Seven Sureties of the Sacred Supper
June 1st, 1980 @ 10:50 AM
SEVEN SURETIES OF THE SACRED SUPPER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-1-80 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television we welcome the uncounted thousands of you who are watching this hour. It is a gladness on our part to share these moments with you. This is the pastor of the church bringing the message entitled The Seven Sureties of the Sacred Supper. We usually observe this holy ordinance at night. It is a supper, and in any language in the world a supper is a meal eaten at night, but because our church is an old, old church, about one hundred seventeen years old, there are people in the church who have belonged to it fifty and sixty and more years. It is difficult for some of them to get out at night, so once a quarter we observe this holy ordinance in the morning.
When I use the word “surety,” seven sureties of the sacred supper, I use the word “surety” in its first and primary sense: something beyond doubt, an absolute certainty. There are seven certainties, seven sureties, concerning the Lord’s Supper, and we shall speak of them in order.
First: it is an ordinance of Christ Himself. An ordinance is something that is authoritatively commanded. We have city ordinances to guide the civic life of our people. An ordinance is something that Christ instituted and commanded its observance. It is not a senseless and meaningless ceremony. It is not optional. It is something that the Lord has made incumbent upon us in our obedience to Him.
I read first of its institution in the twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew, beginning at verse 26. This is in the eating of the Passover:
As they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it—
He sanctified it; He consecrated 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 you, drink of it; For this is My blood of the new covenant—
the new promise and hope we have in God—
This is My blood of the new covenant, 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.
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.
And that institution of the Lord’s Supper was faithfully observed by all of the disciples of Christ in all of the churches and to this present day. For example, in Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, in chapter 11, the apostle writes, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” [1 Corinthians 11:1-2]. Paradosis—paradosis refers to something handed over, or handed down, or transmitted, or given to keep. You could translate it “traditions.” I like the King James translation, “Keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” [1 Corinthians 11:2].
And in this chapter, the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, mostly he speaks about the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Paul says, in verse 23, in that chapter: “For I have received of the Lord,” that is, by direct revelation, not through Simon Peter or the apostle John or James, the pastor of the Jerusalem church, but “I received directly from the Lord Himself that which I have delivered unto you” [1 Corinthians 11:23], the paradosis, the ordinance. Then he describes the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup [1 Corinthians 11:24-29]. The first surety of the sacred supper is this: that it is an ordinance of Christ. It is ordained by Him, instituted by Him, and given to us to keep until the end of the age [1 Corinthians 11:23-27].
The second surety of the Lord’s Supper is this: that it is an eating and a drinking [Matthew 26:26, 27]. There are people who stand amazed—once in a while, I listen to them—that we eat in the church. That is one of the most unusual and unknowledgeable of all of the readings of the Bible. Eating and drinking is sacrifice itself; once in a while, a sacrifice would have been a whole burnt offering [Leviticus 1:3-17, 6:8-13], but that was exceptional. All of the sacrifices, practically all of them, were shared meals. The sacrifices were brought and offered unto the Lord, and the priest ate part of it; and the man who sacrificed, with his family, ate part of it; and his friends and neighbors whom he might invite to the sacrificial feast were also made to share in it.
A sacrifice was a shared meal: shared with God, shared with the family, and shared with a friend and a neighbor [Deuteronomy 12:6-7, 18]. So the Lord, as He was celebrating the feast, eating and drinking—as they were celebrating the Feast of the Passover [Luke 22:15]—as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it. He took the cup and they all shared in it [Matthew 26:26-28]. It is a shared meal, eating and drinking. It is a supper.
John describes the profound significance of this simple act of eating broken bread and drinking the crushed fruit of the vine. He will write, quoting our Lord—he will write, in the sixth chapter of John, beginning at verse 48—the Lord says:
I am the bread of life.
Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man eat thereof, and never die.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I give shall be My flesh…
… 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.
As the living Father hath sent Me, and as I live by the Father; so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.
This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
Our life begins in Christ. The sustaining, the sustenance, the continuance of our life is found in Christ. The beginning and the end and the all-encompassing significance of our hope in Christ lies in the Lord in us, Christ in me. “Christ in us, the hope of glory” [Colossians 1:27], of the revelation of God’s mercy and grace in our souls. And that significance is found symbolically in this sacred supper we eat and we drink. This represents the body of our Lord; this represents the blood of our Lord [Matthew 26:26-28]—and in Him we have life and life eternal [John 3:15-16, 10:28]. That’s the second surety of the Lord’s Supper: it is a supper, it is eating and drinking [Matthew 26:26-28].
