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The Nature and Meaning of the Lord’s Supper (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
January 27, 2023 3:00 am

The Nature and Meaning of the Lord’s Supper (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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January 27, 2023 3:00 am

The Bible is clear that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was sufficient for the forgiveness of the sins for all who believe in Him—one sacrifice for all sins, for all time. So what’s the purpose of Communion? Find out on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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The Bible makes it clear that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was for the forgiveness of the sins of all who would believe in Him, one sacrifice for all sins for all time. So what's the purpose of communion? That's our focus today on Truth for Life. Alistair Begg is concluding a message titled The Nature and Meaning of the Lord's Supper. When the ordinances or the sacraments of the church are made to teach us other things than what the Bible teaches us, then we have to be very, very careful. What you have in the Bible is the truth of God verbally. What you have in the ordinances or the sacraments is the truth of God visibly. And the truth of God visibly conveyed by means of symbols does not contradict the truth of God verbally conveyed in the truth of the Bible. So when you find a teaching that grants to the visible elements that which calls in question what we have verbally in the testimony of Scripture, then you're going to have to make a decision. Are we going to embrace the cry of the Reformation sola Scriptura, so that this is our authority for understanding what the church is to be and how the church is to operate? Or is the Scriptures just one of another source by which we may make our pilgrimage through our spiritual existence? In the doctrine of transubstantiation, there is the worship of the host. And I do not mean in any sense to denigrate the sincerity, the love, the devotion, the commitment, the earnest longing that is represented in the hearts of many, many people for whom this is their standard pattern through life. Nor do I wish to call in question that there are those who genuinely believe within the framework of all of that stuff. No one has any right to make those determinations. What I'm talking about is the formal teaching of an entity in direct relationship to the clear teaching of the New Testament.

Listen to what it says. It is right to worship the Eucharist—quotes—genuflecting or bowing deeply. Why? Well, it's logical. Because when they carry that thing down in veneration and in procession, they are not doing what I think is happening, merely carrying signs and symbols, but they are, according to the doctrine, carrying the real presence of Christ under the bread and the wine. And it is for that reason that they are to be reserved for veneration and carried in procession. Section 1378. John Paul II, in the Catechism, let our adoration never cease.

Okay? Now let's just go back to Exodus again, the Ten Commandments. You shall not make for yourself an idol. Well, there is an idolatry in this.

And you shall not bow down to them or worship them. So we just blew out the first two commandments. Also, in the repetition of the mass, it rules out, as I say to you, the offering for all time of a single sacrifice for sins, Hebrews 10.12. Because if the event is made present again, it is repeated. And if it is repeated, it did not take place once for all.

I'll be glad to address the logic of that. If the event of Calvary is repeated, then it didn't take place once for all. And we're told in Hebrews that it did take place once for all. So what right do any of us have to try and repeat it?

Well, let's turn from the negative to the positive in the final moments that we have. If communion is not that, what is it? The first word is the word instruction. In communion, we have an instruction in which we obey Christ. We've just seen here in Luke 22 that it was instituted by Christ.

When Paul writes of it in 1 Corinthians 11, he said, What I received from the LORD, I have also passed on to you that the LORD Jesus on the night that he was betrayed took bread and broke it and gave it to his friends, saying, This is my body which is broken for you. So it is an instruction in which we obey Christ. Since it is instituted by Christ, it is an obligation. And unlike baptism, which happens once, our sharing in the Lord's Supper happens with regularity and continuity.

We should note that it is not a saving ordinance. In other words, you can get to heaven without ever having sat in a communion service. At least we hope so on behalf of the thief on the cross, don't we? Lord Jesus, will you remember me when you come into your kingdom? Jesus said, Well, we're going to have to get down from here and have a communion service, but apart from that, yes, I think everything's going to be fine. Lord, will you remember me when you come into your kingdom?

