What Mean Ye By This Service?
It is said of Sir Arthur Blackwood who lived in the latter half of the nineteenth century, that he was a prominent Christian in whose home Bible studies were conducted regularly. To these studies he welcomed all who loved the Scriptures. We are pleased to reproduce his own personal reflections on the Lord’s Supper. We are indebted to our colleague, Omer G. C. Sprunt, for this selection.
“What mean ye by this service?” (Exodus 12:26. This question which related to the Feast of the Passover, is one that we may well put to ourselves with reference to the Lord’s Supper. That the one was a type of the other there can be no doubt. The Israel of God had a feast, the Passover.
The Church of God has a feast — the Lord’s Supper. The Lord Jesus instituted the feast of the Church, the Supper, while He was eating the Passover; so closely are they connected. Just as the seventh day, the Sabbath, which was the memorial of God’s finished work of creation, merged into the first, the Lord’s Day, the memorial of God’s finished work of redemption, so the Passover, the memorial of Israel’s redemption out of Egypt, merged into the Lord’s Supper, the memorial feast of the redemption of God’s people from sin, death, the world, and hell.
It will be useful to see what light the ancient feast throws upon the new one, the Passover, upon the Lord’s Supper. For one thing, we may notice the difference between the sprinkling of the blood upon the door-post, and the eating of the lamb at the Passover. The one saved the people, the other gave them strength. It was a feast for those who were saved; it did not precede, but followed, salvation.
Now apply that to the Lord’s Supper. It does not precede salvation; it follows it. An Israelite could only eat the flesh of the lamb after the blood was sprinkled. When once the salvation of God had been appropriated to himself, he could go inside and partake of the feast. He did not expect to be saved by eating the lamb. If an Israelite had been asked, “How do you hope to be saved?” He would not have said, “By eating the lamb,” but “By sprinkling the blood.” If he had partaken of the lamb every day of the year, that would never have saved him. He had to sprinkle the blood and go inside the house.
In like manner, a man is not saved by going to the Lord’s table. He may, indeed, be told by some that if he does the best he can, and partakes of the sacrament, he will be saved; but you might as well have told an Israelite on that solemn Passover night that when he had eaten the lamb, and done the best he could, he would be saved.
The Lord’s Supper is for believers, for Christians, for those who do not “hope to be saved” but who ARE saved; who have “passed from death unto life”: they, and none beside, have a right to eat of that feast. It is not a means for getting the soul saved; but it is that which follows salvation. Let us have this clearly in our minds; on no point, perhaps, are there so many mistakes as on this. “Do the best you can: be baptized and confirmed; and become a communicant; and you are all right,” is practically what some say.
Look at it in the light of the Passover, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” A man might have partaken of the feast with the greatest regularity, and yet never have been a whit nearer to salvation than before. So you may go to the Lord’s table every day of your life, and yet have no more reasonable hope of being saved than if you had never gone there at all. It is the saved sinner only who has a right to come to the table of the Lord. Secondly, this feast, so far from being of any advantage in saving the people, was itself an acknowledgment of salvation accomplished. “What mean ye by this service?” “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, and delivered our houses.” They were to speak of it as a past thing. It was not thus year by year as the first month came round, they were not to hope for the forgiveness of their sins or their deliverance a second time by keeping this feast unto the Lord. When their children would ask, “What mean ye by this service?” they were at once to speak of a past fact —something done and finished for ever, never to be repeated again. The very fact of Israel’s keeping the Passover year by year in their own land, was a thankful acknowledgement that they were no longer in Egypt or under the power of Pharaoh, but that they had been delivered from that condition. And so with the Lord’s Supper; so far from being a means of salvation, it is a thankful acknowledgement that salvation is finished and appropriated.
“What mean ye by this service?” one might well ask of thousands of professing Christians who go to that table. “I go to the Lord’s table because I have been a great sinner and I hope to make amends for my sin,” is one answer. Another may say, “I go to the sacrament as a means of getting my sins forgiven.” “I go,” another says, if the truth were spoken, “Because it is a very respectable thing to do.” “I go,” another might say, “Because it keeps me in good favour with my minister, or my master, or my friends.” “I go,” (I am sorry to think numbers might say) “In order that I may get some of the church charity.” An intelligent Christian, a believer in the Lord Jesus, can say, “I go there to show forth the death of Him who delivered me from the wrath to come.” And that is the great meaning of the Lord’s Supper: it is a joyful acknowledgement that redemption is finished— a feast of joy mingled with awe, just as it was on that night in Egypt when, standing around the table at midnight, they knew that upon every other house God’s judgment was resting, and that the cry of destruction was already going up unto Heaven. The Lord’s table is a place of joy — it is a feast, a Christian feast; but it is a place for solemn feasting — no place so solemn as the table of the Lord, and yet no place so joyful. How glad ought the Christian to be who takes those memorials of a greater redemption than the redemption out of Egypt! And how solemn the awe which ought to rest upon our souls when we remember what a judgment it has saved us from; and what destruction is destined to fall upon the world that, like Egypt, knows not God!. But, again: it is more than a mere acknowledgment of a fact; it is a remembrance, a memorial, of a person. Jesus said, “in remembrance of Me.” As oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come” (1 Cor. 11-26). It is a memorial of Jesus; and the more we keep this before our minds, the happier we will be at that table. It is a time of remembering Him: a time of thanksgiving, because of the unspeakable gift of God to our souls —Jesus Christ.
There is a word which is often applied to the Lord’s Supper, and a very beautiful word, though it is, much misunderstood. It is the word “Eucharist.” To uninstructed minds that word conveys something very mysterious and sacramental: but it simply means “THANKSGIVING” —nothing more, nothing less. Partaking of the Lord’s Supper is praise, real intelligent praise; for when you take into your hands that bread and wine, you acknowledge that which they show forth — the broken body and the shed blood of the Lamb of God, whereby your soul has been saved.