Could I make an aside? I think it amazingly wonderful that the Lord could take so simple a thing as our sharing a meal and pour into it such deeply spiritual and everlastingly eternal significance. That’s the sacred supper. It is to eat and to drink [Matthew 26:26-28].
Number three, the sureties of the Lord’s Supper: it is an ordinance in the church. It is not in the Chamber of Commerce or in the Rotary Club or in the Masonic fraternal order. It does not belong to the judiciary or the legislature or the executive of a corporation.
The Lord’s Supper is an institution in the church. “Go ye therefore,” our Lord commanded in the Great Commission that closes the First Gospel, “and mathēteuō”: make disciples of all the nations. That’s first, and that’s the imperative in the Great Commission: “make disciples” [Matthew 28:19]. First, we are to accept the Lord as our Savior; second, baptizing them in the name of the triune God, in the name of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19]. First, to be a believer, a disciple of the Lord, I accept Him into my life as my Savior [Romans 10:9-10]; second, to be baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19]; third, to observe the things He has commanded us to keep—one of which is the sacred ordinance of the Lord’s Supper [1 Corinthians 11:24-25]. And this is the inevitable program of the Christian life. Always it follows that sacred order: first I am to be a Christian, I am to accept the Lord as my Savior; second, I am to be baptized in the name of the triune God [Matthew 28:19]; and third, I am to break bread with my brothers and sisters in the faith [1 Corinthians 11:24-25]. So it is when Paul writes to the church at Corinth. He writes of the Lord’s Supper [1 Corinthians 11:23-29]. The church belongs to the people of God. It is an ordinance of the redeemed family of our Lord. It is set in the church [Acts 2:41-42].
Number four, the seven sureties of the Lord’s Supper: it is a memorial. “When you have given thanks,” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11, verse 24:
He took the bread and broke it, said, Take, eat; this is My body, broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me.
In the same way—after the same manner, He took the cup, when He Himself had drunk of it, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.
[1 Corinthians 11:23-25]
It is a memorial. It is in remembrance of our Lord. This is something that Christ has done for us that we are to remember forever and ever, and the supper is to bring back to our minds the memory of the sacrifice of Christ for us [1 Corinthians 11:24-25]. It has a deep, profound meaning. This is a memorial of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus for our sins [1 Corinthians 11:26]. It does, in the Christian church and in the Christian faith for God’s redeemed people, the same thing that the Passover did for God’s redeemed family of Israel [Exodus 12:14, 17, 24-27]. They are God’s people. He bought them. He redeemed them [Deuteronomy 7:8]. He delivered them out of the slavery and bondage of Egypt [Deuteronomy 9:26].
The Lord Christ, in His sacrifice, in His blood, redeemed us and bought us and delivered us from the bondage and the slavery of the sin [Galatians 3:13], and this is a memorial to bring back to our minds that great deliverance in the sacrifice of our blessed Lord Jesus [1 Corinthians 11:26].
In the fifth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, Paul speaks of “Christ our Passover sacrificed for us” [1 Corinthians 5:7]. The lamb of the Passover sacrifice, with its blood spilled out and sprinkled in the form of a cross on the lintel at the top and on the doorposts on either side [Exodus 12:13, 22-23]—that imagery of the lamb sacrificed for the redemption of Israel found its true and spiritual meaning in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God for us [1 Corinthians 5:7]. And as the Jewish people, as Israel, through the years and the years and today observe the memorial of the Passover lamb [Exodus 12:14, 17, 24-27], so we observe the memorial of the sacred supper, our Lord’s atoning grace [Matthew 26:26-30; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29].
The author of Hebrews, just before the passage that you read, spoke of Moses after he had given the law:
he took the blood of calves and goats . . . and sprinkled the book of the law, and all the people,
Saying, This is the blood of the testament—of the covenant—which God hath enjoined unto you.
Moreover he sprinkled with blood the tabernacle, and all of the vessels of the sanctuary.
And [almost] all things are by the law purged with blood: and without the shedding of blood is no remission of sins.
This is a memorial of the sacrifice of our Lord for our sins [1 Corinthians 11:23-25], and without the shedding of blood, the pouring out of life, the expiation of our wrong, there is no remission [Hebrews 9:22]. It has a profound and deep meaning.
