The Power of the Lord’s Supper [Part 1]
By Alan Wright — December 07, 2018
Are you ready for some good news?
You don’t need to be afraid to take communion – it’s the feast of God’s grace!
Today’s Text: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23–26, ESV)
As often as I’ve spoken the words of institution from 1 Corinthians 11, I have rarely dared to read on in this passage to verses 27-29: “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
Many have interpreted this text to mean that when you prepare for the Lord’s Supper, you better make a thorough, painful inward examination and list before God every unconfessed sin. If you have not repented of every sin, then, according to this popular, fearful view, you will violate the holiness of communion and bring judgment upon yourself.
It is this errant interpretation that makes our tone turn somber when we come to communion. But if there is one thing I know about the Word of God and the New Covenant, it is that every single page, and every word, is good news. And I would contend that there would not be a shred of good news in this text if God were really waiting to strike calamity on you for taking communion in an unworthy manner. Instead, I think that taking communion in an unworthy manner is a statement about all that is forfeited when you don’t see and savor Christ and His finished work. Communion is a celebration of Christ’s sacrifice, not yours!
When we take communion, we are called to fix our eyes on Jesus, not ourselves. We are safe in Jesus, who at exactly the right time came and died for the ungodly, not because of any of our own merit, but of the sovereign grace of God. The Lord’s Supper activates our faith as we focus on Christ’s redeeming grace. In that livened faith, we can receive so much from God – healing, strength, and encouragement. I think Paul is saying, there is so much more available in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper – there is strength and healing and power in Christ that is forfeited when we do not discern the presence of the Lord. Some of forfeited the blessing because of an abuse of communion; some sick among us have died who would have been healed had we all known the power of God’s grace. Beloved, you don’t need to fear taking the Lord’s Supper – it’s the richest symbol of God’s grace imaginable. There’s power in the Lord’s Supper. And that’s the Gospel!