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This sermon was preached on Sunday 20/01/2002 Am, by Kevin Matthews.
Please Read 1 Corinthians 11
We have been considering together this passage in 1 Corinthians 11 concerning the Lordís Supper, for the last couple of times that we have met together in order to observe the Supper.
We have found that this Supper was instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ in a particular way, and passed on to the church through the apostles, to be observed in this particular way until His coming again. The correct form of the Lordís Supper was passed onto Paul from those in the faith before him, and now it has been passed onto the Corinthian church, and down through the centuries to us via the Holy Scriptures.
There is a proper form for the Supper, and it is to be observed in that manner, for it is an important matter. This Supper in its Biblical form is a very symbolic ceremony, pointing to what the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished on the cross for His people. The correct observance of the Lordís Supper sets before men in a graphic way the great cost to God of bringing sinful men into a right relationship with Himself.
However, the Corinthian experience was far different to this, for Paul says to the church, ĎWhen ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper (1 Cor 11:20).í And he also tells them that ĎNow in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse (1 Cor 11:17).í
The Corinthian behaviour that we considered in our previous excursion into this passage destroyed the real meaning and significance of the Lordís Supper, and in their situation caused more harm then good. So much so that in consequence of their ungodly behaviour, Paul tells them that ĎFor this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep (1 Cor 11:30).í In other words, Godís judgment had fallen upon the place, and people had even been killed as punishment for their abuse of the Lordís Supper!
Now brethren this is serious stuff and it ought to at least cause you to give serious consideration to the Lordís Supper this morning. If the Corinthian abuse actually resulted in the death of some people in the church as punishment for that abuse, are you going to be OK to take part in the Lordís Supper this morning?
Is it not reasonable to ask yourself that very question this morning? I mean God has not changed since that time, being the Lord who says in Malachi 3:6, ĎFor I am the LORD, I change not,í - He is the immutable God. His principles for the correct observance of the Supper have not changed. Therefore God may still strike you down for the incorrect observance of this Supper! Have you considered that brethren? Might you be struck down for your approach to the Lordís Supper?
This is no joking matter, and so I want you to seriously consider the way you approach the Lordís Supper. ĎIs my approach right? What is the right approach to the Supper?í Well letís seek to be sure about the right approach, and turn to 1 Corinthians 11 for the answer to that question.
#1. The Crime Outlined
Having reminded the Corinthian church as to what the correct form is for observing the Lordís Supper, Paul then says to the Corinthianís, ĎWherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord (11:27).í
The spiritual crime that is outlined by Paul in this passage, is that of eating and drinking in an unworthy manner. But just what is that? Clearly the passage implies that the Corinthians were indeed guilty of this crime, so what does it say about their situation?
As we have seen, the Corinthians, like all the other early churches, associated the Lordís Supper with their fellowship meal, which they called the ĎAgape Feast.í But at Corinth there was a difference, for the rich were showing no love for each other, with no regard for the poor, and eating all the food themselves. They cared little for the well being of the church, just for themselves. And so by doing this, they were in fact rejecting the unity that had been purchased through the spilt blood of Christ, driving wedges between those in the church, and thereby showing no regard for what Christ had done on the cross.
In Corinth in a few decades time, these divisions in the church would become so severe, that the young men would in fact depose the elders, and take the reigns of the church for themselves. The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians tells us about that situation.
Here they were regarding the celebration of the Lordís Supper as just another occasion to further highlight the divisions that existed in Corinth. And in so doing, they also reduced the Supper to the level of just another meal, and an ungodly one at that. Let me ask you this question - How much do you think these Christians set their minds on the Lord in their observance of the Lordís Supper? How focused were they on the significance of the Lordís Supper do you think?
They werenít at all. Their whole approach to the Supper was careless, sloppy, and irreverent at best. They had no conscious regard for what they were doing, what the Supper was all about, or for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. They could have been at the local takeaway for all they cared. For them it was just another meal, and another opportunity for the rich to further rise up above the poor, and to assert their wealth and prestige. And the poor were allowing the behaviour to get to them, and for it to become the focus of their minds, and every thought. And so dissension arose between them.
To eat and drink in an unworthy manner then is to take part in the Supper while not being conscious of what you are doing at the Supper, to not be focusing on the point of it all. It is to take the bread and the wine while having no regard for the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished on the cross for sinners, and for you personally as the sinner.
