A Decalogue of Remembrance
November 1st, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
A DECALOGUE OF REMEMBRANCE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
11-1-87 7:30 p.m.
It will be an unusual aberration if I do not read the institution of the Lord’s Supper as Paul wrote it. There are four places in the Bible where the Lord’s Supper is presented from His gracious hands. It is in Matthew, it is in Mark, it is in Luke, and it is in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 [Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30].
And almost always the background for our holy observance is a reading from the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians. “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you” [1 Corinthians 11:23]. When he was in Arabia three years [Galatians 1:17-18], Paul says he received all of the Gospel message directly from our Savior. He says, “I did not hear it. I did not learn it. I did not receive it from the apostles. It was not spoken to me by the lips of men. But I received it directly from the Lord” [Galatians 1:11-12; Ephesians 3:3-4]. And that’s his meaning here.
I have received of the Lord, directly from Him, that which I deliver unto you, namely, 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 broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me.
After the same manner also He took the cup . . . and He first drank 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.
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show—
you present, you dramatize—
the Lord’s death till He come, till He come.
[1 Corinthians 11:23-26]
The Lord’s Supper is like a bridge spanning the entire interval of Christian history. At one end of it is the tragedy and suffering of the cross, and at the other end of it, the bridge ends in our entrance into the glory of the kingdom.
There is a decalogue, ten beautiful things, that this Supper presents to us. And in our observance of it, these ten things we offer in worship and praise to our dear Lord. Number one: it is an act of remembrance. “This do in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:24-26]. It commemorates the death of our wonderful Savior. Isn’t it a strange thing, out of all of the marvelous, incomparable, miraculous, unspeakably glorious things that attended the life of our Savior, He asks us to remember just one—His death? [Matthew 27:32-50].
Number two: it is an act of examination. “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat” [1 Corinthians 11:28]. The examination is to be made as to the purpose. We’re not worthy. It’s the purpose in our heart that we lay before God asking the Lord to make it holy and worshipful. Unworthy as we are, we’re invited to partake of this memorial because this is the great expiation of our sins [2 Corinthians 5:21]. This is the atonement for our iniquities [Romans 5:11]. This is the blood, the sacrifice that makes us acceptable to a holy and heavenly God [Hebrews 9:22].
Three: it is an act of testimony. “Ye do show forth the Lord’s death” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. This is the message of it. Christ did not seek that we forget the time when we would observe it in a remembrance of Him.
Four: it is an act of obedience. Jesus commanded us to observe it; eat, drink [1 Corinthians 11:24, 25]. Attendance upon it is a beautiful act of our remembrance and obedience to Him. “If you love Me,” He said, “you will keep My commandments” [John 14:15].
Number five: it’s an act of participation. It is called the communion of the blood and body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 10:16. There is a hallowed experience in communing with Christ at His table. He says, “I will eat it with you” [Luke 22:15]. This is the only place where communion is used, referring to us [1 Corinthians 10:16]. Everywhere else in the New Testament, koinōnia is translated “fellowship.” But in this one instance, it’s called “communion.” When we eat the bread, it’s the communion with the body of Christ. When we drink the cup, it’s the communion, the koinōnia, the participation, the fellowship with our dear Lord [1 Corinthians 10:16].
Number six: it’s an act of thanksgiving. He gave thanks; it’s an unusual thing that in so awesome a tragedy He gave thanks [1 Corinthians 11:24]. This is our entrance into the presence of God. How could we, who are so sinful, fallen, made of the dust of the ground—as Abraham said, “Behold I have taken upon me to speak unto Thee, I who am but dust and ashes” [Genesis 18:27]—how could we deign thus to enter into the presence of the great God of heaven? It is with thanksgiving that Christ has opened that door and made the way.
It is an act of belief, number seven. Those who partook continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, Acts 2:42.
It is an act of expectation, “till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. When we break this bread together and drink this cup together, we are avowing that we believe Jesus is coming again [Acts 1:10-11].
Number nine: it’s an act of covenant. “This cup is the new covenant in My blood” [1 Corinthians 11:25]. On the outside of every Greek New Testament is He Kainē Diathēkē, “The New Covenant.” Diathēkē refers to a “will, a testament, a disposition of property.” It thus came to mean a compact, a contract between God and man. The old diathēkē, the old covenant in the Old Testament, the Old Covenant, testament, covenant: “This do and live” [Luke 10:28]; all of those laws and precepts. But no man could keep them. The man broke them. “This do and live,” and we don’t do. We are fallen. No man could do it. The dia[thēkē] kainē, the “new” covenant, is in the blood of Christ, which is “Trust, accept, believe, and you will live” [John 3:16, 36; Acts 16:31: Romans 10:9-10].
Number ten: it’s an act of fellowship, of union. The church was instructed to come together, “In one place, tarry one for another and thus to observe the Lord’s Supper” [1 Corinthians 11:33]. It is not an individual experience. In my home, in my study, at my desk I observe the Lord’s Supper—no, no. God never thought or intended such a personal program. This is a shared experience. You and I and we, gathering in a holy sanctuary, together we observe this beautiful memorial [1 Corinthians 11:33].
Now Doug, we’re going to sing us a song. And the choir will place their instruments away and come back, and our men will come and take their places, and in just a moment we’ll observe this beautiful ordinance. Let’s stand and sing our hymn.