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Why People Sometimes Die after Communion

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 23, 2023 9:00 am

Why People Sometimes Die after Communion

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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March 23, 2023 9:00 am

In this message from 1 Corinthians 11, Pastor J.D. picks up the most fundamental element of Christian worship—the bread and the cup of communion.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. This cup and this bread proclaim, you need to be saved. And there's only one way that that can happen. Being sincere is not enough. You must be born again from above. Salvation is not something you work up from within. It's something given to you from above.

You need to be saved by Jesus. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian, J.D. Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today, Pastor J.D. picks up the most fundamental element of Christian worship, the bread and the cup of communion. And when we share this meal together, we aren't merely remembering Jesus's last meal. We are entering into His presence. Come to this table. There is no place for religious pride here, no place for classism, no place for racial division, but there is always a place for you.

So pull up a chair. If you'd like to follow along with the transcript of each message, you can always find them free of charge at Pastor J.D. poignantly titled today's message, Why People Sometimes Die After Communion. The church in Corinth, 1 Corinthians 11, was filled with all kinds of divisions. As we have seen, there were divisions over convictions about what was right and what was wrong, about how to act in certain situations. There were cultural divisions.

There were class divisions. There will always be diversity in the church. There will be diversity of age, if it's a New Testament church at least.

There'll be diversity of age, diversity of background, diversity of class, diversity of race, diversity in our preferences, diversity in our convictions over secondary matters, diversity in our political approaches and things like that. Jesus' vision of the church was not uniformity in all things cultural. Jesus' vision of the church that Paul reflects here is a unity in Christ that outweighs any distinctions in those secondary things. For the Corinthians, the one place that they should have most displayed their unity, that was the coming together around the Lord's table when they came together to partake of the bread and the cup. That place, that moment, Paul says, only highlights your divisions.

Take a look. 1 Corinthians 11, verse 17. Now in giving, in giving this next instruction, I do not praise you.

I'm ticked off. Since you come together, not for the better, it's actually for the worse when you come together. It would be kind of better if you guys didn't even gather for church, he's saying. Because to begin with, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you in the service that are noticeable. Verse 21, for in eating, one eats, one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry and another gets drunk. In church, y'all, people are getting drunk.

What? Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?

All right, here's what was happening. This has got a little bit of a confusing passage when people just read it. Remember, in the early days of the church, there were no church buildings. So typically they would gather in homes.

And usually it would be the home of a wealthy person since their homes would have been big enough to host everybody. And so every Sunday they would have shared a meal together and then done church after the meal. They had a full meal, by the way, not just a little cracker and juice, but as a part of that meal, they would celebrate the Lord's supper right at the very end.

They would celebrate communion or the Lord's table or the Eucharist or whatever you prefer to call it. Well, the rich people, because they all knew each other and most of them did not have to work on Sundays, they would get there early and they would eat and drink and have a big time with each other for a few hours. Eventually the poorer people would start migrating in after work, about the time for the service to start. But by then all the seats in the main room were taken and the poor people would end up having to sit in another room or on the porch. Essentially, it was this as if you had two separate campuses, one for the rich people and one for the poor people. Plus by the time the poor people got there, all the food was gone and the rich people had been sipping on wine for hours. So they're a little saucy.

So one group is hungry and the other Paul says is basically drunk. And so now you got all this bitterness and resentment growing in the church. The rich did not want to be associated with the poor. They're no fun.

They're kind of dirty and sort of uncouth. And the poor felt excluded. What is worst of all is that the final part of this meal included that moment where they observed the Lord's supper, where they would take the bread and they would break it and they'd take the cup and they would drink it. And so the rich and poor are basically observing that Lord's supper as two literally separate groups.

The rich people over in the first classroom and the poor people out on the porch. Paul is completely exasperated by this. His tone in verse 22 is, I don't even know where to start with you people.

Do you have houses to eat and drink in? You got to bring this junk into church. And so to address this, Paul lays out a theology of communion, the Lord's table, the bread and the cup. I'll basically refer to it today as the Lord's supper. Because he says, if you understood communion, you understood the Lord's supper, this would never happen.

Remember our main driving idea in this series. It's that the gospel is the clear voice that cuts through all the noise of the Corinthian chaos. Paul says, just reflecting on the gospel for 10 seconds will fix this problem. Here he goes, verse 23. For I received from the Lord Jesus what I also passed on to you. On the night when Jesus was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread. And when he had given thanks for that bread, he broke it.

