A Letter Concerning The Lord's Supper
Frederick William Grant
My Dear Brother:
I have had it on my heart to share with you a few thoughts in connection with the Lord's Supper -- that solemn and precious remembrance of Christ. First of all, there is great importance in seeing clearly the object and character of the great central meeting which gives its character to all other meetings. It is described for us in a simple manner in The Acts, and there we see the primary object of that meeting: "Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread" (20:7). As the Passover had changed for Israel the order of the months, and the year must begin with the sign of accomplished redemption, so, for Christians, each week must begin with the joyful celebration of the love that has visited them.
The verse in Acts does not say as we sometimes hear, "The disciples came together for a worship meeting." There is no doubt that they would worship; but that was not what was uppermost in their minds. It was their Lord who was before them - Him of whom the bread spoke.
The purpose of coming together should be distinctly before our minds. We must be simple in it. In two opposite ways this simplicity may be destroyed, and the character of the meeting may be lowered and souls suffer. Let us spend a little time in the consideration of this.
First, when we come together, after six days of warfare in the world (would that were always spiritual warfare, and that we realised the world as an enemy's country simply), we are apt to come full of our spiritual needs to be refreshed and strengthened. We may not use the term, but still the idea in the Lord's Supper to us thus will be that it is a "means of grace." We bring jaded spirits and unstrung energies to a meeting where we trust the weariness will be dispelled and the lassitude recovered from. We come to be ministered to and helped. We require the character of it to be soothing and comforting, speaking much of grace and quieting our overdone nerves for another week before us. And we know too surely that we shall go through the same course exactly, and come back next Lord's day as weary as before, with the same need and thought of refreshment. We come with the same self, in fact, as an object, and scarcely Christ at all, or Christ very much as a means to an end, and not Himself the end.
This is the evil of this state of things: Christ is not in any due sense before our soul, but rather it is our need which He is to be the means of supplying. No doubt there is a measure of truth in this view of the Lord's Supper. Can we ever come to Him without finding refreshment from the coming? Does He not, blessed Lord, delight to serve us? Do not the bread and wine speak of refreshment ministered -- "Wine that makes glad the heart of man. and bread which strengthens man's heart" (Psa.104:15)?
Surely all this is true. But true as it is, it is not this that gathers us. Does not "to show the Lord's death" have a deeper meaning? His own words, "Do this," are not for the regrouping of our own strength, but "in remembrance of Me." Thus this sacramental use of Christ, as I may term it (common as it really is, alas, among those who think they have outgrown sacraments) essentially lowers the whole thought of the Lord's Supper. The remembrance of Christ is something more and other than what I get by the remembrance; some thing more than the strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the body and blood of Christ.
I do not mean to deny that Christ is gracious and meets our needs often times in unexpected ways. He is sovereign, and gracious beyond expression. But if we make ourselves the object, will that lead to blessing for us? What honour has Christ in all this? And what must be the character of meetings to which languish and way worn souls come, seeking stimulating cordial to return to what seems only too sadly indicated to be the main business of their lives?
Let us look now at the other way in which our souls may be tempted from the simplicity of the remembrance of Christ.
When we look at the worship of heaven, in that attractive picture in Revelation 5, it is the simple presence of the Lamb slain that calls out the adoration of those 24 elders who are our representatives. Worship with them was no arranged, premeditated thing, but the pouring out of hearts that could not be restrained in the presence of Him who had redeemed them to God by His blood. And here is the mistake on our parts when we think we can make worship a matter of pre-arrangement, while it is, in fact, a thing dependent upon the true remembrance of the Lord.
There will be blessing on the one hand and worship on the other in proportion as our eyes are taken off ourselves and fixed upon the object which both ministers the one and calls forth the other. There surely will be blessing, for how can the sight of Him do otherwise than bless? And there will be worship, for this is the true and spontaneous response of the heart to the sight of One who, being the Son of God, yet loved us and gave Himself for us. Therefore, the great point pressed in Scripture is remembrance: "This do in remembrance of Me." "You do show the Lord's death."
Of course, we are not to forget that while our eyes look back upon the Lamb slain, it is from the after-side of His resurrection that we contemplate this. "The first day of the week" speaks of resurrection out of death, and gives Him back to us in all the reality of a living person. While we remember His death, we do it in the glad knowledge of His resurrection, and with the Lord Himself in our midst. Who could celebrate the Lord's death but for this? Who could sound a note of praise did He not Himself first raise it? He says, "In the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto Thee" (Heb.2:12; see also Psa.22:22). Death, but death passed, do we celebrate; death which, thus seen, is only the depths of a living love which we carry with us, un-exhausted, inexhaustible, unfathomed, and unfathomable.
"A Lamb as it had been slain" is the object of the elders' worship (Rev.5:6). The Living One carries with Him forever the memorials of His blessed death. The cross is not only atonement effected for us, but the bright and blessed display of God manifest in Christ, and for us, in every attribute displayed.
(From: Letters on Some Practical Points Connected with the Assembly.)
F W Grant
The Liberty of the Spirit in the Lord's Supper