Text: 1 Corinthians 11:23-30

The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was instituted just before the death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20). As a sacrament, it does not save, but serves as an out-ward symbol of our inward faith.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 96 provides a succinct answer on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. “The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is shewed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.”

As we eat of the bread and drink of the cup by faith, the Bible tells us that we are communing with Him. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16) The word “communion” is koinōnia, which indicates a relationship as characterised by fellowship, mutual sharing and contribution, and identification (Friberg).

When we partake of the Lord’s supper, we are identifying ourselves with Christ and His death on the cross. We belong to Christ and Christ belongs to us. We have a covenant relationship with Christ and desire to have fellowship with Him.

The Abuse of the Lord’s Supper
As the Lord Supper is a spiritual exercise, it behoves us to observe it with much soberness. The abuse of the Lord’s Supper can lead to dire consequences.

It was a common practice in the early church for Christians to hold a feast before the Holy Communion. The believers would pool together their resources and break bread together. The purpose of this feast was to promote fellowship among the brethren in Christian love and unity. Thus, this feast was often called the love feast or the agape feast.

Alas, this love feast of the Corinthian church turned out to be devoid of love. Instead of love, there was selfishness and favouritism. The rich despised the poor and ate for the food for themselves. While the poor were hungry, the rich were partying away in abundance of food and drink. There was much division, unforgiveness and worldliness among the brethren as they partook of the Lord’s Supper. There was no focus on Christ and His love for His people.

Beloved, are you harbouring hatred towards some of the brethren? May it not be so as we approach the Lord’s table. Just as Christ has loved us, so let us love our fellow brethren (John 13:34-45). Make sure you do not hold an unforgiving spirit before you participate in the Holy Communion. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

The Message of the Lord’s Supper
To counter the abuse of the Lord’s Supper, Paul points the Corinthian Christians back to its central message. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper by faith, we are identifying with Christ’s work on the cross. We acknowledge and confess that He is our Substitute and Propitiation for our sins. We also praise the Lord for His blood that was shed on the cross of Calvary, for “without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)

The Lord’s Table is an important means of grace for the Christian because we are a forgetful people, and often take our salvation for granted. When we go through the many challenges of life, it is so easy to forget what Christ has done for us to purchase our salvation. Our salvation is freely given unto us, but it cost Christ His life and His blood. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

A proper partaking of the Lord’s Supper should thus lead us to re-consecrate our lives unto Christ. He who so loved us by giving us His all, how can we therefore not love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength?

Paul adds in verse 26 that when we eat of the elements, we are proclaiming (katangellete) the Lord’s death till He returns. It is an outward witness to believers and the world of the salvific work of Christ at Calvary. Therefore, we must make sure never to corrupt the message of the Lord’s Supper by a flippant partaking of the bread and the cup.

The Warning of the Lord’s Supper
The Corinthian Christians, however, had forgotten the central message of the Lord’s Supper. By doing so, they have corrupted the testimony of the Lord’s death, and have taken the name of the Lord in vain.

The Lord views the desecration of His holy sacrament very seriously. The Lord struck some of the Corinthian Christians with illness. Some even died (v.30). Thus, it is important to approach the Lord’s Supper with great fear and reverence, for he who partakes of the Lord’s Supper unworthily “eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.”

Sadly, some churches today seem to treat the Lord’s Supper flippantly. One church conducted a love feast at a youth camp. This feast was peppered with partying and dancing followed by the partaking of the Lord’s Supper. There are also other churches who sell Lord’s Supper sets so that members can partake of the elements on their own. These churches are truly playing with fire.

What then about a person who is in sin? Should he avoid the Lord’s Sup-per for fear of partaking it unworthily? Not so! Instead, the Lord’s Table should be an opportunity for him to sincerely repent of his sin and come to the Lord for forgiveness. The wilful avoidance of the Lord’s Table is but an excuse to hold on to sin and thus an act of rebellion. Do not forsake the Lord’s Table!

The Lord’s Supper is not fun and games. It is a commemoration of the Lord’s death, and a sacred spiritual exercise. Do not surf the net or check your emails on your mobile phones when you come before the Lord’s Table! You ought to meditate on God’s Word and prepare your heart to partake of the holy elements. “When the Lord’s Table is observed reverentially and faithfully, there comes a special blessing from heaven. Such gracious benefits from God Calvin said cannot be explained, but experienced.” (Tow and Khoo)

Yours affectionately,
Pastor C. Chew