And he said, this is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way he took the cup after supper and said, this cup is the new covenant in my blood.

Do this as often as you drink it. Do it in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Verse 27, so then whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person therefore examine himself before he partakes of this moment. In this way, let him eat the bread and drink the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, without recognizing what God has created, he eats and drinks judgment unto himself, not blessing. This is why many of you, he says, are sick and ill among you and why many have fallen asleep or died. Verse 33, therefore, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, welcome one another.

You got to welcome. It's not just between you and God in this moment. It's between you and other people. There are three words that arise out of Paul's theology of communion that you need to remember in every communion service you're ever a part of. Three words that summarize what is happening in the communion moment when we pass the bread and the cup. Three words which, if we really believe and apply them, y'all would cure so many of our social divisions and our church problems. Number one, here they are. Number one, proclamation. Number two, participation. And number three, examination.

Here we go. Number one, proclamation. Verse 26, Paul says, as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you, see the word, proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. I'm normally thought of as the proclaimer in this church.

I stand right here and I proclaim. The Lord's supper, Paul says, is itself a proclamation. The bread and the cup are like, think of them like visual aids. Visual aids to help you understand the sermon better, help you better reflect on the gospel, a sermon prop.

I've told you that my son, Adam, has told me that I need to use more props in my messages. The Lord's table was itself supposed to be a prop that Jesus instituted to help us understand the gospel that is being proclaimed. Now, what is it that is being proclaimed in the bread and the cup? The first thing that these elements proclaim is that we need to be saved.

Every time we hold these up, that's what we're saying. As Paul notes, on the night before Jesus died, Jesus held up the bread and said, this is my body, which is broken for you, for the forgiveness of your sins. If salvation could have been obtained any other way, Jesus would not have had to die. If salvation could have been obtained through good works, Jesus would not have had to die. If there really were multiple ways to get to heaven, Jesus would not have had to die. Sometimes people think they're being cultured and generous when they say, oh, yes, Jesus is my personal way to get to heaven, but I'm sure that God accepts other ways.

Just be a good person, be sincere in your religion, be kind to people, and then God will accept you. That may feel kind and generous and cultured to you, but do you realize what kind of insult that is to Jesus? Jesus praying on the night that he died, Father, if there's any other way, let this cup pass for me. You're telling me that God the Father was like, well, yeah, there actually are other ways. There are multiple ways to get to me, but I'm still going to make you die. What an insult to Jesus. This cup and this bread proclaim you need to be saved, and there's only one way that that can happen.

Being sincere is not enough. You must be born again from above. Salvation is not something you work up from within. It's something given to you from above. You need to be saved by Jesus. Second, the bread and the cup proclaim that you can be saved, not just that you need to be, but you can be.

Jesus did not add any qualifiers to the word you when he said, this is my body, which is broken for you, which means if you are a you, he's talking to you. Sometimes people think, well, not me. My sins were too flagrant. My sins were too shameful. I turned away from God too many times.

Not true. This is my body, which is broken for you. If you're a you, he's talking to you. Maybe you've gotten some messed up you of Calvinism. My wife says she was like this for many years. You think, well, I must not be one of the elect.

Not true. This is my body, Jesus said. If you're listening to me right now, this body was broken for you.

If you are hearing this right now, it can be for you. Jesus said, whosoever will may come and eat of the bread of life freely. I'm sure glad he said whosoever, because if he had listed out certain kinds of sinners, I probably would have figured out, wondered if my sin was included in that list.

In saying whosoever, he means anyone from anywhere, no matter what mistakes you've done, no matter what sins or shame you bring. John 3 16, God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life. I remember hearing when I was a teenager, put your name in that verse. For God so loved, put your name in there, Justin or Rachel, that if Justin believes in Jesus, Justin will not perish. Justin will have eternal life. His death is sufficient for you. There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins, and any sinner plunged beneath that flood loses all their guilty stain.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day, and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sin away. There is a place at this table for you. No matter who you are, what you've done, no matter what kinds of failures or struggles you bring into this moment, you might be the biggest sinner in our city.

You might be the biggest sinner in this state. If we knew who you were, we'd probably get nervous and hold our kids and our possessions a little closer to us. There's a place at this table for you. One of the greatest feelings to be in high school was when I'd come into the lunchroom. It's packed for lunch, and there's nowhere to sit. One of my friends would wave at me and be like, hey, over here, we've got a seat for you. We saved you a seat. Jesus saved a seat at his table for you. We invite you to sit there right by him. Thanks for listening to Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. We'll be right back with more of today's message in just a moment. But before we return, I wanted to share with you an exciting resource that can help you grow in your faith. Pastor J.D. Greer offers a daily email devotional that delivers encouragement and insight straight to your inbox every morning. These devotionals are the perfect way to start your day and stay connected to God's Word. And you know the best part? It's completely free.

