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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - The Sacred Supper

Robert Jeffress - The Sacred Supper

Robert Jeffress - The Sacred Supper
TOPICS: Straight Answers to Tough Questions, Last Supper, Remembrance, Communion

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The night before Jesus was betrayed, he broke bread, and with his disciples, he said, "Do this in remembrance of me". And 2,000 years later, the Lord's supper remains one of the most important traditions among Christians. Today we're going to identify several troubling abuses of the Lord's table, and what to do about it. My message is titled "The Sacred Supper" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Well, I made a pledge to myself a few weeks ago that I was not going to bring my beer can back into the pulpit, but I didn't say anything about my cigarettes. You know, those of you who used to smoke, and by the way, I know who you are. I remember some of you before you got all spiritual, gave up your cigarettes for lint or whatever, but if you ever smoked or ever looked at a pack of cigarettes, you noticed every pack of cigarettes Carries a warning on it, and the wording of that warning has changed through the years, but it says something like, "Warning: the surgeon general has determined that cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health and could lead to cancer".

Remember those warnings? I've often thought that, whenever we observed the Lord's supper, it would be good if our communion table had a warning on it, right in front of it, that says, "Warning: the apostle Paul has determined that taking the Lord's supper in the wrong way, with the wrong attitude, is hazardous to your spiritual health and can lead to death". That's the sobering truth we find in the passage we're going to look at tonight. If you have your Bibles, turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 11. 1 Corinthians chapter 11. I had not planned it this way, but I think it is very appropriate that we're looking at this passage the week before we observe the Lord's supper next Sunday night, beginning with palm Sunday, and God, I think, in his providence had us at this passage tonight.

Remember in 1 Corinthians, Paul is addressing various problems in the Corinthian church. Last time, in the first half of this chapter, we looked at some in the church who were trying to blur the distinction between men and women. It wasn't a case of fashion, what they wore or didn't wear. It's what it represented. Some were rebelling against the God-assigned roles to men and women. But when we get to verse 17, Paul addresses a new problem in the church, and that was the taking of the Lord's supper in the wrong way, the abuse of the Lord's supper.

Now, to really understand and appreciate what Paul is saying, we have to understand how different our culture is today from when Paul wrote these words. The Lord's supper was something completely different than the way we observe it in our church, so let me give you a little bit of background. A supper was the most important meal of the day, and it wasn't one of these sit down and shove it in your mouth, and get up and go as quickly as you can. It was a time that lasted a couple of hours, if not longer, where the family would linger around the table. It would be much like thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. They would have that meal every night together. It was a long meal that involved sharing and fellowship time.

Well, the early church adopted that fellowship meal in its Sunday evening worship. More than likely, that's when the church worship was on, Sunday evening, and this fellowship meal was a part of that regular worship. Acts 2:42 gives us the pattern of the early church. "And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer". The Lord's supper in the early church had two components. There was the fellowship meal. Sometimes we call it the love feast. Jude verse 12 refers to the love feast, the agape meal. Remember when we used to have the agape feast here? It was a meal that would then be concluded with the observing of the Lord's supper.

So when Paul in this passage is talking about the abuse of the Lord's supper, he's not just talking about the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine to commemorate the Lord's death. He's talking about the entire fellowship meal experience. So what was the problem that Paul was addressing? Well, Paul outlines three abuses of the Lord's supper. First of all, there was divisiveness at the supper. Look at verses 17 through 19, especially verse 18. He said, "For in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you: and I in part believe it".

And Paul didn't have a hard time believing there were divisions at the supper. There were divisions in every other part of the church. They were divided according to pastors they liked or didn't like in the church. They were divided according to Philosophies. They were divided socioeconomically. And so they brought that divisiveness into the Lord's supper when they came together for the fellowship meal. Those who liked a Apollos better than Paul would sit over here. Those who were followers of Paul sat over here. Those who liked Plato more than Aristotle sat over here. Those who were rich sat over here. The poor sat over here. He said there is divisiveness all throughout the church. Not only was there divisiveness, there was selfishness at the Lord's supper.

Look at verses 20 to 21. "Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's supper, for in your eating, each one takes his own supper first: and another is hungry". Now apparently what was going on was this. The people who were more wealthy in the congregation and had the better food to be able to bring to the potluck supper, they conspired with one another, and they said, "Hey, let's get to the supper early. Let's beat out everybody else, and we can enjoy one another's food". And so the wealthy people got there, they mingled together. They ate from one another's meals that had been brought, and then finally when the other people, the poor people showed up, they said, "Gee, we're sorry, but we've run out of food. There's nothing for you left".

