Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Lord’s Supper by AJ Pollock

There are but two ordinances connected with Christianity—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both stand in relation to the death of Christ. Baptism, an act, has no meaning or virtue in itself, but is symbolical of that which should powerfully affect the believer’s life every day and all the days. It sets forth the identification of the believer with the death of Christ, that it is his privilege to die practically to all that Christ died to. The world that crucified Him and the flesh that clamoured for His crucifixion are to be judged and set aside. The believer henceforth is to walk “in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Baptism is one act, but the Lord’s supper is a continued appeal to the affections of the Lord’s people, occurring, as it does, Lord’s day by Lord’s day.

We believe the weakness that marks the Christian profession is very largely because the death of Christ is not prominent and dominating in the lives of the saints of God. If once the believer loses the sense of the vital meaning of the cross, and its intimate relation to his blessing from God and his standing before Him, he is in danger of getting on the downward path so far as Christian profession goes.

It is often remarked that what comes out in the Gospels is not found in the Epistles, and what is brought out in the Epistles is not found in the Gospels. For instance, we find John’s baptism in the Gospels, but not in the Epistles; Christian baptism in the Epistles, but not in the Gospels. The Lord’s Supper is a striking exception to this rule. The record of its institution by our Lord is found in no less than three Gospels. Scripture never goes in for needless repetition, so evidently the matter so emphasised is very near the heart of our blessed Lord, and should be very near the heart of every believer. But it is also found in the Epistles. 1 Corinthians 11 tells how it was revealed to the Apostle Paul. Instituted on earth in all the darkness and sorrow of the very night of the betrayal, it was likewise made the subject of a special revelation from the glory to the Apostle Paul.

The reason of this was strikingly illustrated by an instance in the writer’s experience. He was talking to an aged Quaker, headmaster of a celebrated school. Quakers so emphasise the doctrine of the Holy Spirit that they neither carry out the ordinance of baptism nor the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. This old gentleman contended that the Lord’s Supper was a Jewish feast, given to the disciples by our Lord before He died, and therefore not binding on Christians. The writer asked him, if this were so, how was it that a special revelation was given to the Apostle Paul, the Apostle of the GENTILES, given AFTER the Day of Pentecost, when the descent of the Holy Spirit had already formed the Church as the Body of Christ, Himself the living glorified Head in Heaven? Did this not clearly indicate that it was intended to be a Christian feast? He had no answer to make.

It is, indeed, touching that it was instituted on the night of the betrayal, when the impending ordeal of the cross was weighing heavily on the Saviour’s mind, as witness the sweat like great drops of blood falling to the ground and the agonising cry to God that if it were possible the cup of God’s judgment on sin should pass from Him, subject to God’s will. Then in all the blaze of the glory the revelation concerning the Lord’s Supper was given to the Apostle of the Gentiles, so that wherever he went on his missionary labours, the Lord’s solicitude for the remembrance of His own would be duly emphasised.

 The ordinance is simple in the extreme. It was not instituted in the gorgeous Temple with priests in flowing robes and swinging censers. Evidently the Spirit of God would not occupy the mind of the believer with the ritual of the occasion. Ritualism makes an appeal to the senses, the venerable building, music stealing through the fretted arches, priests with gorgeous vestments, with chantings and genuflexions, combine to impress the outward senses, and produce a false feeling of sanctity on the mind of the flesh. The result is only of the worst in very many cases.

No, in a large upper room furnished in an unknown part of Jerusalem, a room with no ecclesiastical setting, an ordinary room in an ordinary dwelling, with bread and wine upon the table, and bread and wine were the common articles of food in the homes of the poorest in Palestine, was the place where the Supper was instituted.

It was in the symbolic meaning of the bread and wine, wherein lay their significance, the body given, the blood of our Lord shed. How much is wrapped up in this simple statement. The body given! We are face to face with the astounding truth of our Lord’s Person, very God and very Man, one blessed Person. Oh! the mighty love that led Him to stoop from the glory, where in the form of God He received the homage of the angels, to being found in the form of a bondslave, becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Should the loaf upon the table occupy our thoughts, or rather be simply a touching symbol of a truth of vital importance, appealing in its simplicity and the wonder of its meaning to our affections?

