Sermon 2638. The Right Observance of the Lord's Supper
INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 1899.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, JUNE 4, 1882.
"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you. That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He wasbetrayed, took bread: and when Hie had given thanks, He broke it and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken foryou: this do in remembrance of Me. After the same manner, also, He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is thenew testament in My blood: this do you as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread,and drink this cup, you do show the Lord's death till He comes." 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
WE have no respect whatever for the ordinances of men in religion. Anything that is only invented by churches, or councils,is nothing whatever to us. We know of two ordinances instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ-the Baptism of Believers and theLord's Supper. And we utterly abhor and reject all pretended "sacraments" of every kind. And because we observe these twoordinances, and these two, only, we are the more concerned that they should be properly used and duly understood, and thatthey should minister to the edification of those who participate in them. We would have those who are baptized understandwhat is meant by that expressive rite-that they, being dead with Christ, should also be buried with Him and rise with Himinto newness of life. And when we observe the Lord's Supper, we feel a deep and earnest desire that none should come to theTable in ignorance of the significance of the observance-or that, at least, ignorance may not be an occasion of eating unworthily-butthat we may comprehend what we are doing and understand the spiritual meaning of this pictorial instruction by which the LordJesus Christ would, even until the end of the age, remind His Church of His great Sacrifice upon the Cross.
I. So, first, I will speak briefly concerning THE FORM OF THE LORD'S SUPPER.
We do not think that it is at all material where that supper is held. It is just as valid and helpful in your own privateapartments, in your bedroom, or in your parlor, as it is in any place where Christians usually congregate. We do not attachso much importance as some people do to the time when it is observed, but we are astonished that High Churchmen should beopposed to evening communion, for, if any definite time for partaking of it can be quoted from Scripture, it certainly isthe evening! I should like to ask the Ritualists whether they can find any instance, either in holy or profane things, ofa supper being eaten before breakfast-until they invented that absurd practice! There is no time that is more like the firstoccasion when the Master celebrated the ordinance with His disciples than is the evening of the day. Then it was that He gatheredthe 12 Apostles together and instituted this blessed memorial feast! At Emmaus, too, it was at the close of the day that Hewas made known to His two disciples in the breaking of bread. It must be sheer superstition, utterly unwarranted by Holy Scripture,which tells us that the Lord's Supper can only be properly received in the morning and that we ought not to eat anything beforewe partake of the sacred emblems! We reject all such nonsense, for we find no authority for it in the only standard whichwe recognize, that is, the Inspired Word of God! Let us see what it teaches us concerning this ordinance.
We learn, first, that the Lord's Supper should begin with thanksgiving. So the Master Himself evidently commenced it-"He tookbread and gave thanks." All through the Supper, the emotion of gratitude should be in active exercise. It is intended thatwe should give thanks for the bread-at the same time giving still more emphatic thanks for the sacred body which it represents.Then we should also give thanks for the cup and for that most precious blood which is therein represented to us. We cannotrightly observe the Lord's Supper unless we come to the table, blessing, praising, magnifying and adoring our Savior-praisingHim even for instituting such a festival of remembrance-such a memorial ordinance to help our frail memories! And praisingHim yet more for giving us so blessed a thing to remember as His own great Sacrifice for our sin.
After the thanksgiving, it is very clear that our Divine Lord broke the bread. We scarcely know what kind of bread was usedon that occasion. It was probably the thin passover cake of the Jews, but there is nothing said in Scripture about the useof leavened or unleavened bread and, therefore, it matters not which we use! Where there is no ordinance, there is no obligationand we are, therefore, left free to use the bread which it is our custom to eat. When the Master had broken the bread, Hegave it to His disciples, and said, "Take, eat." And they all participated in eating it. And this, mark you, is essentialto the right observance of the Lord's Supper, so that, when the priest, in celebrating "mass," takes the wafer, which is notbread and which he does not break, but which he, himself, eats whole, there is no Lord's Supper there! Whatever it may becalled, it is not the Lord's Supper. In the eating of the bread, there must be the participation of such a number of faithful,godly disciples of Christ as may be present, or else it is not the ordinance which the Lord instituted.