Today you will be with me in paradise. On the basis of what? On the basis of the fact that the one to whom he was speaking was providing a once-for-all atonement for sin, including the sin of the penitent on his side. So it is not a saving ordinance, but it is a commanded ordinance.

The Westminster Confession makes these things clear. Because when you say it's not a saving ordinance, you will immediately get somebody putting up his hand, saying, or nudging his friend, saying, There you are! I told you, you don't have to go to communion. See, I'm not coming tonight. You don't have to go. Because you can go to heaven without doing communion.

Yeah, if you're a thief on a cross. So for those of you who fit the category, have a great evening. For the rest of you, I look forward to seeing you. Why? Because it is a commanded ordinance. It's not a suggestion. Jesus said, I've got a few things you might like to do when I'm gone, but whatever if you do, fine.

If you don't, fine. That's it. No, he says here, this do—do this in remembrance of me. And in the doing of it, we do not raise the ordinance above the Scriptures, but with the Reformers we discover that we meet Christ primarily in the message.

So it's, first of all, an instruction. Secondly, it is a commemoration—a commemoration in which we remember Christ. In the same way—and that's why we read from Exodus 12, that the Passover was commemorative for the people of God.

Set before them the visual signs and symbols of God's work of redemption in order that they might be reminded again and again of the wonder of what God had done in and through them. And what was portrayed visibly made sense of what had been conveyed verbally, and in the same way, as I've said to you before, when we set the elements before one another in the celebration of communion, that which is taking place as a visible sign points to something different and more significant than itself which is conveyed to us verbally and understandably in the pages of the Bible. And that is why, incidentally, the Reformers would never divorce the celebration of communion from the preaching of the Word of God. Which is, incidentally, in passing, why I don't think that women's meetings should have communion all by themselves.

I'm just thinking of that as I think about it. Or, by and large, that communion should take place in any other circumstance other than in the gathered company of God's people, except in wartime in the trenches, and except as a result of illness where people are hospitalized or in home and someone has to go to them in order that they might feel themselves still to be committed to that. But the idea of little groups of people getting together and having sort of ad hoc communion services?

I don't think you can find that in the New Testament. That's just my opinion. So you can mark that against that and go, opinion, then against that you can go, rather weak, and then just put, ignore in the future. The bottom line is that if you divorce the table from the pulpit, you can do just about anything with the table. And that's why the Reformers said, We're not going to divorce the table from the Word. And that is, incidentally, why in a context such as this, the table sits beneath the pulpit.

Because the Word presides over it all, for Christ mediates his rule through his Word. So, commemoration. Thirdly, proclamation.

Proclamation. In the celebration of the Lord's summer, we are proclaiming the Lord's death until he comes. The same was true in the Passover. A child would say to his father, Father, why do we do these things? Why do we do this every year? And then he would sit his son down and say, Well, you know, you're too young to remember this, but you're my firstborn son, and your mother and I, years ago now, in obedience to the Word of God, took a lamb and shed its blood, and we put the blood on the lintels of the door, and we put it over the head post of the door.

And the little boy is saying, And why, Daddy, did you do that? And he said, Well, because we were slaves in Egypt, and because God sent his angel, and he provided a way of escape for us, and by means of our submission to him and our acknowledgment of his provision and intervention, it was symbolized in our home by our being under the blood, as it were. So we who were slaves were redeemed as a result of God, and now, as we experience our freedom, we spend our time commemorating this in order that you, our children, might understand it too. God redeemed his people by the provision of a substitute who would bear the judgment of a holy God upon sin.

There was a death in every house in Egypt. It was either the death of the firstborn or else it was the death of a lamb. And when we gather around the Lord's Table, we are proclaiming the fact that God has redeemed his people by the provision of a substitute. And that, of course, is the message of the gospel. Will you now come and trust in the provision that God has made, and will you trust in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, for this salvation?

And someone said, Well, no, I will not do that. I want to trust in the church, and I want to trust in my endeavors, and I want to trust in my procedures, and I want to trust in my baptism, and I want to trust even in the Eucharist. I want to trust in many things.