It is regarding the Supper as just another event that needs to be done in the church, rushing through it, going through the motions, and getting it over and done with. It is when you donít think about the significance of the ordinance, when you donít think about what was accomplished at the cross, and when you deny the implications of the cross by your behaviour and life, but yet take part in the ceremony anyway.
Letís get right down to the practical level shall we? It is to be daydreaming about what your next week will involve. It is to be thinking about how wonderful the occasion is for speaking to your friends, and thinking about what you will say to them afterwards. It is about the many, and various ways that your focus is removed from the Supper, and fixed on something else. In short, it is having your mind elsewhere, and not centred on the Lord Supper and the great reality that lies behind it.
Now thatís the spiritual crime that is outlined in the passage here. In Isaiahís day it was not the Lordís Supper but the sacrifices and temple worship that the people were doing in the same unworthy manner that I have explained, and God said to them, ĎWhen ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. (Is 1:12,13).í And that my friends is what the unworthy partaker of the Lordís Supper is doing, trampling the courts of God and bring futile worship.
There are some people about in the church of Jesus Christ who think they cannot come to the Lordís Supper because they are not worthy. They believe they arenít good enough, for they are just too big a sinner to come and participate in the Supper.
They are conscious of their daily struggle with sin, and their all too often capitulation to it. Because of this they think they are poor Christians, and therefore it would be wrong for them to take part. They donít feel worthy enough to participate.
Then there are others who because they are conscious of a current sin issue will not take part in the Lordís Supper. They feel as though they are a sinner, and because they are struggling currently with this issue, perhaps an unresolved fight with a spouse, or an unconfessed sin of some kind, they cannot come, for they are unworthy.
But these things are not what the passage is necessarily talking about. These people, though conscious of their various struggles, sins and failings, can still come to the Lordís Supper. Yes they can!
As they come to participate, seeking the Lordís forgiveness, then yes they can come. For here at the Supper you have the very picture of that spiritual reality whereby your sins are forgiven in the Lord Jesus Christ. What a wonderful time to come!
The Supper is full of meaning to them, and their focus is very much what it should be. ĎHere in the Supper is a picture of how my sin is forgiven. I remember the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished for me, and look forward with great anticipation for that day of His return when sin will be gone forever.í
ĎIf we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).'
Yes you may be a very poor Christian, even a very sinful Christian, and yet you can still come to the Supper, confessing your sins, repenting of them, and participating in the Supper with the full assurance that you rightly observe the Supper.
Donít hold back for that reason, for you were not saved by your merits, and you do not maintain your place in the Kingdom of God by merits. As you were saved through the Lord Jesus Christ, so you continue through the Lord Jesus Christ, and so the Supper has lasting significance for all sinners saved by grace. This is the picture of your salvation Christian - none of us are worthy of being saved or accepted, but ĎTo the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Eph 1:6,7),í and for that reason we can come.
#2. The Charge Issued
Paul says here in this passage, that those who deal with the Supper in such an indifferent manner ĎWherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord (1 Cor 11:27).í But what does Paul mean by this?
The statement simply means that you will be placed alongside of, or in the same category as, those who actually carried out the murder of the Lord Jesus Christ. You will be regarded as one of those very murderers.
You show by your attitude to the Lordís Supper, the very same attitude that these murderers showed to Christ when they killed Him. They couldnít care less about Him, what He said, and what He stood for, and this is exactly what you demonstrate when you eat and drink in an unworthy manner.
You donít think about the great cost of the salvation that Christ purchased on the cross, but your own bellies, or your own concerns. There is no sense of gratitude, and no of thanking God for His indescribable gift of free grace and full salvation through the death of His only begotten Son. There is no awareness that this Supper points to the greatest deliverance a sinner will ever know in your thinking at the Supper. There is no thought given to the life-changing event that is represented through the simple partaking of the bread and the wine. And there is certainly no forward look to the Day of the Lordís return with hopeful anticipation, eagerly awaiting the redemption of your bodies.
But what there is though, is a likeness in the one who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner to those people who sought, and participated in the Lordís death 2000 years ago. How much you need therefore, to consider your position before the Lord this morning.
ĎOf how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29)?í
Is this the charge that will be laid at your feet this day? Will you be charged with the very murder of the Son of God, as taking your place alongside those who treat the Lord with contempt, and with those who treat everything that belongs to the Lord with contempt? Will that be your position today?