Well, Paul said that is selfishness. And not only that, there was drunkenness at the Lord's table. Look at verses 21 to 22. "And another is actually drunk, what! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or you do not despise the church of God, and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you". Now, this doesn't make sense if the Lord supper's simply crackers and grape juice, okay? I mean, how do you gorge yourself on crackers? How do you get drunk on grape juice? Well, that's not what he's talking about. He's not just talking about the Eucharist. He is talking about the Lord's feast, the supper, the fellowship supper all together here, and he said at that fellowship supper, they were engaged in gluttony. They were actually becoming drunk at the Lord's table. He said, "I cannot commend you in this. Instead, I'm going to punish you because of this".

Now, in order to re-visit the original purpose of the Lord's supper, Paul has to take them back in time 25 years to remember what the original purpose of the Lord's table was, and that's what he does in verses 23 to 26. He takes them back to the first Lord's supper about 25 years earlier, to remind them of the original intent of this supper. I like what one commentator says about verses 23 to 26. He says these verses are like a diamond dropped in a muddy road. These verses shine against the muddy backdrop of drunkenness and selfishness and divisiveness, to remind us of the original purpose of the Lord's table. Look at verse 23. You're going to recognize these words. Paul writes, "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, in the night in which he was betrayed, took bread".

Do you recognize those words? They're the words I read every time we observe the Lord's supper together, and yet familiarity can sometimes lend itself to boredom and also ignorance. We hear it over and over again, and we really don't stop to think what these words mean. What does Paul mean when he says, "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered unto you". You have to understand something about the dating of the New Testament to fully appreciate these words. Most scholars believe that 1 Corinthians was one of the earliest books of the New Testament to be written. Probably only James was written before 1 Corinthians, probably about 57 to 58 ad. Most every scholar agrees that 1 Corinthians was written before any of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

So when Paul wrote these words, he didn't have the gospels to look up and say, "Now what happened at that Lord's supper? Exactly what took place there? What is it that Jesus did? What did he say"? Well, how did Paul then know what happened in that upper room that night? He says, "I received it directly from the Lord. I received from the Lord that which I delivered to you". This is direct revelation from God. What is it that Jesus did that night? Well, first of all, let's look at the meaning of the bread. The meaning of the bread. The Bible is clear in Matthew chapter 26 that Jesus had gathered his disciples the night before his crucifixion to observe the Passover meal. Before he was crucified, he gathered his disciples together, and he took that Passover meal and he instituted a new meaning to it. Instead of the Passover meal commemorating Israel's physical deliverance from Egypt into the Promised Land, this new supper, this new meal would be a sign of what the true Lamb of God, Jesus did in delivering us from spiritual into freedom, and that was the new meaning of this meal.

Now look at verses 23 to 24. "In the night in which he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and he said, 'this is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me'". This is my body, and he's not talking about just his physical body. The bread represents the entire life of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, the incarnation. Remember 1 Timothy 3:16? "And by common confession, great is the mystery of Godliness. He who was revealed in the flesh, vindicated by the spirit, beheld by the angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory". It is a mystery, the confession of Godliness, the idea that God could become flesh, and yet that is exactly what he did. We can't fathom that mystery. How could God pour himself into human flesh? We cannot begin to fathom that, but here is what is important to know. Jesus said, "This is my body, which is for you".

Now, that's something we can understand. The reason God gave up his rights as God, poured himself into human flesh, came to earth, died on the cross, he did it for one reason. He did it for you. He did it because he loved you. 2 Corinthians 5:21, "He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him". That is the meaning of the bread. It is representative of the incarnation, the coming of God to earth, to offer himself as a sacrifice for us, and then he gives us the meaning of the cup. During the original Passover meal, there were four different cups of wine that were used throughout the Passover meal. We don't know for sure whether Jesus was using the third cup or the fourth cup when he did this, but he attached a new meaning to the cup.

Look at verse 25. "And in the same way he took the cup also after supper, saying, 'this cup is the new covenant in my blood: do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'". Jesus said on that night in the upper room, "I'm instituting tonight a new covenant. I'm here to announce a new agreement that God offers you. And here's the deal, here's how it works. God says, 'i will send my son Jesus to die on a Wooden cross,' and in some inexplicable way, by his death on the cross, he will receive the curse that you deserve for not keeping the law. He'll take the curse himself. Even though he's perfect, he will take the curse that you deserve for breaking the law, and all you have to do is believe in him, trust in him, cling to him, believe that he made the payment for your sin, and if you'll do that, you'll become righteous, you'll become pure, you'll become sinless in my sight". That is the new covenant. And he said, "This is the new covenant in my blood".

That is why the new covenant is superior to the old covenant, and that's why it's so foolish for people to say, "Well, I don't want that new covenant. I don't need the grace of God. I think I'll live under the old covenant. I think I'll try to earn my way into God's favor". This is the new covenant in my blood. Now, look at this in verse 26. "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes". Every time we observe the Lord's supper, we are announcing the new covenant. We are proclaiming, we are witnessing to what Christ has done for us. Remember that Jesus instituted two ordinances, two object lessons that the church is to engage in regularly. We are to practice baptism to show our new life in Christ.