And the Bible says, No, I want you just to trust in the Lord Jesus himself. Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to your cross I cling. Naked come to thee for dress, helpless come to thee for rest, foul I to the fountain fly.

Wash me, Jesus, or I'm a dead man. The fourth word is participation. Participation. In which we feed on Christ. 1 Corinthians 11 26, where he talks about the wonder of what is taking place in this event. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner and so on, we, in coming to Christ in the communion service, are feeding upon Christ in our hearts. Isn't that how we have come to trust in Christ?

In our hearts? Somebody preached or someone explained to us that Jesus is the bread of life, and in childlike trust? We said, You mean, like, when we go to the bakers together, Dad, and I get one of those rolls that I love, and I digest it physically, that Jesus is the bread of life like that? And the Father said, No, no, no, not in a physical sense, son, but in a spiritual sense, but in much the same way that you took that bread into yourself and you benefited from it physically. So by faith you receive the Lord Jesus into your life to the very core of your being, embracing him as your Lord and Savior.

It's not a physical thing. The sign points to a reality different and more significant than itself, so that what was true of us in coming to faith in Christ in the receiving of Jesus. So it is true in the celebration of communion. We receive him in the same way. Horatius Bonar, the Scottish theologian, writes a wonderful hymn on the Lord's table, and he writes, Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face.

What do you mean? What do you mean, Horatius? That you see the face of Jesus? That his face is there in the bread, as it were? No, it's a picture. He's using a metaphor.

Here would I touch and handle things unseen. In other words, he's saying that when I take this bread and I take this cup, I'm not so focused on this as an entity. After all, dear people within the church just prepared it two hours previously. It is clear where it has come from.

It is obvious what it is. But in the taking of this, by the eye of faith I look into it and through it and beyond it, and there I am confronted again by the wonder of who Jesus is and what Christ has done, and I meet him in this encounter, because he has pledged to meet me here. Here I grasp with firmer hand the eternal grace, and all my weariness on thee I lean. Here would I feed upon the bread of God. Here drink with thee the royal wine of heaven. Here would I lay aside each earthly load and taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven. Now, Horatius was not saying, as a result of a re-presentation of the sacrifice, but as a result of the reminder of the wonderful efficacy of this once-for-all sacrifice. When Jesus said, I am the bread of life, and he who eats of me will never hunger.

What do you think he meant? It's a metaphor. I am the door. I am the light. I am the bread.

I am the living water. Do you think for one split solitary second that when he took the standard Passover meal and offered it to his disciples, they thought for a nanosecond that what he was suggesting to them in the offering of the bread was anything other than bread? When he offered to them the wine from which they had already been drinking, that he was thinking of anything other than wine, and when he said, Here, this is my body which is broken for you, he wasn't giving them his physical body, he was giving them an emblem of his body, and here is my blood that was shed for you. Clearly, they knew it wasn't blood that was shed for them.

They knew it was the cup. It was the cup of bitterness that he had drunk in Gethsemane and on, and it was the cup of blessing that they were now experiencing. Now, the fact that man, over time, has transmuted that into a superstitious practice, which has held millions of people in its sorry grasp, preventing them from a discovery of grace by the very mechanisms through which grace is pointed to, can surely only be an indication of the wiles of the devil. Men and women kept from Calvary by that which apparently speaks of Calvary.

Men and women kept from faith by that which is supposed to be the very apex of faith, going to a lost eternity, believing implicitly on something which is a product of the fertile imaginations of men but is not the clear teaching of God the Holy Spirit in the Bible. And here we are at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and my friends and my neighbors and my colleagues and my peers—many of them would come to me and say, Alistair, you know, please do not go down this road. If you go down this road in these days that we're living in, you know, you will sideline yourself. You will lose your influence. People will no longer listen to your radio program.

