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Six Purposes for the Lord's Supper

Six Purposes for the Lord's Table  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:49
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Some of us expect way too much from supper (which is dinner in other parts of the world). We expect to cap off our day and be totally satisfied in the end, only to be hankering for a late-night snack later that night or hungry for a big breakfast the very next morning.
Others expect way too little from supper. We plan to sit down, pray a quick prayer, eat some food, and get on to other things. Instead, we should expect a little more - like spending some quality time with family and making plans for the next day.
In a similar but more significant way, some of us expect way too much from the Lord’s Supper.
We may expect to come into more significant spiritual contact with Christ than at other times (the Lutheran view). This view believes that the bread and juice mystically unite with the body and blood of Christ and provide us with a special, more concentrated dosage of God’s grace.
We may expect the bread and juice to become the actual body and blood of Jesus as we eat them (the Catholic view). This view believes that by imbibing the body and blood of Christ, we boost our odds of receiving acceptance and forgiveness from God.
As Baptists, we recognize that Scripture teaches neither of these views. None of these mystical or unusual things occur when we participate in the Lord’s Supper. Yet if we’re not careful, we may unintentionally expect too little from the Lord’s Supper. We may wrongfully conclude that when we participate, nothing happens at all. We merely crunch on some bread and sip on some juice.
So, let me ask you. Why do we observe the Lord’s Table? How many reasons can you give? Here are six biblical purposes for this important church practice - a practice which, by the way, is equal in significance to believers’ baptism by immersion.

1. To obey Christ

1 Corinthians 11:24-25 (NKJV)
When He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
Jesus is Lord and Master. He is also our Creator, God, Savior, and friend. Because of all the he is to us, we should do what he says. The same is true for baptism, right? So, we observe the Lord’s Table because he told us to do so. This would be a good enough reason to do if it were the only reason we had!
Do we respond to his other commands in the same way? Sometimes we get into a pattern of disobeying Jesus. So, observing the Lord’s Table is a good, regular way to remind myself that he is my Lord by simply doing what he has told me to do, in the company and fellowship of other brothers and sisters in Christ.

2. To remember Christ

1 Corinthians 11:24 (NKJV)
When He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
We do this to remember the unparalleled death of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Just as we build memorials and celebrate holidays to remember those who have died for our freedom as a nation, we must remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to an infinitely greater degree. Without such a reminder, we easily forget the think about - what’s more to appreciate - Christ’s agony and suffering for our sins. This must never grow old or feel obsolete!
Participation in the Lord’s Supper does not remove sins or impart grace of any kind. Nothing mystical, supernatural, or miraculous happens when we partake. But we do it to remember what Jesus has done for us. When is the last time this week, this month, or this year that you’ve genuinely thought about and considered Christ’s death for you?

3. To give thanks

1 Corinthians 11:24-25 (NKJV)
When He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
We cannot say ‘thank you’ enough for the death of Jesus Christ for our sins. But just as Jesus “gave thanks” and participated in the Lord’s Supper “in the same [thankful] manner,” so we should emulate his thankful spirit, giving thanks from our hearts – in thought, in testimony, in prayer, and in song – for his priceless, everlasting gift of matchless love.
Without regular participation in the Lord’s Supper, we gradually grow ungrateful for Christ’s great sacrifice on our behalf. And if Christ was thankful for the opportunity to *be* your sacrifice (think about that!), how much more thankful should you be that he died *for* you? As you observe the Lord’s Table, don’t let the opportunity pass by to personally and specifically say “thank you” to Christ.

4. To proclaim Christ’s death

1 Corinthians 11:26 (NKJV)
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
When we observe the Lord’s Supper, we are presenting the gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins) in a visual way.
The other ordinance, baptism, is the same way. It illustrates (by going under the water) how we were buried with Christ when he died and (by coming up from the water) how we resurrected with new life in Christ when he resurrected.
When we feel the bread on our fingers and the juice on our tongues, we are reminded that Christ’s body and blood were indeed physical, not an illusion.
When we eat that bread, we are reminded that Christ’s body was broken for us, and when we drink that juice, we are reminded that Christ’s life was crushed for us.
When we swallow that bread and juice, we are reminded that the death and suffering of Christ benefits and builds us up - and that we become one with him in his death and suffering.
When we do this together, we are reminded of our union not only with Christ, but our experience of salvation and relationship with Christ that we share with one another as a church.
So, what we talk about, sing about, pray about, and do during the Lord’s Supper declares, announces, and explains the gospel to those who are watching and may not yet be born again. And remember, those who are watching on a regular basis include our children. Be ready to answer their questions in a meaningful, biblical way.

5. To look forward to Christ’s return

1 Corinthians 11:26 (NKJV)
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
This is an often overlooked purpose for the Lord’s Supper. Yet as other pastors from church history have pointed out, the Lord’s Supper is a special moment in the present that both remembers and savors the past while looking forward to and anticipating the future. We look back to Christ’s suffering but look forward to celebrating with him. In fact, Christ himself looked forward to this at the first Lord’s Supper.
Matthew 26:29 NKJV
But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
Christ said this as he observed the Passover with his 12 disciples, the night he was betrayed, the night he was crucified. The next time he eats with his followers will be with us all in his kingdom when we observe the Lord’s Supper *with* the Lord himself. Then all the pastors will sit down and Christ himself will serve us. I’m looking forward to that moment - are you?

6. To examine yourself

1 Corinthians 11:28 (NKJV)
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
As we observe the Lord’s Supper together, we should consider whether we are like the 11 disciples who followed Christ as God and Savior by faith alone or whether we are like the 1 who followed outwardly but not inwardly by faith. Are we a Judas who will turn from Jesus along the way because we never truly believed in him? We went through the motions, listened to the teaching, even served in various ways, but never truly believed.
So, we should examine yourself to be sure that you are genuinely “in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5).
2 Corinthians 13:5 NKJV
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
Have you truly admitted your sinfulness, turned away from false, traditional religion and the pursuit of sin and pleasure to trust alone in Jesus Christ as God and Savior?
You should also examine yourself to be sure that you are participating in a “worthy manner.” Are you harboring any bitterness against God or another person? Are you at odds with another brother or sister in Christ, perhaps even in your family? Make that right with God and with those whom you have hurt (Matt 5:23-24; 1 John 1:9).
Matthew 5:23–24 (NKJV)
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Such reconciliation does not require days or weeks or months. There is no purgatory or penance required because - as we are remembering and appreciating by the Lord’s Supper - Christ’s death and suffering has completely - I say completely - removed our sins from our record before God. What remains is the day-to-day health of our functioning relationship with God and the day-to-day health of our functioning relationships with other people.
1 John 1:9 (NKJV)
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The Lord’s Supper is an ideal opportunity for us all to evaluate ourselves (not each other but our own self) whether we are believing in Christ as God and Savior and if we are, then whether we are living in a way that reflects his grace and peace in our lives.
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