Sad indeed is it that ritualism has run riot in its irreverent imagination and made out that in the blessing of the emblems by the priest the bread becomes the very body of our Lord and the wine His very blood. No doubt this has been invented to fasten the chains of superstition upon men, and give the priest a power that sets him above the laity, and between the people and the Lord. Shame is it that the consecrated wafer, as it is called, is put in a box, called an aumbry, and worshipped as if the Saviour were there in Person. Let us cherish the simplicity with which our Lord instituted this feast, and not turn it into an occasion for shameful and senseless idolatry.

We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, that the cup 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? “The cup of blessing which we bless!” What a touching and absolute contrast to the cup our Lord drank for us at the cross. None but our Lord and His Father will ever know what He went through that the communion of His blood might be ours. That blood brings the believer the forgiveness of sins and redemption. It brings him to God.

In the Tabernacle’s typical teaching the worshipper could go as far as the blood of the sin offering went. The High Priest on the great day of atonement carried the blood into the very holiest of all. It could go no further, and sprinkled it upon and before the mercy seat. That sets forth symbolically what Hebrews 10:19-22 sets forth doctrinally, that the believer has boldness of access into the very presence of God, there to be a worshipper.

It is indeed a cup of blessing. All the ingredients in the cup the Lord drank were those of suffering, distance, and death; not only death, but death under the judgment of a holy God for sin as He took the sinner’s place. The cup the believer receives is full of blessing and happiness, and joy. The bread is the communion of the body of Christ. We enter into all the blessings of Christ’s death, and have entrance into a realm of blessing and delight the world knows nothing of.

“Drink ye all of it” (Matt. 26:27), was the invitation of the Lord to His disciples, and surely His invitation today for all of His own is just the same. “They all drank of it” we read in Mark 14:23. The invitation is given in Matthew’s Gospel, the happy response to the invitation is given in Mark’s Gospel. This raises a question we do well to meditate upon. For whom is the Lord’s Supper? Is it the badge of membership with a particular body of Christians? To raise this question is to answer it. Scripture is so plain in the matter. It is the LORD’S Supper. It is where He should be supreme. His invitation is for all the blood-bought children of God. Does a known Christian ask to remember the Lord in His death? Is he known to be sound in the faith and walking in a godly way? Such an one must be received, or else it ceases to be the LORD’S Supper, and becomes one of man’s, a sectarian feast common only to the members of a particular body of believers.

“Drink ye ALL of it,” is a challenge to every believer on the face of the earth. The Church of God is not a question of frontiers, nationalities, language, social positions, the colour of the skin. This is a fellowship that embraces all those who love the Lord, wherever they may be found. The appeal is to the heart.

I remember speaking to a young Christian, who told me he was thinking of asking to break bread. Two years after I met him and enquired if he were sharing in the Lord’s Supper. He replied, “I have not yet 3 made up my mind.” I replied, “It is not a question of your mind, but of your heart.
Affection for the One you owe everything to should move you.”

We may well ask a question here. Do we come into fellowship by breaking bread, or is breaking bread the expression of fellowship? It is clearly the expression of fellowship. There is but ONE fellowship in Scripture for the believer. “God is faithful, by whom ye were called to the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). “There is ONE body, and ONE Spirit, even as ye are called in ONE hope of your calling; ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 6:3-6).

1 Corinthians 11:27-34 tells us that the Lord’s Supper demands on the part of those, who partake of it, that they should be living consistent Christian lives. It is true that what gives us fitness to partake of the Supper is the atoning death of Christ. It sets forth the communion of His body and His blood. Whilst that gives to every believer fitness, it is very clear that there should be a corresponding practical fitness in our lives. There is such a thing as eating and drinking unworthily. I might be found going with the world and worldly amusements, and worldly companions during the week, and be found at the breaking of bread on the Lord’s day morning. This would be eating and drinking unworthily. Suppose a son or daughter companied with friends, who spoke slightingly of their parents, and slandered their characters, and the son and daughter heard all this without protest, and laughed at the expense of their parents behind their backs, do you think it would be a consistent thing to eat at their table, and be receiving their loving care?