That being done, the next thing was that, "After the same manner also He took the cup." That is to say, after the same mannerof thanksgiving, blessing God for the fruit of the vine, which was henceforth to be the emblem of His poured-out blood. Evenso should we. It is no vain thing to praise the Lord, though we do it twice, thrice-yes, and ten thousand times! Well didthe Psalmist say, "Praise you the Lord: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely."Especially comely is it for us to praise our God when we are calling to remembrance the unspeakable gift of His only-begottenand well-beloved Son!
Then came the partaking of the cup-the fruit of the vine-of which the Master expressly said, "Drink you all of it." Hence,when the Church of Rome takes away the cup from the people and denies it to them, there is no observance of the Lord's Supper,for another essential part of the ordinance is left out. It may be the "mass," or it may be anything else, but it is not theSupper of the Lord! There must be a participation by all the faithful in the cup, as well as in the bread, otherwise the Lord'sdeath is not shown, or proclaimed according to Christ's most holy and blessed command.
Further, in order that this may be the Lord's Supper in very truth, it must be observed in remembrance of Christ, who saidto His disciples, "This do in remembrance of Me." From which we learn that only those who know Him must come to His Table,for how shall we remember what we never knew? And how shall we remember Him with whom we have never spoken and in whom wehave never believed? You are not to come to the Lord's Supper to get faith-you must have faith, first-or else you have noright to draw near to this sacred spot. What do you do here? If you suppose that this is a saving ordinance, I must say toyou what Christ said to the Sadducees, "You do err, not knowing the Scriptures." Salvation comes to us through faith in ourLord Jesus Christ and it is the result of the effectual working of the Spirit of God within us This Supper is a most instructiveordinance for those who are saved, but those who are not born again and are not, by Divine Grace, members of the Lord's family,have no right here. They who ate the Passover were such as were born in the priest's house, or bought with the priest's money-andif you have been born in Christ's house, or bought with Christ's blood-if you know, by blessed experience, the meaning ofregeneration and redemption, then you may come to the Communion Table. But, if not, as the Passover was only intended forIsrael, so is this supper a family feast for those who belong to Jesus Christ-no others may come to it! If they do come, itwill be at the peril of eating and drinking unworthily since they are unable to discern the Lord's body.
I have thus given you a very brief account of the form of observing the Lord's Supper, as we find it in the New Testament.You notice that I have not said anything about a chalice, or a paten, or about consecrating the elements, or uplifting thehost and all that Romish rubbish of which some people think so much. The reason for my silence is that there is nothing aboutthese things in the Bible. "To the Law, and to the Testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because thereis no light in them." Clear away all the additions of superstition-they are but the dust and the rust which have accumulatedduring the ages and they spoil and mar the purity of Christ's own ordinance! Our great concern must be to observe it exactlyas He has delivered it to us, in accordance with His own injunction, "This do in remembrance of Me"-not something else inits place.
II. Now, secondly, from our text I gather THE IMPORTANCE OF THE LORD'S SUPPER.
First, because it was revealed by the Lord Himself. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "I have received of the Lord that whichalso I delivered unto you." Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were all accessible to Paul and, though they had not then writtentheir Gospels, yet he could have learned from them how the Savior instituted the Supper. But, as if Christ would not let itbe secondhand, He was pleased to declare to Paul, personally-to Paul, himself-directly and distinctly, how the Supper shouldbe celebrated. The Apostle says, "I have received of the Lord"-not, " we"-not, "I and the rest of the Apostles and disciples,"but-"I have received of the Lord," indicating a definite personal Revelation from Christ as to this matter. After the LordJesus had gone up into Glory, His Revelations were but few, yet this was one of them. He would have His disciples, therefore,pay due attention to this important matter which He thus especially revealed to Paul. O Beloved, I often tremble for thosewho tamper with the ordinances of Christ-they alter them, or shift them out of their proper places-and then say that theiralterations are unimportant! Mary said to the servants at Cana of Galilee, "Whatever He says unto you, do it." And we haveneed of the same command today! We must not alter anything that Christ has ordained, for, "where the word of a king is, thereis power" and, in the Word of the King of Kings, there is power to condemn those who alter His Word. Whatever Christ has commandedis to be obeyed by us- and as He took special pains concerning this ordinance, to make a distinct Revelation over and abovethe guidance of the Holy Spirit to the four Evangelists, we may be certain that He intended to surround this Supper with theutmost solemnity and authority.
