Keeping the Ordinance (1 Corinthians 11:23-34) - Before and when we assemble to remember the Lord, there are four looks we should take. There must be preparation before there can be participation in a worthy way.
1. The Look-In
"Let a man examine himself (test...prove...approve)." See 1 Corinthians 11:28-29. There must be soul searching, introspection, and confession. This examination does not mean that we should stay away from the Lord's Supper. We should examine ourselves, get right with God, and get right with our brethren, and then partake. If we "examine" and "judge," God will not judge us. There will be a judgment (see 1 Corinthians 11:31). [There is the thought of confession and repentance].
Paul warns of the grave danger of partaking of the Lord's Supper in a way that is unworthy of Him (i.e. partaking while one’s sin has not been confessed). Those who do are guilty of profaning and sinning against the body and blood of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:27). In 1 Corinthians 11:28, He asks each one who intends to participate to thoroughly examine himself and only when he has done so should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 1 Corinthians 11:29 indicates that those who participate indiscriminately will be judged by God and 1 Corinthians 11:30 gives us the nature of the judgment: weak, sickly death. Note the grave sin of not discerning the Lord's body (1 Corinthians 11:29).
Our self-examination will bring us to scrutinize certain areas of our lives:
1. We should examine our companions of the week.
Have they been the companions of them that fear Thee? (See Psalm 119:63) Or, were they numbered among those who are walking in the counsel of the ungodly - standing in the way of sinners, or sitting in the seat of the scornful? Psalm 1:3 "Come out from among them” (see 2 Corinthians 6:17).
2. We should examine our habits.
Do we love the world more than Christ? Colossians 3:2 says, “Seek those things above, not the things of the earth.” Love not the world or the things of the world. See 1 John 2:15.
3. We should examine our thoughts.
Romans 12:2 speaks of the “Renewing of your mind.” Proverbs 23:7 says for “as a man thinketh, so is he.” Psalm 45 says, “Our hearts should be ‘overflowing with a good matter.’” Psalm 63:6 and Psalm 104:34 say that we should "meditate upon Him day and night." Colossians 3:2 says that our "affections should be set on things above."
4. We should examine our motives.
Philippians 1:10 speaks of sincerity. On one occasion there were many who came to the feast, which Jesus would attend, but they came to see Lazarus when Jesus had risen from the dead. However, there were others who came and were very much in the minority with a single motive. “Sir, we would see Jesus” (see John 12:12-22). This self-examination, when executed properly, will not cause us to be absent from the Supper ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:28). Instead we will be there, with hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and bodies washed in pure water, partaking for the glory of God (see Hebrews 10:22).
2. The Look Up: Divine Authority
“For I have received of the Lord, that which I delivered unto you (see 1 Corinthians 11:23). This is our authority for the Supper. It was instituted by the Lord and it was revealed to Paul by the Lord. Paul was not indebted to any man for his instructions regarding the breaking of bread ordinance. See Galatians 1:11-12 (“The Gospel”) and 1 Thessalonians 4:15 (“The coming”). His information was received, directly as a revelation from the ascended Christ. Moses received the pattern for the Tabernacle. David received the pattern for the Temple. Paul received the pattern for the Church.
He who requested the observance while on earth (see Luke 22:19-20), repeated the request from heaven. As 1 Corinthians 11:23 says, “For I have received of the Lord.” Peter, nor James, nor John mention the Supper in their writings. To Paul, it was the subject of a special revelation: “Look Up.”
The Lord expects His children to obey His request. This request is not an option, but an obligation. There are many who lay great emphasis on evangelism, but disregard the Lord's Supper. “Go ye” and “This do.” This feast must continue each Lord's Day, “until He come.”
3. The Look Back
1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “Ye do show the Lord's death.” At the Supper the Lord's death should occupy our minds greatly, but not exclusively. Luke 22:19-20 says, “This do in remembrance of Me.” We gather together to “remember the Lord” in all His glories and attributes, but the central theme should be His death and resurrection.
We should never leave the Remembrance Feast with Christ still on the Cross or in the Tomb - but glorified at God's right hand. The contemplation of the suffering of Christ is of tremendous importance in our worship. These are in three distinct areas:
- The soul sufferings in the Garden (see Mark 14 and Luke 22)
- The physical sufferings during the hours of daylight (The Cross)
- The spiritual sufferings during the hours of darkness (The Cross)
The physical sufferings (the beatings) are revealed in Isaiah 30:6, which says, “Back to the smiters - face to them that plucked off the hairs - hid not my face from shame but spitting.” Isaiah 52:14 says, “Visage so marred more than any man - His form marred more than the son of men.” John 19:5 says, “Behold the Man.” Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was wounded for our transgressions.” Consider the spiritual sufferings. [The grape in the winepress - The bread in the oven].
Psalm 69:1 “Save Me, of God, for the waters are come into My soul. I sink in deep mire where there is no standing, where the floods overflow Me.”
Isaiah 42:7 “All Thy waves and billows of Thy wrath are gone over Me.”
Psalm 42:7 “My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Isaiah 53:5 “He was bruised for my iniquities.”
When we gather around the Lord to remember Him, we should at least grasp a part of the divine mystery of the atonement and the reconciliation. We should consider the Lord as the Burnt Offering, the Sin Offering, the Trespass Offering, the Meal Offering, and the Peace Offering. “Oh make me understand it; help me to take it in.”
4. The Look On
“Till He come” - 1 Corinthians 11:26. We should each eat the Supper in anticipation of the Lord's return. We are to be as those “who wait for the Lord.” One day in the not too distant future the symbols will give place to substance, faith to sight. Every time we meet we say to an unbelieving world - to hostile powers around us and to the reinforcement of our mutual faith, “Maranatha! The Lord is coming.” [Describe 1 Thessalonians 4]. The benefits we will derive at His coming: We shall be with the Lord...all our tears will be wiped away—no more death—no sorrow—no crying or pain; we shall see the Lord's face and we shall reign forever with Him.
Brethren, the feast on earth is not the first banquet. There yet remains the marriage supper of the Lamb (see Revelation 19:9) and then to enjoy the Lord forever and forever. These are some of the thoughts that should fill our minds and thrill our hearts as we gather around the Lord to break bread and partake of the cup.
“Feast after feast thus comes and passes by
Yet passing points to the glad feast above;
Giving sweet foretaste of the festal joy;
The Lamb's great bridal feast of bliss and love.”