And you know the other best part? It follows along with our teaching here on the program so you can stay plugged into Summit Life even if you miss a day on the radio. Simply sign up at forward slash resources to start receiving these daily devotionals today. That's forward slash resources. Now let's get back to today's message with Pastor J.D.

Greer here on Summit Life. Third, we proclaim that suffering and death are not the end. Verse 26, For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death. See this?

Until he comes again. In this world, good people live with hardship. Sometimes they're poor. Sometimes good people are poor. This table proclaims death is not the end. Poverty is not the end.

That's not the measure of your life. Jesus rose, and he's going to return again. And then everything's different.

Eberhard Arnold, who's an early church scholar, wrote a book called The Early Christians in Their Own Words. He says that one of the favorite worship postures of the early church, one they would use when they sang and one they would use in communion, was to worship with their arms outstretched. But not this way.

Not like we do it. They would do it this way, horizontally, imitating the posture of the cross. For them, it was, he said, the ultimate posture of triumph. The cross. What looked and felt like death was part of God's great triumph in eternity. The gospel says to the poor or the sick, you're not going to be poor or sick forever. Jesus is going to return in triumph, and then you're going to feast at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and there will be no more pain and no more crying. The gospel says to the oppressed, you're not going to be oppressed forever. The righteous judge is going to return, and he's going to make all things right. To the lonely and to those who feel abandoned, it says, I will never leave you or forsake you.

I've just gone to prepare a place for you, and I'm going to come again and take you into my home where you will be with me forever. This table proclaims that in our hardship, like Jesus's cross, we are experiencing the good plan of God, him bringing that into the world. So he says, don't look down on the poor. They're not poor because they did something wrong or because they weren't good enough to make it.

Jesus was poor, and that was all part of God's good plan. Fourth, this table proclaims that this church is first and foremost a community of the forgiven. If the above is true, that we all need to be saved and that all of us can be saved, and that poverty and suffering are not the measure of our lives, riches are not the reward for the righteous, and poverty is not the curse for the unrighteous, these are just temporary states that God has assigned to us to bring salvation into the world, soon to be overturned by his coming, that ought to create a profound sense of equality around this table.

Am I right? Religious pride has no place at this table. Where is boasting? Paul says. We are first and foremost sinners who have been redeemed, for by grace, he said, we've all been saved through faith, all of us, and not even that was from ourselves. Even that was the gift of God.

It's not of works so that nobody has any room to boast. All our best righteousness, the prophet Isaiah said. It's just like a filthy diseased rag. The best thing you can think of that you've ever done in God's sight, like a filthy disease rag.

The blood of Jesus is the only hope for the best of us, and the certain hope even for the worst of us. The Lord's supper was fashioned after the Passover meal the Jews celebrated. In the Passover, the Jews reflected on the fact that they were all slaves until God delivered them. There were no classes of slaves.

They were not rich slaves or poor slaves or good-looking slaves, well-educated slaves, ugly slaves, just slaves who needed to be freed. Race or pride has no place at this table. Classism has no place around this table. In God's eyes, we're one class, poor, wretched, helpless, and blind when he saved us. If you've seen the movie Titanic, you know that the whole boat was divided up into class sections.

Rich people appear, poor people down there. One could not get to the other. Jack and Rose can't be friends.

They have to eat in separate dining rooms, hang out on different decks. This next part wasn't in the movie, but after the Titanic sank, back in America, people were wondering if their loved one who had been on the boat had been rescued or drowned. The New York Times printed two columns of passengers, and the only headings were lost and saved. There were no other distinctions, because in that moment, that's all that mattered.

Wasn't first class lost, first class saved, just lost and saved. Everything else was inconsequential. At this table, we recognize that at our core, we are sinners that God saved. Pride and classism does not exist around this table. Racial division has no place around this table. Yes, God created the various ethnicities of the world as a panoply of his beauty. But in our most fundamental sense, we're all the same. At our most fundamental level, there's only one race, the human one. Men and women made in the image of God, we all got the same problem, sin.

We all have one hope, the blood of the resurrection of Jesus. That by itself should have destroyed racism at its core. Jesus didn't die as a white man or a black man or a Latino. He died as the representative of all humanity. And when he was raised from the dead, he wasn't raised as a Jew or a Greek or a white man or a black man.