I have already referred to the next point, but it is so important that I remind you, again, that this Supper was commandedby the Lord. He said, "This do in remembrance of Me." And again, "This do you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance ofMe." If I love Christ, I am bound to keep His commandments-and among the rest of His commandments, this one in which He, here,says, "This do." I might have thought, from the conduct of some professing Christians, that Jesus must have said, "This donot" but as He said, "This do you," where shall I find an apology for those who either never have done it at all, or, beingHis people, do it so seldom that He could not say to them, "This do you, as often as you drink it," but He might rather say,"This do you as seldom as you drink it," since the idea of frequency does not enter into their observance of it? But, dearFriends, what Christ revealed and commanded, it is incumbent upon His own beloved ones to obey!
Notice, again, that this supper was instituted by Christ, Himself, andHe, Himself, first set the example for its observance.As to Baptism, you remember how He said, "Thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness," and so He set us the example inthat matter. And, in the Supper, it was He who first blessed and broke the bread. It was He who first passed the cup and said,"This cup is the new covenant in My blood." If He had given the command and the Apostles had been the first to attend to it,it would have been binding upon us, but, inasmuch as, in addition to giving the command concerning it, He, Himself, set theexample of observing it-sitting at the center of the table, with the 12 all around Him-I think He has put a special halo aboutthis ordinance and we must, by no means forget, or neglect, or despise it.
Remember, too, that He established it on a very special occasion. To my mind, it is very touching to read, "The Lord Jesus,the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread." I cannot help noticing that the Apostle is very particular to say here,"The Lord Jesus." Very often He uses the name, "Christ," in speaking of the Savior. But here it is, "the Lord Jesus," to showthe awe and reverence which the Apostle felt as, by faith, he saw the Master at the first Communion Table. Paul could notforget that, though Jesus was then Lord of All, He was that same night betrayed. He that ate bread with Him lifted up hisheel against Him and sold Him for 30 pieces of silver! Yet, even while the anticipation of that betrayal and all which itinvolved was tearing His heart asunder, He remembered us and established this ordinance that, by refreshing our memories concerningHis blessed Self, we might not be left to play the traitor, too, but might be kept steadfast in every time of trial. O Brothersand Sisters, it seems to me that we must be especially careful to observe such an ordinance as this, instituted when our Savior'sheart was breaking with anguish on our behalf!
And remember, too, the importance of the ordinance, because of the peculiar personal motive with which it was instituted-"Thisdo in remembrance"-of what? Of Christianity and its doctrines and practices? No. But, "in remembrance of Me." You know howtenderly a thing comes home to you if a dying husband says, "This do, my beloved one, in remembrance of me, when I am deadand gone." You never fail to do that, I am sure, if it is in your power. You know how it is with a friend who has gone fromyou and who has left you some forget-me-not. You treasure it with the utmost care. The memento is very precious for your friend'ssake and our dear Lord and Master has put about this Supper all the loveliness of His personality, all the graciousness ofHis affection for us and all the tenderness that ought to be in our love to Him. If there is anything that He bids you do,you ought to do it-but when it is something to be done in remembrance of Him, you must do it-your love impels you to do it!Are you not ashamed if you are not doing it in the most loving, humble, grateful and earnest manner possible, as becomes thememory of Him who loved you and gave Himself for you? I would not like to have to urge any Christian to come to the CommunionTable-I feel as if I would do nothing to spoil the perfect spontaneity of it. If you do not love Him, do not come to His Table!But if you love Him, come because you love Him. Come because you remember Him and because you wish to be helped to rememberHim yet more. If there is nothing about Him that you wish to remember, do not dare come! But, if He is precious to your soul,your transport and your trust. If His very name is music to your ears, honey to your mouth and joy to your heart, then youdo not need me to press you to come to His Table, but you will come because He says, "This do you in remembrance of Me."
There is one more thing which adds to the importance of this Supper and that is, it is to be observed "till He comes." Itis not an ordinance, then, for the first Christian centuries, alone, to be, as it were, the bridge between the ceremonialismof the Old Testament and the spirituality of the New Testament. No, it is intended to be celebrated "till He comes." We mustkeep on gathering at His Table, giving thanks, breaking bread and proclaiming His death till the trumpet of the archangelshall startle us-and then we shall feel it to be truly blessed to be found obediently remembering Him when He puts in Hisappearance at the last! As He comes to us, we shall say, "Blessed Master, we have done as You did bid us. We have kept aliveYour memory in the world to ourselves and to those who looked on as we broke the bread and drank of the cup in Your name.And now we rejoice to see You in Your Glory." I do not know that the meeting between Christ and His people could happen ata better time than if He were to come when they were gathered at His Table, obeying His command and showing His death "tillHe comes."
