The importance of the Lord’s Supper is established by the very fact that it was instituted by the Lord Himself. It was His personal request that we remember Him in this way. It is also the only New Testament church ordinance reaffirmed in Scripture by a glorified Lord (1 Cor. 11:23). Paul told the Corinthian saints that he received revelation from the Lord concerning the Lord’s Supper, and that he had delivered it unto them. This was not just a tradition of the early church. It was taught by the apostle and is now part of inspired Scripture. Sadly, down through the years these simple instructions have not been carried out, or have been perverted in some way.
The Lord’s Supper is to be a time of “remembering the Lord,” and as such it is a time of worship. While certain spiritual activities are appropriate at other times, they are not fitting as we gather to remember the Lord. We do not gather to hear one teach or preach the Word. Neither is it a time to evangelize the lost, although any present who may be lost may never hear a better gospel message than that declared by the redeemed in their worship. Lastly, we do not gather to perform or to be entertained.
All that is done is to focus our attention upon the Lord and to exalt Him. He is to have the preeminent place in the gathering (Col. 1:18). If a portion of Scripture is read, it is to direct our hearts and minds towards the Person and work of Christ. Hymns and audible worship should likewise exalt the Lord. While the men are to lead in public worship, all believers, men and women alike, are spiritual priests and should be worshipping (1 Pet. 2:5). Each heart is to be occupied with Christ and, when this is so, much worship will ascend to Him.
In his book, “Worship—The Christian’s Highest Occupation,” brother A.P. Gibbs makes an important distinction between prayer, thanksgiving, and worship. It is worth repeating for our consideration. Prayer is our occupation with our needs. Thanksgiving is our occupation with our blessings. Worship is our occupation with the Lord Himself.
Perhaps it would help if we considered the question asked in the Song of Solomon of the bride who was seeking her beloved. “What is thy beloved more than another beloved?” (Song. 5:10). She did not respond with a list of her needs, or even thanksgiving for her blessings, but described all the qualities that made him different from others. This should be our objective as we gather to remember the Lord. We too should express the matchless glories and beauties of our Lord which set Him apart from all others. That is not to say we are not thankful. Thankfulness is a proper expression.
The word “remember” speaks of a fond remembrance. One must obviously know the Lord if he is to have a fond remembrance of Him. It has been well said, “As a Jew, Judas had a right to celebrate the Passover, but not being a saint, he had no such right to participate in the Lord’s supper.” Peter said, “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious.” (1 Pet. 2:7). While no Christian who is walking properly is to be denied the privilege of remembering the Lord, the Lord’s Supper is not a public gathering to which all are invited. As on the night on which it was instituted, it is those who know Him personally as Saviour who are to gather and unite their hearts in worship.
The teaching on the Lord’s Supper found in 1 Corinthians 11 is in the midst of a passage in which Paul is rebuking them for their conduct and reminding them of the seriousness of participating in this remembrance feast. Their conduct was so shameful that they came under governmental judgment (1 Cor. 11:30). If there is one thing we should come away with from this portion of Scripture, it is that participating in the Lord’s Supper is a privilege which carries with it a great responsibility. The error in Corinth was that they had no real recognition of the spiritual significance of this divinely instituted ordinance. They took it lightly and were very casual about it. Sadly, many today do very much the same thing.
When the Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper He used simple emblems, bread and the fruit of the vine, as reminders of Himself and His sacrificial work on the cross. There was a simplicity about this remembrance feast which many today have replaced with ornate religious ceremony. Sadly, some have gone to the point of programming the Lord’s Supper. Due to the lack of response from cold hearts, they predetermine the order of the gathering. Who will pray and what hymns will be sung are determined beforehand. This of course removes the opportunity for spontaneous worship of hearts occupied with Christ. The simplicity of the gathering and the leading of the Holy Spirit have been replaced with the complexity and order of man.
A Living Lord
While the emblems remind us of a dying Saviour, we must keep in mind that we worship a living Lord. This is seen by the fact that as we partake of the bread and cup we proclaim the Lord’s death “till He come” (1 Cor. 11:26).
Service is to worship what works are to faith. The Lord wants our hearts first (2 Cor. 8:5; Rev. 2:4). When the Lord has the chief place in our hearts, we are prepared to yield ourselves to Him as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). May we be found to be faithful worshipers, and may our worship lead to faithful service for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. “This do in remembrance of ME.”
Excerpted from “Brief thoughts on the Lord’s Supper” which is available free of charge from Spread the Word, 3237 Faire Wynd Place, Dover, PA 17315