You won't have the opportunities that you've been beginning to get. Keep it down, son. Do yourself a favor. Don't get involved in all of this stuff. Just leave it alone. Let everybody think that horses are cows and cows are horses.

What does it matter to you? Just give them a few sermons and keep moving. Listen, and listen to me. You think I'm up here just on a fool's errand?

You think I take years off my life to preach in this way, to make enemies of my neighbors and my closest friends? This is either true or it's false. And if it's false, then forget it. If it's true, then it must be heard. And the monuments of Scotland are replete.

Are replete. One of the reasons that this country is in the mess it's in is because it is a post-Reformation country. By God's grace it is, but nevertheless, there are no monuments.

There are no people that died. Nothing ever was given up for the gospel here. That's why everybody thinks it's just a gravy train.

Come and join this. This is easy. It's not that.

It can't be that. And the last word is it's an anticipation. It's an instruction by which we obey Christ. It's a commemoration in which we remember Christ. It's a proclamation in which we preach Christ. It's a participation in which we feed on Christ. And it is an anticipation in which we wait for Christ. And when you come to Communion and you take these symbols that point to something, a reality that is different and greater, you come and take them and remember that for your past, Christ has provided cleansing and forgiveness. And when Satan tempts you to despair, you tell him what Jesus did on the cross, and that you're trusting in that. And in your present, when you take the emblems, remember that he grants to you fellowship and strength.

And when you think about your future, that he promises to you assurance and joy. You see, the sign is secondary. It is outward. It is visible.

The reality is primary. It is inward, and it is invisible. Please do not assume that because you and I know something of the sign, because, to contemporize it even further, we have the icon that appears with regularity on our screen. The fact that it is there does not mean that we have signed on, clicked in, and participated in the site to which the sign is pointing. And surely it would be the greatest of all crimes if we could take the very sign that is meant to point to Christ and for that sign to become a mechanism that turns people from Christ. Surely you would think that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places. As we heard from Alistair today, communion involves instruction, commemoration, proclamation, participation, and anticipation. All of it focused on Jesus. You're listening to Alistair beg on Truth for Life.

Alistair will be right back. Communion is just one of the topics covered in the book we're recommending to you today, a book called Corporate Worship. It's a small handbook that describes when and where and how Christians should come together as God's family to unite as one worshiping body.

This is a book that's available for just a few more days, so request your copy of Corporate Worship by Matt Merker today when you give a donation online at truthforlife.org slash donate. By the way, if you haven't yet purchased a copy of Alistair's book, Truth for Life, 365 Daily Devotions, Volume 2, we still have copies available. This devotional is a biblically sound resource that will encourage daily time in God's word for yourself, or you can give one as a gift to a friend. It's also a great book to share if your church is looking for a way to encourage new members. Each daily reading includes a passage of scripture, followed by a brief commentary from Alistair.

The Truth for Life devotional is available at our cost in our online store at truthforlife.org slash store. Now, here is Alistair to close with prayer. O God our Father, grant that the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts will be found acceptable in your sight. Anything that is harmful, untrue, unkind, deceptive, manipulative may be banished from our recollection and bring home to our minds and to our waiting hearts only that which is from yourself and of yourself and true to Christ and the word of the gospel we endeavor to convey. Come, Lord, to the church in our land in these days, and stir up your faithful from all kinds of nooks and crannies, those who have come to trust in you in the strangest and most unlikely places, those who have ceased to trust in you that they may be quickened again, and those who have fallen asleep on the wheel under the sound of the preaching of the gospel. Lord, revive us, we pray, that we may be as light in a dark place. For Jesus' sake, we ask it. Amen.

I'm Bob Lapine. Enjoy your weekend as you worship with your local church, and then join us Monday as we explore the other biblical sacrament, baptism. Who should get baptized? Are we saved through baptism? We'll find out more Monday. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-27 05:24:48 / 2023-01-27 05:33:34 / 9

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