Thus I have tried, as briefly as I could, to give instruction as to the importance of this Supper. I hope that the Holy Spiritwill press home the Truth of God upon the hearts of any who have not observed this ordinance, before, and that He will leadthem to ask if they are, indeed, Believers in Jesus, and lovers of the Lord, how they can justify themselves for their disobedienceto what Christ has so expressly commanded!
III. But now, thirdly, let us enquire, IN WHAT SPIRIT OUGHT WE TO COME TO THIS TABLE?
I should say, first, that we are bound to come in the spirit of deep humility Brothers and Sisters, to my mind, it is a veryhumbling thing that we should need anything to help us to remember Christ. I see no better evidence of the fact that we arenot yet perfectly sanctified, for, if we were, we would need nothing to help us to remember Him. There is, alas, still animperfection in our memory-and that strangest and saddest thing of all-in respect to Jesus Himself. It is extraordinary thatwe should ever require anything to help us to remember Him. Can He, to whom we owe so much, be ever forgotten by us? The factthat this ordinance is to be observed in remembrance of Him, "till He comes," is a humbling proof that till that gloriousevent, His people's memories will be faulty and they will need this double forget-me-not to remind them of Him who is theirAll-in-All.
What do I see on that Table? I see bread there. Then I gather this humbling lesson-that I cannot even keep myself in spiritualfood. I am such a pauper, such an utter beggar, that my own table cannot furnish me with what I need and I must come to theLord's Table-and I must receive, through Him, the spiritual nutriment which my soul requires. What do I see in the cup? Isee the wine which is the token of His shed blood. What does that say to me but that I still need cleansing? Oh, how I rejoicein that blessed text in John's first Epistle-"If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with oneanother." And then what follows? That we do not need to make any more confession of sin because we are quite cleansed fromit? Nothing of the sort! "And the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin." We still need the cleansing fountaineven when we are walking in the light, as God is in the light-and we need to come to it every day! And what a mercy it isthat the emblem sets forth the constant provision of purifying blood whereby we may be continually cleansed! As we partakeof this cup, we must do so humbly, for thus it becomes us to come to the Table of our Lord.
But, next, we must come very thankfully. Some pull a long face when they think about coming to the Communion Table, like Mrs.Too-Good who is described in Rowland Hill's Village Dialogues. She made a mistake about the week that the ordinance was tobe observed, so she did not play cards during that week and kept herself wonderfully pure, poor old soul. And then, when shefound, on Sunday, that she had made a blunder as to the time, she said she had wasted the whole week in getting ready! Ah,dear Friends, I hope we do not know anything of thatmethod of keeping the sacred feast. We are to come in a very differentframe of mind than that, for we are not coming to a funeral supper, but to the luxuries and dainties that become a marriagefeast! Let us come, therefore, with thankfulness, as we say to one another concerning our Lord, "He is not here, for He isrisen, glory be to His holy name!" These tokens of remembrance tell us that He has gone where it was expedient for Him togo, that the Holy Spirit might descend upon us. Therefore, Beloved, rejoice even because of the absence of your Lord, forit is well that He should be gone up into Glory. And, as we come to the Table, each one feeling what a sinner he is-how unworthyhe is to come-how unfit he is to sit with saints-should not each heart say, "Bless the Lord, O my Soul: and all that is withinme, bless His holy name"? Twice during the feast, special thanksgivings are to be presented-but all through the feast letthe heart be full of holy gratitude and praise to
But, we should certainly come to the Table with great thoughtfulness. There are some, we are told, who do not discern theLord's body-let us think and pray, lest we should be numbered with them. If there is no right thinking, there will be no truespiritual feeling and there will be no Lord's Supper so far as you are concerned. Think of what your Savior suffered for you,what He has done for you and what He has gone to prepare for you! Let us remember that the bread sets forth the sufferingof His body, that the wine typifies the blood of the Atonement whereby we are cleansed-that the two, apart-the body separatedfrom the blood, form a most suggestive symbol of the matchless death whereby we are made to live! Think much at the Table,but think of nothing but Christ! Fix your thoughts entirely upon Him and so shall you eat of this bread and drink of thiscup to your soul's refreshment and profit!
