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8. The Covenant Meal:

 

The Lord’s Supper

Luke 22:19-20 '[Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way…he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."'

Celebrating our deliverance

In obedience to the command of Jesus, Christians regularly meet to take bread and wine. It goes under various names: Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord's Table or the Lord's Supper.

The Last Supper - a Passover mealIts origin is in the Jewish Passover meal. Jewish families took this once a year in remembrance of one of the greatest moments in their history: their ancestors' great deliverance from slavery in Egypt at the time of Moses (read the account in Exodus 11-12).

Jesus celebrated the Passover with his twelve disciples just before his crucifixion. To their astonishment, he stopped the time-honoured ritual in its tracks and gave it a whole new direction. He turned it into a remembrance of himself. By his death he was about to bring about a far greater deliverance for his people: deliverance from slavery to sin and Satan.

Why 'covenant' meal?

A covenant is an agreement or special arrangement, and covenants in Bible times were usuallyBread and wine of communion celebrated with a meal, rather like a marriage banquet (marriage is a covenant, Malachi 2:14).

Central to the New Testament is the New Covenant. This is the arrangement that God made, enabling those who believe to live in relationship with him. It was ratified by the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross. As a Christian, you're a beneficiary of the new covenant and live under its terms. And the meal that celebrates it—the covenant meal—is the Lord's Supper. It is not a 'once only' meal, like a wedding reception, but a meal we enjoy regularly.

Some practicalities

 

Learn
by heart

1 Corinthians 11:24  'Do this in remembrance of me.'

Heart

BwG8: The Lord's Supper
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Where?

Sometimes at gatherings of the whole church. But it can also be in groups, whether on church premises or in our homes:

Acts 2:46 'They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.'

What?

The bread is just ordinary bread and the wine ordinary wine. They are not 'consecrated', nor do they have any mystic 'spiritual' qualities.

How often?

The New Testament does not legislate on frequency, but the signs are that it was very often. The Christians in Jerusalem in the early days of the church celebrated the Lord's Supper 'every day' (Acts 2:46). So, if we wish, may we.

Conducted by?

It does not have to be a church leader who presides. Any Christian may dispense the bread and wine (1 Corinthians 10:16).

What's the point of it?

Physical acts can convey spiritual truths. That's what a sacrament is. We saw in Lesson 2, for instance, that baptism is a dramatic reminder that we were buried with Christ, so to speak, and rose with him to life in a new dimension.

So what are the truths conveyed by the Lord's Supper? We'll answer this question by looking at a Bible passage about the covenant meal, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, and highlighting some aspects of it. First, read the passage carefully.

1. Looking BACKThe cross of Christ

1 Corinthians 11:26 'Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.'

The Supper is a reminder of Christ's death at Calvary. The bread that we break reminds us of his body, broken in crucifixion for us, and the wine is a picture of his blood shed there for our salvation.

So the Lord's Supper directs your thoughts back in history to the cross, which is the source of all the blessings you enjoy here and now. It reminds you of the awful cost of your salvation, paid willingly by Jesus out of his love for you.

2. Looking UPThe empty tomb: he is risen!

1 Corinthians 11:24 Jesus said, 'Do this in remembrance of me.'

God never intended the Lord's Supper to be a mournful occasion. While Christ's suffering on the cross was appalling, we must never forget that Calvary was followed by an empty tomb. Hard on the heels of death came resurrection!

You take the bread and wine in remembrance not just of Jesus' death, but in remembrance of him as a person. And he's no longer dead. He's alive, and with us by his Spirit. So the Supper is a joyful occasion as we look up to see him, with the eye of faith, seated at the Father's right hand in glory (Colossians 3:1).

3. Looking AROUNDFellow-believers

1 Corinthians 11:29 '…recognising the Lord's body…'

The Lord's Supper is a communal meal; we take it in the company of other Christians. That's why it's sometimes called communion.

When Paul tells us we should take the Supper while 'recognising the Lord's body', the 'body' he refers to is not the physical body of Jesus but the body of Christians in the local church with whom we take the bread and wine.

Paul says, 'You [plural] are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it' (1 Corinthians 12:27). So as you eat and drink, look around at your spiritual brothers and sisters and thank the Lord for joining you to them.

4. Looking WITHINExamining your own heart-attitudes

1 Corinthians 11:28  'A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.'

To eat with somebody is to declare your association with them. By sharing the same meal you're saying to that person, 'I'm one with you. I'm with you and for you.'

In this way the covenant meal declares our unity as believers. Paul says, 'Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf' (1 Corinthians 10:17).

Here's where we need to look within and be careful that our attitude to our brothers and sisters is right. Why? Because it's dangerous to share the Lord's Supper, which declares to them, 'I'm with you and for you' if, in our hearts, we are saying, 'I don't like you and I'm against you.' That is to invite God's severe judgment (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

5. Looking FORWARDUnited: at Jesus' return

1 Corinthians 11:26 'Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.'

This reminds us that the present state of affairs won't continue for ever. Each time we partake of the Lord's Supper it is both one time more and one time less-because Jesus is coming back!

The love and fellowship you enjoy here and now around the Lord's Table is just a foretaste of the unspeakably wonderful love and fellowship that awaits you when Christ returns. The Bible describes this in terms of a marriage: Christ, the bridegroom, will be at last united with the church, his bride. And that's us! The 'wedding supper of the Lamb' (Revelation 19:9) will be the meal to end all meals, a great heavenly banquet that will last for ever.

Bread and wine

I wrote a hymn on the Lord’s Supper, with five verses based on the above five aspects.

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