The sureties of the Lord’s Supper—the fifth surety: it is a Eucharist. A long time ago, centuries ago, this sacred supper was referred to by the church as a Eucharist, and it comes from this beautiful Greek word: “When He had eucharisteō,” when He had given thanks, “He broke the bread,” asked them to eat in remembrance of Him [1 Corinthians 11:23-25]. In the same way, He eucharisteō the cup; He gave thanks for the cup, and they all drink of it in remembrance of Him [1 Corinthians 11:25]. A Eucharist: a beautiful Greek word meaning thanksgiving, thanksgiving. That is, with all of its sublimity and sobriety and seriousness, it also has a note in it of joy and of victory. It is like that beautiful verse that begins the twelfth chapter of Hebrews: “Jesus, who for the joy that was sat before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” [Hebrews 12:2].
It is a terrible remembrance. It was an awesome sacrifice. It was a price precious [1 Peter 1:19], beyond description. And the agony of the suffering, and the pouring out of His life [Matthew 26:28]; no one with spiritual sensitivity could think of the death of our Lord and not bow in the presence of the great God and our Savior and say, “Lord, how can I ever be worthy such loving remembrance?” But it is not only a solemn remembrance of suffering and of death [1 Corinthians 11:26]; but it is also a victory and a triumph [Revelation 1:18]. His death was for a purpose: that we might be redeemed from the judgment of our sins [1 Peter 1:19], and that we might be saved and adopted and received into the family of God [Galatians 4:5-6]. So it is a thanksgiving supper, it is a Eucharist, it is a breaking of bread and a drinking of the cup in remembrance of an awesome sacrifice [1 Corinthians 11:23-25], but also of a glorious triumph! This is our victory over sin and death and the grave [1 Corinthians 15:54-57]. It is true that He died [Matthew 27:32-50], but it is no less true that He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7]. It is true that He went away from us [Acts 1:9]; it is no less true that someday He is coming back again [Acts 1:10-11]. It is a Eucharist; when we therefore break bread, we give thanks for all the Lord hath done, such precious things for us [1 Corinthians 15:57].
Number six: it is also a communion. Paul writes in the tenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter beginning at verse 16, he writes a beautiful and meaningful passage:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the koinōnia of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the koinōnia 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]
Just like eucharisteō, just like Eucharist is a Greek word of such beautiful meaning, so koinōnia is no less a Greek word, a New Testament word of beautiful and spiritual depth of meaning. Koinōnia means “fellowship,” or “participation,” or “in common,” or “communion.” It is a word of association: koinōnia, the fellowship, the communion, the participation of God’s redeemed people.
Now in the passage here in 1 Corinthians 10 which we haven’t time to speak of, in the passage, Paul is talking about eating meat that had been offered unto idols [1 Corinthians 10:20-21], and he is saying to those Corinthians—this is such a thing beyond us; it just shows you how the Christian faith has simply swept from the earth the entire world of sacrificial idolatry. You know, I can hardly believe that. There was a time when the whole earth sacrificed unto idols, all of the earth, but so powerful has been the preaching of the gospel that when you look at those altars and gods and goddesses of the ancient world, you look at them in amazement. It belongs to a culture that we have simply forgotten, yet it was universal in Paul’s day. And in this discussion in chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians, he’s talking about the people who sacrificed to idols, that is, they eat the flesh of the animal sacrificed to the idol, and he says that a Christian cannot do that [1 Corinthians 10:21]. For, he says, when we eat of the sacrifice, we are sharing the life of the god or the goddess. And he says, “They sacrifice to demons, and you cannot drink the blood of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s Table and of the table of demons [1 Corinthians 10:20-21].
You see, it goes back to the word that I said a while ago: a sacrifice is a shared meal, it’s a participation. It’s a fellowship, and the Lord’s Supper is that between us and our Lord; it is a koinōnia with Christ in His blood. It is koinōnia with Christ in His body; it’s a participation. It’s a fellowship. It is a holy fellowship with our Lord. It is a redeemed fellowship, a restored fellowship with our Lord, and it is the family of God sharing together in the mercy and goodness of Jesus that has made us the children of heaven [Philippians 3:20].
Could I say another aside here? As I read the Bible, and read it carefully, there is one thing that I know that I know. This is another surety that I haven’t listed here: in the New Testament, the Lord’s Supper closed a meal, a koinōnia, a breaking of bread together. They’d eat together. All the church would come together, and they would eat, and then they would close the meal with what we would call the Lord’s Supper. They’d have a blessing for bread and eat. They’d have a blessing for the cup, and they’d drink [1 Corinthians 10:16].