But come, also, with great receptiveness. It is a meal, you know. We receive the bread and the wine. So, come to the Tablebegging the Lord to give you the Grace to feed upon Himself spiritually, that you may, by faith, receive Him into your inwardparts-that in your inmost soul you may have the virtue of His life and of His death! Come empty, therefore, for so you willbe the better qualified to feed upon Him. Come hungering and thirsting-thus you will have the greater appetite for Christ.Receive Him in all His fullness by a wonderful faith that takes Him in to be a joy to the heart forever.
That is the spirit, then, in which to come to the Lord's Table. May the blessed Spirit be with you, dear Brothers and Sisters,that all who do come to the Table may come in that humble, thankful, thoughtful, receptive style!
IV. Now I finish my discourse by dwelling, for a minute or two, upon THE GREAT LESSONS WHICH THIS SUPPER INCIDENTALLY TEACHES.
The first lesson is, that Jesus is for us. There has been a great dispute over this verse, "This is My body, which is brokenfor you." The word, "broken," appears in some of the ancient manuscripts, but it is, undoubtedly, an interpolation. It isabsent from several of those manuscripts upon which we are obliged to rely for the correct text of the New Testament and,therefore, very properly, the Revised Version reads, "This is My body, which is for you." And, to my mind, that renderinggives a new thought which is well worth having. "This is My body, which is for you." That is to say, Christ is for you-doesnot the Supper, itself, say that? The bread represents His body for you-the wine represents His blood for you. We know thatit is for you because you are going to eat it. There is nothing that is more certainly a man's than what he eats or drinks.Our proverb says, "Possession is nine points of the law." And I wonder how many points of the law it is when a man has eatena thing up? There is no legal quibble that can deprive him of that. Whatever suit at law may be brought, there is no possibilityof taking away from a man that which he has eaten and, in like manner, when we have really received Christ by faith, thereis no possibility of robbing us of Him. "This is My body, which is for you." Oh, what a blessed Doctrine! Lay hold of thisgreat Truth of God, all that there is in Christ is for you! All the fullness of the Godhead is in Him, "and of His fullnesshave all we received, and grace for grace." Glory be to His name for this!
The next lesson is that His blood has sealed the Covenant. "This cup is the new covenant in my blood." I wish I had an houror two in which I might speak to you about the Covenant. It is no use to begin on that great subject in the few minutes wehave left. There was a Covenant that cursed us-the Covenant of Works. There is another Covenant that has blessed the electof God and shall bless them to all eternity-the Covenant of Grace-and this Covenant is signed, sealed and ratified, in allthings ordered well-and for its seal it has the blood of God's own Son! Therefore it shall stand fast forever and ever. So,as you partake of that cup, drink with joy because it reminds you that God has made with you "an everlasting Covenant orderedin all things and sure." Oh, I am certain that if you know the music of that word, "Covenant," you will enjoy coming to theTable, even if nothing but that one word shall be brought to your memory!
The third great Doctrine that is taught by this Supper is that Believers feed on Christ Himself. Sometimes they forget thisand they try to feed on doctrines. They will make as great a mistake as if the Jew, when he went up to the tabernacle, hadtried to feed on the curtains, or the altar, or the golden tongs! What did he have for food? Why, the peace-offering! Whenhe drew near to his God, he fed on the sacrifice-and the true food of a Believer is Christ Jesus, Himself! Feed on Him, then,Beloved. We cannot literally eat His body or drink His blood-we would be worse than cannibals to attempt such a thing! Butwe can do it, and we must do it spiritually, by having our hearts and our minds resting upon what Christ is and what He hasdone, and so feeding upon our Lord Jesus Christ.
I have finished when I have mentioned one more lesson which is to be learned from this ordinance. It is clear, from this Supper,that the way to remember Christ is to feed on Him again and again. Is it not a strange thing that if I have had a great mercy,the way to remember that mercy is to come to God and get another mercy? If Christ was ever sweet to my taste, the way to perpetuatethat sweetness is to come and taste Him again! Dear Brothers and Sisters, do not try to live upon your old experiences! Eventhe best kind of bread will not stay fresh very long-it soon gets musty if you lay it by. You need to have bread constantlycoming fresh from the oven. Even the manna, which came down from Heaven, could not be kept, lest it should breed worms-andso it is with the food for your souls. Do not try to live on moldy experiences.