If you wish to stay away from that charge, then you need to consider the preventative required in order to keep yourself free from it.
#3. The Prevention Required
With such a dreadful crime and charge to be avoided, how careful brethren ought we to be in seeking a preventative to this crime. What can be done to prevent me, and to prevent you, from eating and drinking in an unworthy manner? Surely we must have this preventative required?
We need to be extremely careful that we donít eat and drink in an unworthy manner. In fact, part of a right approach to the Lordís Supper is to in fact carry out the prevention required in this passage. Paul says, ĎBut let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup (1 Cor 11:28).í
The preventative required by this passage is self-examination. What this means is that you will search out your mind, your attitudes, your motives, your thoughts - you will search them out to make sure that there is none of this unworthy approach present with you.
ĎDo I have contempt for the Lordís Supper and what it stands for? Do I truly love the Lord and the brethren? Do I actively think back on what the Lord has accomplished for me as a sinner saved by grace through the Lord Jesus Christ? Do I look forward to that day when He will return and take part in this Supper with the church? Do I truly understand what all this is about?í
By such self-examination you are not looking for perfection, but for a right attitude toward the Supper, and especially toward He who is the focus of the Supper.
ĎExamine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates (2 Cor 13:5).í
Of course, part of this examination will be to see if you are indeed a Christian, for no unbeliever is able to eat the bread and drink the cup in a worthy manner. After all this is why they are excluded from the Supper, for they have no part in it.
Note also that this is not the responsibility of the church, or the pastor of the church. Sure, the Pastor should seek to intervene if he knows something is amiss, but he is not required to be on a Ďwitch huntí at every Lordís Supper. You are responsible for this self-examination. You are to examine yourself. I am not to examine you, to see whether you fit the bill - how could I? This is a matter of attitudes and of motives, and I cannot judge those attitudes and those motives. You must search yourself; you must stand or fall before God.
This is why we have an open table brethren, you are to search yourself, and if you find yourself qualified, Ďso let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup (1 Cor 11:28b).í But if you are disqualified on these grounds that we have covered this morning, then you are not to participate, but to keep yourself back from the Supper.
Now it will not do to give yourself a quick five-second assessment as the prayer for the bread is being given, or as the bread is coming toward you. This is something that you should have settled well and truly before you walk in the door. This is a matter you are to see through before the Lord, and not before the church.
Be at home the night before, or get up early, and brethren prepare yourself for the Supper. Search these things out, be sure of your position before the Lord, and seek His enablement so that you will indeed be able to come to the Supper in the worthy manner as outlined in this passage.
Iím not going to tell you how long you need to be in prayer, how long you need to be examining yourself, how much you need to confess your sin - I am not giving you a list of external laws so that you can be a Pharisee. But I am speaking to you about something that is part of the normal activity of a Biblical Christian. The time you spend on this is the amount of time it requires for you. It is not for me to say.
But you must do it brethren, for the consequences of neglect are great.
#4. The Sentence Given
ĎFor he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body (1 Cor 11:29).í
If you allow yourselves to participate in the Supper in an unworthy manner, then you yourself are to blame for the judgment that will come upon you. It is your responsibility to examine yourself, not the pastorís or anyone else in this church.
And let me say that it is not your responsibility to sort out others, it is their own. There should be no talks of boycotting the Supper because you think someone doesnít measure up. The area of consequences for eating and drinking in an unworthy manner is the Lordís, and His alone. You are not to seek to bring them about, for you are not the Judge.
Yes, by all means, if you have concerns then go to your brother as Matthew 18 and Galatians 6 indicates, and if necessary take your concerns to the church - but only if they be legitimate, and be areas of sin and unworthy participation. Donít start inventing reasons as to why someone should not be allowed to participate in the Supper - if they are saved, and they come in a worthy manner, then they can come. Any such Christian can come to our table here, and will be most welcome.
But if you will not examine yourself, and if you thereby fall into this unworthy position by your own disobedience and neglect of your responsibility, then you will bring judgment upon yourself. Does this mean the fires of never ending punishment?
Well that is a very interesting question, and will be the focus of our next sermon on the Lordís Supper. But let me finish with this warning from the passage:
ĎFor 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. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:29-32).í
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