And you know what? I wish we had a hall big enough for our people to come and to eat together, and then we would close the meal with the Lord’s Supper, just as they did in the Bible [Acts 2:42, 46]. I’d love to do that, and while I’m just wishing for things that’ll never come to pass, may I say a second wish? I wish that we had the money so that nobody paid to eat, but everybody came, and we broke bread together, and we closed it with the Lord’s Supper. That’s the way they did in the New Testament, and I’d love to do that today. Can’t, but it doesn’t hurt to wish and to think.
Last: not only is it a communion, but it is a marvelous and buoyant and triumphant and eschatological promise. The Greek word for last is eschatos. “Eschatological” is one of those theological words that refer to the time of the end, the great consummation of the age.
Now I want to show you something that I never saw before until I prepared this message. My old Greek teacher, Dr. A. T. Robertson, one of the tremendous scholars of all time, he one time said to us in class, “I never pick up my Greek New Testament but that I see something there I have never seen before.” And he’d been teaching Greek for over half a century. That’s the same thing that I experience.
I never pick up this Holy Word but that I see something in it that I had never seen before. And this is it: wherever in the Bible it will speak of the atonement of our Lord, of the sacrifice of our Lord, it will always close with a promise of Christ coming again. I never saw that before. Let me show it to you. I have read four different passages here about the institution, and the ordinance, and the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Now I want to show you how all four of those passages end. The first one I read was in Matthew 26:
As they were eating, He took bread. He blessed it and broke it, and they ate.
He took the cup, He blessed it, and they all drank of it—
All right, the close—
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.
He closes it with a word of the day when we shall sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb, when we shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and there share the good things of God in the ultimate kingdom of our Savior [Revelation 19:7-9]. It closes with an eschatological promise of some coming day [Matthew 26:29].
Now you look again. In the verse, in the passage I read from John, the Lord’s speaking of His flesh and of His blood, “For whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life;” now the promise: “and I will raise him up at the last day” [John 6:54]. Always it looks forward to that ultimate and final triumph: “and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Now look again, once more, in this passage, in the eleventh [chapter] of 1 Corinthians: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come; till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26].
When I talk to these children that fathers and mothers bring to me, one of the things I always ask them is, “When the Lord said you show His death in drinking and eating till He come, what does that mean?” and the child will always reply, “That means Jesus is coming again. He is coming for us.” And I’ll ask the youngster, “Do you believe that?” and he’ll say, “Yes.” I’ll ask him, “Do you believe you’ll see Jesus someday?” and he says, “Yes,” and I reply, “I do, too.” Paul calls that “the blessed hope” [Titus 2:3].
Now just hastily and once again, in the passage that we read from Hebrews, in the passage that you read, you look how it closes:
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time apart from sin unto salvation.
It never fails. Always, when the atoning death of our Lord is presented, always it will end: “There is a great day coming. There is a victory God hath reserved for those who find refuge in the blessed Jesus.” This is the surety of God’s promise in our Lord, whose sacrifice for us we portray in breaking bread and drinking the crushed fruit of the vine [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-27]. Now may we stand together for just this moment?
Our Lord in heaven, all of us are humbled when we think, when we bring to mind, when we remember the sacrifice our Lord hath made for us [Matthew 27:32-50]. Unworthy we, undone we, lost sinners we, dying corpses we, and yet in God’s mercy, He has promised us redemption [Romans 3:24-26], eternal life [John 10:28], resurrection from among the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], a home with our Lord in glory [John 14:1-3]. O Master, who could but rejoice and be glad? And our Lord, this morning, this sacred and solemn and sublime hour, Lord, this morning, may many come, saying, “I have accepted Jesus as my Savior” [Romans 10:9-10], or “I want to follow the Lord in baptism” [Matthew 3:13-17], or “I want to put my life in this dear church.” And may the harvest be full and gracious, and we shall love Thee for prayer answered. In Thy saving and keeping name, amen.
In this moment that we sing our hymn of appeal—in the balcony round, there are stairways at the front and the back, and time and to spare—come. Bring your family or your friend or wife, or just one somebody you, come. In the throng of people on this lower floor, into one of these aisles and down to the front; our ministers are here to pray; our deacons are here to welcome and to receive. This is a day of rejoicing, if you will answer with your life. God speed you and the Lord bless you as you answer God’s appeal in your heart. He bids you come, and “Lord, here I am.” On the first note of the first stanza, take that first step, and may angels attend you in the way as you come, while we wait, while we pray, and while we sing.