More than 30 years ago I had great joy in the Lord when first I knew Him. I am very glad that I can remember it, but thatrecollection is of little use to me when I get depressed in spirit. No, then I need the Lord to come to me again as He camethen. You came to Jesus Christ, did you not, as a poor, empty sinner, ever so many years ago? Then, come again in the sameway! Come to Christ every day as you came to Him the first day! "Oh, but I was only a sinner then!" Well, you are not muchmore than that now! And you will find it the safest thing to come just as you came at first. "Well, but am I not an experiencedsaint by this time?" Yes, yes, I daresay you are, but I find that whenever I have on the one robe of my experience, I am likethe lady at court with a long train-somebody is sure to step on it-and then it gets torn. I like to come to Jesus Christ justas I came at first.
Suppose that the devil says to me, "You are no child of God." I have often said to him, "You do not know much about that matter,though you know that you are not one, yourself." "But," he says, "you do not know the Lord." "Ah, then," I ask him, "whatam I?" He answers, "You are a great black sinner!" Then, like Luther, I cut off his head with his own sword, just as Daviddid with Goliath, for I say to him, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners and I am going off to the sinners' Savior,just to trust in Him as I did at the first!" And the devil generally departs when I tell him that. There is nothing that isso soul-strengthening as taking another look at the bronze serpent, or having another plunge in the fountain filled with blood,or feeding, once again, on the inexhaustible provision that is stored up for us in the Person of our Lord!
If any of you who have come to the Table of the Lord are not believers in Christ, never dare to come again while you are inthat state! You have no right here unless you are resting in Jesus and trusting in Him! This is the proof of your being newcreatures in Christ Jesus. But if you have the faintest, feeblest faith in Jesus, come and welcome! If you are trusting inyour own merits, go to your own table-if you think there will be some meritin your coming to the Communion Table, do not dareto come, for that were to turn the ordinance upside down! You are not to bring something, but to receive something. May youwho love the Lord find Him to be very precious to you and may those of you who do not know Him, seek Him at once, not at theTable, but at the Mercy Seat and at the Cross! Trust in Jesus, for so you shall be saved, and then you shall have the rightof entry to the Lord's House-and you shall have the privilege of sitting at His Table and of enjoying every other blessingwhich is the portion of the chosen family. The Lord make it to be so, for Christ's sake! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: 1 CORINTHIANS 11:17-34; LUKE22:14-24.
The members of the Church at Corinth abounded in gifts and, therefore, they thought it right for each one to speak to edification.They had no pastoral oversight whatever-acting, in this respect, like certain brethren whom we know nowadays. The result,however, was very deplorable. They do not appear to have been able to even conduct the Lord's Supper without the most disorderlyproceedings. Church discipline was utterly forgotten or neglected and it seems as if the two Epistles to the Corinthians aregiven to us as beacons to warn us against that form of worship, seeing that it produces such mischievous and sad results!
1 Corinthians 11:17. Nowin this that Ideclare unto you Ipraise you not, thatyou come together not for the better, but for the worse. I t is avery bad state of things when we meet for worship and separate without any improvement, or, like these Corinthians, "cometogether, not for the better, but for the worse."
18. For first of all, when you come together in the Church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believeit I t was very gracious and kind on the Apostle's part to put it so mildly-and he sets us the example of not believing anythingagainst our brethren too quickly. "I partly believe it."
19-21. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When you cometogether, therefore, into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper For in eating everyone takes before others his ownsupper: and one is hungry, and another is drunk They seem to have regarded it as a common feast to which they brought theirown provisions and, without waiting for each other, they disgraced the Table of the Lord by their scandalous proceedings.
22. What? Have you not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise you the Church of God, and shame them that have not? Whatshall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not No doubt they hoped to be praised and expected that theyhad done everything in the right way! Perhaps they even believed that they were acting under the Inspiration of the Spiritand, therefore, could not do anything wrong. But the Apostle deals very faithfully with them and tells them how the Supperis to be celebrated. How much we have gained by the mistakes of others! As the Inspired Apostle is guided to inform us asto the right mode of observing this ordinance, we may almost be thankful that the Corinthians fell into error concerning it-asmuch as we may regret their faults on their own account.
