The elders of Spring Meadows have decided to have the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. We believe the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace, as much as the Word of God and prayer. We don’t worship, pray and preach the word twice a month but every Lord’s Day. The Session believes that the benefits of Christ received in the Supper are needed every week.
The PCA allows the elders of each church to determine the frequency of serving the Lord’s Supper. The Bible never stipulates how often, although the early church seemed to celebrate it weekly (Acts 2:41-47). We believe that weekly communion is the best practice for SMPC. “As often as you do it, do it remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19).
The following is a sermon by Tim Keller on what the Lord’s Supper means, and how the Lord’s Supper blesses.
Jesus’ last supper was a Passover meal. “Go and make preparations for the Passover” (Luke 22:7). Passover was the last night of the Israelites bondage in slavery. For 400 years the Egyptians had enslaved them. God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to let his people go. But Pharaoh hardened his heart, and treated the Israelites even more cruelly. So God sent plagues on Egypt—blood, frogs, flies and hail.
Then God told Moses—Tonight I’m going to bring the last plague on Egypt. Death will come to every firstborn son. But there was something about this plague that was different from the earlier ones. There was no separation between Israelites and Egyptians. When the final plague fell, it would fall on everyone, not just the Egyptians. The reason was that this last plague was a picture of the final judgment. And in the final judgment it doesn’t matter if you are an Israelite or Egyptian. It doesn’t matter if you are slave or free, rich or poor. Because at the judgment, God’s wrath falls on all sin.
So God told Moses that the only way to escape judgment was to kill a lamb and eat it. And put the blood on the doorposts of your house. When God’s judgment comes, only by taking refuge under the blood of the lamb will you be saved. Your family connections don’t count, your good deeds don’t count—you must have faith in the sacrificial lamb.
That night in Egypt, every house had either a dead son or a dead lamb. God’s justice came down, and everyone fell under it unless he took refuge under the substitute. If he did, God’s judgment passed over him.
In the centuries after the first Passover, the Jews added lots of little traditions to make the meal more meaningful. Remember God had told them, “When your child asks you what these things mean, tell him about the way I saved you from Egypt” (cf. Exodus 13:8-9). So the Jews had traditions to drive home the history of the meal. There were certain questions, songs, prayers, symbolic food, explanations. When bread was broken by the leader of the Passover meal, he would say: “This is the bread of suffering that our fathers ate in the wilderness.” So you can imagine the disciples’ surprise when Jesus broke the bread, and they expected Him to say the words they had heard since childhood. Instead, He said: “This is My body, broken for you (Luke 22:19). And then He took the cup, and instead of the usual words over the wine said: “This is My blood of the covenant, poured out for many” (Luke 22:20). We miss how startling this was to the disciples. Jesus took traditional Passover words, and changed them so that they were all about Him. He was saying: I have come to bring the ultimate deliverance from slavery. In Me you will have the ultimate exodus—freedom from slavery of sin, deliverance from affliction. I am the great substitute. By My death, God’s judgment passes over you.
So the meaning of the Lord’s Supper is simply the death of Christ. As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 11: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death.” The reason we proclaim the Lord’s death is because His death was totally different from any other death—it was a substitutionary sacrifice.
Sometimes people ask: Why couldn’t God just forgive us? Why did Jesus have to die? Sometimes Christian even ask these questions. The answer is that all real, life-changing love requires substitutionary sacrifice. It’s easy to love nice people. It’s easy to love people whose lives are all together, who are doing fine. The reason it’s easy is because it costs you nothing. But if you love a troubled, wounded, suffering person it costs you, doesn’t it? If an emotionally wounded person comes into your life, why do you want to go the other way? Because you can see that he’s sinking. And if you love him you are going to be pulled under yourself. Because you can see that she is emotionally starved, and loving her means that your emotions will be drained. When you love a troubled person, a transfer occurs. Some of their trouble comes on you, even as your strength flows out to them.