He was raised as the Lord of all mankind. One of the biggest failures of the church in America was that in large part, the church, at least the majority part of the church, did not lead the way in the civil rights movement. And we should have, because of all people, we had the gospel that taught us that we're all equal.

The Lord's table by itself should have destroyed all that. One race of people made alike in the image of God with one common problem, sin and a common hope, Jesus. Dr. Clarence Jordan, who was a Baptist preacher in Sumter County, Georgia in the early 1960s, he said it this way. He said, the thing that breaks my heart is that the Supreme Court is coercing pagans to act more Christian than the Bible is compelling Christians to act like Christians. I can hardly stand it when I see the integration struggle being fought, not in the household of God, but in the buses, the depots, and around Woolworth tables. We're arguing about whether or not we can sit down and eat hamburgers and drink Cokes together when we ought to have been sitting around Jesus' table, drinking the wine and eating the bread together.

Listen to this. The sit-ins never would have been necessary if Christians had been sitting down together in church at Christ's table all those many years. The gospel is a sermon.

It is a proclamation that destroys all these divisions. Second word, participation. Proclamation, participation. At the Lord's table, we participate in the body of Christ. Technically, the word participation does not occur in this chapter, but it's implied in verse 27 when Paul warns people not to participate in these things in an unworthy manner, because if we do, he says, you're actually sinning against Christ's body. You are literally touching something holy, the symbols of the death of Jesus, while your heart is in a posture of rejecting it. I use the word participation because in the chapter right before this one, chapter 10, Paul does use the word participation.

Check it out. Verse 16, chapter 10, the cup of blessing that we bless. Is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Participation means fellowship. You are mingling with the presence of Christ. His presence is touching you in a special way. There are two ways that Christians go wrong with this.

You ready? I'm about to jump into the theological deep end of the pool. The first is where Christians overread this, believing that the bread and the cup become the actual body and blood of Jesus as we eat it.

It's called transubstantiation. The bread and the cup literally transform into Jesus's flesh and blood, his actual DNA, as you ingest them. That is not what Paul is saying here. The righteousness and the presence of Christ are given to us not through eating, but through faith.

What does Romans 10, 10 say? For with the heart, man believes under righteousness. With the mouth, confession is made into salvation. Righteousness did not come to you by getting wet in the baptismal tank or by eating bread or drinking wine. How did righteousness come into your life? By believing the word of God, by trusting in Christ and confessing him as Lord and Savior. Communion is not some kind of extra grace blessing that goes beyond the righteousness of Christ imputed to you when you trust him. You don't eat it and get a little bit more holy. When you trust it in Christ, you got the full righteousness of Christ right there, not a down payment that you supplement with communion or other sacraments.

That's one way to go wrong. In the same way, by the way, let me add this, the presence of God was also given to you through faith. That's what Paul says in Galatians.

Let me ask you only this, he says. Did you receive the spirit, the presence of God? Did you do that by the works of the law or by eating communion? Or did you do it, did you receive him by hearing with faith? Did you receive the spirit by taking communion or by hearing the gospel and believing it? Paul's answer is you did it because you heard the gospel.

You received him that way. You received the spirit the same way you were given righteousness, by believing the gospel. You got all of his presence when you trusted in Christ. So communion brings neither the righteousness of Christ nor his presence into you. Both of those were given to you fully when you accepted Christ.

These things, the bread and the cup, are just symbols of the body and the blood, not his actual body and blood. 14 5-minute studies in 1 Corinthians, a set of short devotional studies that will help you go just a bit deeper into this most important book of the Bible. We'll be glad to send you this study to express our gratitude for your generous financial support. When you give to Summit Life, you make it possible for us to deliver this daily Bible teaching and all of the other resources on our website. So give today and join our mission to make the gospel front and center. Donate by calling 866-335-5220 or request them when you give online at Don't forget to check out the gospel partner page as well to learn more about what it looks like to be a part of our monthly giving family. Now before we close, let me remind you that if you aren't yet signed up for our email list, you'll want to go online and do that today. It's the best way to stay up to date with Pastor JD's latest blog post, and we'll make sure that you never miss a new resource or series. It's quick and easy to sign up at I'm Molly Benovitch inviting you to join us again tomorrow as we continue our teaching series through 1 Corinthians called Cutting Through the Noise, Friday on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-23 10:32:29 / 2023-03-23 10:42:49 / 10

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