The second ordinance that Jesus participated in, he instituted, was the Lord's supper. It is a picture of the death of Jesus Christ in order to ratify the new covenant. You know, there's really not a lot about the mechanics, but there is a lot that Paul has to say about the way, the manner in which we observe the Lord's table, and we find that beginning in verse 27. Look at this, Paul's instructions for the Lord's supper. "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord". One translation says, "Whoever drinks or eats unworthily".

A lot of people who don't know grammar have mistakenly assumed that that word unworthily is an adjective describing the person who takes it. But you see here, the word is not unworthy. That's an adjective. The word is unworthily, an adverb. Adverbs don't modify nouns. It's not a reference to the person who takes it. It is the manner in which you take it. And that's why I like the New American Standard translation, "Whoever eats or drinks in an unworthy manner". He's talking about the way that we take the Lord's table. I want to mention to you four specific ways that we can partake of the Lord's supper in an unworthy manner. First of all, when we engage in unacceptable behavior at the Lord's table.

Now, for the Corinthians, that included things like divisiveness and drunkenness and selfishness. For us today, that's kind of hard to do during the Eucharist service. I mean, I guess you can be selfish and grab a handful of crackers out of the tray, if you want to, but few people are tempted to do that. You're not going to get drunk on the Welch's grape juice, you know? So it's not impossible to misbehave in that way, but there are other ways it is possible to engage in unacceptable behavior during the Lord's table. And I would say, parents, you need to train your children and your teenagers to make sure that they behave in the right way during the Lord's table. No talking, no texting, nothing that would be unacceptable behavior during the Lord's supper.

A second way that we engage in unacceptable behavior is through unfocused ritualism. Look at verse 28. "But a man must examine himself, and in doing so, he is to eat of the bread and to drink of the cup". It is a time for self-examination. The Lord's table is a time to express gratitude for what Christ has done for us, and I would encourage you, when you're sitting through the Lord's table, turn to one of the passages describing the passion of the Christ, his death on the cross, and read through that as a way of reminding yourself of what Christ did for you. Take that time to pray and express your thanks to God for what Christ has done for you. And this time of reflection is a time to examine our life to see if there is any way we're not living up to our end of the bargain. We should not engage in unfocused ritualism.

Thirdly, unconfessed sin. Before you eat the bread or drink the cup, you need to confess any blatant acts of rebellion in your life. To go into the Lord's table saying, "I'm going to sin against God," and to leave the Lord's table with that same resolve, to continue to disobey and sin against God, is to invite God's judgment on your life. Look at verses 29 to 30. "For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason, many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep".

This Lord's supper's very serious business to God, and to enter into it with a heart of rebellion against God, to leave it with a heart of rebellion toward God, is to invite God's severe judgment in your life. There's a fourth way that we observe the Lord's table in an unworthy manner, and that is through unnecessary absence. Unnecessary absence. Some would say, "Well, that's just a boring ritual to go through". Remember the words of Hebrews chapter 10, verse 29. The writer says, "How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the spirit of grace"?

Remember what that means? To trample underfoot the Son of God means to treat as worthless what Christ did on the cross. To regard is unclean the blood of the covenant is to say that the blood of Jesus has no more worth than that of a mongrel dog. That's what it meant to the audience in the New Testament. Whenever you skip the Lord's supper, whenever you don't partake of it because you don't care about it or you don't want to confess your sins and repent so that you are in a state to partake of it, what you're really saying is, "The death of Christ isn't that big of a deal. What he did for me doesn't mean that much to me. The new life he offers me, the chance for a new beginning, I really don't care about it". And that is to invite God's sEverest judgment upon you.

Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me". You know, that word remembrance loses something in the translation. When we say remember we think it means to recall. Oh, I remember this, or I remember you. We think it means to recall something. But in the original text, the word remember means to make central in your mind, to put at the forefront of your mind. Remember in the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 12, Solomon said, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth". When Solomon said that, he wasn't saying, "Oh, recall God every once in a while. Oh, God, I remember you. Yeah, I remember you're up there someplace". That wasn't what he was saying. He was saying make God central in the days of your youth, make him the foremost, the most important person in your life.

In the same way, when Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me," what he was saying is, observing the Lord's supper has a way of reentering your life spiritually. It has a way of bringing Jesus Christ to the forefront of your mind. When we remember what Jesus did for us, we are reminded of the great price that he paid for us on the cross. Partaking of the Lord's supper reminds us that he paid that ultimate price. The Lord's table has a way of reminding us of what God's plan for the future is for us, to redeem us, to take us to be with him forever. To partake of Lord suffer reminds us, it makes central, it brings to that we have an obligation to our Savior. We are not our own, for we have been bought with a price.
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