there to Cook and the two other men who discovered Tahiti. And then, here is the most unusual monument you could ever look upon: it is a long monument like this about as high as your head. And alternating, here, here, here, and then there, there, there; on either side are the names of about six missionaries who came to Tahiti when it was inhabited by cannibals. And they won that entire island to the Lord.
Everybody in that island is a Christian. And apparently, everybody still goes to church. When you go around the island, everywhere, at certain distances, you will find the church. And on the Lord’s Day, the people crowd into the sanctuaries of the Lord. And those missionaries, who gave their lives for the conversion of the Tahitians, are memorialized in that monument: three on this side, three on this side.
But it is the center that deeply moved me. The center of the monument is, as I say, about as high as your head and about as wide as my arms extended. And it is made up of different shaped stones. And there is a placard, a caption, underneath the stones. And this is what I read: “As these stones scattered far and wide over all of these islands are here gathered together, so will be the churches of our Lord Jesus Christ, one in faith, one in hope, be gathered together someday into the kingdom.”
I had just never thought of such a thing as that. The full number of the islands of the Tahitian megaplex are several hundred. And they took stones from all of those islands in which the people were won to the Lord and in which churches were founded. And they took those stones, one from each island, and put them there together. And then, in the hope of the Christ, “As these stones are gathered here together from all over these islands, so the churches of Jesus Christ, one in hope and one in faith, shall someday be gathered together into the kingdom of our Lord.”
Isn’t that what I said? Always in the Christian faith there is that inevitable sounding of a note of victory and triumph: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye show forth the Lord’s death till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. Till He come, till the great day of the kingdom, till it is realized here in this earth, a King visible, on an actual throne, and we, the subjects and servants and disciples of our Lord [Revelation 22:3-5].
What a hope. What a preciousness. What a blessedness. What a future. What a tomorrow. What a triumph: The table of hope and victory [1 Corinthians 11:23-26].
If you’ve been listening to the service on radio, if the Holy Spirit has touched your heart, we pray that tonight might be the night that you’d open your heart heavenward and God-ward and Christ-ward and upward, and receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior.
“Lord, I’m a sinner, lost, and someday I shall die. I don’t want to die unsaved, Lord. I want to be saved. Tonight, I confess to Thee all my sins [1 John 1:9]. I ask Thee to forgive me, and Lord, come into my heart.” Wherever you are, would you tonight, bow your head and say, “Lord Jesus, take me. Write my name in the Book of Life everlasting” [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27].
And in the great throng in this sanctuary of heaven, in the balcony round, a family, a couple, or just you, walking down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, out of that pew, into that aisle, and down to the front: “Pastor, I have decided for Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], and I’m coming tonight.” I’ll be standing right here to this side of the Lord’s Table. Come, and God bless you, and angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.