Imagine a high school girl who is really cool, part of the in crowd. And she notices a girl who is isolated, a loner, a social misfit. And she reaches out to her, befriends her, draws her out of her isolation. What will happen next? What will the in crowd start saying? Why are you hanging out with her? You are acting so weird! But there is no way for her to diminish her isolation without some of her dorkiness rubbing off on her. All real life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice. There will always be a transfer. So what happened when God chose to love a sinful, messed up people? There had to be a substitutionary sacrifice.
And that is the death of Christ that we proclaim. Jesus came to us in our sin and misery and guilt, and that was transferred to Him. He took it on Himself to such a degree that He suffered the ultimate penalty for it—the wrath of God. And because He did that, we can be forgiven. On the cross, Jesus did on a cosmic level what you and I must do if we are to love people. And Jesus wants us to remember His death by taking the Lord’s Supper. There are other ways to remember—but this is the way that Jesus specifically asks us to do it. When we do, certain blessings flow to us.
The Lord’s Supper blesses us by pressing home to our hearts in a unique way the reality of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice for us. If you were starving and a feast were put before you, it would do you no good unless you ate it. Jesus doesn’t just say—This is My body, broken for you. He doesn’t just set the feast before us and say—look at this fact. He then says, take and eat. He wants you to take in this wonderful reality of His death. He wants it to become food and drink to your soul. The great work of the Christian life is to take the things you know are true and work them in deep so that they make a difference.
How do you work them in deep? Most Christians would say by reading the Bible and by prayer. And that is right, those are two great “means of grace.” You can’t work the truth in deep without the Word and prayer. But another way is by taking the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament—a visible sign that represents an invisible spiritual reality. And the two are so closely connected that a person can draw spiritual benefit from the visible sign.
Let me give you an example from everyday life—a wedding ring. The wedding ring is a visible representation of something invisible—marriage promises. There is a sacramental union between that ring and the wedding covenant. And a person can draw benefit from the visible sign. The Lord’s Supper functions in a similar way. There is no power in the elements. The bread is just bread, and the wine is just wine. It doesn’t have any intrinsic power to bless you. And it’s not required for salvation in any way, any more than a wedding ring is required for a person to get married. And if you weren’t able to take Communion for some reason, you would still have salvation and all its benefits.
But as you eat and drink with faith in Christ the reality of His death for you and all His benefits are confirmed and impressed on you in a special way. There is a mystery to it, but when a believer takes the Lord’s Supper the reality of Christ’s death works in a little bit deeper. It concentrates your attention on Christ in a tangible way. And any time our attention is concentrated on Christ we are strengthened spiritually.
Why are you bothered by criticism? Why does your view of yourself rise and fall on your performance, or on the approval of other people? Why do you think you are being punished when things go bad? Why are you discontent with your life? The reason you have turmoil, even as a Christian, is because the great truth of Christ’s death has not been pressed in deep enough. If you really believed deep in your heart that Jesus is your substitute, that He died for you, these things wouldn’t throw you into turmoil.
So make the most of the Lord’s Supper by doing these three things:
- Remember His death. Jesus wants you to do that. As you take the bread and cup, feel them, smell them, taste them, swallow them. And tell yourself that Jesus’ death for you was just as real. He died as your substitute. He took on Himself your guilt. Because that is absolutely certain and complete, all is right between you and God. Let that assurance wash over you.
- Trust in His promises. At the Last Supper, Jesus not only spoke of His death; He also made a great promise about His second coming: “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until I drink it anew in the kingdom of God” (Matthew 26:29). In Bible times, for a person to make an oath not to eat or drink until something was accomplished was the strongest oath possible. To make this oath meant you were saying: I will do this or I will die. Jesus could not say more clearly—I am absolutely committed to blessing you. That should give you hope no matter what you are going through.
- Talk to Him. In 1 Corinthians 10 the Lord’s Supper is called koinonia in the body of Christ. Koinonia is translated participation, fellowship or communion. There is at the Lord’s Table a particularly sweet communion with Christ. Is He present at all times and places? Of course. Can we talk to Him anytime? Yes. But God also meets with us in special times and places—and this is one. Make use of it for a special time of prayer.
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