What, then, is the remedy when conscience accuses one of eating and drinking unworthily? Scripture tells us. Honest self-examination. It does not say, Examine yourself and stay away, absent yourself. No, “let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” That means whatever is unworthy in our conduct has to be judged in the presence of the Lord, put aside, and the way is then open to continue the remembrance of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 11:27-34 goes on to show how holy is the remembrance of our Lord. It shows how possible it is for a believer to be so slack in his Christian conduct, so inconsistent with the place he takes, that the Lord will come in in discipline. We read because of eating and drinking unworthily, “for this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (v. 30). We cannot do as we like in the holy things of God. How solemn to be laid aside, and still more solemn is it to be removed from the place of testimony by death, even if it meant being taken to be with the Lord. No Scripture shines more clearly as to the assurance of salvation for the believer than this. The government of God can go to the extreme limit of removing a backsliding Christian from the earth, his testimony on earth being so bad that he cannot be trusted to remain on the earth any longer, and yet removed to HEAVEN. So we are assured, “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (vv. 31-32).

“Not . . . condemned with the world,” saved by the atoning work of Christ and chosen by the sovereignty of a God of infinite love. How wonderful! Yet the appeal comes to us, that we should live lives consistent with the holy place we have been brought into.

But things may be so flagrant that the assembly must deal with the evil and put the offender out of the meeting. 1 Corinthians 5 tells us of a case of shameful immorality. The Apostle Paul tells the believers that the way to deal with this evil is to “put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (v. 13).

However such stern and necessary discipline has not to be carried out with harshness and callousness. The Corinthian saints, converted recently out of paganism with its shocking laxity of morals, were not sufficiently aware of the holiness of God’s house, and were treating the grievous sin of one of them as if it meant little. However the letter of Paul opened their eyes to the heinousness of the sin in their midst, and how a little leaven leavens the whole lump. To put them in the place morally where they were as before God on the ground of the work of Christ on the cross, it was necessary to clear themselves of this evil. At the same time the discipline was “for the destruction of the flesh, and that the spirit may be saved in the day of Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 5:5). In short, the discipline had recovery in view.

That the instructions of Paul bore fruit is evident from his second letter to them. We read how they sorrowed after a godly sort, how they cleared themselves, with what zeal they acted (2 Cor. 7:11), Not only so, but evidently the sinning brother had been reached by the discipline, and was now ready to be restored to the assembly. The saints are exhorted to forgive him, comfort him, and con- firm their love to him (2 Cor. 2:7-8).

How admirable is the wisdom of Holy Scripture. It might be that brethren of a hard spirit, with a liking for sitting on the judgment seat, might excommunicate saints for shortcomings, that call for patience and godly care, and not for excommunication. For instance, we are told to “warn them that are unruly” (1 Thess. 5:14), not excommunicate them. Again we read, “Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). It does not say excommunicate, but avoid them. Evidently things had not ripened to that extent. How slow the Spirit of God is to take drastic action, but would seek that the saints should act lovingly, patiently and yet faithfully with evil in their midst.

Recovery takes spiritual condition. Paul exhorts, “Brethren if one be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of MEEKNESS; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:6). A spiritual person is not necessarily one with much knowledge of the Scriptures, but one who is governed by the Spirit of God, and exhibits the marks of the Spirit of God in his spirit, such as affection for the erring one, the feeling that the flesh is no better in him than in the erring brother and he might be tempted, concern for the holiness of God’s house, above all MEEKNESS is emphasised.

1 Corinthians 5:11 gives a list of those who are unfit to remain in outward Christian fellowship, and whose place is outside. Fornicators, the covetous, idolators, railers, drunkards, extortioners. There is the list. What a mercy we are not left without definite instructions in these solemn matters.

There remains one solemn instruction, all the more notable because it is contained in John’s second pastoral letter, and addressed to a sister in the Lord and her children, who evidently were Christians, and walking in the truth.

We read these solemn words, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed, is a partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11).

Here it is not moral turpitude as in 1 Corinthians 5, but doctrines subversive of the Person of our Lord and destructive of Christianity. Not only is the person who advocates such doctrines to be refused, but the one that bids him God speed is a partaker of his evil deeds.

To allow him into your own home would constitute the one who did so a partaker of his evil deeds. Thank God whether it be serious evil doctrine subversive of Christianity or moral turpitude, the Scriptures give us clear teaching how we should act.

May the Lord give us to prize more than ever the privilege of response of affection to our Lord in answering the desire of His heart that we should remember Him in the breaking of the bread and drinking of the cup. Finally we are thus privileged “TILL HE COME.” How soon our last privilege of this nature may come. Surely the coming of our Lord draweth nigh. A.J.Pollock S.T. 1938-1939

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