23, 24. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in whichHe was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is brokenfor you: this do in remembrance of Me. These are the words of the Lord Jesus, Himself, and therefore they come to us withall the weight of His Infallible authority! Then Paul continues-
25, 26. After the same manner, also, He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood:this do you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you doshow the Lord's death till He comes. "Show" or, "proclaim." The latter is the better word. "You do proclaim the Lord's deathtill He comes." That last phrase ought finally to settle the question of the perpetuity of the Lord's Supper, which is tobe observed "till He comes."
27. Therefore whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and bloodof the Lord. ' 'Unworthily," that is, in a thoughtless, careless way-or with a view to worldly gain, as some used to takeit in order to obtain an office under government and as some, doubtless, do take it, to obtain the alms of the church. Suchan unworthy participation is a sin against the very body and blood of the Lord!
28. But let a man examine himself, andso let him eat ofthat bread, and drink ofthat cup. Paul does not say, "Let a man examinehimself and then noteat or drink at the communion." The examination should lead him to repentance, to faith and should thenbring him to the Table of fellowship in the right state of mind and heart. The examination is not a door to shut him out fromthe ordinance, but a door at which he may pause awhile, to see whether he is in a right condition to enter. And if he is not,he should seek to be made so, and then enter.
29. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself not discerning the Lord's body. "Eats anddrinks judgment to himself," for "judgment" is the word here used by the Apostle.
30. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. It appears that God visited this Church at Corinthwith sickness, and took away many of the members by death because they had profaned the Lord's Table and had walked in a disorderlymanner before Him. Paul did not mean to say that these persons were lost-he intended to remind their fellow members and allwho might read his Epistle, that God visits Churches after this fashion with discipline and chastening because of the unseemlyconduct which is always so offensive to Him.
31, 32. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, thatwe should not be condemned with the world. So, you see, that chastening process, which is going on in the Church, is all inlove-"that we should not be condemned with the world"-just as a father exercises discipline in his household and uses chastisementthat his children may never disobey the laws of the realm. They will never come before the police court, for they are keptunder proper control at home and are tutored and trained by their father's wise government. So we come not under the judgmentof the Law of God, as the world, itself, comes-we come under the disciplinary treatment of the great Head of the Church, eventhe Lord Jesus Christ!
33, 34. Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, tarry one for another Andif any man is hungry, let him eatat home; that you come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come. Now let us read Luke'saccount of the institution of this Supper. As we do so, it will be well for us to remember that Luke was a friend and intimatecompanion of Paul.
Luke 22:14-16 And when the hour was come, He sat down, and the twelve Apostles with Him. And He said unto them, With desire I have desiredto eat this Passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it is fulfilledin the kingdom of God. This was to be the last occasion on which our Lord and His disciples would thus meet.
17, 18. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I willnot drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come. That was the Passover cup. Now the Passover meltsinto the Lord's Supper and, henceforth, the Lord's Supper remains and the Passover has passed away.
19-21. And He took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My body which is given for you:this do in remembrance of Me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood, whichis shed for you. But, behold, the hand of him that betrays Me is with Me on the table. What a sobering, saddening effect thismust have had upon those who were at that festival! We have reason to fear that it will be true of our gathering, also. Therewere only 12 Apostles, yet there was a Judas among them. We shall have many hundreds at our observance of the ordinance-maywe not fear that there will be many a Judas, too? Can we expect that we shall have a better selection of professed followersof Christ than the Lord had made for His Apostles?
22-24. And truly the Son of Man goes, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom He is betrayed! And they began toenquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. And there was also a strife among them, which ofthem should be accounted the greatest That had been their question among themselves, but now they have another enquiry, ofquite a different sort, to answer. It was wise of the Master to give them a heart-searching question to drive out that questionof ambition which had filled them with pride and contention. Oh, if any of us ever had such a thought as that in our bosom-whichof us is greatest?-who can speak the best?-who can serve God the most?-who can take the lead?-let all such questions be setaside while we sorrowfully entertain the other sad enquiry-which of us will betray our Lord? God grant that none of us mayever do so!