One of the greatest privileges we have as a church is to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. But as we take a look at what the Bible says about the Lord’s Supper we see that people made the occasion into something they wanted it to be rather than the purpose for which it was intended.
As we prepare to partake of the Lord’s Supper today, we need to examine Scripture and then examine ourselves in order to made sure we are prepared to partake in a worthy manner. Taking the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner is not my idea, it is Paul’s expression – at which we will review in just a minute.
First, let me remind all of us that this series is about taking a deep look at areas where we might not rather look. That is the idea of the Church in HD. We are taking a closer look at what Jesus said, at what Paul wrote, and what Peter shared, etc. in order to place ourselves better in line with the good parts of the church in its earliest stages.
The book of Acts paints a picture of a church in unity. For instance, Acts 4.32-37 reveals a church which is almost completed united. Certainly differences existed as would become evident in Acts 15 especially, but the early church recognized Jesus words that people would know they were His disciples if they loved one another – and that love for each other trumped any difference they held.
But as the church grew and spread to other areas more problems arose. So, rather than placing our focus on Acts 4 today, we will use Acts 4 as the foundation for what should be, and turn our attention to Corinth to see how Paul addressed a division related to the Lord’s Supper.
(I encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 11.17-32 before continuing with this post.)
Let me make a few quick observations.
1. When the people gathered it was worse than when they didn’t. Why? Because divisions existed. These divisions (or factions as Paul then calls them) were because people did not come to be united, but to do as they pleased. Verse 21 says that some left the gathering hungry, while others gorged themselves.
2. The Church is to gather to bring glory to God. In fact, that is verse just before 1 Cor 11. Paul says whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for the glory of God. Then he moves into this teaching. Again, church is not about what we want it to be, it is about becoming what God wants it to be – in other words, bringing Him glory.
3. After reminding the Corinthians of what transpired the night of Jesus’ last meal, Paul then exhorts the people to be worthy of taking the Lord’s Supper. We must first examine ourselves ensuring we have nothing hidden before partaking. Specifically, in this context, Paul is talking about being at peace with others – that is, we don’t have a beef with others and others don’t have a beef with us. Otherwise, if we partake we bring judgment on ourselves. Why? Because we are taking elements that represent the body and blood of Jesus who died so that we might be forgiven. So if we take the elements while holding grudges and not being willing to forgive then we are saying that we want what Jesus offers without being willing to grant it ourselves. To do this, Paul says will actually negate your forgiveness. In fact, Paul said that because some have not been willing to forgive they have become weak, ill, and some have even died.
Is Paul right or is this his opinion? Let’s review Jesus words we talked about earlier this year. Matthew 6.12, in the midst of the prayer He taught His disciples says, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive the debts of others.” And then, two verses later, Jesus continued the thought. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
So, before we take the Lord’s Supper, we need to examine ourselves. We need to see where unity needs to be restored. We need to consider if we have issues with others or if others may have issues with us. How do we do this? Well, let me read two more commands from Jesus.
Matthew 18.15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” Sin is a key word here, but I think we can still apply the principle if we have been offended, even if the offense is not technically a sin – but we should be careful to make certain our preferences are not opposed to God’s.
The second passage is from Matthew 5.23-24. “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” If Jesus words are true of the gift we offer, how much more true are they before we take elements to remind us of the gift He offers us.
So, we have our marching orders. Be united. Examine ourselves. Forgive others. Tell others where they have offended us. Go to others and make peace if we have offended them. And be ready to forgive again. Then we partake.
That is the message. So before we partake, I want to challenge each of us to examine ourselves. I want each of us to seek God over these next few moments and determine if we are ready to partake. If not, when the elements are passed, I would encourage you not to partake – as Paul said, you will be drinking judgement on yourself. But if you realize an issue does exist, then be wise and make amends. Remember, Jesus said those who do what He says are wise – those who do not obey these words of mine are fools. So be wise. You may have to swallow some pride, but swallowing pride is better than swallowing God’s judgment.
(NOTE: At this point of the message, the congregation was asked to pray for God to reveal any issues that needed to be resolved and to be bold enough to resolve them if any were discovered.)
Follow Jesus' commands and go to that person or persons and make peace. If you have to pull someone aside, do so. But in making peace with others, you will be at peace with God and you will be ready to partake of the Lord’s Supper when the moment comes.
JOURNEY: The JOURNEY letter for today is: U – UNITE.
PRINCIPLE: Love and unity are the essence of God and the Trinity. If we welcome God in the church, we need to work through any differences and be united in loving and serving Him.
QUESTION: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?
NEXT STEP(S): LOVE: Partake of the Lord’s Supper having reconciled ourselves with one another and with God.